INTRODUCTION (Do Ask, Do Tell)
"You Didn't Ask, but I'll Tell Anyway"
As I became aware of my fascination with virile young men during my high school years, my father often mentioned my preoccupation with "rights." At that time, I couldnít connect my flinching at the desecration of some people, such as men maimed in war, with what was happening inside me. Fortunately, my parents also talked about telling the truth and about learning to work. Gradually, I would recognize the connection between responsibility and freedom. Even so, I recoiled at the idea that I would ever be penalized for my private life.
My homosexuality developed as a covetousness for male qualities and a vicarious link to those attributes in other men. Often, I have perceived myself as "ugly" and have been disinclined to remain in intimate relationships with others. This has left me more time to contemplate my own personal standing, not just with others in a family setting, but also with the larger "society." I would like to attract attention, earn some recognition by communicating my experience, and achieve some good by doing so.
I will propose some political and social changes which would deny politicians the opportunity to use government to keep people divided over psychological issues. Of course, I admit to this immediate ulterior and "selfish" motive: I have some confidence in my capacity to fend for myself in a free market if the politicians arenít allowed to fence me out or to include me among their scapegoats. I donít ask government to tell private interests directly not to discriminate against me; I just donít want government itself to discriminate against me or use criminal code or social policy to goad others into treating me as a second-class citizen. One can call my approach "libertarian," but "libertarianism" and the related "market liberalism" are loaded terms which I will explain in more detail in the book. My greatest interest is hardly "gay rights," but, rather, individual rights ĺ for everyone ĺ and associated responsibilities. Equal rights for gays follows directly from properly understood and implemented individual rights for all.
To provide a focus for implementing my ideas, I will propose a detailed
constitutional Amendment to enhance the Right to Privacy and Intimate
Association, and to limit further the capability of government to mold the
inner lives of citizens. This Privacy Amendment would counter several other
recently proposed amendments dealing with issues like abortion and marriage. Of
course, I canít expect to introduce and get passed such an immodest proposal
exactly as I have phrased it. I hope that we, the American people, will become
interested in rethinking our Bill of Rights and in deciding just what we want it
to say. Then, we must write down our consensus! We shouldnít leave that
prerogative to judges only. Debate about such an amendment would cover the
content and implementation, both political and judicial, of a number of
affected public policy issues such as "family values" (including
same-sex marriage), the workplace, where initiative must engage discrimination,
the environment, education, and public safety. My public town-halls would focus
especially on "victimless crime" laws, including sodomy laws. Some of
the issues unravel when I examine closely the
My central question on personal values is this: do we believe in the principle that every adult person is totally responsible for himself or herself? This objectivistic notion would limit the responsibilities of government to consequentialism. Individuals, through their own conduct and performance, would become their own moral agents. An individual will, in principle, be held accountable for her actions regardless of biological or circumstantial parentage. When may an individual rightfully set her own personal priorities, and when should she consider the recognized and established interests of family and larger community first?
Both the liberals and the cultural conservatives would insist the answer to my essential conjecture is "No!" and that government must, on one hand, remedy injustices and indigenous inequities between groups, and, on the other, guide more vulnerable members of society with certain universal, yet intangible, models for right and wrong in values and motivation as well as in actual deeds. For common welfare and survival, people need to be protected, largely by the state, from their most dangerous instincts and compulsions. A more "libertarian" view would say that, if government stops redefining moral values, people can learn on their own to be their "brothersí keepers." Free competition eventually rewards individual excellence and provides every hardworking and deserving person appropriate opportunity.
The focus on personal responsibility is especially relevant to gay issues. I have always been uncomfortable with the old-fashioned, trite notion of my involuntary membership in an "oppressed" minority, perhaps comparable to "people of color" or to Jews. Now, connection between race and homosexuality comes across as a lazy rhetorical device. Liberal interpretations of my homosexuality demanded that I ignore my own accountability for what I say and do. My race is a benign and totally superficial and (for my ancestors) environmentally adaptive genetic characteristic, whereas my sexual orientation, while possibly having substantial biological roots, has profound implications for my future behavior and what I find important in other people. Sexual orientation (or "preference") crosses all the political territories covered by other traits such as race, religion, and gender; but sexual orientation also demands responsibility for the consequences of actions and values that underlie or promote behavior.
When I hear cultural conservatives slander homosexuals, I want to challenge them and force them to admit that their hot air is plain double-talk. They want to have it both ways; they talk of "toleration" yet elicit a disapproval strong enough to stigmatize gays with second-class citizenship and perhaps total exclusion from critical areas of society, such as the military. They make vague charges about homosexualityís challenge to "family values" without forthright explanations. To put it bluntly, the cultural conservatives see gays as cultural freeloaders, who "cheat" by leading adult lives which apparently allow them to spend all of their resources on themselves without the adaptive psychological sacrifices (particularly for men) necessary to become providers for wives and children. They really donít care very much about what gay men "do do" (even when it includes commit sodomy), as what they "donít do" to validate the supposed male responsibilities for initiative, domain over, and protection of women and children. Gay men and lesbians, they feel, sap the potential energy out of missionary intercourse. The outright "homo-hatred" described by Navy Lieutenant Tracy Thorne during the debates over the military ban certainly originates with personal fears of vulnerability and inadequacy in sexual and economic performance.
"Homophobia" is easily rationalized by viewing homosexuality as a "character disorder." This flaw, fed by a visual preoccupation with self-image, is supposed to spurn the "responsibility" to procreate and parent. Homosexual curiosity allegedly obstructs the socialization of men in collective pursuits (like the military) to protect society, and male homosexual practice is believed to endanger public health. In comparison, racism is much simpler: it comes from a tribalism in which people view survival and well-being as not within their own empowerment but as a ration or dole given by the state to them through the "community" with which they identify. Honest debate about homosexuality forces mainstream people to ponder what makes their own lives tick, and this process can make them uncomfortable.
Gay people, therefore, have every reason to embrace a political philosophy that would, when implemented, end governmentís warrant to tell people how they "ought" to live their lives, especially through enactment of sodomy laws and preferential treatment of legally married people. This modern political paradigm aims for effectively equal individual rights for gays without pitting gays against others. It encourages more self-empowerment At the same time, this approach would force gays, like everyone else, to seek private (rather than legislative or judicial) solutions to discrimination and incentives to fund public goods, whether AIDS and cancer research, or energy-efficient transportation. It forces us to consider weaning ourselves from government as the ultimate economic safety-net.
There is a deep anger underneath the recent outcries against big government, and it is becoming more personal than the natural resentment against government for confiscating oneís wealth to give to the poor or to its own pork. People sense that government is siphoning their money to relieve them of the discomfort of taking care of their own immediate families and communities. Sometimes, they sense they are leading borrowed lives with an artificial freedom from their own limits, subsumed by their obligations to their own neighbors and fidelity to particular functions of their gender roles. People "make it" today on the sacrifices of their ancestors, without accepting the same family responsibilities. Some people feel insecure about these new "freedoms"; like kids, they want new limits established and want to see everyone forced to adhere to these boundaries. Relief from the suffocation of too much government, then, belongs to traditional "families with children." This moralizing leads some people back to politics and power-mongering, so that they may gain a sense of recognition to compensate for the lack of substance in their own personal lives. They fling vindictive rhetoric and remain angry, desperate for attention.
The middle-class wage earners, seemingly shafted by the leverage of the winners in todayís more Darwinian, globally competitive economy, ought to scream just as angrily, but they tend to just cry.
Of course, three decades ago the anger was more like a righteous indignation from an opposite direction. Some groups of people ĺ African and native Americans, women, gays, and, in a meaningful sense, the working poor ĺ were surely denied a full place in society or the chance to compete fairly as individuals. "Christian" moral values came across to many as a ruse to maintain a sheltered, privileged establishment. As we have seen, for example, in the Simpson trial and supremacist movements, racist and "sexist" tensions, and even oppression still simmer today. Arguably, government leadership has always been needed in the past. The increase in standard of living and opportunity for psychological growth for much of the population has turned this around, rendering individual initiative more effective in securing social justice within our general moral values that in any previous time.
The problem of "equal rights for gays" creates a benchmark on a timeline of history, as it brings the notions of classical liberalism, which makes the welfare of the individual the first priority, to people of moderate means. Individualism is itself a new experience, potentially emancipating man from the tribal balkanization that practically nuked us as if we were dinosaurs. Individualism must indeed answer to subtle, motivational moral values if it is not to decompose into a new darwinian separation within society where unguided young people drift into crime and destruction. But community responsibilities may well be better transferred by family, church, or other cultural peer group when government stops bartering rights as conditional privileges and political tribute and becomes willing to leave people alone.
The biggest moral problem today is the inability of many people to make and keep personal commitments. They mix up "self-actualization" with self-indulgence. "Breakdown of the family" is a major symptom. However, family values do not equate to fulfillment of conventional gender roles. Furthermore, people should not allow government and other large social institutions to dictate solutions to "moral" problems; people need a new level of self-trust and responsibility. Government has facilitated the hypocrisy, particularly in matters of sexual and personal identity, that we once assumed we needed to keep our ordered liberty well lubricated. Itís still embarrassing to talk about sensitive matters. But in an age where easy access to information gives individuals so much more incentive to account for their own choices, we really need to find more truth within ourselves if we are to pursue personal fulfillment and simultaneously support social justice for others. Social and economic fairness has a moral and psychological foundation, based on study of the merits of issues and motives behind them, as well as a political basis in coalitions. Government needs to be ordered out of engineering personal fulfillment, and, in the more easily politicized areas, be forced to cede economic governance as well.
The first two chapters of the opus will present my own expulsion from
college for admitting "being gay" and my own subsequent and unusual
stint of military service during the
My own friends and associates know me as a very out-spoken guy, not afraid to take unusual, costly and pre-emptive actions both to make my points and to prevent myself from becoming economically over-extended later. I will build my standing in a public policy based on personal initiative largely from my own unusual, when considered in combination, personal experiences. Law professors can build their published arguments for extending privacy rights from detailed case analysis, and economists can promote self-governance by funding and presenting studies and simulation models, but these efforts tend to be ignored or at least lost in the shuffle of academia. A personal approach can add dimension and credibility to otherwise dry intellectual precepts and arguments.
Some readers may take umbrage at what might sound like an attempt to
capitalize on my own oppression. But, when I "review my life" I can
hardly say I have been cast down. I take responsibility for my own limitations
and for missing certain family experiences others take for granted. I have
found a subtle "justice" within my own bounds when I can make
personal sacrifices and keep my own special focus; an institutional guarantee
of "fairness" to my own minority group can hardly protect my
self-concept. My experiences can contribute to my playing "devilís
advocate" to illustrate the narrowness of conventional motions of
self-interest and to show the dishonesty of appeals to government for cultural
protectionism. My somewhat clandestine, if voyeuristic, life ĺ which sometimes has the aspect of a
detached observer suddenly engrossed in an
Others will urge me to shut up, to leave it to the "leaders" who know how to defend my rights. No, I donít want either side of any issue directing my thoughts or specifying which causes I must support just for "solidarity" or political mass. I havenít earned credentials as a corporate executive, journalist, or public servant by climbing up a conventional career ladder and paying the required psychological tributes, especially by raising a family; yet I want to be taken seriously. I think my situation as an "outside man" actually presents an advantage as I attempt to persuade people to look at policy issues substantively, rather than affiliate with political blocks to get them their way in legislatures, or, indirectly, courts. I donít want to be forced to support causes that I may find morally objectionable (such as abortion or affirmative action) to buy protection for my rights. I donít want to play foot soldier for any politician. I want to see issues, with their psychological and moral, as well as political, consequences, debated on their merits, regardless of who wins the next election or gets appointed to the Supreme Court. People must learn to think constructively about issues and emphasize not how their politicians can manipulate government to get people their way at the expense of others, but how individuals may do more for themselves and enjoy more freedom. Social and ethical problems are challenging because they are difficult and sometimes ambiguous; they cannot be resolved just by taking sides and letting friends remain comfortable with the adaptive loyalties of a permanently adversarial world. Life is not always black and white; it is, indeed, a rainbow. We must debate the tension between self-image and prerequisite obligation. I want to organize everything relevant and put it down between two book covers. So this is my time to tell the truth.