As the legal battle over marriage equality moved its way toward the Supreme Court a few years ago, the anti-gay forces found their old legal arguments being debunked and thoroughly rejected by all but the most arch-conservative of judges, so that by the end they had fallen on a convoluted and truly weird argument. Marriage, they said, had to legally remain applicable solely to straight couples because without the legal institution of marriage forcing straight people who accidentally become pregnant raising their kids together, all children would be deprived the benefits of two-parent families. Basically, they asserted that straight, traditional-minding humans are so terrible that they are incapable of being responsible about reproduction without the inconvenience and expense of divorce to enforce responsibility.
There are many, many problems with the argument (not the least of which is that humans have been having children both in and out of wedlock for as long as marriage has existed, and unmarried parents are perfectly capable of being responsible child-rearers, while married parents are just as capable of being irresponsible). The only way their argument could even begin to make sense was if the laws were changed so that any time unmarried humans get pregnant that they are forced to marry, and if divorce became completely unavailable. But even then it would have big logical holes. One of those being that allowing non-straight people to marry didn’t take marriage away from straights.
This is hardly the only time that fundamentalist religionists have argued that some people must be oppressed because other people are terrible and incapable of self-control. This is why in some countries it is illegal for women to go out in public without clothing that conceals their faces, et cetera. Men, the reasoning goes, are incapable of refraining from randomly raping women if they happen to get a glimpse of a woman’s cheeks or hair, apparently. Similarly, dress codes in schools and the like are are built around restricting girls (seriously, go look at them: the codes for girls are complicated and specific about concealing this and that body part with notes about how far above or below the knee skirts must reach and so forth, while the boys’ rules almost always boil down to: wear clean, mostly untorn clothes) because boys are deemed incapable of refraining from sexually assaulting a girl if they happen to get a glimpse of a girl’s shoulder or knee.
In other words, women and girls must be tightly controlled and restricted because men and boys are terrible people. This is also the source of a lot of the victim-blaming that happens around rape: it’s not the rapist’s fault if the woman was out in public alone, or dressed “that way,” or drunk somewhere, et cetera, et cetera.
This logic shows up in a lot of other policies and practices, and has come to light this week because (among other rightwingers) our Vice President believes it would be immoral to have any female friends, which is also why there are virtually never any women in any significant staff positions under the veep now, nor in any appointed state positions when he was governor and so on. Having women as managers and directors and so forth would necessitate occasionally having one-on-one meetings. There’s also the fact that governors and similar executives are most likely to appoint and promote people they develop friendly relationships with. If a boss believes it’s immoral to be friends with a women, guess what that means about women’s chances for advancement?
This assumption that people who might potentially be attracted to each other can never be in close proximity without supervision is why the churches I was raised in insisted on separating Sunday School classes and Bible studies and similar activities by gender. And it’s the reason that people from such churches get so freaked out about being around gay people, particularly in locker rooms and bathrooms. That meme that defines homophobia as “being afraid gay men will treat you the way you treat women” isn’t a joke.
It’s why fundamentalist communities that claim to be accepting while “disagreeing with the lifestyle” discourage friendships between straight guys and gay men and straight women and lesbians. When you combine that with the fundamentalist belief that sexual orientation isn’t an inherent trait, that means that such communities also discourage friendships between opposite sex straight people and queers. And it’s all subtle and usually not even talked about. But it manifests in lots of ways. In my 20s, for instance (when I still hadn’t come out), I learned that throughout my teen years I had been excluded from some activities and some positions within my church and the evangelical teen choir I was in for all that time because everyone suspected I was gay. These were adults making this decision about a kid without ever talking to me about it. And that’s on top of the bullying and related activities from the kids my own age.
It’s another layer of cruelty. Just like the religious people who claim that they welcome queer people into their church so long as they are celibate, never date, et cetera. You’re welcome as long as you’re lonely with no love in your life.
But all of it comes back to that idea: the reason rightwing leaders (who are always men for supposedly theological reasons) assume that gay men can’t refrain from assaulting other men is because they believe that they, themselves, are incapable of refraining from jumping the bones of anyone they are sexually attracted to if given half a chance. So we can’t use public bathrooms and have to stay out of locker rooms and not work in jobs where we might be around people unsupervised, can’t live in their neighborhoods, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera because they are terrible.
It is beyond stupid. If they’re so bad, they are the ones who should resign and go live like hermits, right?
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