The recent rulings, and non-rulings, of the Supreme Court on gay marriage have inspired me to write on a subject I have been thinking about for some time. Rather than tackling the issue of whether same-sex couples should be allowed to get married and the impact on society (which is probably better on some other blog or larger discussion) I will try to keep the subject focused on manliness and homosexuality. However, I want to be clear at the outset about my stance on marriage. I believe marriage is between one man and one woman for life, and for the last 18 years I have been faithful to hold to that belief, though, as any marriage can attest, it has not always been easy. I don’t think God, nature, biology, sociology, etc. could be more clear on how the sexes are supposed to go together. Doing my best to avoid a naturalistic fallacy, I’ll say this. If we observed in any other species a growing percentage of its members confused about which sex to mate with, it would be an obvious red flag. At the least we would say, “That is not the way nature intended.” and perhaps try to determine a solution to help them; introduce more females or males to the society or reduce the numbers by removal or killing more of one sex. But, alas we are humans, and we tend to think ourselves outside and above natural order when the argument suits us.
So, the question on the table is thus: Can a gay man be manly?
The Knife Metaphor
I’ll start by asking this question: Is a knife still a knife if it has no edge?
I believe the answer is, “Well,…sort of…”
A butter knife has some knife like properties…for butter. A better comparison may be a letter opener. Certainly a letter opener is in the knife family, but would it really be considered a knife? You could kill with it, right? It may even have an edge of sorts. But, if you were going to give someone a knife, to use in all of the ways a knife may be used, you would not give them a letter opener.
Stay with me here.
When I was a kid I remember finding this sweet letter opener at my grandparents’ house. It had a long shiny blade, sheathed in wood. To me, just a boy, it was a knife. I would have told anyone who asked that what I held in my hands was most certainly a knife. This was not only due to its appearance but more so with my inexperience with real knives. Had someone placed a Ka-Bar in one hand and the letter opener in the other and asked me to choose one, the choice would have been clear. Had I the years of experience of using real knives, the letter opener, as cool as it was, would have rightly seemed a novelty. I think this illustrates society in relation to what constitutes manliness. We see a guy with a beard or mustache: Manly! Got a beer in one hand and an axe in the other: Manly! Flannel or camo: Manly! It’s pretty sad really. We so rarely see the real thing that we firmly believe the novelties of manliness are the genuine article.
The Metal of a Man
Just as with a knife it is the metal, with a man it is his substance — or his mettle — that makes all the difference. Not every metal can be tempered and hardened. Neither can every man. When we talk about manliness we are talking about character and virtues that have a masculine essence to them. Women can have manly qualities, so certainly a homosexual man can as well. However, there are at least two key elements that will hold back a gay man from reaching his full manly potential and will most likely negatively affect other aspects of his life as a man.
The Love of Being a Man
“A man does not die of love or his liver or even of old age; he dies of being a man.” – Miguel de Unamuno, Spanish Essayist and Philosopher, 1864-1936
Being proud to be a male, to understand what the high calling is and how great the qualities of a man are and how desperately they are needed, are essential for any man who wishes to grow in his manliness. While there are exceptions, a large portion of homosexual males actively reject their manhood, opting for and sometimes surgically restructuring themselves to appear more feminine. I am thinking of the stereotypical gay persona and it is obvious there is not much in the way of manliness here. They may have excellent qualities in other areas, virtues such as loyalty, intelligence, hardworking, and so on, but they lack the masculine poise to be considered manly.
Some may say, “Well, they are born that way. Biology doesn’t deliver every man the same dose of testosterone or equivalent brain chemistry. How can they help their feelings or attraction to the same-sex?” I say, that would be quite right. Nature is not gentle in her regards to inequality. Or, perhaps it is environment, or just a decision. I am not debating how it comes about or the fairness of it or whether it can be changed through some spiritual or psychological means. I am simply saying they are at a disadvantage. Place the blame to whomever you will. A man loves being a man. That is essential.
However, this could also be applied to any man who abdicates his responsibility and role as a man in favor of a more effeminate demeanor. And, frankly, I don’t think there is much argument about whether or not these kinds of men are manly or not. The real argument is with the gay men who love being male and like the typical things other men like: woodworking, sports, camaraderie, adventure, & peeing standing up. In general, these men may have a number of manly traits over and above straight men, but I would strongly question how much they truly love what it means to be a man. I would base this on the choice of their partners, usually more effeminate, and community of men they support. Would someone who truly believes in manliness, loves all that has been placed on the shoulders of every boy to one day become, support a movement that largely undermines this? I don’t believe so.
The Love of Truth
“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get neither comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” – C.S. Lewis, Christian Author and Apologist, 1898-1963
It’s easy for us to believe in the truth when it suits our desires and ambitions; harder when it seems to be against us. For example, I can clearly see that a man should be married to one woman and with her raise a family. The evidence for this goes beyond just anecdotal, religious, and patriarchal or paternalistic world views. But, when that truth clashes with my desire to be free to sleep with all sorts of women rather than being in a committed relationship, the irrational justifications against a truth I would otherwise fight for begin to mount in force. The only right and manly thing to do in such a situation is to commit to the truth. This often means becoming wise to our own self-deception.
In regards to gay men and manliness, a love of truth and commitment to truth is sacrificed, at least in the area of proper and natural sexual orientation. It is certainly truthful to say, “I am gay.” or “I have a sexual attraction to other men.”, that is not the untruth of which I speak. It would be untrue to deny how you feel, or to stay in the closet so to speak. The denial of truth is in believing and supporting the idea that homosexuality is natural and good and even to say that a homosexual marriage is as natural and right as a heterosexual marriage.
There is a common pro-gay argument which attempts to address the issue of whether homosexuality is in fact natural: “There have been over 1,500 species recorded to engage in homosexual behavior; 500 well documented cases ranging from fish to hyenas. Therefore it is natural and we should be for it and supportive of it rather than against it.”
There are multiple issues with this argument which constitutes a logical fallacy. I’ll delve into this argument because it maligns truthful thinking.
Issue 1: Misuse of the term Natural
When we speak of something being natural there are two meanings we often use. Both are being used in this argument. One is that something exists in nature, therefore it is natural. We’ll call this Natural A. The other is that something is being used for its intended purpose. For example, using a butter knife as a screwdriver would be unnatural. We’ll call this Natural B. In the argument above, Natural A is given as the supporting premise for the argument. However, the result is Natural B. In other words, the logical flow is thus:
- Animals exhibit homosexual behavior
- Animals are in nature and therefore “Natural A”
- There is an assumption that what exists in nature is untainted by man and therefore free from error. i.e., Nature is good and works as intended.
- If nature is good and produces things as intended (Natural B), and animals are from nature (Natural A), then
- Homosexuality is good (Natural
Do you see how we can confuse what takes place in nature as being something inherently good? Does nature make mistakes? Because something exists in nature, should we assume it is right for humans? Take a look at the second issue below.
Issue 2: Appeal to Nature and a Naturalistic Fallacy
This type of argument is called an Appeal to Nature. It works under the assumption that humans, being a part of nature, should follow the example set by nature. The Naturalistic Fallacy is multi-fold.
- If humans are a part of nature, then what ever we do is natural. Driving cars is as natural as building factories. Therefore the point is moot.
- If we say that humans are a part of nature, but stand above and outside of the natural kingdom, then what does it matter how fish or hyenas act? The argument is quickly made invalid.
- If we take the premise that what occurs in nature, Natural A, is good and right, Natural B, and humans should imitate the natural kingdom, does this argument work in all cases? For example, should I steal someones lunch if I really want it? Certainly this occurs in nature more than homosexuality. Should I fight a man for a girl? Of course, we may use nature in our decision-making, but we don’t believe that humans are blindly obliged to operate in the same manner as what we see in the animal kingdom.
- The goal set by the argument is to say that homosexuality is good, Natural B, but the Appeal to Nature only says that something occurs in nature, not whether or not it is good, and not whether it is good for humans. If we were asking the question, “How many animals have been observed to engage in homosexual behavior?” the argument would answer this. But we are asking, “Is it good and right for humans?” to which the argument provides no answer.
I hope this provides some food for thought around this sensitive subject.
How many areas of a man’s life are impacted when he decides it is alright to play the field rather than holding out for the right woman? How does that man spend his days? Around what does he make his plans? Our sexuality drives so many of our life choices, and to say that a man’s sexual orientation doesn’t greatly impact him or society could not be farther from our own observed reality.
I have no doubt that a gay man can be quite manly in most respects. But, I believe there are limitations on him, just as there are for the philandering man, or the lazy man, or the momma’s boy. At any rate, strive to be the best man you can and you’ll fare better than those who do not.
As always, I would love any feedback on this article and thoughts on this subject.