Immutable.

Because I lived in South Carolina for years, right-wing arguments for flying the Confederate flag are as familiar to me as right-wing arguments against marriage equality. They’re similarly disingenuous:

  • “Heritage, not hate!”/”I love homosexuals; I just don’t agree with their lifestyle.”
  • “The flag has always flown in front of the State House!”/”It’s not for us to change God’s definition of marriage!”
  •  “The Civil War was about states’ rights; not slavery.”/”This is about religious freedom, not bigotry.”
  • “This is a matter best left to individual states.”/”This is a matter best left to individual states.”

Simple, thinly-veiled hostility, mixed with appeals to tradition, individual rights, capitalistic terror, a persecution complex, and the Lord God Almighty Himself. These arguments dry up and blow away if you have a basic understanding of our secular legal system and/or the Old Testament, which defines marriage in a drastically different way than anything now sanctioned by the strictest Southern Baptist, including polygamy and marrying your rapist. (Google that stuff. Also, remember never to wear a cotton-polyester blend or cook a young goat in its mother’s milk, OK? I went to Bible school, so don’t mess with me. We can quote Scripture back and forth until Gabriel’s trump).

The above arguments are a cover for the real arguments, which are:

  • “I despise African-Americans.”/”I’m freaked out by the thought of a penis going into an anus, as well as the idea of two women tasting other’s vaginas without a man in the room.”

We can move on now! Right-wingers are what they’ve always been. What I’m fascinated with are the progressive arguments against same-sex marriage; from people with whom I agree on most other things and who ought to be celebrating Friday’s Supreme Court decision. This set of arguments goes like:

1. All systems and modes of oppression have not yet been eradicated, therefore we shouldn’t care about marriage.

2. Marriage is a heterosexual institution and therefore unimportant for gays.

3. Marriage is a patriarchal institution about “ownership” and therefore bad for women.

4. You don’t need a piece of paper to prove the stability and truth of your love.

This set of arguments is egregiously balls, because:

1. I can care about, and work on, lots of things at the same time! Like, the other day, I did a Jillian Michaels workout involving a squat with a shoulder press! Also, why do gays and lesbians need to put on everyone else’s oxygen mask first? Why do we always have to eat the burned one? What’s up with the guilt trip? Are we everyone’s mommy? Finally, where (besides during the second wave) was all the weighting and measuring of marriage when it was only for heterosexuals? Why all of a sudden are we line-editing it as an institution?

2. Heterosexuals don’t own marriage, just like they don’t own any other integral social institution or benefit. As long as human beings feel a deep, primal need to couple up and build lives together; we all have a vested interest in the legal equality of those relationships. You’re a same-sex couple who doesn’t want your relationship sanctioned by law? Fine! My wife and I won’t choose for you; you don’t get to choose for us. It’s a lot like how I find abortion morally reprehensible in most cases, but still support its legality, because I don’t get to decide for other people. I don’t have to live with the consequences of their decisions, so I don’t get in the way.

3. Marriage is only patriarchal if there’s a man in the marriage. Let’s go ahead and name the agent: Men, historically, have oppressed women in marriage (as well as outside it). Women don’t oppress one another in this way, nor can they (if you have any class analysis at all). I’m sorry if this hurts your feelings. If you’re using this argument, you’re likely a young person who wants to subvert and resist and who has never filed a federal tax return; or someone who is deeply bitter for personal reasons. It’s your own Very Special Journey. But you don’t get to dictate to me.

4. Of course you don’t need a piece of paper to prove the stability and truth of your love – but you do need it to prove you’ve made one specific, legal, and protected commitment – a commitment in which you sign on for over a thousand rights, privileges and obligations that can’t be taken away. Once you make that commitment – namely, federally-recognized marriage; not a civil union or domestic partnership – your situation doesn’t change whenever the political winds blow. You are not at the mercy of people who do not wish you well. The thought of what you do in bed squicks them out six ways to Sunday? Tough. They don’t have to host your reception at their particular church; they don’t have to send you a gravy boat off your registry, but – and this is all that matters – they can’t make you less-than.

And, a special message to the heterosexual “progressive” women who’ve always been able to marry and who dismiss marriage equality as unimportant? Fuck right off out of here. I’ve spent years caring about things like male domestic violence and your right to contraception, and you presume to tell me what is and isn’t important in my life, or what ought to be done first or beforehand?

How’d you like it if my wife and I took an Andrea Dworkin line on your relationship? Your sex life and relationship is oppressive and coercive by its very nature, ladies. How’d that feel?

You, and everyone else who purports to know what’s best for us, can throw all the shade you want. Because this one’s done. This one, as Justice Kennedy wrote from the highest court in the land, is immutable.

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If it fits on a T-shirt, you need to think more: On fundamentalism

God said it.

I believe it.

That settles it.

If you were immersed in Evangelical culture during the 90s, like I was, you’ll recognize that as the text of a popular T-shirt. Even back then, I resented the sentiment, which gave me a mental image of a Bible Heisman – someone gripping a King James translation in one hand whilst stiffly holding up the other and leaning away.

Don’t confuse me with subtleties, that shirt meant. Don’t bring gradient shading or a different interpretation or, most importantly, any of your annoying questions. I have all the answers.

One guy who owned that shirt once wrote an impassioned editorial in the campus newspaper, imploring his “little sisters in faith” not to worry about equal pay, because “equal pay does not advance the cause of Christ.”

It sure helps us buy our groceries, though, I thought but didn’t say.

That was the year we had a pro-life group speak in Chapel. They assured us that it was exceedingly rare for a woman to become pregnant from rape. It was the year one of the guys from our brother dorm told me that the way he planned to find a wife was, he was going to choose a girl who turned him down at least three times for a one-on-one date because that’s how he’d know she was “pure.” It was the year the music professor had to resign because people found out she was gay.

“We can’t help our temptations,” one of my choir friends said, upset. “She’s a lesbian, but…she isn’t practicing.

How else is she gonna get it right? I thought but didn’t say.

Anyway. I haven’t run in Evangelical circles (double meaning intended) in years, yet I’m often forcibly reminded of that T-shirt as I keep up with the news; read certain blogs; and talk to people who have no experience with the particular black-and-white mindset I’ve described here. But, instead of “God said it. I believe it. That settles it,” the messages – all of which could fit on a T-shirt – are:

Transwomen are women. Transwomen are women. Transwomen are women.

Sex work is work.

Porn is empowering.

Some men have vaginas.

Check your privilege!

Having marinated, as I did, in smug zealotry for many years, I recognize it when I see it. The currency of each  of these pomo statements – and plenty more you’ll find repeated in liberal feminist circles – has more in common with fundamentalist, totalitarian religion than with rational, secular discourse. Every time I hear this kind of thing, I remember a guy in my Old Testament History class nodding his head sagely the day Kurt Cobain died, saying, “Well, he’s not in Nirvana now.

I have all the answers.

I, and others who agree with me, are the only people who really see the truth.

Everyone else is blind, mistaken, an apostate, and going straight to Hell.

It’s up to us to correct them. Let’s keep the message simple.

 

Twenty-three years later, I’ve kept the good stuff; the real stuff. I’m no atheist. And, as a return on all those years, I got three bonus gifts, like those awesome sunscreen moisturizers Sephora stuffed into my bag after I spent too much in the store:

(1) I can think for myself.

(2) I can tell immediately when someone else wants to think for me.

(3) I can wager a pretty good guess as to why. A hint? Power. See also: Control.

Fundamentalism does two things at the same time: It makes you doubt your own perceptions and therefore yourself; and it assures you that the belief you’re repping makes you unassailably right.

A belief – especially the unwavering kind unleavened by facts or examination – can be far more dangerous than any idea. A belief can be a fetter; a blindfold; a too-tight, lettered T-shirt you put on willingly and then have trouble taking off.