by Mary Harrington
Wednesday, 28
April 2021

Canadian throuples and the future of parenting

A legal decision about polyamory is a bad omen for family life
by Mary Harrington
“Give us a kiss darling” “Give us a kiss darling” “Give us a kiss darling” Ruaridh Connellan / Barcroft Media via Getty Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Progressive campaigning, by definition, seeks to bring into being a desired world that — we’re told — would be an improvement over the existing cruel and ugly one. Recently, such campaigning has taken a radical new turn: the pursuit of legal reforms designed to enable everyone to bring into being the particular version of the world they wish to inhabit — often regardless of the degree to which that conflicts with others’ versions of reality.

Canada is the forefront of this drive for the mass customisation of reality. Recently, for example, a Canadian judge ruled that all three adults in a polyamorous relationship should be registered legally as the ‘parents’ of a two-year-old boy they are raising as a ‘throuple’. And last month, Vancouver postman Rob Hoogland was jailed for calling his natal female child ‘she’ — because his estranged wife, and the school his child attends, have been supporting the child (known as A. B.) in “socially transitioning” to a male identity. Hoogland was forbidden by court to refer to her as ‘she’, or seek to influence his child in any way to desist. He refused to comply, and has now been jailed for contempt of court.

Back in 2016, the Canadian academic (and now self-help superstar) Jordan Peterson rose to prominence for his protest against Bill C-16, which he feared would result in ‘compelled speech’ and the threat of punishment for using words that reflected his understanding of reality rather than an officially orthodox one. Column inches were expended at the time explaining why this was mere fear-mongering. But five years later, it seems Peterson was right: in Canada at least, the balance of power has tipped decisively in favour of individuals’ right to tailor their own reality to personal preference — and to use the law’s coercive force to compel public compliance.

This in turn invites the question: whose realities get priority? After all, some realities are mutually exclusive, such Hoogland’s belief that his child is a girl, and that of his ex-wife that the same child is a boy. Similarly, at some point in the future, a now two-year-old boy’s wish to understand which of his three ‘parents’ provided his genetic inheritance (ie which two of the three were his biological parents) may come into conflict with three people’s legal recognition as equally his parents. Which side the law comes down on in such cases, as each emerges, will reveal the underlying moral hierarchies now being entrenched.

Similar contests are afoot in England too. At the time of writing, Maya Forstater is in the UK’s Employment Appeal Tribunal appealing against a ruling that her belief that humans can’t change sex is ‘not worthy of respect in a democratic society’. The laws in question may seem abstruse but at their root is the question of how, and to what extent, individual desire and individual identity should be required to submit to shared material or social realities — or vice versa.

It’s one of the defining political battlefields of our time — and surreal legal rulings now emanating from Canada provide some clue as to where we might be heading. Let’s hope British courts, and British public opinion, are able to resist the siren song of the world as it should be, and retain some relationship to the world as it is.

Join the discussion

  • There are some very clever people contributing to this site but they should realise that all this is not going away. It will get worse and worse and spread over the world like a …erm… pandemic.

    All of the ridicule and clever answers and indignation will make no difference. There could be 1000 comments per day on the subject but it will not die.

    Time for positives instead of negatives. Ideas. Schemes. Plans.

  • Going with your pandemic analogy, immunity is the answer (an answer). Immunity is why the hogwash isn’t taking any hold in the former eastern-bloc countries; they acquired robust and long-lasting immunity against the malaise, and they can spot it from a mile by its vocabulary. But they paid a big upfront price (45+ years of communist hell) for their immunity.
    For the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed ‘West’ it might be a case of things getting much worse before they can get any better. As long as supposedly sane grown-up people squirm and break out in indignant protestation when someone calls them a “racist” etc. instead of asserting with a beaming smile that “That i am indeed. Have a problem with that?” – the lunatics will have the upper hand. Stop giving them the upper hand. That would be a good start.

    All of the ridicule and clever answers and indignation will make no difference. There could be 1000 comments per day on the subject but it will not die. 

    Time for positives instead of negatives. Ideas. Schemes. Plans.

    Sure, talk is cheap but ineffective. On the other hand, ridicule is powerful. Ridicule is positive.
    Ideas, schemes plans all begin on the individual level. Sit down, assess your situation and behaviour, assess what you can do, what you can reasonably afford to do, etc. Find your personal workable balance between sacrifice and cowardice. Then from that point start chipping away at the cowardice.
    Privately most people reject and despise the woke dogma. But they shy away from publicly voicing their distaste for it, due to a variety of fears – some warranted (losing job / livelihood), others vanity-based (fear of ostracism, fear of being called a racist / whateverist), the latter are what i call cowardice. The more people see that they are not alone with their distaste for wokery (but in fact they are the sane majority) the more willing they will be to speak and act.

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