Sunday, January 23, 2005

Two Mommies, Legally

This couple was happily married. Judi and Michael Howden in Concord, NH (I think, the story doesn't say which New England state this is). Had a child together. And then Michael had some surgery done and became Mikayla. Now they're one of those families with two mommies that the recall group hates so much. Sex change thrust couple into same-sex marriage debate.

This is a rare breed -- a legally married same-sex couple.
The couple’s experience highlights a legal Catch-22. States can either recognize or refuse to recognize someone’s new gender after a sex change. Either decision inescapably permits some form of same-sex marriage.

Recognition lets existing, heterosexual marriages like the Howdens’ become same-sex. Denying recognition permits new same-sex marriages - like one between Judi and Mikayla if they were to marry today - because the spouses’ genders differ only on paper, not visibly.

"I have no answer to it," said state Rep. Dan Itse, R-Fremont, who supports the state’s same-sex marriage ban. "We have ventured where angels fear to tread."

Apart from Mikayla Howden’s gender change, her family’s Concord home is like many across middle America. There are prayers at meal times. One parent works while the other stays home with the kids. There are children’s toys in every room.

Somehow I am not surprised to find this minister -- right here in DC -- who does not like this one bit.
The Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition in Washington, D.C., said marriages like the Howdens’ should be dissolved.

"Absolutely," he said. "We don’t want the roof to leak in any place. We must make sure that marriage is protected."

Sheldon’s coalition, a lobby claiming more than 43,000 member churches, is crafting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. The Howdens, he said, have slipped through a "legal loophole."

Social conservatives often portray same-sex marriage as a moral issue, Mikayla Howden said. But she called changing her gender a life-and-death decision, not a lifestyle choice. Living as a man was fundamentally wrong, she said, and nearly led her to suicide.

Y'know what's wrong with this country? Y'know what? Why, this country lets people go and marry anybody they damn want, that's what the problem is here... Yeah, sure. You have to wonder just how frail Rev. Sheldon here thinks the American family is, if a home with two mommies is going to bring the whole civilization down.

Oh, and the other thing. The wife -- the first wife, I mean -- is now technically a lesbian.
Judi Howden said she struggles with being labeled a lesbian - one day accepting it, but resisting any label the next.

"It’s not this seedy little thing going on," she said. "We’re normal, everyday people."

And there you have it. Just leave 'em alone, let 'em raise their kids, OK Reverend?


Blogger Unknown said...

Jim, having surgery doesn't make him female. It makes him a male (check the DNA) who has had surgery.

January 25, 2005 2:34 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

I don't claim to understand these things, but there are some people whose subjective experience is not correlated with their physical attributes. You can say, based on some biological criteria, what they "really" are, but their experience is that they are something else.

What's the right answer to that?

My feeling is that the right answer is to mind our own business, and let 'em be whatever they think they are.

Like, my teenage kid was raised Catholic, but now he goes to a Baptist church. Should I say that he's "really" Catholic? No, he's whatever he says he is.

If you had a person -- and I read about an example like this -- who had the brain of a retarded person, but behaved with average intelligence, would you say they were "really" retarded? My suspicion is that you have some reason to hope that the DNA is "more true" than the person's subjective experience.

January 26, 2005 2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, that's pretty much entirely nonsense.

His "experience" is being a woman? Says who? Did he alter his neurology along with his genitalia?

January 26, 2005 5:03 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Your question, "Says who?" is classic. Wittgenstein used to ask, is it possible for a person to be in pain and not know it?

Your question implies that the answer is yes. But pain is *nothing more than* the experience of pain. And this person's experience of being female was perhaps *nothing more than* that. I say perhaps, because it is possible there is some physiological underpinning to the experience, but in fact that doesn't matter. He himself was convinced he was a woman in a man's body; he felt like that, and the rest of it is none of our business.

I would hate to live in a world where people were so simple that I could understand every little thing about them. Wouldn't you hate that, if everybody was just like you?

January 26, 2005 7:15 PM  

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