Monday, January 03, 2005



All of the above

The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards is attacking the families commissioner and Peter Dunne for expressing an inclusive view of what a family is. They do this by posing a question: are any of the below a "family"?

  1. Two lesbians who have chosen not to enter a so-called "civil union", cohabiting in a sexual/domestic relationship, together with children born to one or both partners via IVF.
  2. A transexual, who has undergone a sex operation to become a 'women', and a homosexual man, cohabiting in a sexual/domestic relationship, together with a child for whom the homosexual has guardianship responsibility (the child was born to a lesbian, now deceased, who used the man's donated sperm for IVF treatment). The two adults have chosen not to enter a civil union.
  3. A bisexual person living in a sexual/domestic relationship with a lesbian and and a homosexual man, an adult three-some, together with children born to the lesbian via IVF and children for whom the homosexual has guardianship rights due to the passing away of a lesbian through whom he obtained children prior to living with the bisexual.
  4. Two homosexual men who have chosen not to enter a civil union, cohabiting in a sexual/domestic relationship, who live with their children they have both fathered through one lesbian woman via IVF, as well as the same lesbian mother.
  5. Two bisexual couples who are in a loving open group relationship together with kids they have had from previous short-term relationships before opting for a bisexual lifestyle.
  6. A de-facto heterosexual couple living with a bisexual and her kids.
  7. A middle-aged homosexual man living in a civil-union relationship with a 16-year old homosexual boy, together with three young boys born to a lesbian (now deceased) with whom the older man assisted in creating a 'family' via IVF.

Speaking for myself, I think the answer to this is "all of the above". Family is not defined by heterosexuality, by legal status, or by having children. It is not a matter of genetics or who is fucking who. Instead, it is defined by love and by an unbreakable connection (meaning that even though people may get divorced or seperated or grow up and move on, even though they may hate one another, there is a sense in which they still belong; no-one can throw you out, and you can never really leave). To the extent to which the above groupings share this trait - something SPCS is conspicuously silent on, preferring to concentrate instead on gender and sexuality - they are families.

(Though actually I prefer Wittgenstein's theory of family resemblance to any sort of essentialism, but the above still applies to the extent that we can find traits that roughly capture most of the resemblence...)

I'm also amused by SPCS' complete misunderstanding about bisexuality - and their total lack of imagination of other possible groupings. Traditional polygymy or polyandry doesn't get a look in, and neither do groups of ordinary heterosexual couples who have decided to live communally and like partner-swapping. But all of these are likewise families to the extent that they share the characteristics above (and all are also likely to outrage the fundamentalists).

11 comments:

I wanted to post an inciteful comment about how their focus on the sexual orientations of the parents says so much about what their "community standards" actually translate to; I also wanted to speculate how people would react if the words "muslim" and "catholic" were used in place of "homosexual" and "lesbian" (because, hey, they're all lifestyle choices, right?); but, in the end, the only thing I can think is: the SPCS need a better copywriter because, damn, that release reads fugly.

Posted by dritchie : 1/03/2005 02:42:00 PM

I think it is hilarious that they spent so much time thinking up all these different scenarios that obviously offend them.

We should try and come up with our own lists for them.

Posted by David Farrar : 1/03/2005 03:17:00 PM

It reads like Destiny pornography: it describes exciting, colourful, sexually fulfilling lives led by other people.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 1/03/2005 03:57:00 PM

"undergone a sex operation to become a 'women'"

ROFL
Man, that's one heck of an operation...

And there's no way to not be anonymous, but not have a blogger account? Because I don't need another online journal...

Evie

Posted by Anonymous : 1/03/2005 04:48:00 PM

I think it's very significant that SPCS cannot contemplate gays having children with straight partners. Why couldn't the bisexual menage a trois or foursomes lead to a natural pregnancy and why do homosexual men have to use lesbian women to gain guardianship rights to childrn. One can only assume that they are unwilling to admit that gay and straight humans are conspecific.

Posted by Greyshade : 1/03/2005 06:24:00 PM

Mundens here.

I agree "all of the above" is the correct answer.

But I'd go further and include people who are not biologically connected, not sexually connected and not legally connected, but whom are emotionally close and fulfil a familial roles.

This is related to the associative array-based matching discussed in your Wittgenstein reference, but is slightly tighter because there is a fixed commonality in the roles, so whilst you might need associative matching to identfy that a person is in fact fulfilling a particular role, once that is identified the commonality takes over.

In fact, in the example given in your refrence, one does not need associative matching to determine if something is a game, one just needs a broader set of role-based attributes. For instance, the attribute "requires one or more competitors" allows one to directly determine whether something is a game or not, as something that does not contain any competitiors is not a game. Again one might require associative matching to determine whether an individual is fulfilling the role of a competitor.

To get back to the subject, if you identify families using a role-based definition, then an older couple providing the equivalent of "Grand-parenting" to a couple with children that does not have any biological grand-parents available, or a woman who is a (non-sexual) friend of a man who has children who fulfils the role of mother to that family because their biological mother is unavailable for whatever reason both represnt the extension to the concept that I'm talkng about

SPCS - Surely that stands for the Society for the Prevention of Community Standards?

( Note: I have a Blogger account but it doesn't work in any reasonable browser, and I can't be bothered installe I.E. just to post, so the anonymous posting is appreciated!)

Posted by Anonymous : 1/03/2005 08:19:00 PM

But I do find this amusimg
"'Whatever the family is, it needs to be supported' he has said."
A classic example of associating positive connotations to a word and then trying to achieve it. You can only say it is a positive thing AFTER you know what it is and thus can figure out why that is good.

Posted by Genius : 1/03/2005 10:25:00 PM

Yep, David Lane has started the year with his aversion to anything non heterosexual ( or "unnatural", as he would say). Of course sexual orientation and family status cannot be discriminated against, however if the bisexual was living with the gay man and the straight man and his kids, they would not be breaking the law, however if the bisexual was married to the gay man and the straight man he would be a bigamist.

So much for equivalence of relationships under the law..

Posted by Swimming : 1/03/2005 11:41:00 PM

Dear readers. The following is from the Bible (The Apostle Paul's Letter to the Roman church). It explains why Christians believe that most of the relationships mentioned in the above are condemned by The Creator. Perhaps this helps to explain things a bit ;-)

Regards,

Rob

God's Wrath Against Mankind

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.

26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, Godhaters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/05/2005 05:47:00 PM

Rob,

if you want to live your life according to a 2000-year old book, feel free. But please don't expect the rest of us to.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/05/2005 05:56:00 PM

I'm afraid I don't quite understand what SPCS thinks bisexuality means?

Posted by Quail : 1/10/2005 03:37:00 AM