This year, I’ve had two random people on Facebook who’d friended me for completely random reasons–one, a fellow saxophonist in Korea, and the other an Ezra Pound enthusiast in Indiana–completely lose their marbles on my Facebook Wall, after I posted something in support of marriage equality. The arguments are almost always the same: somehow my unapologetic atheism indicts my position; somehow they think I must be gay (presumably, because what heterosexual could support homosexual marriage? Ahem…); somehow gay marriage not being procreative is the problem, but not the only one (just one in a bag of trick arguments they pull from)… but ultimately, it boils down to one fundamental fear.
That fear is, ultimately, that the legalization and institutionalization of gay marriage will be some kind of apocalyptic event.
The funny thing about fear is, it’s worse when it has no form. When I used to teach public speaking to college students, I’d ask my students to imagine the worst possible case scenario for them flubbing a speech. Like, worst possible case.
Usually, the scenarios they would come up with went something like this: they flub a speech, and it ends up on Youtube, and the whole world sees it and laughs at them, and they end up lonely and alone in their fifties, unmarried and childless and still remembered as that idiot who flubbed that speech. In their loneliness, they end up taking a long walk off a short skyscraper roof or something. (More creative scenarios had students ending up in North Korean gulag, or imprisoned in their family homes, or executed for shaming the nation.)
The point of the exercise was to give them a picture of what absolute,utter failure would look like. And the point of making it so extreme–extreme to the point of laughable ridiculousness–was so that they could bring it to mind everytime they made some minor flub in a speech: to remind themselves, “Wait, the stakes aren’t that high!” That is, to remind them that there was no Speech-Flub-Pocalypse waiting for them out there in the future. The real worst case scenario was that they’d freeze up, and cack a speech, and the audience would be patient and supportive while they recovered, and maybe they’d lose a few points on the grade for that speech, depending how well they recovered.
The principle, though is also what’s scariest is the unpredictable, the unknown. It’s a shadowy realm that people fill in with all kinds of monstrosities. The revulsion that so many opponents of gay marriage express seems so often to boil down to men having anal sex. As the lesbians of the world would probably agree (reality check, anyone?), opponents of gay marriage seem to tend to obsess about male-male sex, probably because of the pornography that informs what they imagine lesbians do; it’s surely unrealistic, but it’s a placeholder that assuages their fears.
What those fears are, I don’t know: I’ve never really been inside an anti-gay bigot’s head. But one cannot help but wonder whether it, too, is pornographic in nature: a sort of dystopian Village People horror show set in some dark, dank, shadowy underworld out of Dante’s inferno or something, in which they (the opponents of equal marriage rights) are compelled to participate in sweaty, rigorous anal sex themselves. I mean, I really think they imagine there’s going to be leather chaps and bondage gear in the streets, and everyone’s sex organs hanging out for the sun to kiss, the very day after gay people get the right to marry in their country. Lurid, over-the-top… why else the panic?
This horror-show in the heads of conservative opponents of gay marriage, we can call The Gay-Marriage-Pocalypse. It’s a fantasy that fills in the shadows of an open question, which is: what would happen in a world where gay marriage is legalized?
What would happen is simple, of course. The legalization of interracial marriage in a lot of places is a precedent we can use.
Homosexuals would get married. Yes, probably there would be a big rush of that, at first. But eventually, you’d see the rate die down to about the average for their combined class, race, age group ,and their region.
Then they would have a little more time to spend, either on hobbies, or on other civil rights work, or on raising kids, or whatever they choose–like everyone else–because they wouldn’t be forced to spend a portion of their time fighting for equal rights.
They would marry, like heterosexuals. Some would divorce, just like heterosexuals. They would get mini-vans, and buy houses in the suburbs, and in the long run, they would be no more notable than a mixed-race couple, or a couple with one fat partner and one thin partner, or, eventually, no more notable than any other couple… just like heterosexuals.
Some would adopt–just like heterosexuals. Others would happily live as married couples till one of them died of old age… just like heterosexuals. Some would lose their spouses in tragic accidents… just like heterosexuals. (Though, at least, given that they would be recognized as spouses, they could see their dying spouses in any hospital in the country, regardless of anyone else’s religious or political affiliations.)
They would buy cardigans and jeans and running shoes, just as anyone does. They would go on diets that fail, like anyone. They would hold jobs across a bewildering array of fields, not just fashion designer and hair stylist… just like they do now, and just like anyone.
In fact, the only thing that would really change would be that they have equal rights to heterosexuals.
There is no Gay-Marriage-Pocalypse. Neither Canada nor Argentina have experienced a sudden increase in kidnappings with victims strapped into leather chaps and raped from behind. Sweden and South Africa have not exploded in a national paroxysm of spontaneous Village People performances. This Christmas past, Baby Jesus did not weep blood in the nativity scenes of every church in Norway or Uruguay. Nor, indeed,have governments marched into churches and forced clerics to marry homosexual couples, much less forced heterosexuals of the same sex to marry one another.
None of that has happened. All that is just the crazy worst case scenario so ridiculous that it ought to make all of us laugh… though unfortunately, a few seem incapable of laughing because they’re so histrionically possessed by fear that they can’t see past it to the rational conclusion that it’s not well-founded.
For all the distressing “climaxing” that opponents of same-sex marriage seem to imagine and obsess about, the Gay-Marriage-Pocalypse is actually anti-climactic. A movie set in that time–in the time when gay marriage is legalized everywhere in a society–would be mostly indistinguishable from a movie set in our time except that it’d probably shuffle the genders of one or two couples among the characters. Even so, the difference might not even be noticeable unless it focused on a same-sex couple’s wedding, or involved a scene in a party where a bigot is introduced to his male coworkers husband, or his female boss’s wife. Because they day after gay marriage is legalized, almost nothing about the world actually changes for straight people. It’s that simple.
Whether we can get bigots to recognize it and chill out on the panic, that’s another question. I’m dubious, at least in part because panic is sort of inherently hardwired in the minds of people attracted to conservative positions. But it certainly seems like an avenue into understanding their panic. What images lurk in the inchoate fear. It would be interesting to see a scientific study of what opponents of gay marriage experience,neurologically, when asked to imagine the day gay marriage is legalized worldwide… as well as to do a qualitative analysis of what imagery they report when doing so.
And suddenly an idea for a short, satirical film script pops into my mind. Hm…