Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pro-Marriage, Anti-Marriage

First, let me make this one point clear- I support the traditional family movement. I have read the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' statement on marriage, and choose to endorse it. I want to make that clear, because everything else I am about to say, may lead you to think otherwise.

A little bit about me. I am in my late thirties, a product of the 1980’s and the Mtv generation. I grew up in the suburbs, in a family with a mother and a father who have been married over forty years now. I am the oldest of four children.
Most importantly, I know that my “traditional” upbringing makes me unique. I can think of few friends who grew up in similar environments, with a stay-at-home mom, a dad in the picture, and siblings. Most of my friends, by far the majority, did not have this same arrangement.
To the best of my knowledge, most of my friends were raised by a divorced mother. They knew their fathers, but his presence in their lives varied from person to person. Some had dads that lived in his own house in the same neighborhood, others had dads in far off places.
Single mothers who had never married, and yet “kept the child,” were still unusual, and mostly unheard of. It is my generation that would grow up to change that.
Each time I read another pro-family, pro- “traditional” marriage article, I want to argue with it, in spite of the fact that I try to be on their side. I often want to punch holes through weak, biased, straw man arguments.
If anything, I feel far more sympathy for the gay marriage supporters. But, I have made the decision to follow the prophet, keep the commandments, and in this case, that means I must accept the Church’s position on this issue. It may very well be the ultimate trial of my faith for years to come. I expect that it might be. But nonetheless, I choose it anyway.
Traditional marriage supporters often seem delusional to the opposing side. The arguments that a “child needs both a father and a mother” fall on very experienced, very deaf ears. I wonder if the traditionalists understand that? My generation- the generation with the political money, voting power, and the ones who have brought about much reform in the last 15-20 years, we don’t understand that way of thinking. We (the general we) were not raised in two parent homes, and we turned out just fine. The argument that in order to be smart, healthy, well-fed, loved, and cared for requires a father and a mother is inane to a generation that was not raised that way. Life experiences will always trump statistics.
If traditionalists want to convert or sway the other side, they have to understand that not only does the other side disagree with them, they have life experiences that prove the arguments invalid. All the “research” studies done by biased organizations (who knows how long ago), will never convince a college graduate raised by a single parent that they need both parents.

Furthermore, this generation did not grow up with the biases of our parents’ generation. Racism, class-ism, and homophobia were things we overcame. These are not the illnesses of this generation. They were handed down to us by the same generation that now insists we are wrong about supporting gay marriage. Do you see the hypocrisy? Traditionalists, do you see how you are perceived by the other side?
I heard an interesting comment today. “It used to be that television imitated life. Now life tries to imitate television.” I was not alive in the days of Mayberry, Leave it to Beaver, or Ozzie and Harriett. I cannot attest to whether or not these shows accurately imitated life. But my generation did grow up on Disney cartoons. Can you name just one Disney full-length feature cartoon that includes two parents? What about just one sitcom where the father isn’t portrayed as a goof? I do not give these examples as proof that Hollywood is evil and puts bad role models before us. But instead to show you what it is this generation perceives as normal. I disagree that "life tries to imitate television." As deep as that comment tries to sound, it isn't true. Why are sitcoms funny? Because they are relate-able. They are funny because they reflect our own lives, in a better dressed, well-lit, more eloquent setting.
And this generation does not strive to be the Cleavers. And every argument put forth by traditionalists crying out for legislation that makes families look like the Cleavers looks like, well, they are living in the days of black and white television.
Before you shake your head and pity this poor generation with its misguided values, remember that as soon as you do that, you’ve lost one more potential vote. Instead, find a way to connect. Give them something they can identify with. Stop telling them that the way they were raised is unnatural, unhealthy, and will never work. They have too many living examples of why those “studies” are wrong. (The President of the United States was raised by a single mother, negating the argument that children raised by single mothers are always at a disadvantage.)
Another popular argument for traditional marriage is  that it isn't right, or healthy, or natural for gay parents to use a surrogate mother, or sperm donor. This argument often includes the defense “a child does best when raised by both of its natural parents, and one of the parents won't love it as much because it isn't the natural parent." This is truly a slap in the face to any child adopted by a loving family, any adoptive parent, and to any sibling of an adopted child. As the sibling of adopted children, I beg you to stop with this argument. You lose my respect more and more every time.
Again, I remind you, I want to be on the side of traditional marriage, but the bedfellows embarrass me. I want to follow the prophet and the Church’s stance on traditional marriage. And I will. But I also don’t want to be ashamed of the other people on my side.
I beg of you to stop and consider your audience. Is your intent to preach to the choir? Then by all means, keep quoting statistics that support your theory. But next time you tell me that a child will not succeed or will be at a disadvantage, etc., if raised by a single or gay parent, I will look to one of my childhood best friends and negate your theory. Her parents (married in the temple) divorced when she was young. She was raised (with siblings) by her single mother. Her mother eventually came out as gay. My friend is now an MD/PhD, accomplished pianist and violinist, married (to a man), with children of her own. And I have no personal experiences that support the statistics thrown at me that somehow being raised by straight, married parents makes a child infallible or superior.
Statistics do not win wars. Personal experiences do.
It is too easy, too natural, to absolutely believable to see how prejudice against gay marriage is the equivalent of civil rights discrimination in the past- interracial marriage (the arguments against gay marriage are often identical), blacks and equality, women getting an education/jobs, etc. And the harder pro-traditional marriage supporters try to sound scientific and fact-based, the more bigoted they sound.
If you want to make a change you have to appeal to the other side in a language they can understand. If the reality they identify with best is more “Modern Family” than “All in the Family” this has to be accepted and worked with, not against. Plant seeds! Not cut down their family tree! Learn to know the other side, and stop describing them as evil and immoral.
If your argument is only as deep as "I believe this is God's commandment," then stick with it. It is more respectable, and believable than, children raised by gay parents are more likely to be deviants." Just remember- it was straight parents that conceived, birthed, and raised, the gay parents.

PS- this is my blog, and I reserve the right to delete any comment that I consider to be offensive, rude, hateful, or just left to be a PITA. Feel free to disagree all you want, but if you can't say it politely or respectfully, it will get deleted.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:04 PM

    Erin, this post sounds to me like "mormon culture" which we are not really exposed to here in Canada. We find that in Utah especially someone's ideas taken as from a GA are not or are badly misinterpreted and spread among closely related families and friends. The receivers may not verify the source and you get something that kind of agrees with the Church's teachings until you compare closely. An example is the cafeinne thing, of which you are well aware. It seems like the longer a culture is in place, the more they cross the beaten path instead of following it. :-)


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