How times change.
Twenty years ago no one had ever heard of same-sex marriage. Today, if you do not believe in it, you are a bigot and a hater, conspiring to deprive a group of citizens of their basic constitutional rights.
I have already had my say on the topic, and will not revisit it.
Today, I want to emphasize a different angle. I want to look at what the debate over gay marriage shows us about how today’s liberal intellectuals enforce dogmatic beliefs.
Most of the arguments for gay marriage can barely stand scrutiny. Yet, most people have come to believe that people of the same sex should have the right to marry each other.
Have they been convinced to support something that doesn’t make sense? Or do they not care enough about the issue to continue to defend themselves against vile accusations?
At least that’s the way it is in the great cosmopolitan metropolis. From the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side to Soho and Greenwich Village left-thinking New Yorkers are convinced that the failure of society to accept gay marriage is tantamount to slavery.
Evidently, disagreement on such a basic issue is not tolerated.
Natalie Neusch bears compelling witness to this form of unfriendly persuasion in an article on The Daily Beast. Link here.
A gay woman having doubts about gay marriage, Neusch hesitates before expressing her views to her friends.
She begins with a personal confession. When she dares to tell a gay friend that she does not think that marriage is for her, she is forced to face the inevitable reaction: “People reacted to my ambivalence as if I had just burned an American flag. How could I turn my back on the centerpiece of the modern gay-rights movement? My personal relationship choice had suddenly become a political stand.”
As a professed non-believer Neusch is well placed to offer us a glimpse at the kinds of psychological pressure that enforce ideological conformity, and that keep her from expressing her views openly and in public.
In her words: “I don't bring up these concerns very often. Questioning the idea of gay marriage makes people think your goal is to subvert the whole gay-rights agenda—we need numbers, to be unified on this matter as our top concern. For gays to talk about not wanting to get married is taboo. By expressing my doubts, I am clearly a dissenter in this persistent force for progress. But getting married, gay or otherwise, doesn't seem like progress to me.”
Expressing a personal preference is one thing. One might excuse Neusch if she were merely arguing that she would not herself want to marry another woman. And one does understand that she can defend herself better if she says that the entire institution of marriage is somehow a bad thing.
But you can tell that her doubt is more deep-seated. As she puts it: “But there's a subtler, even more insidious anxiety lurking beneath the surface of our gay-marriage win. It's the unsettling possibility that we've spent the past couple of decades fighting to fit into an institution that doesn't necessarily fit us. I wouldn't be surprised to see someone wince if I referred to my partner as my wife. And I might wince a bit myself. We've been so focused on getting marriage ‘equality‘ that we've hardly stopped to think about how we'd feel about actually being married.”
I think that Neusch is quite correct. It’s all about the wince. I find her argument against gay marriage especially persuasive because she summarized it in a single gesture, a wince, a grimace, an involuntary facial reflex that really says it all.
People are willing to go along with the fiction of same-sex marriage. Good manners forbids them from expressing an opinion that would hurt the feelings of other people. If they lack good manners, the thought police will let them know, in no uncertain terms, that such opinions are prohibited.
People will vote for gay marriage in the next referendum. But, when you get right down to it, when you get to the level of an emotion that your face reveals and that is beyond your control, most of them think it is all very strange indeed.
Because Natalie Neusch has realized that this effort to fit in, to become a full member of the community, will, in the end, make her the odd person out.
That's a great realization. Hats off to Neusch.