Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gay Smearage

There are no non-bigoted reasons for disapproving marriage equity for samesex couples. There are surely plenty of reasons to disapprove marriage as an historical or presently sanctioned institution more generally (I am highly sympathetic to many of these arguments myself), but none of these reasons provide a right rationale for the prohibition to samesex couples in particular of access to marriage as it actually exists. If state-sanctioned marriage is something you believe loving competent couples should be able to make recourse to, then citizens in samesex couples clearly must have equal access to the same unless you believe their love less real for its queerness (which makes you a bigot), or you believe their queerness renders them incompetent somehow (which makes you a bigot), or you believe marriage is intended to protect only families and offspring (which makes you confused, not least because many gay couples have children and many non-gay couples do not, but likely also makes you a bigot, against at least some gay people and possibly many others who are not), or you believe that "separate but equal" domestic or civic partnerships should suffice samesex couples as certainly they do not so seem to satisfy straight couples (which, you guessed it, makes you a bigot). Certainly the planetary historical record of mandated marital forms provides a more diverse spectacle of reprosexual, slaveholding, polygamous, incestuous, and queer forms than one would expect to find were one to listen only to the righteous invocations of monotonous millennia of Ozzies and Harriets, presumably now somehow imperiled by the occasional Ozzie and Harry, always attested to with such smug certainty by fundamentalist know nothings. So if you disapprove marriage equity for samesex couples in particular, well, then I'm afraid on this issue at any rate, whatever else you might be in other areas of your life (including the likely possibility that you are a perfectly nice person who is appalled by quite a lot of bigotry otherwise), you're a bigot. Everybody reading these words already knows every one of these arguments already, and it is hard not to suspect that there must be something else afoot if you are still holding stubbornly on to this benighted bigotry at this point. If you don't want to be a bigot under these circumstances, and of course you know you don't, not really, then the thing to do is not to protest the priorities or the anger or the pain of those who are calling a spade a spade where your bigotry in this matter is concerned, but to stop being a bigot.

20 comments:

jimf said...

> There are no non-bigoted reasons for disapproving
> marriage equity for samesex couples. There are surely
> plenty of reasons to disapprove marriage as an historical
> or presently sanctioned institution more generally
> (I am highly sympathetic to many of these arguments myself). . .

"Dan Savage, author of the new book _The Commitment_ is
interviewed on NPR about his book and the recent marriage
to his partner of 10 years. Their [adopted] son, DJ,
was originally opposed to his parents getting married . . .
for 'interesting kid logic reasons':

'School is very conformist, and one of the very first
conforming that goes on in pre-school and kindergarten
is gender. Suddenly, things he'd always liked, he came
to understand them as not things that he liked, but
things that he liked because he was a boy: they were
boy things. And the whole world got divided into
boy things and girl things, and marriage was a girl thing.
Marriage, as DJ understood it, at five and six, was
nuclear cooties: it was something that the girls threatened
to do to the boys. I mean, it wasn't a pleasant thing.'"

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5022727 ,
via http://bolditalic.com/quotulatiousness_archive/002198.html

John Howard said...

I can't remember where we left off, Dale. Did you end up insisting that opposing same-sex conception and transhumanism and genetic engineering was bigoted? I think people should only be allowed to conceive with their unmodified genes, with someone of the other sex (which is dictated by the 'unmodified' requirement), preferably in marriage, and certainly as a right of marriage.

If you decided that opposing use of modified gametes was bigotry, then OK, I'm a bigot. But if you are just forgetting about my objection to gay marriage, then I'm here to remind you not to conveniently forget non-bigoted arguments against same-sex marriage.

The dilemma for you is that if you just say I'm just another bigot for opposing Transhumanism and genetic engineering and favoring a law that limits making people to a man and a woman using their own genes, then I think you legitimize bigotry in general. If you toss me in there with simple "ick, gross" bigots, with no distinction, then I think, when people actually examine my argument, I legitimize them more than they de-legitimize me. So I think it would be better to make the distinction and accept that I am making a non-bigoted argument against SSM.

Cheers

Dale Carrico said...

The bug you have in your bonnet over assisted reproductive techniques that don't actually exist isn't under discussion here, so I fail to see what my dilemma here is supposed to be exactly. Have you actually provided an argument either for or against gay marriage for me to judge bigoted or not in the first place? Since you say you can't remember where "we left off" in our last exchange, let me remind you. I deemed you a troll with a weird preoccupation with queers who have kids. I fail to see much reason to change my assessment.

John Howard said...

My obsession is not with queers who have kids, but with transhumanism, which isn't particularly weird for this blog, is it? Aren;t lots of people in your circle rather obsessed with "reproductive techniques that don't exist"? That's the whole point of Tranhsumanism, isn't it? To break humanity free from the restriction that people can only be the natural offspring of a man and a woman. Sure, I know there are other aspects, like mind uploading, robot gods, etc, but a desire for genetic engineering is the only item that all you transhumanists have in common. Oh, that and gay marriage.

So, is it bigoted against gays to oppose Transhumanism? I don't think so, I think that the idea that we should figure out how to do same-sex conception so that same-sex couples can have children together is actually anti-gay, in the Mark Simpson sense that it abandons the things about being gay that were queer and fun and different, and tries to make gay people straight, in the sense of normal and conforming to heterosexual norms and practices, like having children together.

I'm hoping to remind you that same-sex couples don't need to be able to reproduce together, using their own genes, and at least for now, certainly shouldn't be allowed to try to. And to get you on the boat when it is time to talk about DOMA and getting equal protections to same-sex couples. Remember what they need and what they don't need, and support the Egg and Sperm Civil Union Compromise.

Dale Carrico said...

I don't have a circle (I don't even have a cellphone), but if I did have a circle there wouldn't likely be any Robot Cultists in it. You may have noticed that I don't say very nice things about the elitist reductionist stealth-eugenicist techno-utopian transhumanists and immortalists and singularitarians...

Oh, wait, you were one of the people who wanted to actually accuse me of being a transhumanist myself just because I'm not a technnophobic bioconservative pining for a "return" to a "natural" pastoral patriarchal feudalism. And presumably those two insanely uncritical and hyperbolic vantages on technodevelopmental social struggle -- the transhumanist and the bioconservative -- are the only two analytic registers available to us somehow. Needless to say, I disagree.

That's the whole point of Tranhsumanism, isn't it? To break humanity free from the restriction that people can only be the natural offspring of a man and a woman. Sure, I know there are other aspects, like mind uploading, robot gods, etc, but a desire for genetic engineering is the only item that all you transhumanists have in common. Oh, that and gay marriage.

Still the same John Howard, I see.

First of all, are you really not capable of seeing the difference between the palpable weirdness of transhumanist preoccupations with "mind uploading," "robot gods," and genetic sooperhumanization and so on, and completely mainstream topics like gay marriage?

It strikes me as truly peculiar that when you personally cast about for a way of talking about the transhumanist Robot Cultist pining for techno-immortality, limitless agency, invulnerability, superintelligence, and all the rest of their rather theological prostheticized would-be omni-predications, what you choose to focus on as "the whole point of Tranhsumanism" is a topic which I doubt many if any transhumanists would describe as central or definitive to them at all, very specifically "[t]o break humanity free from the restriction that people can only be the natural offspring of a man and a woman."

I mean, are you quite well? This obsession with queers and kids you have is really... odd.

Mildred said...

I'm not particularly concerned with being fair to John Howard, but I did want to just pipe up here and say that I do see a concern with breaking free of the link between gender and reproduction as sort of a minor strain within Transhumanism. Some transhumanists do talk about ectogenesis and all that.

Not sure what it has to do with gay marriage, tho.

Dale Carrico said...

I think that the idea that we should figure out how to do same-sex conception so that same-sex couples can have children together is actually anti-gay,

Also, up is down, please make a note of it.

it abandons the things about being gay that were queer and fun and different, and tries to make gay people straight, in the sense of normal and conforming to
heterosexual norms and practices, like having children together.


I have some sympathy for some of what you are saying here, and I do make arguments myself that connect up to this sort of critique. I am not personally interested in assimilating into a heteronormative frame in which I become a "good gay," nicely bourgeois, married, having kids, and killing my nation's "foes" on the battlefield as an openly gay patriot or what have you.

I am personally much more ferociously identified with promiscuous, punk, and pacifist variations of queerness. I can't say as such that I am pleased by the tradeoff that offers legal standing to queer people only at the price of the demand for their assimilation into the corporate-military machineries of mainstream monoculture.

I do agree that a crucial dimension of queer critique and struggle must be to resist this false tradeoff, to direct attention to the ways in which it marginalizes and denigrates intersex, bisex, trasnsex, asex, polyamorous, and otherwise "deviant" (defiant) gender-atypical persons and lifeways.

But I have no trouble reconciling this queer agenda with my awareness that the refusal of equitable access to the institutions of marriage, adoption, public and military service for queers who aspire to them is conspicuously unjust and must be fought as such. Not only that, these exclusions clearly function as a primary mechanism through which the ongoing stigmatization and abuse of less-assimilable queers takes place anyway.

If even boring white guys who want nothing more than to get married and shop for crap with their kids are rendered not-quite-human not-quite-citizens just because they couple homosexually, you can be sure that more radical modalities of queerness are earmarked for an even surer destruction in such a society.

And, anyway, if I want to celebrate the free expressivity of promiscuous punks, this scarcely entitles me to denigrate all those whose queerness includes forms of long-term commitment, monogamy, child-rearing, public service, and so on. My imagination isn't so limited that I cannot conceive of worthy lives lived otherwise than mine nor are my values so insecure that I imagine them imperiled just because they jostle in the public square together with different ones.

So long as equity and diversity and consent are secure I am usually happiest in the marginal minority, immersed in the bracing and provocative spectacle of difference. I think this is an attitude that is perfectly facilitative of the politics of queer lifeways, however assimilated or deviant they might be, as it happens.

None of this is to deny that assimilationist politics cheerfully do produce exclusionary and abjective effects, but nobody promised me civil rights struggle would be a rose garden -- one has, as it were, to walk and chew gum at the same time.

And certainly we should be wary of simplistic either-or divide-and-conquer formulations that would support institutional homophobia under the guise of a celebration of homosex in some parochially preferred mode (even if the preference happens to be our own).

John Howard said...

There is a clear logical line that all people are on one side or the other: should we ban genetic engineering of people? All Transhumanists are on your side, all Bioconservatives are on my side. And I don't see the point of saying that some people on your side are not Transhumanists, or some people on my side are not Bioconservatives. If you want to differentiate yourself from the Robot Cult Tranhumanists, just call them Robot Cultists (oh yeah, you do). The mere fact that some people are crazier than you are doesn't make you sane. You still want to allow people to create people basically however they want, or sorry, however they are "educated" to want, yet you refuse to stop them if their education doesn't result in the cautious prudence you were needing for your own PR purposes. Maybe that's when you'll decide we need some rules?

And if you can't see that banning genetic engineering means limiting conception to a man and a woman, and prohibiting people from attempting to conceive with someone of the same sex, then you just are willfully refusing to see, I think. So see: on your side of the "ban line" are all the Transhumanists and people who want to allow same-sex conception, on my side are all the people that want to keep procreation between a man and a woman. Any one that doesn't want a law to keep reproduction natural, between a man and a woman, is a Transhumanist, robot-worshipping or not. I challenge you to find me one Transhumanist who wants a ban on GE.

It is a pretty neat strategy to pursue gay marriage and Transhumanism separately, as if they were unrelated, but it's pretty clear they are one and the same thing. Just look at your reaction to the Pope's pronouncement, which wasn't about gays at all, but was gleefuly interpreted to be against gays and gay marriage.

Dale Carrico said...

There is a clear logical line that all people are on one side or the other: should we ban genetic engineering of people? All Transhumanists are on your side, all Bioconservatives are on my side. And I don't see the point of saying that some people on your side are not Transhumanists, or some people on my side are not Bioconservatives.

Probably most transhumanist-identified people will agree with me that the earth isn't flat, but that hardly makes it irrelevant to point out that only a vanishingly small minority of the people who do agree with me on that score are transhumanist-identified and that it may be jumping the gun a bit to go from our shared denial of a flat-earth to corralling me together with transhumanists who actually are more noted for extreme techno-utopian and crypto-eugenicist views which I actually endlessly explicitly excoriate hereabouts.

The mere fact that some people are crazier than you are doesn't make you sane.

This is one of those man in the mirror moments for you, John, if you're up to it.

You still want to allow people to create people basically however they want,

Do you think people are creating golems from clay and magic spells? Do you think sentient suffering robot sex-slaves are appearing on assembly-lines somewhere? What the hell are you even talking about?

Are you proposing a blanket ban on actually-existing IVF techniques or all practices of surrogacy? As it happens I am enormously interested in the abuses and problems that freight actually-existing ARTS -- the fraud of duressed and misinformed surrogate mothers, the real health-risks and complications associated with the multiple births eventuating from many currently overutilized fertility treatments, and so on.

But, you know, all of this is real world stuff, unconnected to and unclarified by sweeping declamations against the "Unnatural," or fearmongering fantasies (not to mention corporatist hype) involving designer babies or clone armies or the like.

yet you refuse to stop them if their education doesn't result in the cautious prudence you were needing for your own PR purposes. Maybe that's when you'll decide we need some rules?

It would be absurd in the extreme for you to cast me in the role of some libertopian anything-goes corporatist just because I "merely" advocate strong regulation and public oversight of healthcare provision based on informed nonduressed consent and consensus-science based assessments of risk rather than blanket prohibitions of even not-yet or possibly never-to-exist existing techniques that might some day violate what you have personally come to fetishize here and now as "The Natural" state of affairs where human beings and their sexual and reproductive practices are concerned.

[I]f you can't see that banning genetic engineering means limiting conception to a man and a woman, and prohibiting people from attempting to conceive with someone of the same sex, then you just are willfully refusing to see, I think.

Well, sure, of course I see that this is the case. Unless Jeebus sees fit to bless buttfuckers like me with a miracle butt-baby (I'd abort it, by the way), it doesn't seem likely that homosex is going to yield much in the way of reprosex any time soon without the aid of some as yet only hypothetical medical technique.

But, then, I don't advocate "banning genetic engineering," I advocate actual harm reduction and health facilitation through equitable consensual healthcare provision (in case you want to know how this cashes out at political ground-level: I am an advocate for universal single payer healthcare and a scene of consent that is truly informed and nonduressed, which for me leads to an advocacy of a universal basic income guarantee and access-to-knowledge politics), whether this means banning some techniques you would call "genetic engineering" or making access universal and safe to other techniques you would call "genetic engineering."

If a technique emerges through which samesex couples can conceive a healthy wanted child with actually negligible risk to their health then you can be sure I will advocate that those who actually desire to make recourse to such a procedure can do so, even if this scares some conservatives who believe this is "playing god" or "violating nature" (as such people once said of anaesthsia and so on).

You can be sure that it won't only be weird transhumanist-identified Robot Cultists who would be on my side in championing such access. Indeed, I wouldn't much welcome trasnhumanist allies in championing this, since I daresay one can expect transhumanists to remain in such a case very much as they are now, a vanishingly marginal minority of superlative technocentrics riding a more mainstream technoscientifically-literate progressive bandwagon but hyperbolized with a little useless techno-transcendentalizing handwaving in the hopes of conning a few more impressionable naifs into ponying up membership dues for their membership organizations to munch on.

Any one that doesn't want a law to keep reproduction natural, between a man and a woman, is a Transhumanist

If you truly believe this, I must question your sanity.

It is a pretty neat strategy to pursue gay marriage and Transhumanism separately, as if they were unrelated, but it's pretty clear they are one and the same thing.

Transhumanism = Gay Marriage? Oh... Kay, Then.

Dale Carrico said...

Mildred wrote: I did want to just pipe up here and say that I do see a concern with breaking free of the link between gender and reproduction as sort of a minor strain within Transhumanism. Some transhumanists do talk about ectogenesis and all that.

Fair enough, a minor strain it is, but, you're right, it is there.

John Howard said...

George Dvorsky supposedly coined the term Postgenderism and it might be considered a strain, since lots of Transhumanists might not think about it much, and might still want genders in their enhanced future, but its also kind of central to Transhumanism to not be constrained by any vestiges of our biological evolution, isn't it? And being constrained to one gender and having to reproduce with someone of the other gender is definitely something that EVERY Transhumanist would agree is something to overcome.

John Howard said...

Probably most transhumanist-identified people...

I am saying that people can be Transhumanists without self-identifying as Transhumanists. I identify them as Transhumanists if they are in favor of allowing germline genetic engineering, even if they have never heard of Transhumanism and if they have, even if they favor regulation and oversight. Do you object to me doing the identifying? Tough titties, you're a Transhumanist, because you oppose a ban on genetic engineering of humans and want genetic engineering of human beings to be a reality. It's clearly where the line should be drawn between H and H+, for both practical purposes and principle.

actually are more noted for extreme techno-utopian and crypto-eugenicist views which I actually endlessly explicitly excoriate hereabouts.

What about liberal eugenics? That is exactly what you propose, is it not? Liberal eugenics is Transhumanism too.

This is one of those man in the mirror moments for you, John, if you're up to it.

Wha? Who's crazier than me? I mean.. If I am staking out a moderate position on anything, it is only by proposing the Civil Union compromise to get all the other benefits and protections of marriage to committed same-sex couples, including federal recognition. But that's not only entirely just and fair, it's also practical in terms of achieving the blanket ban on GE and preserving individual conception rights. It's not to feign moderation by excoriating some embarrassing radical extremists to make my plan seem reasonable. And it's perfectly sane to want to preserve individual reproduction rights and keep everyone created equal and un-genetically modified by scientists, and focus our energies on caring for existing people rather than creating better people. I don't see where this becomes crazy, even at the extreme, where I hopefully am.

Do you think people are creating golems from clay and magic spells?
Do you think sentient suffering robot sex-slaves are appearing on assembly-lines somewhere? What the hell are you even talking about?


I'm talking about whatever someone might want to do, anything besides joining their unmodified gamete with another person's unmodified gamete (which requires it be of a person of the other sex, which would be explicit in the law in case judges didn't understand the science). The law I've proposed would prohibit all those methods, and any other magic you might think of, including attempting miraculous butt-babies. No, I don't think anyone has created a person any other way yet.

Are you proposing a blanket ban on actually-existing IVF techniques or all practices of surrogacy?

Ultimately I do favor a ban on donor gametes and surrogacy, and more enforcement of intentional unmarried pregnancy that joins unmarried gametes. IVF would probably remain legal due to medical privacy, but I am with the pope that it messes up how we think of children, and how much value we put on protecting people's fertility. But that's "ultimately" what I "favor", and I am just one voice in the democratic process that would decide those things. My positions on those things wouldn't automatically come true just because we enact the Egg and Sperm Civil Union Compromise to stop GE.

As it happens I am enormously interested in the abuses and problems that freight actually-existing ARTS -- the fraud of duressed and misinformed surrogate mothers, the real health-risks and complications associated with the multiple births eventuating from many currently overutilized fertility treatments, and so on.

That's good, I agree with you there. I wonder if there is one person who would disagree with us about those things? One person who rejoices at the fraud and duress and defends misinformation and health risks?

But, you know, all of this is real world stuff, unconnected to and unclarified by sweeping declamations against the "Unnatural," or fearmongering fantasies (not to mention corporatist hype) involving designer babies or clone armies or the like.

Sure, it is unconnected to GE. So, why are you bringing it up? Are you saying that my trying to stop GE somehow hurts efforts at solving real world stuff? I disagree.

I "merely" advocate strong regulation and public oversight

Example, please. I haven't seen you accept any regulations in our discussions. You don't even want to make a temporary moratorium on same-sex conception in order to achieve the Compromise's equal protections, let alone to stop people from attempting same-sex conception before it is safe and before we've had public debate about it.

Kaguya is not hypothetical, Kaguya was created in 2004.

If a technique emerges through which samesex couples can conceive a healthy wanted child with actually negligible risk to their health then you can be sure I will advocate...

Who decides if the risks are negligible, and in what forum are you advocating? And are you now advocating that it should not be allowed now, so that there is something to advocate later? Or are you only going to advocate for it if in a few years some conservatives join me in trying to ban it?

You can be sure that it won't only be weird transhumanist-identified Robot Cultists who would be on my side in championing such access.

No shit, it would be gay marriage advocates.

Indeed, I wouldn't much welcome trasnhumanist allies in championing this

No shit, that's why I am trying to show people that these are connected, and that the seeming distance between gay marriage and Transhumanism is artificial and purely a PR game. Both groups want the same thing, they want to allow labs to start creating babies using whatever techniques they want to try, to not be stuck with having to join a man and a woman's unmodified genes.

You can see clearly that they are not two separate battles by the fact that the opposition to both camps is the same: keep it between one man and one woman. That some Transhumanists are not gay, and some gays not Transhumanists, is only because they're people with their own random hang-ups and interests. They are certainly allies against one-man-one-woman.

Though, it's funny, they often will pretend to oppose the other "bad" kind of GE as an attempt to win favor with me. Gays will point out that same-sex conception is not eugenics, because it does not attempt to choose genes, it isn't about getting a healthier baby or improving the intelligence. And GE proponents will question the value of same-sex conception, since it introduces more risk and doesn't even attempt to cure any diseases. I tell them to argue with each other, but they never do, because they're both on the same side really. Gay marriage = Transhumanism, because both are the opposite of one-man-one-woman conception.

Dale Carrico said...

I've written on this topic elsewhere, as you will probably recall, John. Whatever else one might want to say about Dvorsky's piece (which is interesting, even if I focus mostly on my disagreements and concerns about his ideas in it), you certainly can't sensibly attribute the coinage of that term to him, and neither does he claim to do.

I mean, he cites the influence of Donna Haraway (he mostly misreads her in my view) who used the term in work predating his by nearly a quarter century, for example. And I doubt she coined it either, to be honest, or even thinks she did, or would care in the first place about such things.

I quite agree with you that there is a real strain -- in more senses than one -- that one discerns among many of the superlative technocentrics, the transhumanists, extropians, singularitarians, cryonicists, cypherpunks, and so on, a horror or disdain of the vulnerable, ageing, messy, desiring "meat body," and that a pining to be beyond morphology, beyond death, beyond materiality (in many senses) recurs in much of their literature. To be "beyond gender" or "post-gender" in their accounting of it is very likely of a piece with that tendency.

It is interesting that this "post-gender" attitude is often mistaken by the transhumanists (or by readers of theirs) as a kind of feminist tendency in their movement -- but I think there is a crucial difference between the feminist desire to resist and overcome patriarchy and what seems to be afoot in most of the transhumanist pining after a post-gendered post-embodied post-historical instrumentalized agency.

It is useful to note that Judith Butler's wonderful book Undoing Gender indicates in its title at one and the same time, (first) its commitment to a feminist project to undo the patriarchal sex-gender system, (second) its commitment to a "performative" understanding of embodied materiality in which gender to be a thing we "have" must be understood in a key sense to be a thing we "do", and (third) its commitment to an understanding of gender as a site of a desire in which subjects are "undone" in ways that constitute our freedom in both its real danger and real pleasure/productivity.

Glib discussions from transhumanists (and, as usual, mostly other people) about "overcoming gender" seem to me rather comically beside the point, inasmuch as gender is a site in which we are invested with the agency that "overcomes" in the first place. To be sure, I find "post-gender" manifestoes too typically to signal a complacent declaration of an "accomplishment" of post-sexist consciousness and practice that usually amounts to a kind of dumb "post-feminist" sexism, and certainly manages at best a facile engagement with gender-work as it actually plays out in the world.

You go on, John, to mention that humans are "constrained" to one gender, and genuflect to the natural "biological" act of heterosexual reproduction as well. Let me point out that both intersex and transsex people and lifeways actually do exist, right here in River City, and so the "constraint" to which you refer so confidently and which seems so foundational to so many of your assertions is quite simply a falsehood. There is no need to invoke teledidonics or chimeras or metamorphs to find yourself in a world underconstrained by the iron limits you speak of, you're already soaking in it.

I leave to the side the fact that you use the word gender rather than sex in all this, assuming you are using the terms roughly interchangeably, even though it is a convention to use the word "gender" to describe the extraordinary historically and socially contingent and multivariate roles taken up by individuals marked by sex and marking them in their sex, something which hardly lends credibility to your evocation of gender "constraint" in the world.

(This is not to deny the real costs exacted by the force of socially specific gender-typicalities on those who are seen to deviate from them -- one of the strengths of performative accounts is that they try to do justice both to the contingency and to the density of the historically embodied lifeways in which humanity is materialized.)

But quite apart from the fact that the world seems to me already considerably more contingent and multivariate and deviant from the strict heteronormativity that you seem to take for granted, I would also point out that even heterosexual sex scarcely seems to pass muster by the standards of "naturalness" you seem invested in, really.

"Conventional" reprosexuality, its desires, its significances, its capacities, are all inextricably embedded in the contingent formations of patriarchy, "natural" only in the sense that its typical forms are indeed the customary ones for the moment. For "straight" folks as well as for queer ones, gender is already a site in which we overcome and are overcome (and sometimes when we are lucky, come).

When one speaks of overcoming gender it takes us to the heart of the work of gender in history, a history bound up in sexist and heterosexist violences, but not exhausted by these.

Bringing clones and male pregnancy and avatar sex and all that hype into the discussion and then getting all hot and bothered by it -- whether in a bioconservative reactionary sex-panic or a transhumanist adolescent circle-jerk -- seems to me to indicate a rather impoverished take on the matter, when you think on it.

Dale Carrico said...

John, I'm on record endlessly opposed to organized transhumanism and also a public critic of much of what passes for "liberal eugenics." I offer up critiques of these positions not only here but in courses that I teach. It's unreasonable for you to say otherwise and unreasonable for me to pretend this is a good faith conversation between us so long as you continue to imply that every time I advocate regulation or indicate awareness of medical abuses I am some sort of suave stealthy coporate-militarist.

You say you are less interested in transhumanist-identified people than with people you identify as transhumanists, no matter what they have to say in the matter. I mean, would you just randomly redefine Mormonism or Scientology and start publicly identifying people as members of those organizations even if they're not? This seems to me highly irresponsible. There are plenty of words to describe broader characteristics one might associate with some or even most transhumanist-types and others caught up in similar historical discourses -- technocrats, reductionists, eugenicists, elitists, ideologues, cultists, authoritarians, spontaneists, individualists, futurists, utopians, and so on. It is actually clarifying to embed transhumanist discourses in the older, deeper techno-scientific and political discourses they participate in and redeploy in their own ways. I think it is less clarifying to accuse people who disapprove of Robot Cults of being members in them.

But you can of course define any terms however you like and slot people into them however you like, and people will either take up your usages and assignments or they won't according to their usefulness. Be all that as it may, there are deeper problems in play here it seems to me. So long as your emphasis in considering these ongoing and perhaps proximately upcoming medical interventions is not on actual harm reduction and defending actual consent but on the "preservation" of this weird fantasy of natural heterosexual integrity imperiled by any medical intervention however safe or consensual that you deem unnatural, I fear nearly everybody but anarcho-luddites and anti-abortion zealots will seem to you to be in the tank with the transhumanists and eugenicists. It's hard for me to see how that can be a particularly useful way to map the terrain we are talking about here.

It's not only prohibition that counts as regulation, you know. When we recognize the ways in which consent is duressed by precarity or violated by misinformation it's not only by abandoning the value of consent that we would defend it, but by checking the abuses that undermine it, surely.

It's true I'm not an hysterical luddite nor am I a conservative who mistakes incumbent interests for "natural" ones nor am I an authoritarian who declares people will be "free" only when they are made to behave the way I believe is best for them. But it's also true that I am strongly opposed to "enhancement" discourses that stealth their moral prejudices as "neutral" hygienic recommendations. I am strongly opposed to neoliberal acts of "consent" made under conditions of marketing, misinformation, elite secrecy via intellectual property regimes, and under prevailing conditions of market duress. I am strongly opposed to medical practices unregulated by assessments of cost, risk, and benefit that square with actual scientific consensus.

You can blow that off as double-talk, or hypocrisy, or hopelessly compromised, or too abstract (there's some justice in that -- my training is in philosophy and rhetoric and so my interventions tend to be on the general side, which I maintain has real uses but is no substitute for more concrete discussion), or whatever, but if you do there's no satisfying you at all as far as I can see. Why should I take you seriously?

And I still don't for the life of me understand why our conversations always seem endlessly to circle back round to this clogged drain of your obsessive interest in "preserving" the "sanctity" and "ubiquity" of heterosexual reproduction above all other things. Men and women fuck and some of them have babies, we get it, for god's sake, do you need a fucking medal?

John Howard said...

Let me point out that both intersex and transsex people and lifeways actually do exist, right here in River City, and so the "constraint" to which you refer so confidently and which seems so foundational to so many of your assertions is quite simply a falsehood.

Oh, yeah, I should have been using the term sex to refer to the constraint. I'm aware of intersexed and everything, and I think it is still very true that all people are constrained to only be able to conceive as one or the other sex, with someone of the other sex, if they are able to conceive at all. In other words, no one gets to choose someone of either sex (or each sex) to conceive with. Whether they or their doctors or the public knows correctly which sex that is is a different question. I wrote about trans rights and how they would be (not) affected by the egg and sperm law on my blog here. Basically, the idea is trans rights aren't an end-around the ban on GE, everyone would only be allowed to conceive as the sex they are most likely able to use their unmodified gametes to successfully conceive as, with a random person of the other sex. That wouldn't have to match their public lived-as or legal sex, but it would make them privately infertile if it didn't match their true most-likely-to-conceive-as sex.

So I think I understand and handle those issues well, and in a way that respects and benefits intersexed and trans individuals, even if some might feel that the egg and sperm law is preventing them from conceiving with a person they want to conceive with. But it is the same restriction everyone would face on using modified gametes to conceive.

Dale Carrico said...

Yes, John, you are handling your issues very well.

John Howard said...

technocrats, reductionists, eugenicists, elitists, ideologues, cultists, authoritarians, spontaneists, individualists, futurists, utopians

None of those people would necessarily be transhumsnists, as you can certainly be a utopian by opposing genetic engineering. You can also be a eugenicist without being a Transhumanist, as gamete donation is eugenic, but not Transhumanist, by anyone's definition (right?).

It is actually clarifying to embed transhumanist discourses in the older, deeper techno-scientific and political discourses they participate in and redeploy in their own ways.

Um, right(?), any of those people could be transhumanists, too. It's totally a separate question, and clarifying to treat it as a distinct position on a specific issue.

I think it is less clarifying to accuse people who disapprove of Robot Cults of being members in them.

I don't accuse you of being a Robot Cultist, just of being a Transhumanist, because you approve of people someday doing genetic engineering and oppose a blanket ban on it. Don't accuse me of accusing you of things I didn't accuse you of! Transhumanists don't all agree about the robot god. Transhumanism is not an organized religion with any authoritative definition, so I am offering my definition as the most useful and meaningful. I still challenge you to find me one self-identified transhumanist who opposes GE or supports a ban. I am sure I could find one who doesn't believe in robot god utopianism or immortality or anything else associated with Transhumanism, don't you agree?

Tell me, looking at it from another angle, is there a better word out there to describe people who believe we should allow genetic engineering?

But you can of course define any terms however you like and slot people into them however you like, and people will either take up your usages and assignments or they won't according to their usefulness.

Right, and this definition is useful. I can understand why it is useful to someone that favors allowing same-sex conception to say that there is some reasonable non-Transhumanist way to be in favor of allowing it, but I don't think it is accurate or honest, since it is, essentially, Transhumanist, in that it is H+, it's going beyond human capabilities on a very species-defining level, since species are defined by their inter-fertility, their reproduction.

Be all that as it may, there are deeper problems in play here it seems to me. So long as your emphasis in considering these ongoing and perhaps proximately upcoming medical interventions is not on actual harm reduction and defending actual consent but on the "preservation" of this weird fantasy of natural heterosexual integrity imperiled by any medical intervention however safe or consensual that you deem unnatural, I fear nearly everybody but anarcho-luddites and anti-abortion zealots will seem to you to be in the tank with the transhumanists and eugenicists. It's hard for me to see how that can be a particularly useful way to map the terrain we are talking about here.

I am focused on harm-reduction and actual consent. I write about how people will be coerced into using GE and about how this will cause actual harm, in the form of defects and diverted medical resources and exploited people and government waste and corporatism and international strife and tensions, and about how a ban would lead to many positive outcomes that can't be realized as long as genetic engineering remains a legitimate possibility in the future.

I am not arbitrarily deeming some things natural and unnatural. I am using the words modified and unmodified, first of all, and it isn't some arbitrary judgment call: Unmodified is what each person already has, modified is what no person has. Thus, it refers directly to people in a real sense, and their right to use their own genes. I think it is worth mentioning that we need to preserve that right, and keep it from being eroded by other things being "more right", such as using GE or donor gametes.

I don't think you'll have much luck trying to say that everyone who opposes genetic engineering of designer babies is a luddite, though you certainly do try to paste that label on us as extremists. And I don't think it yokes us to anti-abortion zealots, I think I've encountered some of them who are fine with GE, they think great, it's pro-natal, yada yada yada. But sure, most would be anti-GE.

It's not only prohibition that counts as regulation, you know.

Still waiting to hear you suggest a specific regulation.

I think you should take me seriously because embracing the Egg and Sperm Civil Union Compromise would mean same-sex couples could get equal protections right away, and life would be better when we have moved to a post-Transhumanist world where we don't worry about these things and instead can address existing problems instead of looking for new ones.

Dale Carrico said...

No, you're the transhumanist, John Howard! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha!

Tell me, looking at it from another angle, is there a better word out there to describe people who believe we should allow genetic
engineering?


You mean actually safe actually desired procedures that could be described as genetic engineering? I think a word to describe such people would be "people who approve of healthcare and advocate continued medical research and development."

If you mean people who celebrate anything at all that could be described as genetic engineering, whether wanted or not, whether harmful or not, whether consented to or not, I don't know what to call such people at all. Mad scientists, possibly? Representatives of multinational pharmaceutical companies, maybe?

I don't accuse you of being a Robot Cultist, just of being a
Transhumanist, because you approve of people someday doing genetic
engineering and oppose a blanket ban on it. Don't accuse me of accusing you of things I didn't accuse you of!


It's hard to know what to say to this. Have you ever actually read anything written by transhumanist-identified people writing in their official transhumanist salons associated with actually-existing transhumanist organizations? I mean there's an actually existing public record that you should be taking into some account when you're just flinging these words around.

Still waiting to hear you suggest a specific regulation.

Before you tap your feet impatiently anymore at my lack of "specific" regulations, do I need to point out that there isn't really anything "specific" in any real sense about your own practice of declaring (from your "If I Were King!" high chair) pre-emptive prohibitions of non-existing "therapies" that you declare to be "GE" and destructive of babies than come from ladies and he-men all natural-like?

I've delineated the principles that I think should guide regulators in these matters (harm reduction, informed nonduressed consent, assessments of costs risks and benefits to actually existing stakeholders according to consensus science and testimony by the stakeholders themselves).

I'm a theory head, not a legislator. If you don't like it, write your own blog your own way and talk to readers who are interested in your approach. See how simple that was?

If you have a particular abuse or harm in mind (becoming "unnatural" doesn't pass muster as either in my view) concerning an actually existing medical practice we can discuss these by our separate lights if you promise to be good and stop accusing me of being a transhumanist and stop obsessing in that creepy way you have about skeeery homosex.

It sounds as though we have some similar concerns where matters of surrogacy and donorship are concerned, though I am not surprised to see you use these concerns as a pretext to advocate blanket prohibitions of these practices rather than anything resembling sense.

There is plenty that we might regard now as "unmodified," by the way, that was articulated in history by sociocultural struggles we would deem "modifications" from a slightly different vantage. As far as I can see you are just trying to skirt recognition of the reactionary politics of "nature"-attribution you are indulging in by displacing it onto a different set of terms.

I don't think you'll have much luck trying to say that everyone who opposes genetic engineering of designer babies is a luddite, though you certainly do try to paste that label on us as extremists.

There are no such things as designer babies. Are IVF babies designer babies? Are babies born to women deemed attractive according to prevailing arbitrary patriarchal standards of beauty designer babies? Are babies born after their embryonic precursors were screened for "disabilities" (many of which conditions and traits and lifeways I regard, by the way, as improperly freighted with assessments of nonviabiity through misinformation and terrible ignorance) designer babies?

Babies shopped for trait by trait and assembled by labcoats don't actually exist, you know. It's actually existing practices of concern here and now that get deranged through the lenses of transhumanist and bioconservative hyperbole to the cost of sense. That's a terrible shame in my view.

I think you should take me seriously because embracing the Egg and Sperm Civil Union Compromise

I like it how you capitalize it like it's some actual legislative proposal or standard bioethical position anywhere but in your own maybe crazy, maybe homophobic little head.

would mean same-sex couples could get equal protections right away,

I think we're going to manage that quite well enough without your, er, weird egg and sperm idea that nobody at all cares about in the whole world other than you as far as I can tell.

and life would be better when we have moved to a post-Transhumanist world

Wait, does that mean you think we are living in a transhumanist world now, that we need to move from to be "post" it? Because, I don't know about you, but it seems to me there are a few thousand mostly white guys who can't quite distinguish science fiction from policy analysis and who seem to think that by declaring themselves to "believe in the future" they somehow imagine that "technology," invested with rather theological undertones, will soon make them immortal, invulnerable, superintelligent cyborg beings rich beyond the dreams of avarice because robot slaves, some of them swarming usefully at the nanoscale, will do our bidding. In other words, many of them are quite as crazy as you are, and with comparable numbers of allies.

where we don't worry about these
things and instead can address existing problems instead of looking for new ones.


Well, if it's designer sooperbabies and gengineered centaur rentboys and immortality pills that you're worried about, another option for you would be to, you know... snap out of it!

I think we've passed the point of diminishing returns here. Best of luck to you. Unless you change your tune considerably I'm going to ignore you now.

John Howard said...

"people who approve of healthcare and advocate continued medical research and development."

No, because that describes me, and I think allowing genetic engineering would result in diminished healthcare for existing people, and be a waste of research and development resources.

there isn't really anything "specific" in any real sense about your...

Huh? The Egg and Sperm Civil Union Compromise is very specific. It says Congress should write a law that prohibits creating people by any means other than combining a sperm of a man and an egg of a woman. Those should pretty much be the exact words. I'll give Congress a little room for their own flourishes, but it should limit creation of people to a man and a woman. That's specific, isn't it?

I'm not opposed to homosex, or sceered by it. It just doesn't mean we have to allow labs to give them babies.

Modification is not a term, it is an act, an act of doing something to change the genes of someone from what they are if they aren't modified.

OK, "designer babies" is vague, it includes donor gametes chosen for their traits, and indeed partners chosen for their traits. But I just meant genetic engineering, which is changing the genes of someone and using those changed genes, not just using someone else's genes.

The Egg and Sperm Civil Union Compromise is capitalized because I am trying to make it into a trademark, to refer to my specific legislative proposal, which is indeed a legislative proposal, comprised of three parts. The ban on GE limiting procreation to a man and a woman, the federal recognition of CU's defined as "marriage minus conception rights" as if they were marriages, and the explicit protection of conception rights by marriage. Yeah, it started in my head, but everything starts in someone's head. It's real, and it's in your hands now if same-sex couples get federal recognition any time soon, or if you choose to insist on equal conception rights immediately instead.

You might be managing quite well, but lots of couples want some federal protections and would prefer this to be resolved soon rather than have conception rights they can't use.

Yes, I think the world we live in now is tainted and warped by Transhumanism permeating every relationship. I was just watching a movie (Margo at the Wedding) where one of the characters worried that his sperm wouldn't be good enough to have kids. That's pretty standard these days, because it's a Transhumanism tainted world. The E&S CU Compromise would change that, it would affirm that everyone has the right to use their own sperm.

If you allow me the last word here, i'll allow you to ignore me. Till next time, Happy New Year.

Dale Carrico said...

lots of couples want some federal protections and would prefer this to be resolved soon rather than have conception rights they can't use

Nobody else has this bee in their bonnet, John. Your weird "Only Manly-Man and Nice Lady Babymaking in All Possible Futures Law" wouldn't "resolve" the actually-existing problem that organized homophobia denies queer citizens protections others have for anybody, it wouldn't get queers rights any sooner or ever at all. Your strange nightmare visions of samesex conception aren't even on the radar screen here on planet earth where debates about gay marriage, homophobic violence, queer suicide, and mistreatment of transex and intersex citizens are lived realities. Stop getting it all twisted. And you can have the last word on your own blog.