Guest Posts for Equality: As an anarchist, I’ve got a really complicated view on voting

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

Eilís Ní Fhlannagáin has been active in radical trans women’s circles for the past two decades. Her activism focuses on trans women, their access to quality health care and employment, poverty, and transmisogyny within feminist communities. Her work has been mentioned in Mimi Marinucci’s “Feminism is Queer: The Intimate Connection between Queer and Feminist Theory”, as well as Sybil Lamb’s “How Not To Have A Sex Change”. She currently lives in Dublin where she is writing a book about starting an underground orchiectomy clinic. She blogs, very infrequently, at Hack Like A Girl

equalityheart

Look. As an anarchist, I’ve got a really complicated view on voting. I think that voting for elected representatives just changes the face of the person holding your leash and that it pretty much changes nothing. I *never* vote unless it’s tactically advantageous to do so. I’ll vote as a method of harm reduction. I’ll vote to ensure that if two people with the same policies are running, but one is all likeable, to ensure the less likeable person wins (I like my fascists like I like my flirting. Obvious and direct.) I’ll vote on referendums that effect the lives of people in positive ways, even if it means participating in a system I hate and despise.

As a UK citizen living in Ireland, I can’t vote in the upcoming marriage referendum here. I’m not even a fan of the state being involved in people’s private relationships and like all the other stuff around the institution of marriage. Bah, right?

But, if I could, I’d vote, and I’d vote Yes. Not because of what it would achieve but to send a message to the No side that their views on queer people are fucked and that they’re losing this fight and that their conservative religious beliefs have no place outside of their church.

I’d do it to send a message to queer folks in this country that people do give a shit about them and that this society is becoming less fucked up around issues of sexuality.

I’d hold my nose and do it because, frankly, I don’t want to wake up on the 23rd and think of the queer kid who just got sent a message that more than half the country hates them. I wouldn’t be able to look at them and say “Sorry kid. I didn’t vote because . Thems the breaks.”

So, yeah. Even if you have complex feels about voting. Even if you have complex feels about marriage. Even if you have not very complex feels about the state. Hold your nose, vote, vote yes and then keep working on dismantling this shit.

Continue reading “Guest Posts for Equality: As an anarchist, I’ve got a really complicated view on voting”

Guest Posts for Equality: As an anarchist, I’ve got a really complicated view on voting
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Guest Posts for Equality: Making up your Own Mind

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

Clodagh is an emotional baggage handler, activist and messer. She has a special interest in body autonomy and empowerment. You can find her over on Twitter, and you really should. 

 

Guest Posts for Equality: Making up your Own Mind

Guest Posts for Equality: Yes To Love: It’s One Of Those Open Letters

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.

This one’s from Emer. I’ll let her introduce herself- but you can read more from her on Twitter and over at her blog, Letters from a Patchwork Wizard

equalityheart

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. Continue reading “Guest Posts for Equality: Yes To Love: It’s One Of Those Open Letters”

Guest Posts for Equality: Yes To Love: It’s One Of Those Open Letters

Guest Posts for Equality: it’s about recognition.

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

Jennifer Harwood-Smith is a sometime science fiction writer and critic living in Dublin but longing for sunnier climes. She is addicted to her keyboard and surfaces occasionally to knit. She blogs at The Shiny Nerd.

 

So here’s the thing about marriage for me. I’m not really that interested. If I do get married, cool, but for me the important part was always the relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I’m overjoyed for any friends who do get married, and I do enjoy a good wedding, but I don’t feel an overwhelming need to walk up the aisle. I’ve never seen the piece of paper as an absolute necessity, and even if I do get married, I’d be inclined towards a cheap wedding and a really great holiday. But if I was told I couldn’t have it just because of who I loved? Then I’d be angry and upset, because to deny anyone the right to marry the person they love is to deny the validity of that love.

My young man feels much the same about marriage, and Ireland’s lack of proper common law spouse laws is frustrating us. For anything to our benefit, such as income tax breaks, and automatic rights which married couples have to the family home or to be at each other’s side in hospital, we have to sort it out ourselves. However when it comes to getting jobseekers, then we count as a couple and can be denied it if one of us makes too much. The reasoning behind this, apparently, is to make sure no one is penalised for having a family, and that families don’t pay more to the state than single people do. Which I will agree, sort of makes sense. This, as you can imagine, is a nuisance, but one which we have a choice over. The only thing stopping us from marriage (aside from it being impractical at this stage of our careers) is ourselves. No one would say a word against us getting married because we are a heterosexual couple. And while I love my young man with all of my heart (seriously, this is movie love, and before I met him, I had no idea that could actually be real), I don’t see why our love should be deemed more right than that of a same sex couple. Continue reading “Guest Posts for Equality: it’s about recognition.”

Guest Posts for Equality: it’s about recognition.

Guest Posts for Equality: Look after yourselves.

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

Orla-Jo– aside from being one of my Dublin Roller Derby teammates- is an Irish feminist YouTuber, blogger and haver of rants on Twitter. She’s pretty great 🙂

How it can feel to be queer in Ireland
We understand for many this referendum debate doesn't feel like a discussion of marriage law
So look after yourselves and be kind to each other. P.s. Vote YES.

Guest Posts for Equality: Look after yourselves.

Guest Posts for Equality: When your family are voting ‘No’.

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

This guest poster- for reasons that I’m sure will be obvious when you read the post- prefers to remain anonymous. 

One of the most heart-warming things to come out of the marriage referendum in Ireland has been the videos of everyday Irish people talking to their families about why they’re voting yes. Students from Trinity College did one of the first with their “Call Your Granny” video showing them phoning their parents and grandparents to see if they would vote yes, their nerves palpable as they wait to hear the answer and then the wonderful relief, “Of course I’m voting yes!.” Since then there have been so many videos of families sitting around the kitchen table with typical Irish mammies and daddies talking about how their LGBTQ sons and daughters are loved equally and how they want them to be just as happy as their other children. I cry at every video.

I’ve also gone out canvassing with my local Yes Equality group and been quietly tearful while canvassing alongside a father who marches up to every door with a proud smile on his face and asks everyone who he meets to vote for his son.

These testimonies from parents and grandparents are all the more moving to me because I know that I can’t make a video like that with my parents. They are most definitely not voting yes on May the 22nd, in fact they are actively supporting a no vote. When I post anything on Facebook remotely favouring the Yes campaign there is an icy social media silence from them, usually followed by a posting of their own from one of the vicious and nasty No campaign articles in the media. I have tried to #haveonechat with them and then heard exactly what they think of gay people getting married. Those chats are not the cosy stuff of the videos that are going out on social media everyday.

I’ve read many passionate tweets and posts from people with thoughts along the lines of “If you’re voting no, just go ahead and unfriend me now” or “I don’t think I can be friends with anyone who is voting no”. Which I know is born of passion for a Yes vote and frustration at the lies and vitriol from the No side of the fence, but still, how do I reconcile my lovely parents who raised me and gave me the most amazing childhood with this bitterness that comes over them whenever the subject of homosexuality comes up? Continue reading “Guest Posts for Equality: When your family are voting ‘No’.”

Guest Posts for Equality: When your family are voting ‘No’.

Overheard in Dublin: free speech matters. So does challenging it.

Waiting in the queue for the ATM this afternoon, I overheard a couple of people behind me talking about the referendum.

This ATM is located near a bunch of some of the most odious No posters I’ve yet seen. They feature a picture of a man giving a thumbs-up, and a message that you shouldn’t be ashamed to exercise your right to vote No.

I find this particularly abhorrent. It plays into the idea that LGBTQ people and our allies are nothing more than bullies. Equating standing up for ourselves- no matter how politely or mildly- with shouting down the opposition. From a campaign who do not hesitate to threaten legal action whenever anyone expresses disagreement with their views.

Back to the ATM, though, and those people behind me. You see, they have a friend- let’s call him Steve to make things easier to follow here. Steve is voting No in the referendum. He told his friends about his plans. His friends are disagreeing with him. Vocally. They want him to vote Yes, and they’re telling him so. They’re also being clear that his decision impacts how they look at him. What they think of him.

The two people behind me- let’s call them Nuala and Sarah- don’t think this is okay. Not Steve voting No. That’s his choice. They don’t think it’s okay that Steve’s friends are arguing with him. You see, according to the. The important thing is that we’re free to vote however we like, and people need to be able to express their opinions.

My first thought- after calculating to myself that I would definitely miss my bus if I turned around to talk some sense into them- was to wonder if either of them have ever felt scared to express who they are. It either of them spent months feeling constant tension, wondering if their country was going to decide to keep them down. To choose to uphold a system that sees them as fundamentally unequal. As less than.

Maybe if they had more empathy for their LGBTQ friends, they might understand why Steve is getting a hard time. If they had more empathy for their LGBTQ friends, they might find the decency to educate and persuade Steve themselves.

My second thought? Is that I am tired of hearing people uphold the freedom of bigoted expression at the expense of the speech of others. If Steve has the right to say that he is voting no- of course he does!- then his friends have the right to tell him how they feel about that. In a democracy, in fact, I’d argue that they have a responsibility to do so. The vote is an essential tool for change. Speech- persuasion, expression, and communication- is even more powerful in determining the direction of that change. Of course we care about how other people vote. We have to. That’s why we campaign, canvass, and why we bother voting in the first place. Voting is based on the concept- however well or badly realised in practice- that every voice matters. If our voices matter, then so does how we use them. Steve probably cares about the society we live in. So do his friends. They care enough to do what they can to influence someone else’s voice to help others.

I didn’t get to talk to Sarah and Nuala. I had a bus to catch and a ticket to buy with the money from that ATM. But I’m going to bet that they know some LGBTQ people, because most of us do. And I’m going to bet that they see themselves as tolerant people. I don’t think that Sarah and Nuala see themselves as having a homophobic bone in their bodies.

But this kind of wishy-washy ‘tolerance’ that sees no distinction between granting equality and denying rights to others- that lumps it all in under a freedom of speech that always seems to be more free if you’re upholding the status quo- is every bit as dangerous as outright homophobia. However much it pretends to be something else, it’s nothing more than the soil that lets bigotry grow unchallenged. At a time when we literally find ourselves with no choice but to crowd out homophobia with sheer numbers. I can’t accept that.

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Overheard in Dublin: free speech matters. So does challenging it.

If you can vote and do not, you are not my friend.

There’s a thing I have to make clear.

If you can vote in this referendum, and you don’t? If something came up and you were just too busy and you didn’t get around to it? You are not my friend. We are not friends. You don’t have any LGBTQ friends. Because our lives, our future, our rights weren’t worth a half hour of your time.

I’d rather an honest homophobe over someone who pretends to care but can’t be bothered, any day.

I’m also very aware that this is the kind of talk that the No side will dismiss as bullying tactics. See, the thing that they like to pretend is that this is a simple matter of disagreement. That we should all be friends and polite and respect differences, and that if we don’t we’re intolerant. But there is no requirement for anyone to be tolerant of discrimination. Of institutional, legally-mandated bullying.

They would like to have us all believe that all opinions are equal, and that respecting someone’s right to have an opinion is the same as respecting that opinion.

All opinions are not equal.

If all opinions were equal, or if holding an opinion was neutral and harmless, there would be no point in having them. Freedom of speech would be meaningless. It wouldn’t matter if you could hold an opinion or not, or if you could express it or not. They would have no effect on the world.

But all opinions are not equal.

Continue reading “If you can vote and do not, you are not my friend.”

If you can vote and do not, you are not my friend.

Who is cheapening marriage?

Something that we have all suspected have become clear in the past couple of days: anti-marriage campaigners are obsessed with sex. Obsessed.

They are obsessed with PIV sex. They are obsessed with their imaginings of gay male sex. They’re even obsessed with the mystery of what two women could possibly do that could constitute sex.

Yesterday, a Yes Equality campaigner was asked on the radio- on the radio!- to go into details about the mechanics of sex between men. The day before, I heard a story about a public meeting being asked about how two lesbians could manage to consummate a marriage. You know, given that they (probably) haven’t a single penis between them. I’m going to take a guess and assume, by the way, that if a person can’t get their head around how two people with vulvas could have sex with each other, the existence of women with fully-functioning penises might actually blow their minds.

We could laugh at this. I mean, it’s pretty funny. Particularly considering that you’d assume that, with a functioning internet connection, the answers to questions about the mechanics of consummation aren’t exactly difficult to find. And one could also be forgiven for making some insinuations about the lives of people who can’t figure out how to satisfy a woman without a penis in the room. And as for the obsession with particular kinds of sex between men? That one is just too easy.

Okay, so it’s funny.

What has civil marriage law got to say about sex, though? Feck-all, as far as I’m concerned.

No campaigners will tell you that they are defending the family against attack and against redefinition. They say that marriage is something precious, a cornerstone of our society.

And then they reduce it to.. a penis in a vagina. That’s it. That’s all of it. Marriage, for these people, is reduced to one sex act.

Ask marriage equality advocates what it means to them. You’ll get answers based on love, commitment and dignity. About protecting their loved ones. About being included in and valued by their communities.

Is allowing people access to marriage really redefining the institution? Or is this reduction of our relationships to nothing more than the kind of sex that we’re having- that other people assume we’re having- the redefinition that’s really happening here?

Tell me again- who is attacking marriage?

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Who is cheapening marriage?

They Were Right: This referendum is not (just) about marriage.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get married.

That’s not, by the way, anything to do with my being queer. I don’t know if I’ll ever get married, because I don’t know if I want to get married, and because I haven’t found myself in the kind of relationship that marriage would make sense with. I don’t know if twenty years from now I’ll be married, single, living with my three favourite partners, or traveling the world in a refurbished double-decker bus with a giant ginger cat.

I can tell you, though, that the last of those is the one I spend the most time daydreaming about.

Of course, maybe me and my giant ginger cat won’t be on our own in our double-decker bus (with a balcony taking up half of the top level where I keep my plants. Of course). Maybe we will.

I don’t really care about getting married, myself. If I find someone I want to be with for the rest of my life, then we’ll do that regardless of whether the state calls it a marriage, and it’ll mean every bit as much to the two of us. I do care deeply about the legal rights that come with marriage, and about being able to protect my loved ones and have the families that we create legally recognised. Marriage might do that. It might not. I don’t know what shape my family will be, in ten or twenty years. I’m ambivalent about marriage as an institution. I don’t like the idea that the state can privilege one kind of family and relationship over all others, giving some families (specifically, those based on lifelong monogamous dyadic relationships, if we’re getting technical about things) rights that others don’t have. It is abhorrent to me that the state has the  power to name this a family and that legal strangers, and that we have no way to change this. If we have to have legal definitions of family, I want one that is inclusive of all kinds of families. Of all of the bonds of kinship that we create. If we have to legally encode these things, I want a structure that is flexible. One that doesn’t prescribe one kind of ideal relationship, but instead accurately describes the relationships and families that we do have.

I’m one of those queers your mum probably didn’t know enough to warn you about. The ones who have no interest in emulating heteronormativity and think that, frankly, society as a whole would do well to learn from what we’ve been up to over the decades.

Like I said? I’m ambivalent about marriage.

Yet if this May’s referendum is defeated? I’m not sure how I’ll stand it.

Continue reading “They Were Right: This referendum is not (just) about marriage.”

They Were Right: This referendum is not (just) about marriage.