The Eternal Queer Revolution
A Presbyterian reader passes along this visionary essay from the Rev. Layton E. Williams, a young, recently ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Having embraced her identity as a “bisexual/queer feminist” in seminary, the Rev. Williams is serving now at Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago. Excerpts:
With such a positive upturn in LGBTQ inclusion in the PC(USA), the question I keep hearing people ask is, “Now that equality has been achieved, what’s next?”
Though I appreciate the spirit in which this question is often posed, I admit that I groan a little when it’s asked. As a bisexual female pastor, I know that inclusive stances on ordination and marriage have hardly sealed the deal for queer equality in the church (let alone gender and racial equality).
When people ask, “What’s next?” I’m overwhelmed by how much more there is still to be done. I believe the hardest work for the PC(USA) and the church universal still lies ahead. What God calls for isn’t inclusion of queer people. It’s justice. And for that, the church—the body of Christ in the world—must name and embrace its own queerness.
Wait … what? More:
The work of the church is not merely to accept those of us who are transgender, asexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer, and intersex. The work of the church is to accept and celebrate that the church—the body—is itself queer. The body of Christ is queer because it isn’t defined or bound by human constructs or binaries. It transcends and subverts norms and boundaries. It contains multitudes. But the body is also queer simply because its queer members are a vital component of its identity. When I was dating a cisgender (i.e., identifying with the gender assigned at birth), heterosexual man last fall, we were in a queer relationship. My queer identity made the relationship itself queer, even though he was straight. The body of Christ is queer in this same way because it contains queer identities.
It is time for the church to sit down nervously at its own Table and confront its internalized queerphobia. It is time for the body of Christ to come out. Some of us who have come out ourselves are happy to be the friend that talks the church through it.
Yeah, I bet y’all would. Talk fast, while you still have someone to talk to.
Crackpot as it is, better get used to this kind of thing. The Supreme Court is widely expected to issue its ruling in the same-sex marriage case today, and nearly everybody expects the Court to have discovered a constitutional right to gay marriage hiding under a penumbra somewhere. You might think this decisive victory will settle a major battle in the culture war. You’re wrong. The revolution is just getting started.
For a few years now, I have used a concept I’ve dubbed the Law of Merited Impossibility to characterize the doublespeak many LGBT activists and their allies have used to advance the cause. Here’s the Law: It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.
The Law is about bait-and-switch rhetoric among LGBT activists and their allies. It has to do with assurances they give to anxious skeptics of this or that gay-rights claim, telling the fraidy cats to relax, the worst-case scenario will never happen. And then when the very thing the supposed paranoids happens, the activists say that haters had it coming.
The Weekly Standard‘s Jonathan V. Last has written the definitive piece on the Law of Merited Impossibility. As we wait this morning to hear from SCOTUS, read the Last piece as a way to begin thinking about what’s coming next. Last begins by recounting a Twitter exchange in which a gay software developer who led the charge to have Brendan Eich thrown out of his own company for having given $1000 six years earlier to the Prop 8 campaign taunts Eich, who is still unemployed. Last:
It’s a small thing, to be sure. But telling. Because it shows that the same-sex marriage movement is interested in a great deal more than just the freedom to form marital unions. It is also interested, quite keenly, in punishing dissenters. But the ambitions of the movement go further than that, even. It’s about revisiting legal notions of freedom of speech and association, constitutional protections for religious freedom, and cultural norms concerning the family. And most Americans are only just realizing that these are the societal compacts that have been pried open for negotiation.
Same-sex marriage supporters see this cascade of changes as necessary for safeguarding progress against retrograde elements in society. People less deeply invested in same-sex marriage might see it as a bait-and-switch. And they would be correct. But this is hardly new. Bait-and-switch has been the modus operandi of the gay rights movement not, perhaps, from the start, but for a good long while.
Indeed. Last lists several examples. A good one is the claim that gays did not want to change the nature of marriage, only wanted to join it. Not anymore:
Slate’s Hanna Rosin agrees, suggesting that gay marriage won’t just change “normal” marriage, but will do so for the good:
The dirty little secret about gay marriage: Most gay couples are not monogamous. We have come to accept lately, partly thanks to Liza Mundy’s excellent recent cover story in the Atlantic and partly because we desperately need something to make the drooping institution of heterosexual marriage seem vibrant again, that gay marriage has something to teach us, that gay couples provide a model for marriages that are more egalitarian and less burdened by the old gender roles that are weighing marriage down these days.
Of course, not everyone in the same-sex marriage movement wants to help traditional marriage evolve into something better. Some want to burn it to the ground. Again in the New Republic, for instance, one member of a married lesbian couple wrote about her quest to use her own brother’s sperm to impregnate her wife. Why would she seek to do such a thing? Because “The queer parts of me relished the way it unsettled people. Uprooting convention, collapsing categories, reframing and reassigning blood relations was a subversive wet dream.” This is quite intentionally not, as Andrew Sullivan once promised, a “virtually normal” view of marriage.
Other changes are coming. Remember when people who predicted that gay marriage would lead to polygamy were mocked as dolts and yokels? Well now it turns out that polygamy is just the next frontier. “Legalize Polygamy!” declared one headline in Slate. “And now on to polygamy” urged . . . the Economist? Oh yes, all the way back in 2013.
Changing marriage beyond recognition has long been a stated goal of the organization Beyond Marriage, which is a collection of several hundred gay-rights lawyers, law professors, and activists. They argue that same-sex marriage is merely the first step on the path to redefining the family itself. Ultimately, they want legal protection for a host of other relationships, including, as they delicately put it, “Queer couples who decide to jointly create and raise a child with another queer person or couple, in two households” and “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.” This group is not a collection of cranks: It includes professors from Georgetown, Harvard, Emory, Columbia, and Yale. The Beyond Marriage project has at least as much elite support today as the entire same-sex marriage movement had in 1990.
The best part of the Last piece is his section on Jonathan Rauch, who has been the fairest of all gay marriage advocates. He quotes extensively from a Rauch piece conceding that the SSM movement is asking society to give up a view of marriage as gender-complementary that it has held for thousands of years. This, Rauch says, is why it’s not fair to compare same-sex marriage to interracial marriage, which has only been forbidden here and there. All of this is part of Rauch’s claim that people on his side ought to be tolerant of the liberties of religious objectors … but only for a while.
Soon, and very soon, many of us will be given the opportunity to embrace our own queerness, or be Eich’d. This revolution is insatiable; it will not stop until it has destroyed everything and everyone it conceives as a threat.
The Law of Merited Impossibility is about to go bigtime.