Public Discourse 17 June 2013
Deborah Savage is a professor of philosophy and pastoral ministry in the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity at the University of St. Thomas.
To demand that we recognize same-sex romantic relationships as marriages, and teach our children so, is to prevent them from discovering reality…Those of us for whom same-sex marriage has been, until now, almost impossible to contemplate, have some things to figure out. Of those, the most urgent is the question of what we are to tell our children.
I am the mother of a ten-year-old girl, a beautiful child, more precious to me than anything you can imagine. When, on June 1, same-sex marriage became legal in the state of Minnesota, I needed to know what to tell her. How is this supposed to work—actually—in the concrete world of a ten-year-old child and her mother? Her father is wondering too, of course, but he is rather speechless at the moment. And the way it works in our house, though he is really good at protecting her from possible physical threats, it usually falls to me to protect her from the more psychological threats she encounters occasionally in her young life. But this is a new one. So I need some advice.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should state that, as a philosopher, I have gotten fairly skilled at treating the philosophical errors of our age in the classroom setting. But a ten-year-old is at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to the arguments I have developed against relativism, nominalism, dualism, materialism, and so on. And then of course, parenting comes with its own specific challenges. So I am hoping those who advocate same-sex marriage have given some thought to this, eager as they seem to be to take on the task of parenting themselves.
…With her child’s natural grasp of real things, she already knows that married people have babies, and she knows it has something to do with mothers and fathers. But since our state has declared that the categories of mother and father are no longer relevant for marriage, that marriage has nothing really to do with children, how shall I explain to her where babies come from? She already knows that little people like her would not even exist in a world where same-sex marriage was the norm. Do I get to make any claims about the fact that only a mommy and a daddy can actually produce one?
And what shall I tell her about what her body is for? Am I to tell her that it is sort of like a ship and her personal identity is the equivalent of the ship’s pilot, someone in charge but not personally affected by any damages to the vehicle in which she is riding? That her identity has actually nothing to do with her embodiment in a female body? That self- consciousness resides in her mind and that at some point it will simply be a matter of discerning which way her body is leading her? (She is pretty smart and so she might ask me if those two ideas don’t contradict each other somehow; any guidance on that would be appreciated).