This post is part of the Bodies, Gender, and Domination OOPS Series.
On Saturday, September 24, 2016, the National Front for the Family organized a march in Mexico City asking the Mexican government to revoke its decree to legalize gay marriage and adoption nationwide. Members of the Front defend what they call “the most important institution of society: marriage, conformed between a man and a woman, and the natural family, both bases of our society.” What they understand as “natural” is a family based on the idea that “male and female, being different and complementary between them, are equal in the law. This will protect the organization and the development of the family.” This implies that the “development of the family,” will be protected only when a biological man and a biological woman constitute a family.
The National Front for the Family speaks of an “ideology of gender.” Simplified, this is the idea that gender and sex are two different things; gender is socially constructed, whereas sex is natural (i.e., biologically predetermined). Their belief, as described in an anonymous post on Catholic.net, is that the natural (i.e., biological sex) is true, whereas the socially constructed other is an ideology that has been pushed forward by agencies such as the United Nations. They are against this “ideology” that they believe is threatening the institution of marriage as well as the family and education overall. Furthermore, because this ideology is changing the idea that marriage is for reproduction, then nobody will reproduce and thus the world will become unpopulated.
In response, Feminist lawyer Estefanía Vela Barba claims the National Front for the Family has made four basic mistakes. First, the Front believes homosexuality is a disease. Second, marriage is for reproduction only. Third, sexual orientation directly impacts the quality of parenting, making gay parents terrible parents. Fourth, because children from homoparental families will be bullied and discriminated against, homosexual couples should not be allowed to be parents.
Addressing these mistakes by the Front, Vela Barba offers measured correctives. First, there is no medical support for treating homosexuality as a disease. The American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its diagnostics ten years ago, and even the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) has revised more than 15 cases of gay marriage and adoption for the Mexican Supreme Court. Second, precisely because marriage is a human construct, we can decide how to define it and what to do with it. Third, being a gay parent offers no powers to “turn” anyone else gay. Referencing a recent APA report titled “Lesbian and Gay Parenting,” Vela Barba cites a number of studies that contradict claims such as those put forth by the Front. Fourth, preventing homosexual couples from being parents will not prevent their children from being discriminated against or bullied. Rather, as Vela Barba further argues in a recent opinion piece published in El Universal, such “prevention” is a way to hide discrimination, not to end it.
The first three mistakes Vela Barba highlights reinforce the logic of the “natural” that the Front claims to be objective truth (as opposed to the ideology of gender). Even though Vela Barba cites various studies and scientific institutions to expand the conception of the natural that the Front is promoting as objective truth, both sides make the same fundamental mistake — centering their arguments on a definition of what is, and therefore what is not, “natural.” As Oyérónké Oyĕwùmi argues in The Invention of Women, discussion of the natural is founded on “an ideology of biological determinism: the conception that biology provides the rationale for organization” (p. 10).
Whether reinforcing or pushing the boundaries surrounding the natural, both sides imply that if something is scientifically accepted, then it will be socially accepted. The underlying assumption is that the scientifically accepted is objective and, therefore, should be accepted by all. Thus, biology provides, as Oyĕwùmi argues, “the rationale for organization.” Yet, this thinking is just another ideology, as Oyĕwùmi further argues.
The National Front for the Family believes the idea of gender as something socially constructed is an ideology, and this ideology is separate from the logic of the natural. However, this distinction between logic and ideology holds only when the latter reinforces the former or what Oyĕwùmi calls the Bio-logic (p. 11): “When social categories like gender are constructed, new biologies of difference can be invented.” Outlining the boundaries of these new biologies of difference, whether to constrict or expand their meaning, is what we find in the discussion between the Front and Vela Barba. Whereas the Front uses biology to defend its beliefs, Vela Barba counters with another biological account to challenge their truth as “social ideology” rather than “scientific thinking.”
We could be trapped forever in this loop. Yet, to understand their positions, we must look outside this Bio-logic, to where their motivations lie. Otherwise, we may find ourselves entering a never-ending battle of the same.