The French were out demonstrating this last Sunday in Paris and Lyon, against the government's Same Sex Marriage statute, passed and signed into law in May 2013. Recent rumors that the government would soon be implementing the so-called "equality ABC" program, in which public school children are to be subject to so-called "gender theory"--taught, in effect, that their genetic identity is only a blue-print for their sexual persuasion--were the impetus for the latest unrest. The French love to protest, anyway, but this appeared to represent a very strong sentiment. Reports differed, but the total numbers were probably in the hundreds of thousands. I can't remember when anything like this number of ordinary citizens took to the streets in America. These people mean business.
Opinion around the world has been changing. The new campaigns for legalization of same-sex marriage, same sex couple adoption and inheritance rights, have gained traction in many countries. For someone of my age (66), this is all a very unsettling and astonishing development. In the space of just a couple of decades, public opinion has undergone a profound shift towards widespread tolerance.
What I find most curious and peculiar is the way in which the nature of the promotion has itself changed during that same period. When I first knew Gay people in the 1960's and 1970's, the major concerns were prejudice and harassment. The Gays I knew mostly didn't have permanent relationships, didn't want them for the most part, and would have been mystified by the idea of legally binding contracts. Marriage was something that straight people did. They liked their freedom, and tended to condescend to "breeders" and all the responsibilities and inconvenience that marriage and child-rearing entailed. Insofar as I knew, there were no same-sex families with children at all--it simply wasn't something that occurred. In a few isolated cases, traditional couples that had broken up because one member had decided to "go Gay" after having lived the straight life, found themselves in the position of being same-sex "parents" to a child conceived in their previous straight marriage. Since they couldn't have "conceived" a child on their own, this was the only way it could occur.
In the years since then, proxy conception and surrogate breeding have become a reality, enabling same-sex couples, for the first time in history, to contemplate a kind of constructed parenthood.
Despite what one hears in the media from LGBT advocates these days, it is perfectly obvious that the whole campaign for legalization of same-sex marriage, parenting and inheritance is a new invention, designed to legitimate the sexual behavior and life-style of the LGBT communities. Posing the issue as a struggle over rights, was the strongest way of presenting the case, for marshaling sentiment and overcoming the customary resistance which has characterized cultural tradition around the world since the beginning of recorded history. This change in strategy happened almost overnight.
Most people, LGBT or straight, tend to think of sex as a private matter. It isn't something that people generally feel comfortable discussing in public. Among the LGBT communities, this reservation is no less common. Most LGBT people were content, as most people are, for the most part, to live quietly, alone or as couples, without serving as an example or challenge to the society at large. But the campaign for rights and recognition has encouraged them to think of themselves as revolutionaries and guerillas in a struggle they never expected to fight. It has galvanized what had been intensely private emotional and personal feelings into political principles and propaganda.
As a child of the 1950's, raised in a traditional heterosexual household, the idea that Gay people might actually want to have families where children were raised, seems absurd to me. When I began to know LGBT people, as an adult, I found them to be uniformly unhappy--unhappy with their families, unhappy with their childhoods, their identity, their place in the world. My generation (the Sixties) was rebellious by nature, but the LGBT people I knew had another whole burden of resentment and anger they carried around. They tended to distrust, even to hate the straight world.
It's difficult for me to comprehend how people who have a historical bone to pick with the traditional family, and with the religious and civil prohibitions against same sex behaviors and arrangements, can have been transformed, within a single generation in time, into committed partners and guardians.
France is a complex society of different political and religious affiliations. There are Protestants and Catholics and Muslims, Communists and socialists and radical rightists, and coalitions of every stripe. You'd need a Ph.D. in political science just to unravel them. The French right, however, seems to have decided that this new liberalization is a threat to their way of life--the traditional family, and everything it stands for.
Any issue that becomes this politicized, is bound to perpetuate animosities on both sides. The partisan debate that has developed between the advocates of traditional conjugal institutions, and those promoting new kinds of arrangements, is sewing the seeds of distrust and hostility which are bound to continue for many years. Children raised in "normal" households and in "new" ones will serve as hostages in the conflict. It will be a war fought in neighborhoods, in schools, in churches, in associations and societies, in locker-rooms and bathrooms and health clubs. It will create more confusion, and more distress, and more victims, than ever.