Marriage is not simply an agreement between two people who wish to formalize (and sacralize) their love for each other, but it is also a covenant between that couple and the entire community, which is expected to support them in the pilgrimage of marriage and family life. What we have been doing in the West for many decades now has been stripping individuals, couples, and their children of the social support they need to thrive. These Egan data, to me, further demonstrate how the project of emancipating sexual desire from traditional norms sets up younger people for lives of great instability.
Wait, so you mean not everybody is “born this way”? You mean that it’s not simply nature, but also nurture? I’m so confused.
Actually I’m not confused at all. The “truth” in this matter has always been “what works to advance the cause.”
But for those who want to grapple honestly with this issue, these data from Patrick Egan show pretty clearly that the nurturing that culture provides does make a big difference. Therefore, for communities who wish for their children to remain heterosexual, to form heterosexual marital unions, traditional families, etc., neutrality on the matter of sexuality will result in five to eight times as many people claiming homosexuality or bisexuality as would have otherwise been the case. (There have also been skyrocketing numbers of people claiming to be transgender.)
Sexuality is a lot more fluid than we think. For post-pubescent adolescents, teenagers, and young adults in their twenties, re-setting the boundaries of what is permissible resets the boundaries of what is thinkable, and for a meaningful number of them will change the way they behave.
Here’s what I mean. It must be that there are young people who experience homosexual desires as teenagers, but who do not act on them for reasons of religious belief or social custom. Later in life — in their twenties, say — their sexual desire solidifies as heterosexual, allowing them to form a stable marital bond with someone of the opposite sex, and start a family. Had they had the opportunity to experiment with homosexuality as a teenager, they might have remained confused and unstable well into adulthood.
Now, to be fair, it is also certainly true that in the past, people who did not experience sexual desire for those of the opposite sex felt compelled by custom or religious belief to marry, and who therefore formed an inherently unstable bond.
The argument (or at least a main argument) for normalizing homosexuality in general and legalizing gay marriage in particular is that it is unjust to compel people who are born with same-sex desire to live by traditional norms — norms that entail withholding from them the possibility to live as they desire. Therefore, the change is necessary as a matter of justice to the small minority.
The friend and reader of this blog who brought the Egan data to my attention writes:
I came around to supporting gay marriage in large part because of Andrew Sullivan’s argument that homosexuality is innate (in about 2 percent of the population) and it’s cruel to force people who can’t help their attractions to deny them, or to try to educate them away from those inclinations. Social conservatives said in reply, “Sexuality is more polymorphous than this; if you stop upholding a normative standard in favor of heterosexual marriage and child-rearing, kids will grow up to be far more confused. You’ll end up with far more ‘innately’ gay and bisexual kids, in other words.”