In Praise of Traditional Gender Identity
A gay man’s moral defense of heterosexuality.
We are witnessing a moment in Western civilization when heterosexuality is under assault. It is being reconstructed and used as a scapegoat for every neurosis one twists in agony over on a psychologist’s couch, and every setback one experiences in the name of some vague concept called "intersectionality." We are living in a precarious moment when masculinity is denounced as toxic and rapacious, a moment when people are forgetting that it was mostly men who risked their lives to create Western civilization.
All of us, gay or straight, are the legatees of traditions forged in the crucibles of those possessing traditional gender identities, where great wars were fought by men, and where the very emancipatory moral vocabularies non-traditional persons pursue to rescue them from the oppression they claim to live under -- were created in a world mostly by men with traditional identities
One of the most annoying questions I am often asked is: How can you be gay and be a supporter of traditional gender roles and identities, and believe that heterosexuality and masculinity in the civilized Western democracies are becoming endangered phenomena?
The question is annoying because it assumes that one’s sexual orientation is predictive of one’s political and moral values, and that such values form an unalterable part of one’s moral constitution.
I do not believe anyone decided to choose his or her sexual orientation. I think most of us found ourselves just naturally being attracted to someone of the opposite or same sex before or after puberty and grew into a sexual orientation. I’ve never met a single person who consciously chose his orientation the way, say, one chooses one’s favorite books, values, or belief systems after subjecting them to critical scrutiny. Attraction to another person even in adulthood seems to be a phenomenon that one is simply pulled toward.
Having said that, however, and fully believing that the individual rights of a person, rather than, say, the rights of the group to which he or she belongs, are to be respected, I do believe that the politics and narrative that frame one's sexual orientation are moral and political choices. That is, one can choose to politicize one's sexual identity in ways that trespass on the rights of others. One could try to prevent others from exercising their religious liberty and freedom, and applying their convictions regarding homosexuality in their actual lives.
When I hear people say that we live in a patriarchal, gender-oppressive society, and that what makes it oppressive is the fact that heterosexuality should not be treated as the norm, then I need to part ways with an empirically untenable concept and a morally questionable idea. To begin with, it presupposes that one cannot be gay -- such as myself -- and still identify as a male. That is, on the biological gender spectrum I identify fully 100% as male. I do not see my gender identity as fluid, as in flux, or as indeterminate.
Something nefarious is creeping into our culture that is encouraging not just gay men and women but, more importantly, heterosexual men, to see their gender identities as fluid, open-ended and non-traditional. This is an insidious assault against masculinity because it requires that the majority of men who do identify as males capitulate to the politics of a small percentage of people who identify in non-traditional ways. That’s an unfree society, and a form of identity politics: the subjection of the mores and customs of a small minority of people who wish to impose them on the majority of society.
I place the destruction of traditionally based gender identities on the new sexual ethos fostered by gay and trans culture (along with their so-called progressives allies) who do not want a world where gender identity is expressed though traditional roles. Instead, they desire one in which heterosexuality and gender are eventually abolished. New "non-sexual gender identities" and pronouns are being created that are designed to transcend chromosomal markers which biologically designate the sex of a person. The intent of such persons is to abolish gender altogether.
If the massive social engineering taking place in our schools today encourages young boys to see their gender as eternally fluid and indeterminate, and if parents are encouraged by these social engineers to administer puberty blockers to a child before he or she has even entered puberty because he or she may feel wrongly gendered, then it is ultimately heterosexuality, I believe, that is being attacked.
Heteronormativity is the ideological concept that human beings fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in their respective lives. It postulates that heterosexuality is an imposed norm, and that sexual and marital relations are mostly (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes. For some radicals, heteronormativity creates a “sex hierarchy” that grades sexual practices from morally good to bad sex.
Sex should be good sex whether it is gay sex or straight sex. Gay sex as a lifelong activity even if practiced within the registers of legalized marriage has never been the norm historically and will never be the norm. More importantly, it can and should never be the norm because it abolishes the regenerative principle of biological procreation.
Heteronormativity is the normative standard of an objective sexual reality because it is the only regenerative means by which mores, norms, values, principles and, therefore, a rational civilization are possible. And a civilization is the only social milieu in which any human being can matriculate as human rather than as an animal or some social monstrosity.
If civilization were left exclusively in the hands of gay men or trans persons, or non-traditional practitioners, for example, and heterosexuals were eliminated from the earth, it is not only obvious that the species would die off -- that is putatively obvious. What is less obvious is this: we would live in a state of moral ferality. This is because the evolutionary basis for morality stems from an ethic of care, from which the procreative impulse, centered on care for the helpless young, stems. An exclusively homosexual culture, therefore, is, generatively speaking, incapable of producing the evolutionary stratagems from which morality is derived.
It is not hyperbolic to assert that many morally self-righteous white gay progressives have declared war on the “white heterosexist and heteronormative majority.” The degree of heterosexual guilt which is fast becoming a reality in the sexual identity politics of the United States grants gays and trans persons a recomposed self that expresses itself as a new emancipatory form of power. But power, eventually, always divides by default and intention, or it unites through coercion. In the case of gay or queer or trans power, it trades on heterosexuals’ guilt and grants to gays and trans persons and the non-traditional a sense of unexamined and indiscriminate moral authority over heterosexuals.
Persons demanding a renunciation of traditional gender identities are immunized from the scrutiny of others and, as such, any self-criticism is seen as a form of self-hatred, selling out, or engaging in bigotry.
The new ethic of sexual rebranding that we are experiencing in the United States will expose to broad swaths of people the radically different nature of the new sexual ethos, and the complete repudiation of gender. Children will undergo a radical re-socialization process that could leave much of society troubled.
Today’s progressives will have to contend with a new paradigm shift. We are witnessing this phenomenon with the accelerating speed at which gender pronouns are being abolished in classrooms and corporations, along with the emergent fluid sexual identities that are being encouraged. What is taking place is a massive form of social engineering.
We can respect the identities of people whose sexual and even gender identities fall outside the scope of the traditional. But such individuals cannot elevate their minority status to the level of an absolute capable of legislating the norms and mores which a small percentage of the population live by -- for the majority of persons.
There can be no gender identity such as “They” that refers to a single person. This is all the beginning of a ruinous road to the destruction of the concept of gender itself.
If I must choose between this cult of castration and nihilism, and the regenerative and procreative route of heteronormativity, then little more need be said on the moral ground where I shall stand. Though I may never be a procreative unit in this world, I stand in full recognition and understanding that the world that allows me to thrive and flourish is the world that embraces the principle of heteronormativity. When that principle is eradicated, it is not the universe that will die -- for it will simply slide quietly by our sides with little notice as we pass into oblivion.
Jason D. Hill is professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago, and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His areas of specialization include ethics, social and political philosophy, American foreign policy and American politics. He is the author of several books, including “We Have Overcome: An Immigrant’s Letter to the American People” (Bombardier Books/Post Hill Press). Follow him on Twitter @JasonDhill6.