Monday, January 16, 2012

[Moon-dæg] Same-Sex Parents And the Idea of "Family"

By the time that this is posted Christmas will have come an gone yet again, but I still want to take a moment to write about an idea that many associate quite closely with the holiday, at least since the 19th century if not earlier. That idea is family. Simple, direct, easy to figure out. But complex, nuanced, and something tricky to really prove.

The first sort barely really needs any explanation. Blood relations are family for sheerly biological reasons at the least. It's our gene pool and we're swimming in it constantly. Even if you differ from your parents in some way or another, barring a negative paternity test, they are the ones who conceived, bore, and (probably) raised you. But this would be an uncharacteristically short entry if I just ended it here.

What about the families that are based on less concrete biological data? Couples that can't have children of their own or who prefer to adopt and do so? Very few would question their being a family in a sense that is on par with those who are joined by clear red or blue lines. There are things in common, the parents raise the children, the children teach the parents in one way or another. The two different sorts of families are very similar.

Now here's the beef in this issue of what a "family" is.

If it's pretty widely accepted that adopted children are as much, legally, morally, and socially, the children of their adoptive parents as biological children are of biological parents then why is there such a kerfuffle around same-sex couples adopting children?

Same sex couples are subjected to the same sort of tests and screenings to ensure that a hopeful adoptive couple must undergo to prove that they are stable and child-friendly. All of the same legal paperwork needs to be completed. And so I really don't see why there is still a societal stigma around same-sex couples adopting children. Or rather, around children raised by same sex couples.

The myth that having two fathers or two mothers will somehow twist a child's mind or morals is entirely unfounded. In fact, I would say that it's as true as thinking that "gay" is a thing that can be cured through prayer and religion. Mental contortion of the sort that covers over biological facts and natures is an amazing human feat, and if we are only using 10% of our brain most of the time it is even more so.

If you have your doubts about how having two same-sex parents take a look at this video.

Granted, the young man making the statement in that clip is one of his parent's biological children. But, speaking in terms of contrast to the traditional nuclear family, that still stands as stark proof that one parent of each gender is not needed to raise to a well-adjusted member of society.

So what's the point of all this? What am I getting at here?

In the end, what I'm working towards is the idea that, yes, the social construct known as the family is changing, but that change isn't a bad thing. Many moral philosophies and religions are based on the family as the microcosm of a society.

Confucianism, for example, teaches that if you want peace in the state you need peace in the family. At the center of Christianity (even if these parents are shunted aside in some sects) is the trio of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

There's no doubt that in civilization as it has been known throughout recorded history the family plays an important role. But I don't see the changes to the family (or "attacks on" depending on who you're talking to) as being particularly detrimental to the overall continuation/progress of humanity at large.

In a nuclear family if you strip away the blood ties you have a social system with two authority figures in varying capacities. Plus one or more civilian, if you will, who is to be educated in the ways of the world by those authority figures. And you have this unit in mundane situations through which all of those involved need to navigate and rely on each other in varying combinations to ensure the success of all involved.

Start up something similar, but don't bother with the blood ties, and the same thing remains true. Authority figures. Civilian(s). Situations and interdependence among the units of a society/family.

They aren't very frequent, but every now and then an article about the need to teach younger generations empathy through reading or other in-depth interactions comes in a newspaper or through email. This is really where people concerned with the crumbling of society or harmonious togetherness need to concentrate their efforts.

Families without blood ties between parents and children, or even without a male and a female parent aren't going to steer their children down any more blind alleys than tidy upright goodie ablewife and primington husband, Bible thumpers extraordinaire.

Leviticus doesn't just condemn gays, after all. If you've ever gotten a little trim or shaved your beard you'll also need to get used to searing temperatures and long-lasting torment (Leviticus 19:19 states "Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard").

So actually read the Bible, with all of its books and letters and stories, and characters. And really get in touch with narrative and with imagining the joys and suffering of others. After all, that same Confucian maxim about a peaceful family leading to a peaceful state goes further and says that a peaceful individual needs to have a peaceful mind. It's hard to war within your mind when you've read of bloodshed and felt the lines of anguish in a person's face through the lines of text in a book.

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