“That’s how I was raised”

21Apr09

So apparently there’s a Miss USA beauty pageant. I hadn’t been following it, for any one of a million reasons, but then Renee at Womanist Musings drew my attention to one of the contestants, Miss California, and her views on gay marriage.

You know what in my country and in my family, I think that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think that it should be a man and a woman.

Now, I don’t really care about Miss California (real name Carrie Prejean). She was asked a question and she gave an answer based on what I assume were her true beliefs. And then she lost the contest. I don’t know if she lost because of her answer to the gay marriage question. I do know that the popular reaction seems to be disapproving of her answer, and that can only be a good thing. Had I been the judge, I would have seen awarding her the crown (tiara?) as a tacit endorsement of her views. So I’m glad she didn’t win.

What bothers me is that she bases her bigoted views on “the way [she] was raised”. This, sadly, seems to be a common argument in debating issues involving rights for LBGTQ people. “Tradition”, “culture”, “personal beliefs” all tend to be invoked as well.

So here’s the thing. In my life, I’ve believed a lot of things about marriage, couples, and families in general.

I’ve believed:

  • That marriage had to be between a man and a woman.
  • That only couples of the same race could get married. And the same religion.
  • That only married couples could have children.
  • That all married couples had to have children.
  • That all couples had to get married.
  • That all children had to have exactly two living parents, one man and one woman.
  • That all children had to live with both their natural parents (who were married to each other).
  • That all dads had to go out to work and all mums had to stay at home.
  • That all children had to have siblings.
  • That married couples had to have less than a year’s age gap between them.
  • That the age gap between successive siblings had to be two or three years – no more, no less.
  • That couples who had grown up in different places couldn’t then settle in either of their hometowns, but had to move to a completely different place.
  • That siblings, once grown up, had to live in different counties from each other.
  • That the two oldest siblings in any family had to have birthdays within a few days of each other.
  • That the number of siblings in a family had to be the same as in the mother’s family. And that the number of children of each sex had to be the same, and born in the same order.

I’m serious. These are all things that I believed at some point in my life. Because that’s how I was raised. I don’t think anyone ever told me any of these things explicitly – it was just how I rationalised the world. When I was little, I thought that all families worked the same way as mine.

They are all stupid things to believe. That’s why I’d stopped believing most of them by the time I was seven. Some were harder to shift than others (I still find it a little odd when I talk to someone who grew up living in the same town as their uncles, aunts, and cousins). But as I grew up and met more people, I gradually met families who contradicted every single assumption on my list. By the time I was in university (the first time, I believe, that I met someone with same-sex parents) I had ditched every single one of those beliefs.

The way I was raised wasn’t the same way as the way everyone else was raised. My family is probably the only one that ticks all the boxes I’ve listed above. That doesn’t make my family the default model. It doesn’t make us correct, or even more correct than any other family that ticks some, all, or none of the boxes.. It’s just what we are.

Every single belief on my list was completely arbitrary. Not one of them has any merit. It takes a special kind of blinkered view to declare some of them worthy of being adopted universally.

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3 Responses to ““That’s how I was raised””

  1. Miss California may have had other reasons that sounded even more ridiculous, so she may have settled for “that’s how I was raised” as a cover for the real reason, which might have earned her more scorn and ridicule (e.g., “I think homos are evil” or “Gays are responsible for the spread of AIDS”).

  2. 2 Laura

    That’s a good point. Still, in my (albeit limited) experience, most people don’t spontaneously decide that specific groups of other people are less than they themselves are. They’ve usually been told it by others, and never bothered to think it through for themselves.

    Miss California showed herself up to be either uncritically accepting of the views she was raised with, or a bigot. Either way, not a good look.

  3. 3 Bart

    I just wrote the same thing about “that’s how I was raised on my blog: http://www.itistyped.com/2009/05/09/the-way-i-was-raised/

    To me it sounds like something a little kid says at a playground. “That’s what my mommy told me.” Really immature…


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