‘Winning the War’ for Marriage Equality?


Love, Joy, Feminism is one of my favourite blogs, and has been for a long time. Libby Anne’s writing has a wonderful combination of clarity and empathy that I always look forward to reading. A couple of weeks month or so ago (can you tell I’m a little behind on responding to things?) she wrote about marriage equality. Hardline anti-LGBTQ US evangelicals are losing support for their position not only in the general population, but in Millennials within their own communities. There’s some lovely looking graphs at her post, by the way- go check it out!

Libby Anne describes this, happily, as anti-LGBTQ evangelicals losing not only the individual state ‘battles’ against equality, but the ‘war’ as well. If we’re talking about marriage equality in the United States, this is undoubtedly true. If you widen your lens to take in my own Western Europe as well as some parts of South America, it stays that way. In these parts of the world more LGBT people are entitled either to legal equality- or at the very least some legal protections- than ever before.

Does that mean we’re winning the war, though? I’m not sure. But it definitely doesn’t mean that it’s okay to see “marriage equality throughout the United States” as the war that needs to be won. It doesn’t even mean that “marriage equality throughout the United States” is the war that needs to be won by USians.

There’s a parochialism to a lot of USian thought. You have a massive country that has been exercising a cultural dominance (among other things) over huge swathes of the rest of the world for decades. Lifetimes, even. Like all social relations borne of inequality, we in the rest of the world pay a lot more attention to you than you do to us. We know more about you than vice-versa. Non-USians internalise US concerns and understand some of the nuances of US culture(s) in a way that is not reciprocated.

Not reciprocated, that is, in all ways except one. The average USian doesn’t have the understanding of Irish (or German, Argentinian, Ugandan or Thai) politics and society that we do of yours, but this hasn’t stopped the US from actively interfering in other countries. Sometimes this is overt militarism. Sometimes it’s more subtle, but no less real. Take here in Ireland, where antichoice forces are bankrolled by American backers. People who have never met us campaigning for laws that will never affect them. Similarly, when you look outside your borders you can see that many homophobic USian fundamentalist evangelicals have set their sights outside your country and are busy interfering elsewhere to drum up homophobia, transphobia, and legal and physical violence against LGBTQ people. It’s not that the war is being won. Battles may be being won, but front lines don’t end at a particular nation’s border. The war is shifting, being taken by USians to places where most USians aren’t even looking.

The progress made in Western and Central Europe, the Americas and Australia on marriage equality and other LGBTQ+ rights and protections is incredible, although even in these parts of the world we’ve a long way to go. There are battles being won. But the rest of the world- Eastern Europe, Asia, the vast majority of Africa and the Middle East- matter every bit as much. Especially when Western forces have been interfering in most of these parts world for centuries, we don’t get to wash out hands of the results of our ongoing interference. Ever.

The war is nowhere close to being won.

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Equality, already!


There’s a lot of reasons to support marriage equality. Respect for human dignity. Excuses to wear fancy hats. Recognising and valuing love and commitment. Giving your assorted aunts a day out. Thousands of legal rights and responsibilities. Cake.

I’ve got one more.

Every time I watch a marriage equality video, I cry.

I’m not talking a single dignified tear. It starts a few seconds in with that tear. By the end of a 3-minute video, the tear has been joined by its sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, old babysitters, and everyone who’s ever worked at its favourite cafes. What I’m trying to say here is that marriage equality videos- every single damn one of them- make me bawl. I’m crying right now just thinking of ’em.

In fairness, I cry at straight couples getting married too, but I have to actually know the people involved. Show me an old queer couple that I’ve never met and tell me that they’ve been waiting longer than I’ve been alive to have their relationship recognised, though? You’d better have brought a stack of tissues with you, ’cause I’ll be sobbing before you can get the words out.

This is a problem. Sometimes I have to appear professional. Like a grown-up in control of herself who won’t turn into a teary mess in seconds. The only way that I can see to deal with this is for every country, everywhere, to get off their asses and legislate for equal marriage- preferably on an evening or weekend, so there’ll be no problem with me hiding under a blanket with a bucket of icecream. Let’s get this out of the way in a morning, have our happy cry, and then get on with things.

In the meantime, check these out. You can try to tell me you’re not moved if you like, but I won’t believe you.

If you were to fancy throwing any links into the comments that’ll make me ugly-cry? I’d probably complain, but I’d also watch every sniffly one of them.

 

Why Marriage Equality Should Matter To Straight People


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Marriage equality. Same-sex marriage. Gay marriage. Whatever you call it, it’s kind of a big deal these days. We hear a lot about why it matters to LGBTQ folks- that pesky equality thing, being treated with the same dignity and rights as others, protecting our families, having nice days out with excellent hats. But, as every LGBTQer will tell you, most people aren’t queer. Most of you are raging heterosexualists. And those of you of a heterosexual persuasion might sometimes wonder what, precisely, is in it for you? Why should you leave your warm, comfortable sofa and take to the streets for the rights of a bunch of strangers?

As it turns out? A lot of reasons. Here’s a few of mine:

1. You Want To Marry People Who Love You Back, Right?

Have you ever met someone who started off LGBT, was oppressed for it, and genuinely turned straight? I haven’t. As a wise man once said, “there ain’t no cure for love“.

Discrimination against queer people has never stopped us from being queer. What it has done is force people into the closet and into relationships with people that they might love, but they can never really love. If you want to be sure that the person who you marry is someone who feels as much for you as you do for them? Make sure that people can marry the ones they love.

2. The Infertility Thing

A bunch of the arguments against marriage equality go something like this: While two people of any gender can share love and devotion, it’s only the physical union of one (cis, though they never mention it) man and one (cis, though they never mention it) woman that can physically create a child, and it is in the interests of society to support this.

Let’s leave aside the kinda-bizarre implication that we want, as a society, to support LGBT people getting into different-sex marriages. It shouldn’t be difficult to see what’s intrinsically wrong with that.

Not all straight people can have kids- biologically, at least- with each other. Not all straight people want to have kids. If marriage is only for people who can physically create a child with each other, then what about infertile people? Post-menopausal women should be banned from marrying anyone at all, and childfree people consigned to civil unions at best. Fertility tests would be mandatory before marriage licences, and marriages that don’t produce children within a couple of years would be annulled.

Sounds ridiculous, eh? It is ridiculous. And it’s not going to happen. But think about it: do you want your marriages to be defined by whether you have children or not? Do you want to be seen as less valuable if you choose not to have kids? Do you want infertile people to be shamed, do you think it’s okay if their relationships are seen as lesser?

If you accept the idea that different-sex marriages are better because lots of people in them can have kids without any outside help (and even by accident), then you accept the idea that having kids somehow makes a relationship.. better. Do you want your relationships defined by whether or not you can physically make a kid with the person you love?

I figured not.

3. It’s about family and community.

LGBT people don’t live in a world separate from everyone else. Maybe your kid is LGBT. Maybe it’s your parent. Or your aunt or your uncle. Maybe your cousin or your sibling. Either way, chances are that there’s at least someone in your circles who’s not entirely straight & cis. We’re part of your families, we’re your friends, we live in your communities. Do you want some of the people you love to be treated as if they were less than others? Isn’t it a little… awkward?

4. It’s About Love

Anti-marriage equality advocates would have you believe that marriage is about anything- anything– other than two people who love each other making a lifelong commitment to each other. They say that it’s about babies- ignoring the many thousands of kids raised by loving same-sex couples. They say that it has nothing to do with love, and that marriage is by definition something between one man and one woman, without giving reasons why. Anti-equality advocates would say that your genitals (which they overwhelmingly feel are directly tied to your gender) are the most important defining feature of the love you share.

Don’t you think that your relationships and marriages are worth more than that? If you love someone, isn’t that love about far more than one of you being A Man and one of you being A Woman? Those of us who advocate for marriage equality say that love is something between you and the unique individual that you love. We say that love doesn’t need to keep anything else down to be special- it’s beautiful just as it is.

These were just what I came up with. Can you think of any more? What’ve I missed?

Marriage and the Homos: I get comments


I woke up this morning to the following comment in my mod queue:

A true cynic will criticize everyone, both the majority and the minority. I oppose homosexuality, and I blame heterosexuals for promoting it implicitly by their own increasingly pleasure-seeking sexual activity.

http://agalltyr.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/gay-marriage-is-bad-for-society-and-so-are-condoms-and-porn/

To have a meaningful life, do not seek pleasure. Instead seek meaning and purpose. Homosexuality, like many forms of heterosexuality, has no real purpose.

While this comment is ridiculous and the blog the commenter links to even more so, I would like to engage with some of the ideas he brings up

Seeking Pleasure and Meaning

Matthew’s accusation towards us queermos (and a lot of you straight people out there!) is that we get into relationships for no good reason other than pleasure.

Guilty as charged.

While my relationship with the Ladyfriend brings many wonderful things into my life, the primary reason that I’m with her? Happiness. She makes me smile the kind of smile that feels like it goes past my face and under my ribs all the way to my frickin’ toes. Everything else stems from that. I work on our relationship, through our differences, to be the best partner I can be because being around her makes me really, really happy.

And y’know what? That’s precisely the same reason that straight people do exactly the same thing. We make each other happy. Happiness and pleasure aren’t different to meaning- they’re part of meaning. Sharing pleasure, joy and fulfilment are a huge part of what makes our lives meaningful. Following the things which bring you most joy is, in my view, one of the best ways to figure out what your life should mean.

No real purpose?

Matthew would have us think that homosexuality is purposeless, as is, I assume, any hetero relationship that doesn’t involve children.

Take a moment. Think about the people you love. Think about the ways they enrich your life. How they encourage you to follow your dreams. How you are inspired to be a better person by their example and presence. How much learning is involved in sharing your life with others. The ways that you help each other through hard times and share your happinesses. All of the innumerable ways in which the people you love make your life a hell of a lot better than it otherwise could ever be.

That’s purpose. That’s what our relationships are for– they’re an end in themselves. The good things about relationships are, well, the good things about relationships. If Matthew has never had a loved one support him through a tough time, or phoned up someone to share good news, or kicked back with a friend to enjoy a hobby, then I feel sorry for him. If he has, though, then he knows full well that relationships are important just as they are.

Every Equal Marriage Debate Ever


So I promised myself I’d take weekends off from blogging from now on. I think if it’s ever going to work I’m gonna have to lock myself away from all kinds of news and media from midday Friday until Monday morning, because I just can’t seem to keep away.

I’m always amazed when I watch debates between marriage equality advocates and opponents.

What happens, you see, is that you have an opponent claiming that marriage must be kept solely between people of different legal genders in order to protect children.

Then, inevitably, a parent raising kids in a same-sex partnership and an adult who was raised by two mums or two dads talk about their experiences of having done just fine, thank you very much, except for having their kids/parent considered a legal stranger to them.

Opponents ignore these people standing in front of them and rattle on about complementarity without actually mentioning what precisely is to be complemented, while waving discredited studies about.

Advocates come back with actual statistics regarding those studies and go into precisely why they were discredited.

An opponent tells everyone that the problem is that we’re all getting far too over-emotional and can’t we just look at this logically and dispassionately and decide that men and women are the only people who can get married without all those pesky ‘feelings’ getting in the way.

Then, in a moment that had me wanting to get up from my sofa and clap wildly, George Hook comes in all guns blazing like the legend that he is: “How can Gerry Fahy say that I’m emotional about the greatest emotion of all- love? Of course I’m emotional about love! It’s an emotional thing! And you can’t expect like.. if Ingrid thought for a moment that at any point in the last forty years I wasn’t emotional about her, she’d show me the door!”

It was a beautiful thing.

If you fancy seeing anti-equality “forces” getting trounced on national TV- and let’s face it, who doesn’t- hop over to the Late Late and start at 1:17. I’m sorry that I can’t seem to embed it- if anyone knows if/how to get RTE vids embedded, let me know!

Why Marriage Equality Matters To Me


They say that every little girl dreams of her wedding day. I didn’t. I dreamed of spaceships and faraway planets, about eking out a life on deserted islands, about robots and post-apocalyptic worlds and deep-sea diving. A wedding wasn’t a dream come true for me. Not like the first time I strapped myself into SCUBA gear and slipped into another world.

While I’ve changed a lot from that little girl who dreamed of outer space and deep-sea exploration, I’m not much different in many ways. I still dream of exploration and discovery. Every time a plane I’m on takes off I’m still secretly thrilled. And though I don’t get to dive as much as I’d like, I still soak up everything I can learn about the places I’ve never been.  I still have lazy daydreams of Mars.

I was never a girl who dreamed of her wedding day. And while I can’t say that I’ve never daydreamed about promising to share my life with someone I love, getting married is still not the first thing on my bucket list. As a poly person, especially, it seems like the kind of thing I’d have to put an inordinate amount of deliberation into. How could I make a promise to one person knowing that it meant I could never promise the same thing to anyone else? How could I ask a partner to hold me above all others?

I’m not a woman who dreams about marriage. Sharing my life with my chosen family? Splendid! A great big party to celebrate the love that we share? Spiffing! But I’m not sure that marriage is for me*.

It still matters.

Valuing Choices

Whether I or you choose a particular thing or not there is something immensely important about the freedom to decide. Choosing to have children or not, to pursue a particular career or hobby or not. I’m immensely aware that, say, the freedom to choose a career is something that was for far too long circumscribed by gender. And that it’s still often circumscribed by class. Whether I want to be a carer or a chemist, to have no children or a dozen or just one or two, the ability to decide the course of my life can’t be overvalued. We have this one life. It’s the most precious thing we will ever have.

Choosing to share your life with another person or people is one of the most important things that any of us will do. We are what we think and feel, what we do, and the networks of people within which we live. Society isn’t something apart from all of that. It’s the sum of many smaller interconnected people and networks. It’s part of us. We’re all part of us. And whether we as a society value the ways that people choose to follow their hearts and live their lives matters.

Neither ‘tolerance’ nor ‘acceptance’

It is immensely important to me that my society can value what I- a childless, unmarried woman- contribute. It is immensely important to me that those choices are valued equally with the choices of others to have and raise children, to devote their time to caring for others. Sure, we can all just go ahead and do the things that we want to do regardless of the opinions of others. But the vast majority of us care what others think. Whether we like to admit it or not, the opinions of others matter to us. We do crave validation and respect. We don’t want our lives to be met with sidelong glances.

Even if I choose not to marry, being able to do so regardless of the gender of my partner(s) has huge symbolic value. Denial of marriage equality isn’t just saying that I can’t access a particular contract. It says directly that my society feels that there is something missing, something inferior about same-sex relationships.

Whether I choose to marry or not, I will not accept the profound insult inherent in this.

I want to know that even if I do not choose to marry, my relationships are valued equally regardless of the gender of my partner(s). I want to know that I live in a culture that does not merely tolerate or accept the love that I feel and the relationships that I build, but celebrates relationships regardless of gender. I want a culture that values everything from the tongue-tied nerves of giddy crushes to the sweet familiarity of years of devotion. I want a culture that celebrates what partnerships bring to our lives- love, support, joy, knowing that someone is on your side whatever you go through, deep understanding, working together for mutual happiness, strengthening ties, caring for others and so much more. I don’t want a culture that tolerates that. I want one that thinks it is bloody brilliant.

Marriage equality doesn’t mean that every person in the country celebrates love equally. But it means that enough people do that we have collectively decided to make a point of enshrining equality in our laws.

And that? Whether you or I or the person next to you marries or not, and whatever the gender of the person or people they love? That matters.

*of course, because I wrote this I’ll probably be merrily skipping down to the local city hall before you can say “eat my words”. Which is what you get for writing things on the internet.

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.