In the run-up to Ireland’s Marriage Equality referendum on May 22nd, I’ve invited a series of guest posters– people from Ireland or who live here, of many different backgrounds and orientations- to share their thoughts on the referendum, the campaign, and what it means to them. Contributions to Guest Posts for Equality are welcome- drop me a message.
Dear everyone who finds themselves reading this and is in a position to vote on the marriage equality referendum,
Hi! I’m Emer. I’m in my mid-twenties, I live in Galway (the best place in the world, other than Stratford-upon-Avon), and I’m a PhD student here too. I love my research topic, it’s brilliant, and if you ever meet me, you’re in danger of me talking your ear off about it — that’s how excited I am about it. I’ve got a host of lovely, wonderful friends living here and afar; I’m lucky that I get to go home and see my family (including my adorable pets) regularly as they’re pretty great. I’m passionate about theatre, animals, music (yes I’m the type who reads Drowned in Sound and Pitchfork, don’t judge), colourful clothes, feminism, and having a good time with the people I love and care about.
I also happen to be gay.
My sexual orientation’s taken a bit of a journey over the last few years. It will probably keep travelling as such, but I can’t imagine a life where I’m completely and fully straight. However, lesbian/queer is something that makes sense to me in my life right now, and to be honest, I really love being gay, and I feel that it’s right for me at this present moment in time. I came to this realisation when I was sitting watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World at the end of August, the weekend before I started my PhD, and the sight of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Ramona Flowers made me realise that nothing would make me happier (well, in relationship terms of course, we can’t pin all our happiness on those terms) than settling down with a woman for the rest of my life. I remember bounding around my sitting room after all my housemates had gone to sleep, excitedly telling myself, I’m gay. I’m GAY. It all makes sense.
It resulted in me coming out to friends and family for a second time (I had previously identified as bisexual; although please don’t take that as an indicator that all bisexual people have to decide between gay or straight), and I was lucky that they were, and continue to be, supportive, loving, and kind. I dated a woman for the first time very briefly last year, and whereas it didn’t work out, I continue to be grateful to her for the connection we have made which has resulted in a good friendship. Generally, over the last few years, I have been so grateful for my friends in the LGBTQ community who are a constant source of solidarity, solace, kindness, advice, and again, friendship.
A lot of friends know me as a no-craic feminist (#sorrynotsorry), but they also know me as a huge sentimentalist and a romantic. And let me tell you something, I have always dreamed of getting married. I know marriage as an institution is incredibly problematic: if we did away with it as a bastion of equality and attaining civil rights, I would fully support that. But as it stands, I also see marriage as an opportunity to make a commitment to the person I love, and to celebrate and solidify our love for each other. And if it ever were to come to pass that I would have a long-term partner that I would want to spend the rest of my life with, then I would want to take that step (and ensure that we have the right protection should anything happen to either of us).
But because I am a woman who does not wish to date men, somehow that is a problem for some people.
The Iona Institute, Mandate for Marriage, and Mothers and Fathers Matter would tell you that marriage is between a man and a woman, and is primarily for reproductive reasons. That same-sex couples should not get married because of ‘gender balancing’: again, because of the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that men and women are biologically different and provide different functions. When you think about it, that’s a terribly heteronormative, cisnormative way of looking at things. Last time I checked, I didn’t think that gender identity was biologically attached to me at birth, or to anyone else. Nor should particular gender roles be assigned to me just because I am a woman. My end goals in life do not point towards having children — not that I think that wanting a child is a bad thing, but it’s not the pinnacle of my life’s achievements.
Then again, neither is marriage. But most of my friends and loved ones get married because they love one another, and because they want to commit to one another. It’s seen as the next step, a further consolidation and celebration of their love and respect for one another. Not because they have or want to reproduce. Those who are opposite-sex couples don’t get any of this SO YOU’RE MARRIED THEREFORE YOU MUST REPRODUCE schtick, but if same-sex couples put their head above the parapet that’s somehow cause for consternation.
These are people’s lives. These are people’s relationships. It still boggles me that I can flick on the RTÉ iPlayer and my civil rights are debated live on television, or used as clickbait fodder by the likes of Breda O’Brien, the Burke family, and John Waters. Let me tell you, I’m bloody sick of coming across articles, videos, audio recordings featuring these people day. after. every. fucking. day. It never lets up, it never stops.
So I ask you to please vote yes. We just want to get on with our own lives. We want to have the same access to civil rights as you do. Please think of us when you read the next Breda article, when there’s yet another setback, when there’s a No campaigner. We are counting on you all to come through for us, and to make us feel as if we’re part of the family.
Yes to love. Yes to acceptance. Yes to the next steps ahead. Yes to equality.
Lots of love,