A large part of Holly Welker's argument against "Getting Out" rests on this paragraph:
Apart from her accurate criticism of my painting the women's liberation and civil rights movements in such broad strokes, her objection, if I understand correctly, is that I seem to be co-opting these movements for my own purposes, essentially equating my position as a married gay man to that of women and black Americans. I can see how it may appear that way superficially, and if you interpret it thus it is certainly offensive. As Welker has pointed out several times, there is absolutely no legislation against gay people marrying heterosexually, no institutionalized bigotry as there has been and continues to be against women and racial minorities. I would have to be a complete moron and self-serving jerk to claim that I've experienced anything comparable to this kind of oppression.
I don’t understand people who call themselves liberal and progressive but are threatened by homosexual reparative therapy enough to try to stop people like me from having that option. In my mind, this kind of thinking is anti-progressive. The whole point of the civil rights and women’s liberation movements was to allow blacks, women, and other minorities to break free from what had been their traditional roles. We live in a world now where it’s okay for blacks to do what was once considered “white” and for women to do what was once considered “male”—get an education, have a career, etc. Why then is it not politically correct for a gay man to venture into what is usually considered the exclusive territory of straight men—to marry a woman and have a family—if that’s what he chooses to do?
If you read what I've said carefully, though, you'll see that I haven't made any such claim. What I've said is that it's contrary to progressive thought--for which I list as examples the progressive thinking behind the women's liberation and civil rights movements--to say that anyone--using myself as an example--should not be respected in their choice to marry any person who wants to marry them. I've not said that anyone is denying me that right, because no one is*, but that my choice is not considered "politically correct." This is demonstrated by the fact that Welker and others like her immediately jump to the conclusion that any gay man who dares to express his right to marry a woman who wants to marry him must be a backwards-thinking conservative hick. Would they accuse a woman expressing her right to marry another woman of having an overblown sense of entitlement? No; Welker has said as much. Why then the double standard? Why are some choices more politically correct than others?
A commenter on Welker's blog says that she is "astonished by the backwards reasoning of that paragraph you deconstructed, particularly the idea that having a woman to reproduce with and run your household for you has historically/traditionally been denied to men who are attracted to other men." I would be equally astonished by the backwards reasoning of such an idea, had I read an essay that made such a claim. What I actually say in the paragraph above is that "to marry a woman and have a family" [notice I've said nothing about who is running the household] "is usually considered the exclusive territory of straight men." There is a huge difference between the phrases "is usually" and "has historically/traditionally." The latter, hers, makes claims about historical reality, while the former, mine, speaks only of present social attitudes. No, gay people have not traditionally been denied heterosexual marriage, because traditionally gay people haven't been a part of public discourse. Notice also that I use the word "straight," which is not necessarily the opposite of "men who are attracted to other men"; I'm speaking not of sexual preferences that have existed for thousands of years but of sexual identities that have existed for less than two hundred. I would argue that yes, in the past fifty years or so since lesbians and gay men have legitimately entered the discourse, the assumption is that their rightful position--at least as far as progressive thought is concerned--is in lesbian and gay relationships. As I point out elsewhere in the essay, gay people in heterosexual relationships are "not even recognized enough to be repressed."
So if I'm not being oppressed, why then does it matter that some people, in the name of progressive thought, are so critical of mixed-orientation marriages? If there's no legislation against me, why am I complaining? Because bigoted legislation doesn't magically appear out of nowhere; it is borne of widely-accepted bigoted discourse. Twenty-six states haven't adopted constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage just because. They've done so because the majority of voters in those states believe the bigoted rhetoric against homosexuality that is so prevalent in our culture. Welker rightly criticizes my oversimplified statement that "We live in a world now where it's okay for blacks to do what was once considered 'white' and for women to do what was once considered 'male.'" No, as much as I would like to think so, we don't live in that world. I would like to live in a world, though, where no one's choices are limited by their gender, race, or sexual orientation, and I believe that world can only exist once we start respecting those who make choices different from our own, even choices we don't understand.
I am thankful for the many, many people--whether or not they would call themselves liberal and progressive--who have respected me in the choices I've made. I will do my best to return the same.
*Except for the campaigns against homosexual reparative therapy that I reference in the paragraph preceding the one quoted here, which I'll freely admit is an entirely different argument than the right to marry. I'll also freely admit that my conflating the two arguments in the paragraph above is confusing. On the other hand, they do both come down to respecting the right of mentally capable adults to make the decisions that they deem best for themselves. The only difference is that in the case of reparative therapy we're talking about a single person--the one who seeks out reparative therapy--while in the case of marriage we're talking about two people--the two spouses who, as consenting adults regardless of their gender and/or sexual orientation, decide to marry each other.