Sunday, June 20, 2004

Liberalism & queer theory

Homosexuality has been a kind of last frontier for liberalism. It wasn't really until the 1970s that liberal principles began to be applied to homosexuality; today we are witnessing these principles being applied in full.

You get a sense of this from an article written by Marjorie King for the American City Journal (29/5/03). Called "Queering the Schools" it describes the success of gay activists in promoting homosexuality in American high schools.

Marjorie King points out that in the 1980s gay activists still sought legitimacy by claiming that homosexuality was genetic in origin and therefore unchangeable. However, in the 1990s a radical new academic theory emerged called "queer theory" which claimed the opposite: that gender identity and sexual orientation are a product of society, not nature, and can be changed as we wish.

There is a remarkably close connection between queer theory and liberalism. Liberals have for centuries now followed the principle that we should be self-defining, autonomous individuals, subject only to our own will and reason, and free to create ourselves in any direction.

Compare this to Marjorie King's description of queer theory that,

queer theory takes to its extreme limit the idea that all sexual difference and behavior is a product of social conditioning, not nature. It is, in their jargon, "socially constructed." For the queer theorist, all unambiguous and permanent notions of a natural sexual or gender identity are coercive impositions on our individual autonomy - our freedom to reinvent our sexual selves whenever we like. Sexuality is androgynous, fluid, polymorphous ...

This is a very logical application of liberalism: a fixed and natural sexual identity is judged to be oppressive because it means that we are defined by something we did not choose for ourselves.

One organisation pushing queer theory is GLSEN (pronounced "glisten"), which is short for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network. GLSEN has managed so far to form some 1700 gay support clubs in American high schools.

GLSEN effectively promotes to children a radical version of liberalism in which it is considered liberating to make up your own sex identity and sexual orientation. For instance, a panelist at one gay advocacy session explained to participants that "Gender is just a bunch of stereotypes from society, but I am completely personal, and my gender is fluid."

Similarly, a book recommended by GLSEN called Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology has a 16 year old contributor who declares that "My sexuality is as fluid, indefinable and ever-changing as the north flowing river."

Given the close correspondence between these kind of views and the liberalism on which modern Western societies are based, you would have to say that the queer theorists are likely to enjoy considerable success.

Conservatives, however, will remain in opposition to queer theory. This is because conservatives don't share the liberal belief in the self-defining individual. This allows conservatives to accept, and celebrate, that being born a man leads naturally to a masculine self-identity and a heterosexual attraction to women. Conservatives don't consider it a "coercive imposition on our individual autonomy" that we don't consciously choose this process.

(First published at Conservative Central 07/06/03)

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