Earlier today, New Zealand became the thirteenth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. In this video footage, Prime Minister Maurice Williamson delivers a stirring and drole answer to the bill’s opponents.
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“[Jesus] has a lot to say about self-righteousness, which he compares, not very tactfully, to a grave that looks neat and well cared for up top but is heaving with ‘corruption’ down below. Maggots, basically. And the point of this repulsive image is not just that the inside and outside of a self-righteous person don’t match, that there’s a hypocritical contradiction between the claim to virtue and the actual content of a human personality: it’s also that, for him, being sure you’re righteous, standing on your own dignity as a virtuous person, comes precious close to being dead. If you won’t hear the bad news about yourself, you can’t know yourself. You condemn yourself to the maintenance of an exhausting illusion, a false front to your self which keeps out doubt and with it hope, change, nourishment, breath, life. If you won’t hear the bad news, you can’t begin to hear the good news about yourself either. And you’ll do harm. You’ll be pumped up with the false confidence of virtue, and you’ll think it gives you a license, and a large share of all the cruelties in the world will follow, for evil done knowingly is rather rare compared to the evil done by people who’re sure that they themselves are good, and that evil is hatefully concentrated in some other person; some other person who makes your flesh creep because they have become exactly as unbearable, as creepy, as disgusting, as you fear the mess would be beneath your own mask of virtue, if you ever dared to look at it,”
—Francis Spufford, from his recent book,Unapologetic.
BREAKING: The American Academy of Pediatrics finally endorses same-sex unions — for the sake of the children
by Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, 3/21/13
In a very satisfyingly worded statement Thursday, the American Academy of Pediatrics – that’s “60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults” – officially made policy its endorsement of same-sex marriage. Citing its support for couples “regardless of sexual orientation” as “the best way to guarantee benefits and security for their children,” the AAP’s Benjamin Siegel issued a statement that “there should be equal opportunity for every couple to access the economic stability and federal supports provided to married couples to raise children.” Fancy that. Stability. It’s good for children.
by Zach Ford, Think Progress LGBT, 2/20/13
The Liberty Counsel has filed its final brief in its challenge of California’s ban on ex-gay therapy (SB 1172) on behalf of NARTH. In it, the group reiterates its claims that encouraging young people to change their sexual orientation is simply a “viewpoint,” and thus protected by the First Amendment. Despite the dearth of evidence supporting its effectiveness and the research that shows not only that it’s ineffective but that it can also be harmful, the conservatives stand by their claim that same-sex attractions (SSA) can be changed.
Catholic writers like to invoke the talismanic power of “natural law” to buttress their arguments—as if we still lived in ancient Greece or early Christendom, as if there were universal agreement about what the thing is or whether it really exists. Philosophers and theologians have disagreed about almost every aspect of it since it was first articulated, probably by Empedocles. They even disagree about when it began (Plato? St. Thomas?) and who best represents it. (Hobbes? Augustine?)
Empedocles believed natural law forbade the killing of animals. Augustine of Hippo believed it had only been possible in our prelapsarian state (So it’s too late to invoke it). Gratian thought that it was the same as divine law, while St. Thomas Aquinas believed the two were different. Neither Aquinas nor Augustine thought natural law forbade slavery. According to the definition offered by Anglican theologian Richard Hooker, natural law requires us to worship God and to reproduce, so Buddhists and Catholic priests would be in violation. Sir Edward Coke (early 17th cent.) and later, Thomas Hobbes, believed natural law required allegiance to the reigning sovereign. (In the U.S. that would be Obama, and in North Korea, Kim Jong-un.) Hobbes also thought natural law required that the first-born (son) should inherit things which cannot be held in common. Hugo Grotius (17th cent.) believed that even God was bound by natural law, but most natural law theorists have not agreed. Pierre Charron (1601) said that “the sign of a natural law must be the universal respect in which it is held.” (By “universal, I presume he meant the part of France where he lived.) Catholic theologian John Wijngaards does not believe natural law applies to specific points of sexual ethics (e.g., contraceptives and homosexual unions). St. Thomas summed up natural law as follows: “Good is to be sought, evil avoided.” This is about as circular—and as useful—as Mark Twain’s stock-picking advice: “When the price is low, buy the shares. Sell them when the price rises. If the price doesn’t rise, then don’t buy the shares.”
It appears that natural law can mean anything we want it to mean. For thousands of years, it barely acknowleged the existence of women, much less their right to choose their husbands, own property, hold jobs, or vote. Slavery and environmental destruction were not even regarded as infractions. Natural law had nothing to say about the subjugation of non-European peoples, the evils of monarchical power, or ecclesiastical overreach. In short, natural law has always been malleable in the service of contemporary and local social values, usually as expressed by the elites. It has always been used in the same manner that Catholic writers now invoke it: to create awe and respect for arbitrary arguments or fiats that might otherwise be indefensible.
Law-making, going back to Hammurabi and Moses, was a way of keeping order, controlling divergent desires, and settling conflicts. Its purpose was utilitarian; it kept everyone “on the same page” regarding codes of conduct, standards of fairness, and measures of justice. To be effective, it had to be putatively grounded in the transcendent—then understood as the Divine—which always has the last word. Calling the law “divine” made it super-resistant, impossible to refute. Inutile de protester! Flouting or challenging the law was hubristic, and a moral reckoning by the gods was sure to ensue.
Secular humanists recognize that the law derives its legitimacy from the transcendent, but the transcendent is no longer divine. It’s only what it always was, but now it knows itself for the first time. It is the polity itself, sometimes transcending narrow individual interests and sometimes co-opted by them. Secular law is not always fair, but it continues to be somewhat malleable. Its footing is more consequentialist than deontological, more concerned with pragmatic outcomes and the weighting of benefits and harms than with unquestioning adherence to sets of rules that were forged by monarchs, theologians, and popes centuries ago.
Natural law was the foundation of common law and of virtually all systems of law in the Western world, but we cannot return to it. Nor would we want to. We’ve evolved, and the way forward is not the way back.
by Samuel Dock, Clinical Psychologist (Paris)
Translated by Doughlas Remy from “Psychopathologie de l’homophobie,” Huffpost C’est la Vie, 6/2/13
[Doughlas Remy notes: I thought this article was provocative and deserved inclusion on The Bent Angle. I don’t necessarily agree with, nor can I defend, everything that the author has written. It is simply a window into the current debates about marriage equality in France, and I believe it is a valuable contribution to the discussions.]
In France, homosexual marriage and adoption are the burning issues of the day. It’s now up to the French Assemblée to cull through 5367 proposed amendments to its draft law legalizing same-sex marriages. Professionals of every stripe—sociologists, psychologists, experts on love (if any exist), educators, theologians and clergy, hot-shot lawyers—all have delivered their opinions “for” and “against,” often resorting to wildly improbable arguments and hyperbolic rhetoric. While no one has risked appearing indifferent to the outcome, everyone has carefully avoided expressing any affect, as if there was never any emotion involved but only concern for equality, the law, institutions, religion, children, morality, others— in short, for everything except oneself.
How strange that people have recently become so personally “detached” from this issue. But whatever our good citizens may say, gay marriage has shone a light into dark areas of our unconscious, overcoming resistance better than a nation-sized Rorschach. Whom do you see in the face of France? Whom do you not see there? Remarkably, in the midst of all the brouhaha,—despite the public’s transparent pretense of “objectivity,” despite the impossibility of remaining as cool as marble over any issue involving sexuality, and despite the most astonishing political strategies and the reactionary maneuverings of an astonished religion—an affect has been exhumed! It is the very essence of homophobia. In our country we now have proof that hatred can be stirred up even without Sarkozy.
How are we to understand homophobia? The very word seems inadequate to convey any idea of the hostile behavior that it denotes. Let’s abandon the old idea that the homophobe is a repressed homosexual trying to distance himself from his desires. For once, let’s grant desire the respect that it deserves and protect it from the unspeakable.
Researchers Marty, de M’Uzan, and David have investigated a type of mental functioning in which a subject is literally cut off from his unconscious. His mental life, though socially functional, is essentially frozen and mechanical; it is deficient in emotional connections. The past is a dead zone, allowing only low-affect relations with others. In a clinical setting, this disorder resembles Mazerolle asking Bertinotti the same questions a hundred times. [The author is referring to a recent incident in the Assemblée). She responds, he ignores her and inappropriately starts up a video from a priest. He cannot listen. And for good reason: his problem is not about repression (as in phobia, properly speaking) but about foreclosure, a cavity in his psyche where affects disappear without his being able to re-present them to his conscious mind. This is the meaning of the repetition that one observes among a great many bloggers whose discourse does not evolve over long periods of time. They endlessly repeat the same reasonings in a denatured, devitalized language stripped of affect.
Even while warning against the objectivication of children raised by homosexual parents, these bloggers’ own treatment of the subject is emotionally alienated. They don’t acknowledge the lived psychological reality of children already in such arrangements, much less that of their homosexual parents. These incarnate realities are just “data” kept in the file labeled “unthinkable.” But behind their façade of conventional wisdom there lies a zombified psyche. Its ideological elaborations are only a defense against libidinous and aggressive impulses that they cannot metabolize. Unimpressed by the breadth and depth of current scientific understanding of homosexuality, they react like robots, because inertia is always preferable to discomfort. With this type of homophobia, we must understand that “otherness” does not inspire fear. It is not threatening. It is simply not recognized or acknowledged.
This term designates another even more dangerous clinical condition. The “perverted” narcissist (PN), in an effort to compensate for an weak ego, uses another’s narcissism to shore up his own. His behavioral objective is to achieve an omnipotent mastery over the Other. To this end, the PN must dehumanize the Other, deny his autonomy, undermine his narcissism, and eradicate his desires so that he may implant his own in their place. The process of mental disintegration is relentless but effective. The Other, reduced to the status of an object, finally accedes to the demands of his tyrant. The PN sees in his victim’s abdication of identity a proof of his own power. His object, the Other, exists only to serve the the PN’s project of completing his own ego. If the Other then attempts to step out of this role, he risks feeling inadequate and incomplete, and the PN may reject and abuse him. This situation can become very dangerous.
We can observe such narcissistic perversity in certain homophobic behaviors. Worse, in our current political context, where the rights and responsibilities of homosexuals are up for debate, such patterns of perversity can fold themselves into the general debate and avoid scrutiny of the law. Not surprisingly, since many of those exhibiting such patterns represent the law.
To successfully take control, the PN must first use seduction. This was the “demonstration” phase of early January [when 380,000 opponents of marriage equality gathered on the Champ de Mars in Paris]. To judge from Frigide Barjot’s campy behavior, the compassionate prayers of the faithful, the mothers and the fathers, the candles, the proverbs and homilies, one would think the demonstrators were on the side of homosexuals and that François Hollande is a monster, Hitler himself. But cold and calculating rationality follows quickly on the heels of protest. Opponents of same-sex marriage begin brandishing their scientific studies and their Bibles, they infantilize and belittle homosexuals while spewing dogma at them. Then comes violence.
For the PN, respect for others is in the end only an idea without any substance, and he does not hesitate to mercilessly attack his opponents on the Internet. “I wish they’d all get AIDS,” says one. “They kiss in public. They’re not civilized!” complains another.
So there’s dehumanization. The homosexual is a being who surrenders to his basest instincts, who is maladapted to civilization or to the rearing of children, and who should just be thankful that he is at last tolerated. Some bloggers will go so far as to regret that “no treatment has yet been invented.” But what is it that must be treated and overcome? What else are they fighting but something that is within themselves? They’ll use any means to denounce this reflection where they see only difference and defect. Devoid of self-criticism in their conduct toward their victims, they feel no remorse.
Homosexuals have left the shadows and the narrow confines of their minority status. Having taken on form and contours, they have now become highly visible targets where the PNs may project affects and impulses that they cannot countenance in themselves. At the pinnacle of their perversity, they even deny homosexuals victim status, instead accusing them of bullying, anti-Catholicism, predation, and heterophobia. All this is done with the best intentions in the world, those that delineate the Hell where the dioceses have promised to dispatch the gays. The perverted narcissist deforms the Other. In his own image.
There’s more: There’s the paranoia, the obsessivity, and the coprolalia* of the extreme psychopaths. But at least Oedipus is safe, because this is not so much about sexuality as it is about primitive affects, anger and repugnance, a cavity in language, and a fundamental violence. The last gasp of Narcissus.
*coprolalia: involuntary and obsessive use of obscene language