Opinion – Lynne Jamneck
It is with some disappointment and no small amount of disturbance that I recently read your opinion piece on Stuff ( http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/8521106/Finding-true-essence-of-marriage ) titled “Finding the true essence of marriage” (8 April, 2013).
An Open Letter To Rex Ahdar
By Lynne Jamneck
It is with some disappointment and no small amount of disturbance that I recently read your opinion piece on Stuff (http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/comment/8521106/Finding-true-essence-of-marriage) titled “Finding the true essence of marriage” (8 April, 2013).
Yes, I am gay. I also have an academic degree (MA in English Literature and a major in Religious Studies); in this particular case, my academic background and experience was the main influence for me writing this letter.
Notwithstanding the fact that you categorise the LGBT community as individuals who lack the ability to be “real” parents, my problem with your “argument” stems not from essentially being labelled aberrant. Rather, it is the fact that your supposed “argument concerning the law” masquerades as thinly veiled religious rhetoric.
Indeed, you do not address any religious aspects overtly. Yet the language you use clearly indicates that what you have written is personal opinion, and religiously inclined. Your frequent use of the word “we” is rather defensive, and makes sure to place you within the majority of society, situating a divide between yourselves and those “others” you view as somehow being of a lesser nature.
Furthermore, the final few sentences of your argument additionally highlight the personal opinions behind what you wrote:
“In the end sit still, close your eyes and quietly ask yourself: can a man marry another man and a woman wed another woman?
What on earth have we come to?”
The imagery evoked here is, to anyone with knowledge of religion, psychology, and language, clearly of a religious nature. To be still with one’s eyes closed invokes prayer, and “asking one’s self” is, conceptually, “talking to god” or a higher divinity within a religious context. Finally, “What on earth have we come to?” is obviously a statement meant to inspire indignation, a trait often associated with the majority whenever their delicate sensibilities have been offended.
Additionally, there are also a number of inconsistencies in your argument. For example:
“And lacking reproductive capability they cannot be biological parents.”
In vitro fertilisation has been common practise for a number of years now. This clearly enables both homosexual men and women to be biological parents.
“To redefine marriage is to abolish it.”
Incorrect. To ‘redefine’ anything does not ‘abolish’ it. Redefinition implies the reconstitution of boundaries previously set out. It does not annihilate the object in question (also, I like how we get the word ‘Constitution’ from ‘reconstitution; I think New Zealand needs one of those).
“Lacking sexual complementarity, gay couples cannot achieve complete sexual bodily union.”
I’m not entirely sure how this statement fits into an argument about the law and gay marriage. Nonetheless, simply taking into account sexual and gender theory/research, it is entirely incorrect, and I have to say, poorly researched.
When referring to how the concept of marriage has been established, you claim a gross inconsistency regarding the concept of marriage:
When I say “we”, I mean every culture, tribe and race since antiquity has recognised these as essential elements of this thing called marriage and accorded such unions special status.
Not so. Indigenous American and African cultures are only some examples of cultural societies that are polyamorous.
I should also point out that your argument is based on a majority perspective, which, in this particular context undermines the entirety of what you are arguing for.
“Who says these attributes – sexual complementarity, reproductive capacity – are “essential”?
Who says this is the standard?
We did. We decided that marriage involves the comprehensive sexual union of a man and a woman. “
Your “we” here, of course, refers to the Western majority. A first year philosophy student will be happy to argue the point that “we” is not representative of humanity as a whole. It is simply the majority, expounding the mores and values of an in-group at any given time. Furthermore, the above statement contradicts a previous statement in your argument, i.e.,
“Marriage has a true essence, a fundamental core; it is a real phenomenon, not just a human invention or convention.”
Wait, didn’t “we” decide what marriage is? I must also again, as a student of language, point out your revealing word choices: “essence”, “fundamental” and “phenomenon”, all of which have religious overtones.
As an academic, it concerns me deeply that what you propose to be an argument surrounding the factual basis of the law as it relates to gay marriage is in fact nothing more than disguised rhetoric. Everybody is allowed to have their own personal views and opinions. However, as a Professor at a New Zealand University, I am concerned that your views blatantly contravene the notion of tertiary institutions being environments of acceptance and liberal thinking, two elements that are vital to the type of education students should have access to.
Lynne Jamneck is a South African who lives in New Zealand. She holds an MA in English Literature from the University of Auckland, and has been short listed for the Sir Julius Vogel and Lambda Awards.