“Soul-Splintering Panic”: How Marriage Inequality = Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Directly and indirectly related to the legality of gay marriage, here are two really amazing, thought-provoking essays. You should read them both, but in summary:

Image: NYMag.com

Andrew Sullivan on The Daily Beast: On top of being gorgeously written, Sullivan’s essay is perhaps one of the most articulate expressions of the hopelessness that comes with being a gay teen and believing that the joys promised to others don’t apply to you. What the It Gets Better Project accomplishes with volume, variety and YouTube fueled angst, Sullivan approaches with nuance and heartbreaking prose. A snippet: “When puberty struck and I realized I might be ‘one of them,’ I turned inward. It was a strange feeling—both the exhilaration of sexual desire and the simultaneous, soul-splintering panic that I was going to have to live alone my whole life, lying or euphemizing, concocting some public veneer to hide a private shame... To feel you will never know that [accepted love/marriage], never feel that, is to experience a deep psychic wound that takes years to recover from. It is to become psychologically homeless. Which is why, I think, the concept of “coming out” is not quite right. It should really be called ‘coming home‘”.

Gary Greenberg for Mother Jones: In an article titled, presumably for controversy-stirring purposes, “Gay by Choice? The Science of Sexual Identity”, Greenberg summarizes the most recent research on origins of sexual orientation, and the potential implications. If science determines that orientation is biologically based, do we have to worry about parents trying to prenatally “correct” this “flaw”? Protected classes are usually based on things that one can’t change (i.e. race). If sexuality is more fluid (which doesn’t imply an opt-in/opt-out model, only that it’s not binary or necessarily permanent) will protection be harder to legally justify? On the other hand, religion is a protected class, and no one argues that faith is innate.

One of Sullivan’s most compelling points, to my mind, is that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the belief that marriage is an inalienable right over and over again. Felons can get married even if they can’t consummate the relationship. Parents who owe thousands of dollars in child support to previous spouses can still get married. The potential to marry has been referred to as part and parcel of the inalienable right to “pursuit of happiness.” I’m not lawyer, but to me, it seems like gays have a case based on intentional infliction of emotional distress. If we consider marriage a potential piece of happiness, and then categorically deprive a class of citizens access, how can we expect anything less than what Sullivan described as the “psychological wound?”

Perhaps I’m being melodramatic, and I’m quite sure there are legal flaws with my argument. Sullivan put it like this: “It’s hard to convey what that feeling does to a child. In retrospect, it was a sharp, displacing wound to the psyche. At the very moment you become aware of sex and emotion, you simultaneously know that for you, there is no future coupling, no future family, no future home.” That seems pretty damn emotionally distressing to me. And the state’s perpetual exclusion of this group of people? “Intentional” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Related Post: Pride in Chicago.

Related Post: Coming out of the locker room closet: Will Sheridan, Rick Welts, and more.



Filed under Gender, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People

4 responses to ““Soul-Splintering Panic”: How Marriage Inequality = Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

  1. Pingback: Do You Hope Your Child Will Be Straight? | rosiesaysblog

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  4. Pingback: First Comes Love… | rosiesaysblog

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