As I research a paper for my Native American class on the berdache or “Two-Spirit” people, that is, individuals of one gender (primarily men) who assume the roles of the other gender in public, I am struck at the amount of jargon I encounter in some of the articles and books I’ve been reading. Rather than learn about the traditions of the peoples indigenous to this continent, I’m learning instead more about the writers’ theories of gender — and their antipathy to things Western.
I believe that by looking to myths and attitudes toward homosexuality in cultures more open to homosexuality than the Western world has been since the advent of Christianity, we can better develop means to address homosexuality in our own culture. In order to do this, we need to study the myths and traditions as best as we can reconstruct them, rather than see them as data which prove (or disprove) the latest trendy sociological theories. And too many scholars, alas, seem more committed to the latter end.
To be sure, I’ve discovered at least one book which, despite some sociological jargon and a few politically correct asides, looks at the subject in a reasonably dispassionate manner, Will Roscoe’s well-written, The Zuni Man-Woman, the story of We’wha, a Zuni Man who lived as a woman, even meeting President Grover Cleveland in that guise.
As I was wading through the turgid prose of other writers, I received a book I had ordered from Amazon, Willian N. Eskridge and Darren R. Spedale’s Gay Marriage: for Better or for Worse? : What We’ve Learned from the Evidence. In paging through the book, the prose seems a lot more straight-forward than that I have been reading for my paper. And given that it takes seriously an issue that I unlike all too many gay activists believe merits serious debate, I’m finding myself turning to it rather than returning to those scholarly articles.
This heavily-foototed book appears to provide essential information for a serious discussion of gay marriage, with chapters on the debate here and lessons from sixteen years of same-sex unions in Scandinavia. Unlike other advocates of gay marriage, Eskridge and Spedale acknowledge the Vice President’s opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment and even commend his wife Lynne:
This is not self-serving sympathy on their part, for Lynne Cheney is one of the toughest-minded policy analysts in Washington. We believe that her prounion, and potentially promarriage, stance is a consequence of her attention to the facts: lesbian and gay men are decent citizens; they from committed relationships that work well for them and contribute to the larger family and community.
I’m not yet in a position to offer a thorough review of this book, but on first glance it seems quite well-written and devoid of much of the jargon I’m accustomed to find in books and articles on gay topics (at least in those I’ve been reading on Native American traditions). And, unlike some advocates of gay marriage, these writers at least acknowledges the pro-civil unions stances of the Vice President — and his wife.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com