A Terribly Polite Homophobe


I had an argument on Monday. I really shouldn’t have, but I did anyway. In response to my post on feeling vulnerable, hurt and overwhelmed by homophobia, someone called @JamesMcAdams82 over on Twitter took it upon himself to castigate me for attempting to silence my opponents and to tell me over and over and over again that, while he really does wish the best for me and people like me, he feels that that does not involve equal rights under the law. Except, of course, that he refused to call it that.

I am sometimes amazed at the cognitive dissonance of homophobes. James claimed to respect my dignity and that of my relationships, acknowledged that there is in fact such a thing as innate sexual orientation*, and then said that marriage between two people of the same gender was impossible. By definition. Because.

There are a few things going on here. Before I go into them, though, I want to emphasise that all of this was in response to an article I wrote about feeling utterly overwhelmed and unable to deal with this kind of thing right now. And one of the last paragraphs of that very post was about how because of this I felt hesitant to even bring up the topic at the moment. And then I asked for advice and support and strategies in dealing with this from my readers. Who, by the way, were wonderful**.

I find it difficult to accept that a person sees nothing wrong in reading something like this and responding with more of precisely the kind of thing I just talked about being hurt by. No matter how polite a person is, that is incredibly callous. In fact, well..

Tone doesn’t fix intent

Throughout the conversation that followed, James spoke to me in what I am sure he felt to be even, reasonable and polite tones. He assured me that he sees me as an equal and that he is supportive of my right to dignity. He said that he simply cares about my well-being and that it is his opinion that that is best served by… well, he didn’t state directly. But he did state that marriage is by definition betwen a man and a woman here. So I guess his implication was that my (and your!) well-being is best served by only being allowed to marry a person of, as he put it, ‘the opposite gender’.

(Yes, by the way, people still use phrases like ‘the opposite gender’. Because they honestly believe that there are only two and that they are somehow opposite to each other. How.. quaint.)

I’m sure he thought that by being reasonable and polite, he could avoid offense and we could all be friendly. He was wrong.

If you tell me that I do not merit the same legal rights as you do, it does not matter in the slightest how softly you phrase it. It does not matter how friendly your tone is, how polite and how much you assure me that you are rather in favour of me as a person. You have still told me that you see me as fundamentally inferior to you. Even if you state that that is not what you mean at all. It is what your views mean. You don’t get to have those views and also have my courtesy, my affability, my friendliness or my reasonableness. Because there is a difference between you and me, and it is not simply our opinions. Your opinions directly harm me. You hurt me. You hurt people who I love.

The consequence of your opinions in my life is that I have to deal all the goddamn time with people and social structures that treat me as inferior or as a curiosity. The consequence of my opinions in your life is that I say some unpleasant words to you. It’s a tiny consequence. And it’s one you deserve.

My anger and my upset, by the way, do not invalidate my arguments. My anger and my upset are consequences of the harm that you cause me. Tone does not fix intent.

Let’s get to some of this person’s actual points, though, shall we?

You Can’t Marry Your Mother, Can You?

James’s major argument appeared to centre around the fact that we cannot marry everyone that we love, and that marriage by definition excludes close family members, for example. And, to him, people of the same gender. When I agreed with him that yes, marriage to one’s parent or sibling would be highly inappropriate even if everyone involved is a consenting adult, he seemed to think that I had proved his point.

Let’s talk about fruit. Because it seemed to me that because me and him had agreed that apples were, in fact, very different to oranges, it followed to him that the same was true of pears. To the same extent and in the same way. But, y’know, although pears are softer and a slightly different shape to apples, they’re pretty damn similar. They both have the same kind of peel, very similar flesh and their seeds and stems are in the same places. In fact, I’m pretty darn sure you can replace an apple with a pear in a hell of a lot of recipes***. They may not be completely identical in all respects, but they sure are the same kind of fruit.

Family relationships and romantic relationships are apples and oranges. They can both be some of the most deep, meaningful and committed relationships in a person’s life. I’m lucky enough to have a family that I love dearly. But the way I feel about my family members and the way I feel about people I love romantically? Could not be more different. Very. Very. Different. Apples and oranges.

I don’t know about you, but I take a lot longer hanging up the phone to Ladyfriend as I do with either of my parents. Every so often I come down with a case of mentionitis about Ladyfriend that I’ve never had about any of my cousins, no matter how close we are. My aunts and uncles don’t give me butterflies. I don’t have daydreams about Ikea trips with my family (nightmares, maybe). I don’t want to send them smooshy cards and letters. While I’m always delighted to hear from them, there is a particular kind of goofy grin that only an email or a text from someone I’m twitterpated about will elicit.

And, y’know, there are wonderful things about family relationships that I don’t get anywhere else. These are the people who’ve raised me, who have been constants in my life for as long as I and we have been alive.

Birth-family and romantic relationships can both be wonderful things. I cherish both dearly But they’re apples and oranges.

James, though, seemed to think that because a lot of people aren’t attracted to others regardless of gender, same- and different-gender relationships must be apples and oranges too. They’re not. At the very most, they’re apples and pears- some are squishier than others and they’re sometimes different shapes (but sometimes not and there’s a ton of variety), but they all have the very same kind of peel and flesh and seeds and stems. I’ve been in love with people of all sorts of different genders. It’s never felt all that different.

I can’t, and shouldn’t, be able to marry my mother or uncle or cousin. And that is utterly irrelevant to equal marriage.

But Everyone Does Have The Same Right

I pressed him about how he could simultaneously claim to be in favour of equality and against the right of same-gender couples to marry. His answer was firstly that marriage is, by definition, a relationship between one man and one woman. And that everyone does have the same right- to marry a partner of the opposite (ugh, again with the ‘opposite’…) sex.

It’s funny, really, when you think about it. That people who claim to defend marriage would reduce it to such crassness.

You see, I think that marriage is about a lot of things. It can be about two people deciding to commit to each other for the rest of their lives, and to make each other their family. It can be about people acknowledging and celebrating the love they share. It can be about the public, community declaration of commitment and of support. For some people it’s more practical- it’s about shared health insurance, green cards, tax credits, hospital visitations and shared parental rights and responsibilities. For some it’s about the dignity of being able to stand up and say that, yes, that person is their husband/wife. I’m sure it’s about a hell of a lot more things as well. I’ve never been married, but I gather it’s one hell of a big deal.

What I’ve never thought marriage was or should be about, though, was genitals of a particular configuration coming into contact in specific ways. Which is, at the end of the day, the only thing that differs by necessity between romantic relationships depending on the gender/sex of the people involved****. Or at least, depending on what body shapes they have.

Of all the things that marriage can be defined as, possibly the least relevant of all is.. body shapes and letters on documentation. Those things say nothing about a relationship. And marriage is, above all other things, about relationships.

It’s also kind of funny that a person who wishes to ‘defend’ marriage would do so by not only prioritising body shape and/or letters on documents over all other factors, but by specifically dismissing all of the others. Which is precisely what he did when he said that everyone had the same right to marry a person of the opposite sex.

You see, if we all have the right to marry only a person of the opposite sex, then love and committment are merely incidental. Marriage isn’t about sharing your life with someone, about making them legally and socially family to you, of sticking with them through thick and thin and loving them for your whole damn life. It’s about- you know, I don’t know what the hell it’s about, in that case, because defining an institution of such importance by the presence or absence of penis-in-vagina sex is so utterly crass as to be profoundly insulting to every happily married couple of any orientation- including straight- in the world.

And that is true no matter how nicely you phrase it.

*which is, well, obviously a bit more complicated than that, but…
** Thank you.
*** Which reminds me that I was planning to cook some crumbles this week. Ah, crumble. You delightful dessert and custard-vehicle, you.
**** And of course, even that is a hell of a lot more complicated than he gives it credit for, since neither sex nor gender are binary and they are not necessarily related at all.

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57 thoughts on “A Terribly Polite Homophobe

  1. I want to start this by saying that I fully support equal marriage, both in legal/civil terms and from any faiths that wish to provide it.

    But I know a lot of people who don’t – people I love, people I care about, people whom I disagree with on this issue but whose perspectives I can understand. And to them, marriage is not about any of the things you just mentioned, including the configuration of genitals. To them, marriage is about children. It is only about children. It is about choosing one person with whom you are committing to raise a family. It is about something bigger than the two people involved. It is about promising to create something bigger than the two of you.

    I know it’s not often used that way these days. I know people have children outside of marriage, to the extent that the association has eroded. I know that people marry for other reasons, and the emphasis is more on “happy ever after” and “finding the one” (or green cards or taxes…) than on hard work and structure and nurturing and sacrifice and commitment.

    Personally, I think two people of the same gender or sex can create that family, and do just as good a job of it as any opposite sex couple (and yes, I do use that term, although “opposite gender” doesn’t make any sense to me either). I think that is true even if the children are biologically related to only one parent, or to neither parent. I have seen the proof of that. But I think it’s telling that in your long list of things marriage is about, children didn’t come up once. Parenting did, but not children.

    • I’m really not clear on how “parenting” is not equivalent to “raising children”. Also, how heterosexual childless couples fit into that perspective or the many gay couples who are committing to raise children and build a family together don’t either. Marriage isn’t required for making a family (although the legal protections surely do help), and having parents who espouse two explicitly-defined gender roles in addition to possessing the officially-sanctioned genital combinations that go with these gender roles isn’t either. For all that many people say that they are fundamentally in support of “family”, they surely do seem to go out of their way to punish perfectly functional and normal families for not being configured correctly.

      So I have seen people make these arguments as well, but I find them flimsy and self-defeating and fairly easy to point out in their illogical construction, at which point they are usually revealed a cover for something more basic, along the lines of, “I just don’t like it because it’s not what I would do.”

      • Aoife mentioned shared parental rights and responsibilities in a long string of legal and civil issues; everything else on that list is something related to how the government or a corporation views the couple, and so I assume that she was referring to the legal status of a couple’s children. This is an issue that’s close to my heart; some of my dearest friends here in Finland are a married lesbian couple with two amazing kids, and I pray that I will do half as good a job of raising my kids if I am ever lucky enough to have them. I have always supported equal marriage, but I view them as the vindication of my beliefs; I can’t believe anyone could look at that family and view them as lacking something. One of them is American, and if (God forbid!) anything had happened to her when the kids were young, they would have been deported, because she is their biological mother. Their other mother has been able to adopt them recently, so it’s no longer a problem, but I am really grateful to the Finnish government for granting them equal legal status.

        However. Aoife was not referring to having children as a couple and raising them in a family, or at least it didn’t seem that way to me. She was referring to granting the couple legal status as joint parents, which is important, but is not the same as committing to get up in the middle of the night and feed the baby and teach it and nurture it and care for it. I absolutely believe that gay couples will do this – more so than straight couples, because a gay couple has to choose the role. But for the people I am talking about, the decision to raise children is the essence of marriage – and unless Aoife sees this, and bases her arguments on this perspective, she will never be able to change their minds. To them, society rewards marriage with joint tax credits and health insurance and whatever for the sake of the union’s children, to ultimately benefit society. So the argument needs to be made in a way that addresses that fact.

        There is also, as Gar so perfectly put it “the ick factor”. People who think gay couples are gross, and shouldn’t be doing stuff with their naughty parts, and definitely shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near children. These people are stupid. But the other group…I think they might be able to change their minds, if gay people were asking for what they really think marriage is all about, instead of all the things Aoife listed.

        • Well, I don’t think I’m a representative of All LGBT People Everywhere.

          And as for the kids thing- this post is a direct response to a conversation I had the other day, so the things I talked about were the things which James had brought up. He hadn’t mentioned children at any point, so children weren’t specifically on my mind at the time. I’ll also admit that since having kids isn’t currently a priority for me, it’s not something that comes immediately to mind, especially when I’m writing from a personal perspective.

          Also, I guess that I see as an absolute given that same-sex parents give their parents all the love, commitment and nurturing that opposite-sex parents do. Same-sex parents are already raising kids and doing every bit as good a job of it as opposite-sex. Maybe, like you said, even a little better in some cases since it’s almost always a deliberately chosen and longed-for thing. Since for me that is a given, the thing that I think of is the legal right to have that parent/child relationship recognised.

          • I don’t think you’re represending All LGBT People either, but in a lot of cases I’ve watched – and this is an issue I care about, even though it doesn’t affect me personally, because I want as many people as possible to be part of loving supportive families, and I think LGBT families are generally loving and supportive, so I keep an eye out – people talk more about other things. Sometimes they talk about children, but even then, it’s often not the central point of the argument. And there are people who are irrational about this, even; people who look at a video of a happy young adult talking about how he was raised by two loving mothers, and get a look of pity in their eye, and say, “The poor thing.” So it’s not a silver bullet that makes people suddenly come around to your point of view, but it’s something to consider if you’re ever stuck in a debate with a polite homophobe again.

            • I think our experiences are very different then, because I do often see people on my side of the debate raising issues around the importance of legal protections *because they want to be protected as parents* and *because raising a family is their priority* and people on the other side of the issue telling them that they can’t be a real family anyway, because a “real” family is a male-dad and a female-mom only. In which case, it’s not about parenting and child-rearing at all to them – when the rubber meets the road, this viewpoint often ends up being a smokescreen for something a lot harsher and ideological (the “ick” factor or something like it).

              The thing about “polite” homophobes, in my experience, is that the politeness is only skin-deep. I won’t speak on Aoife’s behalf because I can’t, but from my perspective your advice sounds suspiciously like a tone-argument itself. “If you talk nicely and use reason, they will respect you and listen to you more” – in my experience, they usually don’t. The answer isn’t necessarily screaming in their faces, but being firm and not playing the game when all it does is lead to burn-out.

              Sometimes showing people that gay couples can be great parents too *is* enough. But very often it is not. There are masses of people out there dedicating their lives to explaining why irrespective of all the direct evidence, gay parents are fundamentally bad and wrong and will destroy their children. Published academic researchers espouse this (base their careers on it), large organizations dedicate themselves to promoting this viewpoint (Focus on the Family, much?), etc. – all as politely and smugly as they can manage.

              It really bugs me when the first comment on a post like this is a straight ally saying, essentially, “ur doin it rong” to a queer person who has already disclosed how spent they are on this issue. Trust me – gay people have already figured out that sometimes championing gay parents will work, and many times it will not.

              • You absolutely have a point regarding straight allies only having so much perspective, and I fully accept that I may be completely wrong in everything I say. Obviously to some extent I don’t think I am, or I wouldn’t be saying it, but I am offering my words only as a subjective perspective coloured by personal experience, not an absolute truth. I do apologise for the way I have phrased some things, and I hope that over the course of my comments I have managed to clarify my meaning and not to just sound like I’m flogging a dead horse.

                I think tone arguments are bullshit, though, and I don’t think that’s what I’ve offered. As far as I’m concerned, the ultimate goal of this whole discussion – not just this comment thread, but the discussion of equal marriage in general – is to reach a point where the consensus is that it is a good thing, and steps should be taken to enact it. If understanding the perspective of a few people helps someone change those people’s minds, I think that’s a good thing, and understanding how they think is not the same as a tone argument. It’s a strategy. It’s a means to an end. Sometimes people behave in ways that make no sense to me, and I need someone to tell me why they are behaving that way, and when someone does it helps me and I can fix things. That’s what I was aiming for, and I may have missed the mark, but I hope it can be useful on some level.

                • My perspective on changing hearts and minds is this (and not every activist will agree with me, I know): every heart and mind has a cost. Sometimes what it would take to win someone to your side isn’t worth what the movement (and the activist, as the ally-wooer) gets out of it. My perspective is it that’s it’s not about getting *all* (or even *most*) of the people on your side – it’s about getting *enough* of the *right* people on your side, without sacrificing yourself too much to do it. Any potential ally who needs to be convinced to support one’s cause gets the side-eye in my book – I’m way more eager to engage with people who are prepared to convince themselves. I find that it’s less exhausting for me and that their commitment and support is more genuine and long-lasting.

                  Some people will never agree with my positions, because they hold their own as strongly as I hold mine and we are mutually unmoveable. Any time I thought I swayed someone from this strong a position, it slapped me in the face later on, because their investment in their ideology was too deep to truly change (as is mine in my ideology). They will always find another pseudo-rational justification, no matter how many I shoot down. And some people will always go with what they think is the “norm”, but the “norm” is not always the majority. We know that the majority of women do not possess a Barbie-doll body, yet we have made that kind of body normative, etc. Consensus arises from the perceived norm, not the other way around – achieving a literal consensus is a long hard road with a lot of burned-out, dried-up, beat-down activists along the way. That’s why I don’t hold with the one-at-a-time conversion approach to social change. It’s a strategy with too high a cost and a dubious success rate.

                  I’ll still engage with people one-on-one sometimes, but when the issue is about one’s own life and livelihood, it’s too exhausting – soul-flaying – to keep up forever. Yet time and time again I see activists express guilt and shame at not engaging with one more racist/homophobe/misogynist/etc that day, or at failing to change someone’s deeply-held and unshakeable bigoted beliefs. We set ourselves up for impossible tasks and then beat ourselves up for failing at them. So that’s why I will always challenge someone who is promoting that strategy, and why I find that it is often only a few steps removed from a tone argument. Again, not every activist or ally will agree with me on all of this, but that’s where I’m coming from.

              • Your comment and perspective are both accurate, and very sad. (It won’t let me reply to it directly.) I don’t really have a useful response, beyond “I will try to keep that in mind next time this comes up.”

      • Also, lots of straight people: doin’ it wrong too, from the perspective of these folks. But they’re allowed to, or something. I’m not saying it’s right, just that the argument should be framed the right way to be effective.

        • I understand what you’re saying about reframing the argument, but I feel it’s a bit… well, off the mark.

          If X and Y are debating a topic, and Y is stubbornly refusing to concede a point that’s already been laid out, deconstructed, and well-refuted… it seems counterproductive to turn to X and say “Well, you didn’t get through to him because you forgot to talk about Topic Z.”

          Terribly Polite Homophobe didn’t continue in his beliefs because she failed to address A Crucial Issue; he persisted in his beliefs because it’s what he believes. She could address the marriage-for-children argument, the marriage-for-love argument, the marriage-for-fun-and-profit argument, and the marriage-because-our-alien-overlords-implanted-chips-in-our-brains argument… and he’d still toodle right along in being a Terribly Polite Homophobe. It is not her fault he didn’t change his mind.

          TPH won’t stop being a homophobe until he decides to. All we can do is point out the ways in which homophobia is wrong and destructive, the ways in which it hurts the people around us, and hope it’ll get enough people thinking.

          • I can’t say 100% of this is the case for TPH, but in the case of the people I’m thinking of, they think that gay people shouldn’t be able to get married because they have an idea of what marriage is, and gay people are being all crazy to insist on using the word marriage, because clearly a marriage is this specific thing and those crazy gay people want to take all of this other incidental stuff and call it a marriage. The incidental stuff includes sex, btw. And taxes and next-of-kind stuff and hospital visits and inheritance tax and everything. They might, maybe, possibly, be swayed by gay people pointing out that they can do the stuff that these people think of as marriage, but they will never be willing to use the word “marriage” to mean “all that incidental stuff”, and that’s leaving out the sacramental nature of it which is really important to some people.

            It’s never made any sense to me, because to me words mean what we decide they mean and it’s a totally flexible thing. We take sounds and we assign them meaning, and in this case the meaning assigned to the sound is huge and personal and has shaped their lives completely. It’s an absolute commitment, a genuine Til Death Do Us Part, a concept for which they have sacrificed their individuality, struggled through bad times, worked through really rough patches when separation might have been easier for everyone involved on an individual scale but the marriage (by which they ultimately mean the children) was worth the effort. And now gay people come along and talk about marriage like it means something else…except these days it does mean something else, because the meaning associated with the sound has changed. And anyway gay people are just as capable of lifetime commitment through thick and thin, but because the meaning of the sound is different, they’re not arguing about the earlier meaning. (Not the original meaning, mind you. Just the meaning that was popular in our parents’ and grandparents’ time.)

            I’d love to see there be two levels. “Marriage”: no way out, you can only ever be married to one living person at a time. “Handfasting”, or whatever: legal rights similar to marriage, but on a shorter timescale, and with an easy way to dissolve the partnership. I would like to see both of those things available to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Maybe even polyamorous handfasts. But that really is just my opinion, and I’m probably wrong.

            • So what you’re saying is… people who think marriage equality is wrong think so because they have a specific definition of marriage in their heads, which ignores all the aspects of marriage that non-hetero couples CAN do, but is still totally legitimate because they believe it is. And the way to get them to change their minds is to keep re-framing our arguments until we find the “right” way to explain to them why their deeply ingrained belief is wrong.

              Oh, and also, separate-but-equal worked out so well for desegregation, let’s try it on marriage equality too.

              Pardon me if I say I’m just not buying it.

              • No, I’m saying there’s a few people who think like this, and understanding their perspective is a good first step to changing their minds, and the more minds that can be changed the better, because then consensus can be reached.

                Separate but equal is not what I described. I think a lot of people get married these days with no intention of it lasting forever. In some cases I think that’s a really good thing, because I have seen some horrible, horrible marriages, and I am glad they are over. But I’d like there to be a thing that still means “we are in this forever”, and a thing that means “we’re slightly less sure but we want to make a commitment and see how it goes” – and I would like both of those things to be available to everyone.

                • Hmm. Ok, I think I understand. Sorry for the misinterpret. 🙂

                • I just want to say that I kind-of love the way that I go away and do other things for a while and them come back to the blog to find a bunch of comments on a thing that is difficult and complicated to talk about and a massive sore spot for people, and that there were misunderstandings and things and then… everyone had a conversation and acknowledged the other people’s perspective and made good-faith efforts to communicate.

                  What I’m saying is yer all lovely and I have the Best Commenters.

                • I see what you’re getting at here. Actually, some really good friends of mine did a similar thing a few years ago. They had one handfasting a year for three years. The first two were for a year and a day to be renewed, and the third was permanant. It was quite lovely.

                  I would say, though, that you really do want even the permanent kind to be dissolvable. Maybe less easily than the other, but people change in ways you can’t predict and sometimes despite the best of intentions it just doesn’t work out. Saying that we’re in this forever now doesn’t mean that you won’t know a lot more and change your mind utterly in 20 years.

                • It seems to only thread comments so far and then I can’t reply any more so I’m just going to reply to my own and assume you get it: I absolutely agree that no marriage should require people to stay together forever no matter what, but I also personally think that every marriage should be entered into with the intent to last forever, even if it’s very hard. If I was defining marriage for everyone – which is a terrible idea and I’m not suggesting I should be allowed to do so – I would say that everyone gets, like, a “marriage token” when they’re born. And you can only give it to one person ever, and you only get it back if they die (or possibly not under certain circumstances, like if you killed them, or possibly you can get it back for something like really extreme abuse but the abuser doesn’t, but these are the subtle nuances of the system and I am aware of them but I’m not saying it’s perfect or that it would ever work in real life, I’m just discussing generalities). But you can handfast as many people as you like, and you can always end your marriage and separate with no stigma (perfect hypothetical world, remember?), but you don’t get the token back. You can go handfast someone else all you want, but you only get married once.

                  I think people would think really hard about whether or not they wanted to get married under that system. It’s not that I want to penalise people who don’t, exactly; it’s that to me, the sound marriage has a particular meaning, and that meaning is “This is my one true relationship and you will pry it from my cold dead fingers.” But that meaning is subjective, it is not objectively true, and I don’t get to define other people’s marriages any more than the people who are trying to say that a marriage needs one man and one woman.

              • It’s totally understandable. 🙂

    • Telling.. about what?

      • About the differences between how you view marriage and how they view marriage. That might have been phrased poorly.

        • Ah, gotcha. On first reading I thought you were saying it was telling about the differences between different- and same-sex couples’ ideas of marriage. Which seemed a little bit disconcerting!

          • Yes, definitely phrased poorly. I meant it was telling about the cause of the argument in the first place. I do think there are differences in concepts of marriage, but I think it’s more a generational or a cultural thing than anything to do with orientation.

  2. Well that beggers belief !! I would argue that our relationships are just as valid as hetro ones .. IE we are apples too !!! Well as a bisexual I believe relationships are a lot more then the body parts involved.

    So frustrating .. I really like you and and respect you as a person but I don’t believe your relationship should be validated with the same rights as traditional marriage ??? … What an oxymoron

    Gurrrrr

    • Well, it’s all apples to me as well! But I do gather that some people get the apples and pears thing and am entirely willing to believe that I am just a person who likes that kind of crunchy delicious fruit that you can make crumble out of.
      In a metaphorical kind of way.

  3. I’m so sorry to read that someone piled on you after you explicitly said you weren’t up for dealing with such nonsense. Sadly this kind of thing some people are blind to. They think they’re being good people. “Oh I respect you.” But then turn petulant. “But you don’t get marriage. Because.” It makes no sense to claim that any one human doesn’t deserve the right to be happy with another consenting adult. James’ arguments come from the same place as those who claim homosexuality is the same as pedophilia. (Often this claim erases lesbians as a bonus.) It’s vile and selfish.

    I wish you only the best, Aoife.

  4. @Eimear Ni Dhuinn
    ‘But I think it’s telling that in your long list of things marriage is about, children didn’t come up once. Parenting did, but not children.’

    Hold on ?? don’t you need children to be a parent ??

    Marriage is not needed to have kids, just one egg one sperm and the use of a womb for 9months or so. The notion that marriage is ONLY for families is nonsense. Why don’t we just get rid of marriage and set up a new insitution thats better sleaker and cooler than it’s original ? *I live and dream *

    • *points up* I think I clarified myself a bit better in replies to Jadey’s comment. But I meant that only the legal definition of parenting came up, but not the act of raising a child.

    • And the notion that marriage is only for families isn’t nonsense. We reward people for getting married. We give them tax breaks. We give them legal perks. That is not an attaboy from society for finding your One True Love. That is a means of making is easier for the people who are raising the next generation to do so.

      • In my honest opinion it is.
        Do you have a direct quote from a politican / law maker to say that is EXACTLY why they grant tax breaks ? which really aren’t that benefical I would hate to be trying to raise children on tax breaks alone. Also couples can still decide to be taxed seperately even after there married.
        What about infertile couples should they be banned from marrying ? Also I am lucky enough to own a womb so can relatively easily cook up a baby if I so wished …so now that a child is involved can I please marry my girlfriend ???

        Good luck trying but I will not tolerate any arguement to support the bigots.

        • A quote from a law-maker or politician wouldn’t prove or disprove my point – just because someone says something doesn’t make it right or wrong. But think about it. Why do people get to pay taxes as a single legal entity when they’re married? The state has to gain some benefit in exchange for not taking their money. The benefit is that the couple has committed to raising their children and not making those children a burden on the state. I think you might have hit the nail on the head when you suggested abolishing marriage and replacing it with a new institution; what people think of as marriage these days is very different from how it was originally conceived, and while gay people might not be able to combine their DNA for the purpose of strengthening group ties, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t participate in the modern definition of marriage.

          I’d also like to point out that, in the teachings of the Catholic church, couples who for some reason cannot consummate their union are forbidden from marrying. I disagree with that completely, but they are being consistent.

          • The Catholic church’s definition of marriage is very different from legal definitions, though. Which, by the way, is something I’m absolutely fine with because it’s none of my business. But I would say that if I’m going to keep out of the RCC’s definitions of marriage, I’d like the same courtesy in return, y’know?

            • Absolutely. I don’t think any religion should be involved in defining civil marriage – and I also disagree with some of their points on religious marriage, but unfortunately that’s not my call, because of a certain policy they have regarding female priests (which I also disagree with). I’m just pointing out that in my view they are irrational about lots of types of marriage.

              • Oh yes, I disagree absolutely with a whole lot of the RCC’s policies regarding.. well, many things. But as a non-Catholic I can state my disagreement but that’s about it, y’know?

                So figure we’re in agreement on that one 🙂

          • Okay yes I conceed it does seem the most obvious reason.. I don’t agree with it and would love to have some evidence to say it isn’t the reason. But there are same sex families raising children and I think the legal protections that exist for children in marriage did not fully translate in to civil partnerships and I don’t think in validates their arguement seeing as people marry for a whole range of reasons not just children and like everything the institution of marriage has changed (not enough) from when it was first concieved … we are just asking for another change.

            I thought the catholic church teachings said sex should come after marriage so surely people would get married and then figure out they were infertile .. in the eyes of god were their marriages then invalid and annulled ? …. but then wasn’t it gods plan that they were infertile… SIGH

            I don’t feel I am explaining myself that well … and need to go to go do some good research in to this subject.

            • Infertile is totally okay! But if, for example, the man is paralysed from the waist down and will never be able to have sex, this is not okay. Like I said, totally crazy.

              I agree with you that it translates. I do! Some of the best parents I have ever seen are same-sex couples! I’m just saying that unless you make that translation the core of your argument, there exists a group of extremely polite and not-homophobic-except-as-it-relates-to-marriage-equality people who are going to dismiss your arguments, no matter how good they are, because to them you are talking about stuff that is not “what marriage is about”, or is at least the icing on the cake of marriage.

              And the thing is, if you can get more than 50% of people to agree with you, by any means, that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry? You win. The definition of marriage, whatever it may be, becomes an inclusive one. So finding the key to opening their perspective and changing their minds is key.

            • …two typos. I agree with you that it SHOULD translate, and the second “key” was meant to be “vital”. Same meaning, prettier wording. 😉

              • Again what it the man or woman becomes paralysed after the marriage… religion and civil marriage should go their separate ways. We want and need marriage to evolve to accept the love and families of LGBT couples.

                What is really getting to me is that you seem to be playing the role of the ‘polite homophobe’ on one hand going ah sure I love the gays and I know loads of them and they are great. You respect you gay friends. But are then arguing for the bigots right to simply see marriage as JUST an act to have children and enjoy tax breaks … which is making my head spin..
                If they are just going to dismiss my argument outright no matter how I try, why the hell should I pander to them? and why can’t they take their blinkers off for a while to try and see the bigger picture ??

                • Just to interject a little here- I’m not interpreting what Eimear’s saying in quite that way. It seems to me that it’s less that she is arguing for the right of people to see marriage one way, than that she is pointing out that some people do see it that way and if we want to convince them we have to argue on the level that has meaning to them.

                  And y’know, I kind of agree with all of the things here. Yeah, for some people that might work and it’s a valuable thing to do if you have the spoons. On the other hand having to deal with homophobia (and/or other kinds of bigotry!) is exhausting and infuriating and upsetting and sometimes you just have to throw your hands up or quit being reasonable with ’em.

                • Interject away, but why does it need to said this clearly this is what we are up against we are saying we see marriage and ‘A’ and should include us they are saying we see it as ‘B’ and there for you should stay excluded. We need to win them around with reason and common sense.

                • I wish you could edit comments after they have been posted … what I should have said was the LGBT community says ‘A/B/C…’ and the people against say NO because ‘M/N/O…’ cause not all the LGBT community want the same thing from marriage and there are several reasons for and against.

                • Everyone has a right to see anything in their own way. That’s what people mean when they say “I have a right to an opinion” – they do. They don’t have a right to force that opinion on others, but unfortunately we are still at the stage in our evolution where gay marriage is still facing the level of opposition that interracial marriage was sixty years ago, and it’s affecting people’s options. There are still plenty of people who are against interracial marriage, but they at least have to dress their ideas up in “It just doesn’t feel right” instead of “Won’t somebody think of the children!” But I really can’t see the whole thing ending any other way than equal marriage in the majority of the developed world, which isn’t perfect but also isn’t a bad start. The question, to my mind, is how long it will take, and how we will get to that position.

  5. I meant to comment supportively on your last post, but have been caught up in my own blogosphere burn-out woes! So I just want to say that I feel you and I’m sad that in light of your last post, someone felt it was “polite” to do the exact thing that you explained so clearly was hurtful.

    • Ah, thanks for saying so. And yeah.. it’s strange how this medium can feel so painfully personal at times. Guess we all put a hell of a lot into the writing and posting and interacting. It’s more than just words on a screen.

  6. Eimear’s argument about children is the main Apples to Oranges divide between homosexual and incestuous relationships. Children don’t enter the equation in gay couples unless they plan to adopt. There are several YouTube videos of happy and successful adults who were raised in gay households, and that’s all the proof I need that kids have an equal tendency to turn out Just Fine no matter what kind of family they’re raised in.

    The Apples and Pears similarity belongs to the little-addressed ‘ick’ factor. Genetic issues aside, the ‘ick’ factor is the strongest argument against incestuous relationships where all parties involved are consenting adults. There’s a gut reaction to the very concept that just screams out ‘wrong’. Why does this reaction exist? What if you reacted to the concept of homosexuality the same way?

    The ‘ick’ factor is why homophobia even exists. It’s what makes the happiness of a gay person take away from the happiness of a homophobic person. It really doesn’t stand up to any sort of rational argument. Granting rights to any given subset of society doesn’t take away from the legal rights of the rest of the populace. Except with regards to slavery of course, but that’s an entirely different blog.

    The point is “because it’s gross” really doesn’t stand up very well to “why?”.

    However, it’s very difficult to successfully argue against an irrational point, because humans.

    There’s a meme we’re trying to stamp out (and I’m using meme in its correct sense here) and that’s “gays are icky”. For the polite homophobe, this idea is held lightly. He doesn’t believe in it enough to wave it in everyone’s face and shout about it, but it’s still there. It might be a small ugly part of an otherwise extremely nice person, but there’s no telling how resilient it might be once it’s uncovered.

    It’s disgust. It’s basically the most insulting emotion it’s possible to feel for another person. It feels the same whether it’s justified or not, and people are extremely resilient to the notion that they hold injustice in their hearts.

    The good news is it’ll get better over time, the bad news is progress marches slowly. I don’t know if there’s a study on how frequently ‘gay’ is used as a derogatory term amongst schoolchildren these days, but I’d put money on it being less common than it was in the 80s. Those little ugly seeds aren’t taking root as deeply as they were in the days before the internet. The likes of Neil Patrick Harris and George Takei have taken up a strong “I’m gay and completely awesome” stance, and are both extremely popular with teenagers. This is an encouraging trend.

    Change is gradual. Eventually, sexual orientation will differentiate people no more than eye colour. With any luck, skin colour will go the same way. Unfortunately, we don’t belong to that generation. My vision of society in the future is heavily influenced by Star Trek, but I don’t think optimisim is unfounded. Nobody gave a shit that Tuvok was black, he was just a Vulcan. Did anyone even notice that there were several white Klingons in Deep Space Nine? I didn’t spot it the first time around, but it’s a touch I really liked. The humans are all just humans, too.

    Perhaps not by design, but very much in keeping with Roddenberry’s message, Sulu turned out to be an utterly charming and endearing older gay man. Captain of the Excelsior and star of his husband’s heart, with over a million followers of Facebook. People are genuinely happy for George Takei. I know I am.

    I believe empathy for happiness is more powerful than ‘ick’.

    The more gay characters occur in popular entertainment in a ‘this character is gay’ way (as opposed to a ‘holy shit! this character is gay!’ way), the more people are able to be happy for gay/trans/whatever characters and celebrities, the less the ‘ick’ factor will prevail. It may take decades, but culture will move if people keep pushing.

    • Yeah, I agree with you about the ‘ick factor’. I think that’s a huge part of what I find so hurtful about homophobia. It takes something that is so beautiful to me- romance and love- and treats it like it is somehow disgusting. Abhorrent. Vaguely icky. That is.. horrible and saddening and upsetting on a gut level to me. It’s hard to explain.

  7. I’m sad that you had to hear these things. It is so frustrating when people devalue and oversimplify marriage as a union between a man and a women. Marriage should be so much more than just a societal definition of genital match up.

  8. Aoife, I am sorry you had to go through this when you needed a break from all that shit. It is probably to much to hope that he at learned something, but I do hope you get the break you need from the homophobes for a while.

    That said, I’m sorry but I’m going to call you on something. Have you actually thought through your objection to consanguineous marriage, or is your reaction the same ‘I’ve been taught it’s wrong and ICK!’ reaction that many people have about LGBT marriage? I don’t know how I feel about consanguineous marriage, but I do think it’s important to examine those reactions rather than just saying ‘Of course that’s wrong!’ This site has a good break down of the arguments against marriage between relatives, and the flaws in those arguments: http://marriage-equality.blogspot.com/p/discredited-invalid-arguments.html

    • Don’t worry, I’m happy to be called on things, especially by people like yourself who I already know and respect 🙂

      To be honest, I don’t have a real objection to consanguinous marriage (although I’d never heard the term before). I would make an exception with (grand)parent/(grand)child relationships, because I do feel that that is a distinct type of relationship and, yes, the power differential is too great. It’s less about ‘ick’ than it is about the fact that there is massive potential for abuse and that the parent/child relationship is specifically nonromantic and nonsexual.

      There are two things I would say on that matter, though.

      First: One of the major things that marriage does is to form a legal familial bond between two unrelated adults. We are already legally tied to our birth and/or adoptive families. Marriage is a way of turning a partner from a legal stranger into a member of your family. My family can already inherit from me, visit me in hospital, care for any children I might have if I were to die. So I’m not sure- and I am absolutely no expert here- that there is the same urgency about legally recognising that?

      Second: The point I was making wasn’t particularly one against consanguinious marriage. It was more stating that there is a difference between familial and romantic relationships. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for the two to coexist- it’s not something in my experience but if it didn’t happen we wouldn’t be talking about it, so obviously there are people who fall in (romantic) love with people they are related to. But those are two distinct kind of relationships. It’s important to me to make this distinction, in the same way that it is important to me to make the distinction between romantic and friendship relationships. Sure, romantic partners are almost always good friends as well- but there is a distinction between a nonromantic and romantic friendship.

      Then again, I don’t think that having romantic feels for someone should be a necessary qualification for marriage, either. So…. this is where I shrug and say I just don’t know. And that I should probably do more reading. Always more reading.

    • Although y’know something? Thinking about this has made me realise that I do have an ‘ick’ reaction to consanguineous marriage. Which is a very good thing to know about, as I do not want ‘ick’ reactions to determine what I advocate about the legal rights of others. I’m going to have to think more about how I justify my views and why I have them. Which is always a very, very good thing to do. Huzzah for skepticism!

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