My beliefs on marriage and gender essentialism

This has got to be one of the most difficult topics to talk about, as I have a number of people I know and love who would not only disagree with me but see it as an attack on the fundamental beliefs they have on who they are. I’ve skirted around it in the past (“Who will we be when we wake?“,”Feminism and Same Sex Marriage are not compatible“,”Defining the uniqueness of men and women“), but I’ve thus far avoided trying to put down my rationales in full.

One of the poorest arguments I’ve seen against same sex marriage (SSM) is that SSM could not be legitimate because it does not have the possibility of producing children. This makes procreation the measure for legitimacy, leaving out many instances where procreation doesn’t happen or is impossible.

The better course of argument for two-gender marriage, even when no progeny is produced, is in that it provides an example of the advantages of joining together two disparate genders, male and female. Marriage is the bringing together of the greatest difference one person can have with another, creating something more than the sum of its parts. That this doesn’t always happen is immaterial. The intent in marriage is always to be a part of something greater than you can be with your own view of the world limited as it is by your gender.

Two gender marriage is better for children to grow up in as it affords them the opportunity to learn how to interact with those of each gender. Are there many ways this can be messed up, even by well meaning people? Absolutely! There are abusive marriages, families without an adult of one gender or the other, families where one or the other parent is gone for long periods of time, etc., etc., etc.. All of these, however, would be better off in a -good- marriage than in the state they are currently in. There are many kinds of families, from families of one person to families of many. All of these families, whatever their experiences and circumstances, should be celebrated and aided the best we can, even (and especially) our own family. All of these families are on a path of improvement, even those who seem to “have it all” and be perfectly happy.

Some would argue that gender should be immaterial. The problem is that there is something inherent in our gender, something nearly impossible to quantify. Our gender is the second strongest marker of our identity, the first being humanity. So much of our life is of experiences that only happen and relate to the gender we are. Changing completely from one to the other is simply not possible, as we cannot create the cache of gender based experiences we’ve not been part of, no matter how much we desire them. Those who are forced to or themselves attempt to become the other are at an extreme disadvantage, as their lived experiences will not be enough to know what it means to be that gender.

I’ll close this with a simple request. Respect the beliefs and decisions of others. You do not have to agree with their decisions, but you should respect the work, tears, prayers, and pains that they went through to arrive at their current situation. Your own experiences, progression, and faults can not make you better than them, only different in your journey.

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  1. #1 by Richard Alger on 13 April 2015 - 12:24 pm

    “A for-profit business is still a for-profit business even if it fails to make a profit. A soccer team is still a soccer team even if they don’t score or win, or even if the team is lazy and doesn’t really try. However, a soccer team isn’t one if they don’t use a ball or nets when they play. The form, or the structure, of the institution does need to match the purpose. So marriage has to be male-female, and soccer teams have to use balls and nets. As long as something takes the form of a marriage, it’s still a marriage, even if it doesn’t appear to fulfill the ultimate purpose for the marriage institution. This is how we make laws; by means of concepts and definitions more than circumstances. Marriage is a male-female union because it is ordered toward procreation.”

  2. #2 by capricornusconstellatus on 2 June 2015 - 2:41 pm

    While I respect your opinion, Frank, I think your argument is weak. From what I gather, it seems like your premise is that marriage is at its strongest when the two parties involved are as different as they can be, thereby expanding the experiences/world-view of both to encompass as much as possible. Would that be a fair reduction of what you’re saying here?

    I think this fails on a few levels. First, no one, heterosexual, homosexual, or otherwise, seeks a partner that is their opposite in all respects. Admittedly I don’t know of any research on the topic, but I highly doubt that there’s a positive correlation between the strongest marriages and those in which the partners are most different. Rather, I think strong marriages have a balance of important traits/characteristics/opinions which align and some which don’t. I suspect conflict resolution and communication and much more closely predictive of marriage strength over a tally list of differences.

    Secondly, I think your claim that physical sex is the “greatest difference one person can have with another” is decidedly untrue (though I’ll grant that perhaps your personal experience says otherwise). Rather, I imagine that you’d find a lot more in common with a person of the opposite sex from your same culture and upbringing than you would with a person of your same sex from a different culture. Within a culture, particularly one such as Mormondom where religion isn’t distinct, sex often becomes the next most obvious differentiator. But it’s important to keep your frame of reference in mind.

    I’m not saying gender is irrelevant or unimportant, and I agree with your statements in your second-to-last paragraph (except the extreme disadvantage part)… gender does influence identity, and greatly. But putting it so much higher than other determining factors, such as culture and religion to support your claim is fallacious and not descriptive of reality.

    • #3 by Frank Pellett on 8 June 2015 - 10:40 am

      You’re right, it is weak. I knew that going in. The difficulty is that I have a hard time describing what is so different between the genders that feels to endemic without treading into limits that don’t hold.

      Biologically, two genders aren’t required for procreation; it just makes the exchange of various mutations easier. it’s conceivable that this can be done at some point between any two organisms, but instead the species have gone for two genders. There must be some good reason, even if I can’t work out what it is.

      Some would see this as a reason to abandon my supposition, but it’s what I’ve got for now.

  3. #4 by capricornusconstellatus on 13 June 2015 - 1:27 am

    A gut feeling is a fine basis for personal belief as far as I’m concerned and I’ve no qualms with that. Ultimately that’s all I’ve got to work off of, too. Thanks for your openness.

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