I see in today’s National Post a column by Robert Fulford, flogging a book by Gregory Woods (of Nottingham Trent) that appears later this month from Yale University Press. The column is headed, “Nothing in the life of Canada and the United States has changed so much, so fast, as the status of gays and lesbians,” while the book is entitled Homintern: How Gay Culture Liberated the Modern World.
The book’s title, points out Fulford, “revives an old joke among gays.” There was never really a serious strategy or organization to effect the new sexual rights and privileges, except in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists on the bigoted, anti-gay side of things. Of course there were efforts to get interested parties on the same page and to seek public support, but it all happened—well, quite naturally. “Their great coup evolved as a matter of analogy. They encouraged the public to see their needs were, by analogy, much like equality for women, civil rights for non-whites and justice for aboriginals. A liberalizing society agreed to welcome another demand for fairness. In this atmosphere, gay became normal.” And so it all fell out just as the non-existent Homintern would have had it.
Now I have not yet seen Woods’ book and have nothing to say about it except that it has a very ambitious subtitle to live up to. Fulford himself doesn’t try to say much about it. But Fulford is remarkably naïve in offering this happy-ever-after tale, unless he is being remarkably disingenuous, which is not his wont. It so happens that I was in his town (Toronto) yesterday, addressing a think tank on this very subject, and nothing seems to me less in doubt than that the changes we are witnessing have been well mapped out in advance. Not always in secret, to be sure, indeed often quite openly, but well mapped out nonetheless. Nor, as I tried to show the group to which I was speaking, have we come to the end of the road with these changes. The new normal won’t be normal for long.
As for liberation, and what our liberalizing society is liberating itself from and for, there is a great deal I might say about that. I won’t try to say any of it here, but I will urge another book on you. Not a book from a prestigious press like Yale (one of those outfits that, as Fulford says, “fall all over each other proclaiming their devotion to the new order”?), but rather a self-published book by an obscure English essayist, Daniel Moody, who lives in Dorset rather than in Nottingham. Moody’s book is called The Flesh Made Word (no allusion to Woods’ Articulate Flesh: Male Homo-eroticism and Modern Poetry).
The Flesh Made Word is a slim volume—a long essay, really, and not a poetic one. It is written by a very sharp analytical mind, however, and it certainly rewards some investment from the reader. Among its main theses is this: that the legalization of abortion in the West began a process of evacuation of the body from the law itself. This legal D&E, as we might say, has become apparent in the moves made recently in the name of Gender or Transgender, as he is at pains to demonstrate.
Moody isn’t particularly interested in conspiracy theories, I hasten to add. He is trying to show that treating some persons (those in wombs) as if they were not persons has set in motion an inexorable process detaching the law from its dependence on bodies and detaching legal identities from real identities, affecting all persons. What Moody is probing here is nothing less than the unraveling of the rule of law in the wake of legalized abortion.
I encourage you to take the time to peruse and ponder it. Get the Kindle version, if you like, and put on a fresh pot of coffee. You might offer Fulford and Woods a cup as well. I think some new conversations may come out of this book. At least, I hope so.
Douglas Farrow is Professor of Christian Thought at McGill University in Montreal, and the author of Desiring a Better Country.