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Erik is a public policy professional and owner of the online training course in democracy and civic action: www.3ptraining.com.au The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Back to the Future – Post Modernism and Gay Adoption

If society were based around human wholeness what would it look like?

I write this article in response to the commentary generated by my posts on gay marriage. It would be easy to have a shouting match which reveals nothing more than the fact that there is a collision of world views which, like giant icebergs in the ocean, sometimes bump up against one-another, their curious shapes colliding at the corners. The corners are an odd assortment of wedge issues. Gay adoption is one of these.

Really it’s about post modernism; whether human society is something we can invent, or whether there are some things inherent and innate that we can’t or shouldn’t change. Is there a plumb line for what it means to be human?

We can look from an evolutionary perspective to simians. Homosexuality occurs in simians to varying extents. Indeed I have been corrected on, and surprised by, the extent to which it occurs across numerous species in the wild. I have not done an exhaustive review to find out whether or not gay simian couples habitually raise young but if anyone has observed this they are probably describing an exceedingly rare event. Penguins and black swans often do form gay couples who raise young. What significance is seen in this probably depends on your world view. I suggest that raising a chick to be a swan is very different to raising a human baby to adulthood.

We can look from the perspective of the world’s great religious writings. This is a reasonable thing to do because, whether or not you believe them to be inspired, they do incorporate thousands of years of human experience and understanding. The Abramic religions do not countenance gay adoptions. I know of no religion that does, but someone with greater learning may enlighten us.

Every society makes provision for adoption – usually as a familial or tribal obligation to care for orphans. Other societies have variously tolerated, celebrated, or suppressed homosexuality. I know of none that tolerated homosexual adoption. Maybe there is an anthropologist out there who has found one. Again, they will be describing something very rare.

Perhaps this is because gay adoption challenges the most fundamental philosophical underpinnings of human society. If a mother and a mother are sufficient, there is no need or place for fatherhood. If a father and a father are sufficient there is no need or place for motherhood. If there is no need or place for either motherhood or fatherhood there is no need or place for the traditional family at all. It is a complete ‘free for all’. If two mummies are OK and two daddies are OK then any two heterosexual women and any two heterosexual men should also have the right to create a ‘family’ and adopt. On reflection, why stop at two daddies, why not have several….you get the idea.

This debate is only partly about equality. As the boundaries are pushed (and they will be) the debate will shift from whether a minority group should share in marriage to whether ‘marriage’, ‘motherhood’ and ‘fatherhood’ have any real meaning. There are some who see all three concepts as redundant. As a correspondent to a facebook friend of mine (who is a gay activist) wrote in relation to the gay marriage bills “Lets just get the fucking bills through and then get rid of the whole fucking institution [of marriage].” It is reasonable to ask whether it is wise to de-construct the foundational underpinnings of our civilization because some people within a minority group of less than two per cent of the population want to do something that appears foreign to human society.

There are practical issues also. If we have true marriage equality then any two men who register a marriage should have as much right to adoption as a heterosexual couple have to conceive. Let’s be real for a moment. If that ever becomes law the paedophiles will head to the registry office and down to the adoption office in very little time. I am not saying gay people are paedophiles. I am saying paedophiles are intelligent, strategic, and work in team to gain access to children. Allowing male unions to adopt gives them more opportunity.

Since the human question is one of identity, a logical place to start would be the story of traditional/indigenous societies for the last few thousand years. That is where we have come from, and as a species, that is really who we are. I am not an anthropologist but a good place to start is linguist, naturalist, anthropologist and author Jared Diamond. For the record, Diamond regards Christians and Christianity with withering contempt.

You can read Diamond’s books for yourself but in essence traditional indigenous societies tend to have the following key features:

  • Babies are breast fed until at least the age of two but often much later
  • Babies are in the immediate physical proximity of their mother, and usually in skin contact with their mother, until they can walk
  • After they can walk they remain in close proximity with a close relative
  • Children grow up in an extended family/tribe/village/clan
  • There are rights of initiation into adulthood and they are different for men and women
  • Gender roles vary according to need and custom by genders are clearly distinct. The means of distinction are as varied as the number of extant cultures in the world.
  • Every child is given a value system and cosmology which forms part of their tribal/clan identity.

Thus by the time ‘normal’ homo sapiens become adults they have a family identity, a gender identity, a tribal/clan identity, and a cosmology. That was also the case in Western countries until the great cultural dismantling got underway in the 1960’s. It doesn’t take an anthropologist to figure out that all these essential aspects of human identity and wholeness are under systematic attack in the West.

In this context further deconstruction of 'marriage, gender, mother, father, and family' is unhelpful from a whole of society perspective. My reading of pro-gay rights blogs suggests that this social deconstruction is the next wave in the long march from "what consenting adults to at home is no one's business" to "We will close down your organisation or put you in prison if your clergy won't formalise gay unions, your school won't teach pro gay marriage propaganda, and your adoption agency won't foster children to gay couples; and we will fine you for speaking out on these issues and take your children off you if you object to them being taught pro gay school curricula." Hating Christians is not a crime and what was once a plea for tolerance and respect is now a no holds barred assault on basic freedom of conscience and practice. This militancy is perhaps understandable given the many injustices suffered by gay people from religiously inspired policies. That said, forcing people to take sides doesn't foster understanding. It leaves people who might support some but not all of the gay agenda with limited options.

I am not a fundamentalist because I am religious. I'm a fundamentalist because I think a line is the shortest distance between two points, 2 + 2 = 4, and people who wander off into the wilderness without knowing how to survive tend to die there. We can be more creative with social mores but I still regard post modernism, and many of the policies that come from there, as exceptionally silly. 

Tag line: gay marriage, gay adoption, family values, emily's list, postmodernism, deconstructuralism, Jared Diamond, gay rights, marriage equality


  1. I think there is a big misunderstanding here about what adoption rights are. We are talking about giving same-sex couples the right to apply to adopt, not saying that those applications will automatically be successful any more than a heterosexual couple’s application is guaranteed to be successful. Adopting is not easy. It is a long, invasive, expensive ordeal designed to weed out anyone who does not have the ability to be great parents to an adopted child. Let me give you an example of what our application process has entailed. It’s slightly different to Australia’s but similar.

    We had a total of four joint interviews with a social worker and we were also both interviewed separately. The longest interview was six hours. These were in depth, probing interviews about our childhood experiences, discipline philosophy, spiritual beliefs and so on.
    We underwent joint and individual psychological assessments including psychometric testing.
    We had extensive health checks including blood and urine tests and our family medical histories.
    We had to write autobiographies reflecting on our entire lives.
    We had to provide references from three people each, plus one from each of our employers.
    We had to show documentation about our financial situation including group certificates and statements from our employers, with a full job history and CV each.
    A social worker inspected our house and spent two days observing us (including eating my cooking).
    We had to provide criminal histories, birth certificates and marriage certificate.
    The costs before we even begin working on an Australian visa application will significantly exceed $30,000. If a special needs child or a sibling group is referred to us the costs will also go up enormously.

    What you are saying is that a couple who pass all of these hurdles and in every way show themselves to be ideal parents should nevertheless be excluded because of their sex.

    Finally, there was one group missing from your story about the woods. What about the group who have a map that is a hundred years out of date and no longer fits the terrain, but who insist on forcing everyone else to come with them as they follow their map through thorn bushes and over cliffs, all the while denying that the pain they are causing is real?

    1. It’s true that there is always going to be an element of talking past each other, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to not address specific criticisms of the other’s argument. If the core of your opposition to same-sex parenting is that each sex performs a different and non-interchangeable parenting function, surely you can be specific about what that function is? What do your genitals contribute to your parenting? It’s a straightforward question.

      Appeal to antiquity is a logical fallacy for reasons that should be obvious. That something has always been one way does not mean that that way is the best. If we want to look to the past for family structures we will also see marriage as an exchange of property (a woman) between two men (her father and husband) as a common feature. We will see slavery, including sexual slavery. We will see girls married to adult men on the advent of their first menstruation. These are not things I want to see repeated. Using nature as a guide for ethics is equally floored.

      I really shouldn’t talk about the paedophile thing because it’s a red herring, but I can’t help myself… do you really think paedophiles are all single men? There are plenty of paedophiles in heterosexual marriages. A majority of child sexual abuse happens within biological families. The chances of a paedophile getting through the adoption process I outlined above are pretty slim, the chances of two paedophiles who got married to share their paedophilia getting through are non-existent. On the other hand, the Australian police issued a warning recently for single mothers not to mention their children on internet dating sites after a spate of cases of men using the sites to find single mothers, seduce them and then target their children. It’s off topic, but in my opinion unregulated home education is the best possible advantage for paedophiles. Gay adoption really has nothing to do with anything.

    2. Hi Sophelia,
      Have read your thoughts with appreciation here. I find that the way to gain further understanding is to push back a bit. May I do that by making some observations, for which I'd appreciate your view:

      1) Epistemologically: What Erik considers to be finding "true north" you portray as an "out of date map that causes pain." Erik reaches for an absolute truth that is universal "north" but you speculate that he has reached for an anachronistic relative truth. Surely you haven't countered his point here, you've illustrated it - after all, his piece is about postmodernity.

      2) Emotionally: The pain stuff is hard. One of the things I observed during the marriage debate last year was the assumption by some of the pro-gay-marriage that a) I knew about the injury being done, b) I knew how much pain that caused, and c) that I unreasonably condoned it. (e.g. See here) Unpack the pain for us.

      3) Ideologically: You refer to the "ideal parent." Surely it is multifaceted. What do you mean, what facets do you see? My position (and I think Erik's position) is that a crucial facet is that "ideal" involves a complementarity of the masculine and feminine. The single parents I know (and who have my utmost admiration) understand this and adjust for their circumstance by bringing in the "missing" parts by drawing on the wider family or community. I really can't see the anathema that posits masculine-feminine complementarity in ideal parenting.

      4) Biologically. What do genitals speak of? Generally speaking they speak of gender, and thus are relevant to point 3) above. Erik also speaks of the deconstruction of gender, and I think, once again, you may be illustrating his point.

      Can you see where I'm coming from? We are both making assumptions about many things - I think the nature of gender is probably the chief of them. Postmodernistic relativism works - mutual respect and agreeing to disagree etc. - until we hit the real world, such as the criteria for adoption. Suddenly a choice has to be made, we need to find true north, find a map and choose to trust it (or otherwise). On what basis do we make that choice?

    3. Adoption sounds like an awful ordeal. ts not a major point but working in the justice system I know more about sex offenders than I ever really wanted to. Very few offences are ever successfully prosecuted (perhaps 2-5%)and hence few show up in police reports. Offenders are very strategic about circumventing processes. They cook, they have great family histories, they go to church, some go to seminary. They will certainly try to adopt.

      Re antiquity one of the good things feminism has done is affirm the biblical principle that people have intinsic value rather than just utilitarian value. I consider that to be a 'true north' kind of principle, and it is in that sense that I consider myself a feminist. Its a principle people struggle to apply consistently; for example the Greens here have taken hypocrisy into orbit by protesting the rights of nature while supporting a bill to legalise abortion at nine months for personal convenience.

      In a similar vein, while some societies are more collectivist that others the only society that actually succeeded in demolishing the traditional family as the foundational unit of society is the Khmer Rouge. That should tell us something about why Mum+Dad+kids matters.

      So onto gender. Books have been written on this and it is hard to do justice in a short post. I will say that it is non controversial in applied sociology and criminology that absense of a positive father figure pre disposes children to pretty much all the social ills. Lots of mothers day cards get signed at the prison but very few fathers day ones do. Fathers contribute for example a sense of safety and security, identity, gender identity for both boys and girls, in a way that mothers can't. I personally believe that fatherlessness is the single greatest social problem in Australia stemming historically from the loss of our menfolk in WWI. There are plenty of testes around these days but few fathers.

  2. "We will close down your organisation or put you in prison if your clergy won't formalise gay unions, your school won't teach pro gay marriage propaganda, and your adoption agency won't foster children to gay couples; and we will fine you for speaking out on these issues and take your children off you if you object to them being taught pro gay school curricula."

    Really? Where is this happening? Whose children are being taken away? Where are these imprisoned clergy?
    Are you sure you aren't confused about the gay people in prison, some sentenced to death, for being gay? Isn't it you asserting that gay people don't have the same rights as other parents, not vice versa?

    1. With reference to you "where is this happening"? Some considerations in the context of the marriage debate last year, and with examples mostly from England: here. Reproduced here:

      It's a standard bit of rhetoric: What are you afraid of, Christians?  How will Same-Sex Marriage affect you?

      We can respond defensively.  But the emotionally honest answer is "Yes, actually there are some things we are afraid of, and we wish you'd take them seriously."  And it's got nothing to do with the stereotype of people trembling at the prospect of fanatical gays sweeping over the horizon to gobble up society.

      Rather, to be honest, we are afraid, justifiably or not, that Same-Sex Marriage would...

      * Lead to the use of anti-discrimination law to restrict or dictate business practices.  Some may agree on how civil unions and anti-discrimination law in the United Kingdom have lead to the prosecution of small-time B&B owners who, in good conscience, would not rent their rooms to unmarried (defined traditionally) couples.  But the question of "do we want that here?" is not even being asked.  (Example 1, Example 2)

      * Lead to the sacking of people from jobs, particularly in the public sector, if they espouse a different view, or wish to excuse themselves from compromising their conscience. (Example 1, Example 2)

      * Lead to the insistence that churches celebrate gay weddings, or change their liturgies to remove references to "between a man and a woman." (Example)

      * Lead to mandatory pro-homosexual education of children against the conscience of parents. (Example 1, Example 2)

      And that's before you get on to the "afraid of how this will change my society..." fears.

      Whether we like it or not these stories are "out there" and they raise genuine concerns in genuine folk about their freedom to think, speak and raise their children.  Even if those concerns are unrealistic or inapplicable in our context, they need to be respectfully addressed.  Couching the same sex marriage debate in terms of "human rights" only absolutises the rhetoric and pours fuel on the fire of fear.

      For conversation to happen fears must be both acknowledged without blame, and respected without belittlement.   Can that happen in Tasmania?

    2. See the links below as a sample. Pro gay publications are replete with reference to abolishing bigatory etc but I have not found a single reference to 'live and let live' aka 'tolerance'. This is not about acceptance it is about transforming the society along a particular praxis.








  3. Erik, regarding your points drawn from observations of indigenous societies, to say that this is who we really are is naive. This is who we are in those circumstances, this is who we are in these. We are always just human, part of which, like every other animal, is that we change our behavior according to our environment, natural and social. And to advocate these older forms of human society, but also call yourself a feminist - have you thought that one through?

    I am pro gay marriage and gay couples having children if they want to. This does not make me a post modernist, just someone with empathy and compassion for others.

    1. Hello and thanks for posting a comment. I am glad you have empathy and compassion - I think we both do. Human beings have shown capacity to create a great range of human societies. We could pick Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, pre Christian Rome, Medieval Catholic Europe to name a couple. We continue to change and adapt. Where you and I diverge is that one unchangeable aspect of who we are is that we have a foundational need for a mother and a father. Those who lack either one of these will spend their life looking for a substitute. What grieves me is that our society has become so broken that intelligent caring people now take seriously the notion that there are no differences (apart from the obvious anatomical ones) between men and women, that motherhood and fatherhood are redundant concepts, and that any blend of 'significant others' is good enough. Gay adoption happens to be the wedge issue where this world view and mine collide. If history tells us nothing about who we are why do we have history? I don't want be part of a society where any significant other will do and I don't want my kids to grow up in one. I may have no choice (note the irony) so this actually becomes a zero sum conflict. Its nice to be nice but laws have to be voted on. Access to adoption and IVF should be the sole preserve of heterosexual married couples.