The Pomo-Homo:  Reconciling post-modern views with marriage







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Advocacy News

March 16, 2003

The Pomo-Homo
Reconciling post-modern views with marriage

People who write things like a blow job is as good as a marriage do so in the knowledge that it will be used by those who hate us. If they do not realize that, they are incredibly ill-informed or naïve. While they are entitled to their opinions, personally I find these kinds of statements irresponsible in the current political climate. These nitwits are painting
targets on us all.

Douglas Elliott, lawyer leading the MCC Toronto marriage case

The debate over same-sex marriage has created some strange alliances. At the parliamentary hearings on marriage, conducted by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Canadians heard right-wing traditionalists use queer progressives to support an argument against same-sex marriage. How can this be?

Traditionalist and Pomo-Homo Perspectives

Traditionalists and Post-Modernist queers share many of the same fears. Both groups define people primarily by sexual orientation and both sides feel that their values would be compromised if equal treatment led to the normalization of homosexuality.

While emphasizing differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals, these unlikely allies are also motivated by concerns about loss of status if gays and lesbians are allowed to marry. Marriage would be undermined by infidelity, the traditionalists argue, while the post-modernists are concerned that their sexual freedom would be compromised."A postmodern insight is that nothing happens as a direct result of top-down stimuli (including laws); social change occurs from the bottom up, as a multitude of discourses and power exchanges go on simultaneously."
William Eskridge, The ideological structure of the same-sex marriage debate, Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Partnerships (2001)

Both sides fear interference from the state: traditionalists want judges to ignore Canadian Charter rights in court. They expect compliant politicians to keep the status quo, while the post-modernists fear state regulation of their lives.

And both groups are concerned about gender roles: the traditionalists insist that a husband and wife is essential to marriage, while the post-modernists seem concerned that "outlaw" gender roles would be further marginalized.

Modernist Marriage

Modernist gays who are fighting for same-sex marriage believe first and foremost in equality. Same-sex couples should be treated the same as opposite-sex couples. We want the benefits and the obligations that come with marriage, and we believe that rigid gender roles are not relevant in the definition of family.

Opportunities for the pomo-homo

Only someone who has internalized the bigotry of the traditionalist would argue for ongoing discrimination against gays and lesbians. We can't expect society to abandon marriage because it doesn't fit the pomo aesthetic. Instead, the pomo-homo should revel in the space for discussion that has opened up as a result of the pursuit of marriage by modernist gays and lesbians. The movement for same-sex marriage has expanded options and experiments, not restricted them. Registered domestic partnerships have been introduced, and white papers have been developed to explore how to recognize other relationships outside of marriage.

State intervention in our lives, gay or straight, is a given and always will be. Citizenship comes with rights and obligations and both of these govern our interpersonal relationships. However state recognition of same-sex marriage does not mean an increase of state regulation of extramarital sexual behaviours. The post-modernist perspective is that social change happens from the bottom up, not from the state down: fears of state intervention are a betrayal of pomo-ideals."... the essence of postmodernism is an adolescent fear of getting taken in, an adolescent conviction that all systems are phony. The theory is compelling, but as a way of life it's a recipe for rage. The child grows enormous but never grows up."
Jonathan Franzen, The New Yorker, Sept. 30, 2002

The modernist embrace of same-sex marriage, and the day-to-day example of two women forming a family will deconstruct the rigid gender roles established by the traditionalists and open up space for all. The gender outlaw will be a rebel without a cause.

Modernists will win their right to marriage, with or without the pomo-homo. However, the pomo-homo risks irrelevance, or being seen as a collaborator for oppression, if the only contribution made in this effort is to mirror the fears of the traditionalists in the name of leading-edge thinking.

A new vision is required from the pomo advocates, one that contributes to, and leverages off, the opportunities made possible by the modernist fight for equal marriage. Isn't that what being post-modern is all about?

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