The SBS TV show Insight, hosted by Jennie Brockie was tonight focused on the issue of same sex unions. True to the charter of the host station, it looked at the intersection of the phenomenon of same sex couples, religion and family culture.
My goddess of enlightenment, South Australian based federal minister Penny Wong felt impelled on several occasions during the debate to remind the naysayers in the audience that they were entitled to their adverse beliefs; however to express them in bizarre, extreme ways was insensitive and unacceptable.
The enlightened world needs to remember the widow of Martin Luther King, the visionary who proclaimed “I have been to the mountain, I have seen the promised land” decades ago. When the USA wrestled, state by state, with the possibility of sanctioning same sex union, she declared that for her as an activist the issue had been miscegenation, a state prohibition against people of different races being allowed to marry. She said that she handed the civil rights mantle to LGBT communities in their struggle to have same sex unions validated.
Penny Wong reminded the audience that her own parents were of different races, and that the irrationality of adverse opinion would soon be transparent, were people to substitute “different races” or “different ages” for “same sex”.
The program began under the most difficult circumstances as two young Asian men related the importance of the concept of marriage to their cultural contexts; however, they felt that, with love and compassion, their families were gradually able to adjust; typically one guy’s mum was first to accept the situation. The young men talked about people having to learn a new cultural language; I want to explore what that means.
The row of speakers on the stage were puzzling as they consisted of the two Asian men, Penny Wong and last the Catholic Monsignor of Canberra. When called on to give his opinion, he resorted to a maddeningly post-modernist idiom including words like “complementarity”; even my spellcheck complained. He made a great matter of the naturalness of a male-female couple; although, John Boswell in his book Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality explores New Testament texts and concludes that the concept was not an early Christian one. Monsignor next expressed great concern about the fate of children born into same sex unions, code for: poofs are pedophiles and will just abuse their children. WHY was nobody forthright enough to tell him that he seemed concerned about children raised in same sex unions but clearly his organisation was blithely carefree about the damage wreaked by pedophile priests to young boys. The victims got no attention, the perpetrator priests were protected.
Penny Wong made an excellent point when she asked why critics of same sex unions continued to say that married gays and lesbians threatened the status of hetero relationships. Why, she asked, were these hetero relationships so fragile? I would argue that hetero couples have taken their status for granted, have done NO inner work, unlike the rest of us: gays, lesbians, intergender people, even heterosexual women who struggled with the anomalous role given them by this hypocritical society.
We have struggled with the normative, as soon as the object of our desire became apparent, in early adolescence: what is gay? poofter, degenerate, unspeakable? Are we effeminate? Etc Etc. One of the two young Asian men is catholic and sadly felt the need to remind us of the shameful phrases uttered ex cathedra, with the imprimatur of the Vatican seal, that Polish clown actor, now bizarrely declared a saint, dressed in his pompous finery, wearing the jewels of office, the consecrating oil still dripping from his forehead. He declared that gay was “intrinsically disordered” and “inherently evil”. There really is no sound theological basis for the actor arriving at those lines; the devil made him say them? They are simply ludicrous; most farcical though is that his successor was in fact gay and was forced to resign his office under threat of blackmail. The scene from the Movie Blues Bros springs to mind, when the car containing two neo-nazis falls into the void, and junior turns to his boss and says: “I have always loved you, mein fuhrer”.
The vileness and stark perversity of the actor’s lines, compared to Jesus’ essential message of love and non-judgement, seemed to impel one of two married lesbians to urge that religions be disbanded. At another point a woman anthropologist wanted us to abandon the institution of marriage. To the bigot clerics who say we are unnatural, I quote a lovely parade banner: “If god doesn’t like gays, why did he make us so cute?”
But when I insist that the naysayers had done no inner work, I have in mind a young Liberal voter seated in the back row. He insisted on waving throughout Penny Wong’s comments, until she was forced to say she understood that he disagreed with her, but perhaps he could wait patiently, politely until she had finished. Finally, Jennie allowed him to voice an opinion; he was still smirking and sneering, while saying, unconvincingly that he meant no disrespect to any same sex couples or their children in the room. This is exactly the amoral rhetoric of the current federal Opposition: pay lip service, say one thing while doing the opposite.
I won’t repeat myself on the subject of the patriarchy: it defends itself when threatened, even if the threat is imagined. I applaud Ms Brockie’s including an Islamic celebrant in Washington, whose practice is with same sex couples, and who had a refreshing new interpretation of the Koran. After all context and goodwill are crucial. The Washington same sex union celebrant argued that the Koran laid stress on the commitment between two single people. I find it curious that orthodox Moslem teachers refer so readily to the verses dealing with divorce; the opt-out function seems so necessary to their world view. Incidentally, the Genesis verses describing gay sex as an abomination mention adultery far more frequently.
For any reader who has persevered thus far, I apologise if the going has been heavy. In a delightful Nancy Mitford novel Highland Fling, that I reread lately, a woman who has had several divorces says: If I had my time again, I would persist with marriage, the opposite is so restless”.
Next week, SBS will run a doco on a Russian ex-taxi driver, who has declared himself the Second Coming; he has the look just right, like a Guido Reni painting. I look forward to his forthcoming gospel: who will it validate? Certainly Putin’s Russia needs a PR makeover, as do the rest of us. Be kind, sleep well.