Why queer theory sucks

June 2, 2012 in General

Illustration: Thordrinn Leifsson

There’s an internet meme doing the rounds at the moment that sarcastically picks apart the holes in religious arguments against same-sex marriage.

Much like the dogma of creationists, it doesn’t evolve over time, and responding to such arguments has become boring.

Far more interesting is the crop of self-sabotagers who are gay or lesbian themselves and oppose marriage equality.

I’m not talking here about those who are indifferent to the idea and don’t feel the need to push for it, I’m talking about those who are actively campaigning against it, like New Zealander Professor Annamarie Jagose, described by SameSame.com.au as a “leading queer theory academic”.

This, in itself, explains a lot – queer theory is so deconstructionist I’m surprised its proponents are still able to breathe, given that it would require them to acknowledge that oxygen exists.

On Tuesday, Professor Jagose took part in a public Sydney debate entitled “Why same-sex marriage should not be legalised”.  Her position, in a nutshell, is reportedly this: 

Whereas LGBT people may well be able to teach straights a thing or two about sexual diversity, the marriage equality debate is turning us into sexual conformists, she argued. “Marriage equality comes at a cost – it continues to disavow some relationships.” What about singles, one-night-standers, those in open or polyamourous relationships? “Why should marriage raise the worth of some relationships and not others?”

Odd that she left relationships involving bestiality and paedophilia out of her argument about marriage raising the worth of some relationships above others.  Is Professor Jagose able to recognise that you can actually draw a line somewhere?  Queer theorists don’t like lines.  They’re also inconsistent, which is why their arguments so easily disappear in a puff of smoke when challenged.

What does that leave us with, then?  Singles – hmm, no legal discrimination there.  You already enjoy the same rights as every other single citizen.  One night stands – you can already do this without being arrested, so what’s the problem there?  Open relationships – I’m already in one, and so are many other gay couples who would like to marry.  Polygamous or polyamourous relationships?

My good friend, Gay Blade blogger Michael Stevens agrees with her on this point:

“I know of guys living in long-standing, stable threesomes – why shouldn’t they be able to have their relationship recognised as legally valid as well? Why can’t they be married? From all I have read or seen of the push for gay marriage, the only form that activists think is acceptable is a couple.”

Or could it just be because the majority of human relationships are coupled?

I have to say, I’m not particularly bothered by polygamy.  But why is it necessary to derail same-sex marriage until we get our heads around how to recognise polygamous relationships in law?

And do you think, perhaps, that if we are going to seriously debate this as an issue (as opposed to airy-fairy pseudo-intellectual discussions about it) then maybe some people in polygamous relationships could venture forth and talk on their own behalf, instead of letting contrarians use them as a red herring?

The “gay” arguments against same-sex marriage are just as intellectually bankrupt as the religious ones, and as Professor Jagose has discovered this week, can put you in a very odd space morally.

On Tuesday, in her bid to convince a worldwide audience (BBC and ABC cameras were in attendance at the debate) that same-sex marriage should not be legalised, Professor Jagose was on the same team as Catholic ethicist (contradiction in terms, one would have thought) Professor Nick Tonti-Filippini, Associate Dean and head of Bio-Ethics at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.

In September last year, Professor Nick wrote an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald titled “Marriage is about rights of the children”.  Here’s a wee slice of his wisdom:

“A child’s relationship to both mother and father is inherent to marriage. Children conceived by other means may find themselves with people in parental roles who are in a same-sex relationship, but such relationships are not the origin of the child. It is likely for children to be loved and nurtured in such a household, but however good that nurturing, it will not provide the biological link and security of identity and relationship that marriage naturally demands and confirms.”

I am adopted, as a result of my heterosexual parents being unable to conceive.  Is Professor Nick campaigning to have the marriage of my parents and thousands of other infertile heterosexual couples annulled?  No, of course not.  Because the real reason he is opposed to same-sex marriage is because his religion tells him it’s wrong.

You need more than that to participate in a debate these days, though, so religionists have managed to create all sorts of fallacious arguments that can be dragged out to fit the duration, be it a 90 minute debate or an 800-word opinion piece for a content-hungry newspaper.

What on earth, you might ask, is a lesbian woman doing on the same side of a debate as this man?

Well, Professors Jagose and Tonti-Filippini are not bedfellows as strange as they might appear at first glance.  Queer theory is itself a form of religion, an unchanging and dogmatic ideology that forces us to accept that there’s no such thing as categories, institutions or identities.  Religion argues the opposite, but forces us to accept extremely rigid definitions of them.

In effect, if either Jagose or Tonti-Filippini were given free rein to put their ideas into practice, they would achieve the same result by different means.  And nobody but a select few would end up happy.

While we’re trying to get society to let us inside the house, queer theorists are busy trying to convince us we should abandon the idea because houses are oppressive and don’t exist.  They like to think they’re pointing out the emperor’s new clothes without being aware of their own nakedness.  Meanwhile, another gay man gets shut out of his dying partner’s emergency room.

So we’ve covered polygamy.  What else do queer theorists lose sleep at night over when thinking about legalised same-sex marriage?  This from Michael Stevens:

“It seems to me to speak of a desire to assimilate, to try and be the same as the straights, to follow them, rather than to consider that in fact we are different and maybe other forms of relationship should be on the table…I can’t understand the desire to copy heterosexuals.”

I’m not picking on Michael here, because this view is shared by many gay men who, like Michael, would describe themselves as “old activists”.

Assuming that my love for my partner has anything to do with heterosexuals is incredibly patronising, and effectively reduces the desires of thousands of same-sex couples to marry down to the petulant wants of a teenager:

“Mum, Bobby next door has an iPod, can I have one too?”

“Mark, why do you have to copy everything Bobby does?”

“I’m not copying Bobby, I just want to listen to my music like everybody else.”

“Well, there’s plenty of other ways you can listen to music, Mark.  Use the record player.”

“I can’t take that out when I go running.”

“Well, you can hum the music in your head.  After all, music is a social construction.  It only exists in our minds.  Have you ever stopped to think – what is this thing we call music?

“Mum, why did Dad divorce you?”

Back to Jagose:

Gays and lesbians often speak about the importance of diversity, but aiming to get married is not about diversity at all, concludes Jagose. “It is about being identical to heterosexual married people but differing in only one respect – the gender of one of the spouses. I call that conformity.”

Oh yes, conformity.  Well, I presume that Jagose wore clothes to the debate.  I presume she owns or drives a car, or uses public transport.  She probably watches television, reads books, and goes to the cinema.

You could call that conformity – or you could just call it life.  Making the choices that you want to make, if they happen to be available to you.  Which in the case of same-sex couples wanting to marry, they aren’t.

Maybe Mark isn’t so petulant after all.  Maybe, like me, he doesn’t want to copy Bobby – he just wants to listen to the music.

Originally published at www.bipolarbear.co.nz

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