The Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 2015, that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states was a landmark day in U.S. history. Yet I am at a deep and uncomfortable moral crossroad in my life over this decision.
I am gay, Jamaican, and a conservative Democrat who is deeply committed to marital equality for gays and lesbians. People of the same sex ought to have as much of a moral and legal right as their heterosexual counterparts to marry a person of their choice with whom they think they want to spend the rest of their lives.
It is a violation of individual rights for the state to discriminate against the marital choices of gays and lesbians. It thoroughly annihilates the unassailable value one has discovered—perhaps, after a lifetime of searching—in another person who undoubtedly contributes to the meaning and purpose of one’s life.
I also believe marriage between two men in our contemporary culture is a colossal waste of time, a hopeless undertaking doomed for failure, and, fundamentally, a naive endeavor profoundly at odds with the hypersexual, broken, and ethically bankrupt ethos and nature of gay male culture. I do not believe this because I think homosexuality is immoral. Sexual orientation per se is morally neutral. One should judge ethical status according to how one functions in a relationship rather than the sexual identity one holds.
Gay Culture’s Sexual Selfishness Damages People
The problem is that the entire milieu in which gay men’s moral and sexual socialization takes place is so deeply compromised, so bereft of sustainable meaning and protracted monogamous commitment, that marriage in the traditional sense (which is what I believe gay men are trying to achieve in their lives) will be impossible to realize.
If it is not impossible, then marriage between two men will forever change the fundamental nature of marriage. The majority of gay men, with their transparent and blatant preference for open relationships and polyamorous dalliances, will suffuse mainstream culture with “experiments in living” that will radically alter the sexual landscape of our culture.
People for whom an open relationship would have been unthinkable will view it cavalierly, as just another candidate for living a full and exciting life. The addictive “partying,” a.k.a. plenty of sex and drug use that is a constitutive feature of gay male culture, will only glamorize that feature of our culture and make it an eventual norm—rather than exception—of mainstream life.
We’re So Lonely We Want AIDS
Promiscuous sex and drug use are not exceptional or marginalized currents in gay culture. They are an omnipresent force in every register, crook, and cranny of the gay world. The new and disturbing “Poz Me” trend merging in gay culture needs to be nationally discussed. This culture consists in underground online sites where gay men who are HIV negative hook up with men who are not and beg to be “breeded” by HIV-positive men.
A compassionate and psychological reading of this phenomenon is not hard to understand. The worst of any sub-culture is always an exaggerated microcosm of the pathologies of the larger culture, largely because the former is always deprived of the material and social resources to combat the maladies of the latter.
Today, our culture has been described as the age of loneliness; one in which sustained intimacy and connectedness is absent and emotional isolation the norm for a growing majority of human lives. It is a desperate cry for intimacy and deep contact with another on the—literally— deepest form: an exchange of infected bodily fluids. It’s almost as if the non-HIV sexual participants are rebelling against the nomenclatures of ‘‘safe sex,” “protected sex,” and the question one is expected to ask potential partners before engaging in sex: “Are you clean?” Not only technology but also language itself is driving isolation and non-connectedness.
Mere Sex Can’t Satisfy
Until gay men forge a new moral contract that combats their disproportionate drug use, sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, depression, and suicides, then gay culture will die—not by one apocalyptic blow but, rather, by bleeding to death upon thousands of tiny scratches. This death is predicated on a lethal and pathological form of individualism that afflicts gay men more than any other group. It’s the idea that “I am already whole. I am complete. I only need someone to complement me.”
This lie we tell ourselves drives us to seek validation, completion, and wholeness in very unhealthy ways. Happy, self-confident, and complete people are not manically driven to pursue drug-infested bathhouses and underground parties that are heartbreakingly meant to fulfill an obvious emptiness at the epicenter of such individuals” souls.
An important part of who we are and who we shall become is predicated on our shared and created experiences with each other. Our age of loneliness is driven by this illusion of completion. Human identity is not only forged in the crucibles of sexual intercourse, but also via a process of creative social intercourse in which our shared vulnerabilities and need for sustained intimacy commit us to reciprocal acts of nurturance in a sustained and authentic manner.
Marriage as an institution means the world to me, and not just because I come from a broken home in which my parents divorced when I was six years old. More importantly, I believe in the moral meaning of marriage.
Marriage is, above all, the pursuit of certain values—the highest values one can aspire to, such as love, friendship, commitment, raising a family, mutual responsibility, and deep companionship. Given the centrality, then, of valued persons in our lives, and given the psychological need to have them esteemed in the public sphere, we understand marriage as, among other things, an insignia of public approval of two people’s choices. The legal imprimatur of the state makes this union sacred.
Marriage Helps Make People Whole
Marriage is beyond mere legality. It is the nucleus in which regeneration, social validation, and affirmation take place. Those who would seek to deny same-sex couples this derivative right would exclude gays from being formal co-constructors of the very society of which they are a part and would decouple them from the highest value they hold that, on several accounts, is a constitutive feature of their personal and moral identities.
Legalizing gay marriage involves values respected in heterosexual relationships because heterosexuals are considered to possess a higher share in humanity than gays. Whether this is openly admitted or not by those who oppose gay marriage is irrelevant. It is the logical terminus of a thought process that starts with arbitrary reasons for why two people of the same sex cannot get married.
Prisoners, the mentally and physically handicapped, rapists, those who fail to care for their children, those unable to procreate, serial killers, the elderly, the asocial, the non-communicative, and those who participate in traditions of wife beating, philandering, and wife desertion are all accorded the right to marry. But at least some persons in this list are regarded as, at best, psychological aberrations who are incidental to the larger heterosexual marrying population and, at worst, social ballasts who, if we did not live in a civilized society would be a job for the sanitation department to dispose of. The worst members within a group should never be used as a normative standard of value by which to appraise and judge the merit of that group’s other, majority-forming members.
A Voracious Appetite for Sex Destroys Love
Short of a moral and radical revolution in gay culture—the milieu in which most gay men’s sexual and social socialization takes place today—the moral gay minority will have its hopes and aspirations for traditional marriage obliterated by larger cultural forces within contemporary nihilistic gay culture. Such a culture makes it very difficult to promote the moral meaning of marriage in the same way that a principled individualist would have any chance of success at promoting racial harmony and the respect for inter-marriage in a segregated and racist society saturated with miscegenation laws.
A few constitutive features of gay culture are endemic to and formative of the identities of the majority of men who belong to it and who thus suffuse it with its mores, norms, and ethos. First, the insatiable and voracious sexual promiscuity that functions not as rites of passage but an ongoing recreational activity that does not cease with marriage or long-term partnerships and that increases with age.
For homosexual relationships, the meaning of “committed” or “monogamous” means, for the most part, something radically different than in heterosexual marriage. In all the studies I looked at, 43 percent of all gay men in Western democracies claimed to have had more than 500 partners in their lifetime, and 28 percent claimed more than 1,000. The sexual peccadilloes of such men did not decrease markedly after marriage for the simple reason that 50 percent of all gay marriages in the United States begin as open relationships where men continue to have sex with other men on the side.
As a friend said to me at a dinner party a few months ago upon my playful admonition, after years of dating frantically and after I saw him making a pass for another man at the dinner table: “Don’t worry, my husband and I are in a gay relationship, which means we play on the side with other men.”
“And that is the new norm?” I asked.
“It’s always been that way, and should be,” he said, then proceeded to give me a good-natured lesson in how to proceed if I wanted to succeed at another long-term relationship after my painful break-up with my former partner of 13 years.
Biology Protects Heterosexuals, But Not Gay Men
Sexual promiscuity among gay men is an addiction that has little to do with conquering prey and liking the chase. At some point in a heterosexual man’s life, mindless and maniacal cruising for sex with women ceases and he begins, like women, the biological search for an ideal mate who will be a suitable mother to his future children.
The unconscious criteria that evaluate a woman’s allure have much to do with her fitness for procreation. The criteria, for the majority of men who do not elect to be vocational bachelors, transcend breasts, buttocks, and hips. They include a swath of characteristics that include capacity for fidelity, loyalty, cooperativeness, trustworthiness, and sexual monogamy.
The same criteria hold for heterosexual women appraising their potential mates. Each wants not just hot sex and lasting passion but, more importantly, a mate who will sire healthy children. This biological imperative pushes the sexes towards each other and tempers—at least, for a while—the maniacal drive to seek anonymous and wide-ranging pleasures outside the hearth.
Marriage Won’t Fix Sexual Addictions
The unconscious political and somewhat empathic motivations of progressive heterosexuals who support gay marriage stem from, I believe, a drive to legitimize, tame, and conquer the gay sexual imagination. I say to such progressives: terminate the fantasy.
Most gay men by nature of their sexual socialization within gay culture are moral secessionists; outlaws who will never capitulate to their own fantasies of being normal and just-like-everybody-else. Nor will they fulfill the hypocritical and unrealistic expectations of progressives who think they can, through institutional re-socialization via traditional marriage, mold gay men into a model of social and behavioral predictability.
The hyper-sexualized cultural milieu in which sexual socialization takes place for gay men is conducive to the unmistakable behavior most gay men commit or are prone to commit: sexual addiction. That most gay men are sexual addicts is reason enough to pause and consider whether a palliative over-coating of legalized gay marriages can ameliorate the underlying causal contributors to this unsustainable mode of being in the world.
For the progressive scribal class, gay marriage is not the granting of a constitutional human right, which I believe it is. But more: it is a sacred experiment that reinforces the nature of their moral identities. They are fighting for a worthy cause on two fronts. One is an unassailable legal and moral battle; the other is a serious experiment to broker and remedy the nihilistic orientation of gay culture and the nihilistic sensibilities of the men who are denizens of that world.
Gay Culture Aims to Destroy Marriage
While most gay men are like everyone else—good people with faults who are no more or no less prone to do good or bad things than the general heterosexual population—they do face an uphill battle that their heterosexual peers do not. The nihilistic nature of gay culture that caters predominantly to range of momentary fulfilment and trivializes the stupendous commitment required to hold one’s life in full consciousness at all times, its fetishization of sexual play and fantasy, hijacks gay men’s moral sensibilities to such a profound extent that it makes them functional nihilists of a particular type: ones—outside of the militant activists of Act Up—who assault the heteronormative identity of Western civilization.
Heteronormativity is the concept that human beings fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in their respective lives. It postulates that heterosexuality has to be the norm, and that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes. For some critics, heteronormativity creates a “sex hierarchy” that grades sexual practices from morally good to bad sex.
Writing as a liberal, gay, moderate heteronormativist, I place the destruction of civilizational heteronormativity as a constitutive feature of gay male culture and of the men who are sexually and ethically socialized within its matrices. Again, sexual orientation is morally neutral. The orientation itself says nothing about the moral status of the individual.
Gay sex and heterosexual sex as “acts in themselves,” that is, apart from their wider value applications, are also morally neutral. Sex should be good sex whether it is gay sex or straight sex. Speaking metaphysically, however, gay sex as a lifelong activity even if practiced within the registers of legalized marriage has never been the norm historically and will never be the norm. More importantly, it can and should never be the norm because it abolishes the regenerative principle of biological procreation.
Gay Relationships Erode Necessary Social Ties
Heteronormativity is the normative standard of an objective sexual reality not because heterosexual sex is intrinsically more pleasurable than gay sex, but because it is the only regenerative means by which mores, norms, values, principles and, therefore, a rational civilization are possible. And a civilization is the only social milieu in which any human being can matriculate as human rather than as an animal or some social monstrosity.
If civilization were left exclusively in the hands of gay men and heterosexuals were eliminated from the earth, it is not only obvious that the species would die off—that is putatively obvious. What is less obvious is this: we would live in a state of moral ferality.
This is because the evolutionary basis for morality stems from an ethic of care, from which the procreative impulse, centered on care for the helpless young, stems. In a world in which moral imagination need not extend beyond one’s sexual pleasure to care of one’s progeny and theirs as well, one is dis-incentivized from creating a system of morality that speaks to preserving the species in perpetuity.
When one’s personal identity and rational self-interest are tied to the protection of one’s young and their offspring and one accepts that morality is a code of values that secures and preserves the foundations of human well-being, then one’s sexual identity is in some sense undoubtedly a pre-foundational precursor to a moral identity.
If the moral status of heterosexual sex versus gay sex were to be measured by the moral metric that underlies heteronormativity, then heterosexual sex would be morally superior to gay sex of any kind because—once more—it provides the foundational axis along which lies the mores, norms, and civilizational principles that secure the well-being and longevity of human flourishing and agency, and the social and moral conditions for an ethos of extended care.
The laws of heteronormativity are as invariant as the laws of nature. Exclusive homosexuality is, generatively speaking, incapable of producing the evolutionary stratagems from which morality is derived. Still, the moral hypocrisy is obvious, and the divide between lip service paid to principles and convictions and how one lives one’s life is deep.
Let’s Not Forget How Gay Culture Deflects Self-Examination
It is not hyperbolic to assert that many self-proclaimed white gay progressives in the spirit of a moral self-righteously occupied stance have declared war on the([their terms) “white heterosexist and heteronormative majority.” They do so in complete denial or willed self-ignorance of how they are part of a lifestyle pact that configures and demarcates the world in a far more racist manner than any Jim Crowe or pre-civil rights-era norm could.
Steeped in their own racial and ethnic idiolects, they luxuriate in a porcine and somnolent deception that allows them to eschew self-examination in favor of exposing other people’s alleged bigotry. Self-created moral popinjays who have been given a societal papal dispensation, they and the past victims of sexual bigotry are transformed into certified moral icons. As progressives who accept their moral culpability in historical oppression, they can redeem themselves (in their own eyes).
The degree of heterosexual guilt which is fast becoming a reality in the sexual identity politics of the United States grants gays a recomposed self that expresses itself as Gay Power. But this power paradoxically makes it harder to be authentically gay in America today. It confers a false sense of invulnerability that hides from most gays their sexual anxieties, inferiority, sexual shame, and—in spite of the growing trend towards greater tolerance—sexual diminishment, a diminishment that is reflexively denied by most gays who, for psychologically understandable reasons, are fearful of falling back into the cult of victimology.
Progressives, on the other hand, have increased their moral leverage by believing that it is their benevolent capacity for toleration rather than, say, the work of gay activists that have emancipated gays from political discrimination. But power, eventually, always divides by default and intention, or it unites through benign and malevolent coercion. In the case of gay or queer power, it trades on heterosexuals’ guilt and grants to gays a sense of unexamined and indiscriminate moral authority over heterosexuals.
I’m Gay, So Beyond Critique
Gay power is seemingly benign and without doubt utopianistic. Its holders seem to simply want for all gays the same rights and privileges that regular straight people have. Utopias that are the result of any form of identity politics—racial or sexual—are tribal.
Being gay is, in one sense, more difficult today than it was before this era of marital equality in that it seduces one into suspending a moral narrative about the behaviors of oneself and a significant number of individuals who belong to the gay community.
Legal victory has translated into moral self-righteousness. Gays are immunized from the scrutiny of others and, as such, any outside or self-criticism is seen as a form of self-hatred, selling out, or engaging in bigotry. But if gay culture is real—as I believe it is—and, if any culture’s norms, mores, and precepts cannot be immune from critical scrutiny given human fallibility, then they have to be subjected to rational inquiry.
If I described gay men as moral secessionists regarding traditional marriages, then the hyper-sexualization and sexual extremism that will bring about what I predict will not necessarily be backlash from progressives. Instead, the new ethic of sexual integration that we are experiencing in the United States that will expose the radically different nature of gay male sexuality to broad swaths of people will produce integration shock.
It does not seem likely liberal progressives will want to reverse policy out of an atavistic fear of losing their deepest sense of the decorous nature of their sexual mores. But today’s progressives will have to contend with a new paradigm shift. Their children will undergo a moral and sexual transformation that will leave them aghast.
The sexual imagination of gay men will suffuse their children’s sexual imagination as gay sex pervades the mainstream sexual imagination, and populate it not with amazingly new sexual ways of functioning but will enjoin it to a degree of pure biological carnality that will decouple sex from—at least—the pretense of love.
We Need a New Moral Contract
But hope cannot be parasitic on chance and happenstance. Gay men who are exhausted by the cult of beauty, superficiality, drugs, and sexual ephemerality need to take up a new moral contract. This moral contract, I believe, will forge a new culture, in which a milieu of respect and authentic validation transcends the obsession with validating oneself and others via an appeal to sexual anatomy.
It is unclear what the moral contract will look like. I believe that dissenting gay men who want a sustainable social and romantic life and the concomitant culture that will support it will make up the rules as they go along. Whatever those rules of engagement are, though, they seem unlikely to be authentic unless we admit that, despite the growing acceptance of homosexuality, the psychological trauma of growing up and still living in a world that is run predominantly by heterosexual men is still a deeply painful world to live in.
Without claiming to be victims, this open admission of shame, guilt, and pain will allow us to connect to each other and the world in a way that is healthy, sustainable, and deeply loving. This ethos, generated by a radical break with the culture as it stands, is the only way to foster a love for humanity and create a new world in which we feel at home—one we have co-created by suffusing it with an original, passionate, and authentic assemblage of who we are as moral creatures.