Jonathan Rauch’s Denial

 
 

Jonathan Rauch, in his memoir Denial, argues that only access to the institution of marriage can make gays and lesbians whole. In doing so, he purposefully suppresses the truth that there are many other options available to those who are attracted to persons of the same sex.

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Last spring, Jonathan Rauch, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute and long-time same-sex marriage advocate, published Denial: My 25 Years Without a Soul. In this brief autobiography, Rauch describes the tortured first decades of his life as a same-sex attracted male.

He calls himself “numb,” and writes that he felt he had “no soul.” He recounts his experiences as “a gulag of the heart,” “eunuchhood,” and “the absence of a proper self,” and he describes himself as “a nonman” or “a self-less man.”

These heart-wrenching terms resonate with many LGBT readers. They also resonate with many of the 96.5 percent of the population who do not experience same-sex attraction, but who also may recall being stalled or buffeted in their adolescent quests to find themselves. Rauch's experience is not unique: it is the most common and ordinary of experiences.

But Rauch’s recounting of his story has a purpose beyond self-revelation. The reader is meant to accept his ultimate conclusion: that the only possible healthy and happy outcome for his situation (and for all who identify as gay or lesbian) is to be allowed to marry someone of the same sex.

LGBT activists often present this Hobson’s Choice to those who have experienced same-sex attraction, especially young people: “Either jump out of the closet, join the celebration, make being gay or lesbian the dominant characteristic of your life and the sole foundation of your identity, and join the same-sex marriage lobby—or remain ‘closeted,’ deny yourself, choose a false identity, become depressed, and risk suicide.”

This tactic purposefully suppresses the truth that there are many other options available to those who are attracted to persons of the same sex. As someone who experiences same-sex attraction, I should know.

Many know intuitively, in the very core of our beings, that this Hobson’s Choice can’t possibly be all that the world has to offer. It is a false meme, another cornerstone of political correctness. Many gays and lesbians reject this narrative, not because of self-loathing, as name-calling activists blithely assert, but because they are able to make an adult judgment based on reason and nature.

Since I’ve entered the national debate on same-sex marriage, many men and women have come forward to tell me that they too have chosen a path that is anathema to LGBT activists and ultra-leftist political groups. Many find great joy and fulfillment in heterosexual marriage. Many also find joy in close same-sex relationships that do not become sexual and are never meant to be carnal.

Whereas LGBT activists seek to limit the options of the same-sex attracted, new voices are now appearing on the scene to open wide the door to diverse choices. Voice(s) of Hope, a website created by same-sex-attracted members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is one such effort. In short videos, often seated next to their (opposite-sex) spouses, same-sex-attracted men and women testify to the choices—choices that go against the script the LGBT lobby promotes— that have given them profound joy: accepting themselves, but directing their love toward different ends.

Voice(s) of Hope delivers a self-affirming message that many hunger to hear. According to Google Analytics, since its inception just seven months ago, the site's estimated reach is forty-three million (43,000,000) and climbing. Same-sex attracted men and women around the world are starving for the very message that many LGBT and other progressive activists seek to suppress.

Acceptance Is Not Enough

Rauch’s message in Denial is that being fully accepted as gay, both by himself and by others, isn’t what healed his life. Only being able to call himself and his male partner “husband” is what has truly brought healing and wholeness to his life. He is arguing that only access to the institution of marriage can make gays and lesbians whole. Anything short of this will deny happiness and fulfillment, already available to everyone who is not gay.

His story implies that the long arc of the moral universe bends not toward “gay rights” or “acceptance” but to same-sex marriage—that this is the only way that justice can be secured for gay men and lesbians. Rauch is trying to set this firmly in stone, hoping readers will accept his premise without questioning it.

Rauch was never actually “soulless.” This was and is a self-formulated perception, which seems to be rooted in adolescent hyperbole from his youth. He is not actually a “husband,” though this is how he chooses to perceive himself (and the state in which he was wed has also now certified his perception).

He writes:

And as I write these words, I have been married for going on three years. Married. The very word is a miracle to me. The young boy sitting on the piano bench structured his life, shaped his personality, twisted and then untwisted himself, around the certain knowledge that he could not love in a way which could lead to marriage; and so he grimly determined that he could not love at all. But he was wrong. He underestimated himself and he underestimated his countrymen even more. They and he have found a destination for his love. They and he have found, at last, a name for his soul. It is not monster or eunuch. Nor indeed homosexual. It is: husband.

My Message to Rauch

If I could speak directly to Jonathan Rauch, here is what I would say:

Jonathan, I too have found a destination for my love. That destination is my wife, my family, and the human race.

Not long ago, a gay friend called and asked me if I were “still available,” meaning, was I interested in dating another guy who had expressed an interest in me? My answer was “No.” My puzzled friend asked, “Why not?” He knew that I hadn’t been in a relationship with another man for quite some time. I did not hesitate to answer: “Because I love my wife.”

I never thought of myself as soulless, or as a “monster” or “eunuch.” And though I am same-sex-attracted, and am husband to a woman I love and cherish being married to, “Husband” is not the name of my soul, nor of any man’s soul. I presume that the name of my soul is “Doug,” and yours is “Jonathan.”

The attraction of your argument is romance, but romance is a fleeting matter of the heart, not an essential of life or nature. Nor is it a matter of interest to the state. Check out the marriage license application you filled out. It did not ask you if you and your partner are in love. Why? Because being in love is inconsequential to the interests of the state.

The civic purpose of governmentally sanctioned marriage is this and this alone: to bind the biological mother and father of children to each other, so as to nurture any children they create.

If you and your husband start a family, you will not have created it. You perhaps will have contracted for it, or engineered it through medical science, purchasing eggs and renting a stranger’s womb for nine months. But you will not have brought forth children on your own, because every single same-sex relationship is, by definition, incapable of reproduction.

A man and a woman, even if they are infertile, are a reflection and recognition of an indisputable truth of nature. By contrast, two men or two women calling themselves “married” is an outright denial of the forces that create human life.

Genderless marriage is not marriage. It is something else. Your relationship with your partner is legitimate and admirable, but it is illegitimate to label it a “marriage.”

At the bottom of it all, Jonathan, God most certainly gave you a soul. It is clearly seen in your passionate presentation of your story. And it’s quite wonderful that your soul—frozen after years of self-imprisonment in “a gulag of the heart”—has not only thawed, but is very warm, clearly very much alive.

But Jonathan, I think you have not yet finished your journey of self discovery and fulfillment. You were never soulless, and your problem was never that you were husbandless. You have a hunger for a deeper love, for something higher, that can still be fulfilled.

Doug Mainwaring is director of CanaVox, a project of the Witherspoon Institute.

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