Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: John Corvino on Real Agenda of Social Conservatives — Dismantling the "Very Vocabulary by Which We Express and Realize Our Inchoate Longings for Intimacy"

At Commonweal, John Corvino responds to Michael Hannon's essay "Against Heterosexuality" in First Things. As he notes, it employs (a little bit of) queer theory to try to dismantle the entire enterprise of gay rights (my words and summary of Corvino's premise, not his), as it argues that the concept of sexual orientation is a social construct — and there's therefore no such thing as a "gay" person (or a straight one, either, for that matter, though the latter definition continues to stick as the default definition in this deconstructive argument, which is all about reiterating the normativity of heterosexuality in new, "queer" terms).

Corvino concludes that Hannon's essay reminds us of what social conservatives really want, vis-a-vis their fellow human beings who happen to be born gay: it's not so much to deny us the right to marry, to refuse us wedding cakes and flowers and photographs of our weddings. It's not even precisely to push us back into the closet. It's this: 

What they want is nothing less than to dismantle the very vocabulary by which we express and realize our inchoate longings for intimacy. They want to push us back to a time when homosexuality was not merely the "love that dare not speak its name," but the love that could not speak it. They want to restore a regime where the boy with the funny feeling might—if he’s lucky—grow up to have a good-enough heterosexual marriage, but he might just as easily grow up to have a lonely life of furtive, dangerous same-sex encounters. 
The old regime died because it was cruel and inhumane. Hannon seems to hope that, by not naming our reality, he can make it go away. He’s badly wrong about that, and thankfully so.

Speaking of which, did any of you notice that the ugly statement the U.S. Catholic bishops put on the USCCB website yesterday attacking the executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in federally funded programs persistently puts the following phrase and words in scare quotes: "sexual orientation," "gender identity," and "gender"? Wonder what that's about?

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