Against desire essentialism II: What if I were gay?

Let’s return to the example of the married man who “discovers” that he’s gay, and that he can only be happy by betraying his wife and pursuing (at least) one homosexual relationship.  We’re always encouraged to be understanding towards such men.  All right, let’s try to understand them.  Let’s suppose I discover tomorrow that I’m sexually attracted to men, and, just to make the condition more extreme, that I am completely unattracted to my own wife.  Lastly, let’s make this not just purely physical:  let’s say that I’m drawn to a particular man, charmed and enchanted by his personality.  Now, one might say that, being a heterosexual man, there’s no way I can imagine what this would be like.  Someone committed to the homosexualist agenda, however, must not say this, because to do so would be lethal to his case.  Their argument, after all, is that sodomites fall in love and form monogomous relationships exactly like heterosexuals, that the lack of sexual complementarity and ordering to procreation makes no essential difference to the character of the relationship, and therefore such relationships should be given the same recognition as heterosexual relationships.  Without this claim to sameness, the call for gay marriage would be obviously a call for an error of equivocation.  I myself am willing to grant, for the sake of argument, that gays have the same feelings towards each other as straights do.  (I would still maintain that equating the two types of relationship is an error, because the essence of marriage is duty, not feeling, and the structure of marriage is ultimately rooted in the distinction of paternal and maternal roles.)  Granting this, I am able to carry out my thought experiment.

It would seem that the situation I would find myself in would not be especially unusual.  After all, many men aren’t sexually attracted to their wives.  Sometimes, they never were.  After all, there are other and better reasons for choosing a mate.  Sometimes, a man used to be attracted to his wife, but then she got old, gained weight, was deformed by illness, or something like that.  These are the situations where that “for better or for worse” clause is supposed to kick in; we would regard a man who left his wife for such reasons to be a scoundrel.

Nor is being sexual attracted to someone other than one’s spouse a particularly extraordinary situation.  Perhaps the journalists who champion the gay cause never notice another woman after their weddings, but most of us men take notice of the attractive women that cross our eyes every day.  We’re just as physically drawn to them as we were before we put on those wedding rings.  We could, if we got to know them, be drawn by their charm and femininity.

What does it mean if I see a pretty college girl walking down the Cornell quad and I find myself attracted to her?  Does it mean that my “true self” is adulterous, and that I’m just suppressing it?  What if, after being married to a dark-haired girl for a decade, I realize one day that I’m totally into blondes?  Is my life going to be hell from now on, because I can’t let myself be who I truly am?  What’s more, I can’t even tell people (certainly not my wife) about my blonde fixation.  I’d be forced to live in the closet my whole life, with no one knowing me or accepting me for who I truly am.

This is obviously stupid.  If I find myself wanting to commit adultery with a pretty blonde, that’s just one more temptation to avoid, like overeating or cheating on my taxes, except more serious.  My temptations are not who I am.  They are parasites, diseases, afflictions.  They’re only a part of me like a tumor is part of me, and no one needs to love or accept my tumor to love me.  Quite the opposite.  Who I am is the husband to my wife, the father of my family, bound by my duties to protect, provide, and be faithful.  If my best friends never know some of my evil desires, they will not on that account fail to know the real me.

So what would it matter if I turned gay tomorrow?  The answer is that it wouldn’t affect anything fundamental.  I wouldn’t be pleased with the change, but it wouldn’t give me an identity crisis.  I would still be the same man.

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