Transitive Verbs and Gay Marriage

A fantasy in which our culture gets some real values

And yet, I also realized, biological families are particularly fictitious. My wife dreamed that someday her real father—who was a prince—would come to rescue her. For some reason, I always believed that I must be Jewish—although there's a goddamn map of Tipperary on my face—and I fantasized about bookish men who would one day put the lie to my paternity (my fantasy was harder to manage than my wife's as my father and I are near-duplicates of each other). How many men have I met who don't love their biological sons? How many sons do I know who don't love their biological fathers? The world is too full of them, I think, and love is a transitive verb, which means that it requires an object. There is no love without action. Love without action is something else. A movie, maybe. A Hallmark card.

Certain conservative Christians hate gay marriage not because they're trying to preserve the sanctity of marriage. Check out the divorce rate among conservative Christians if you want to know the deal on that one. They hate gay marriage because they hate the idea that anyone can pull off this miracle. Anyone. If I gave them half a chance, they would probably hate me for adopting a baby from another country: I have no "divine right" to this child—at least not the way many people construe "divine"—and many in his birth country would argue that I don't have any right at all. What they don't want you to see is the magic of the thing. For lack of a better word, they don't want you to see the "God" in the thing. And, believe me, that's a very different word from "divine."

In many ways, I think it's just the same old swindle. The first guy tells you that the kingdom of heaven is within you, but the second guy tells you what the first guy really meant was that the kingdom of heaven is above you. The moment after you hear the truth, there's always someone who wants to correct you. I teach other people's children for a living, and I want everyone to know that it's possible to love anyone. I have no doubts about this. It's not a theory or a belief. It's certainly not something that needs to be legislated. It's just about the biggest fact of my life.

Sometimes I have this fantasy that my culture will get some real values. I think anyone who raises a child in any manner that doesn't involve coat hangers should be given an award. If we're going to exclude people from legal entitlements or basic civil rights, I say exclude the people who aren't raising children. I got exactly three hours of sleep last night, and that's what I was thinking the third time my son called out to me from the darkness. I am his father because I comforted him; not because we share the same genes and not because of my sexual persuasion. "Father," too, is a transitive verb. And you can bet your ass that my gay friends in the library know exactly what I'm talking about.

Dan Barden grew up in OC and teaches creative writing at Butler University in Indianapolis, where his wife, Elizabeth, owns Big Hat Books, that city's only independent, general-interest bookstore. He is the author ofJohn Wayne: A Novel.

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