Never Stop Holding Hands: how love took on a monster, and won.


Panti said that she got through an entire day without checking herself, and that she does not feel oppressed.

A couple of friends of mine walked to the local shop together. A man approached them shook their hands, and told them to never stop holding hands.

Another friend talked about all the same-sex couples she saw holding hands, embracing, being unapologetically together on our streets and in our parks.

And I walk down the street alone with a Yes badge on my shirt- I can’t bear to take it off yet. It’s met on every street with infectious, unstoppable smiles. Moments of overjoyed connection with strangers- and not just the strangers we’ve been led to expect. The buttoned-up, the middle-aged, the most conservative appearing of us can’t help but break into grins when we see each other.

This is about marriage, but this is about so much more. This was about changing a society, and it was about letting everyone in that society know how it had changed.

This campaign was hard. It was cruel at times. The helpless frustration of seeing signs on every street telling you that you are unfit, inadequate, should be happy to put up with less. Hearing unashamed bigotry dressed up as genuine concerns in a cowardly media. Feeling the weight of money and influence wielded by people who hate us so much that they threw everything they had into keeping us down. Hearing stories of kids of same sex couples, of adopted kids, of kids of single parents seeing those same posters telling them that their families weren’t enough, and feeling helpless to do anything about it.

The campaign was cruel, and it was an unnecessary cruelty.

But- and here is the beautiful thing- the campaign was also kind. We didn’t just fight. We cared for each other. We knew that we could only win by sharing some of the most vulnerable parts of ourselves with strangers, and by being judged for those. So we did. On doorsteps and streets and online and in newspapers and even on TV we shared our stories, our families, our lives and our fears, in the hope that they would find a spark or humanity and empathy in people who had never met us. And it did. Continue reading “Never Stop Holding Hands: how love took on a monster, and won.”

Never Stop Holding Hands: how love took on a monster, and won.

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.

Celebrating civil partnerships?

Today GLEN, the Irish Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, published an album of couples celebrating their civil partnerships throughout the country.

This is lovely!

One thing that isn’t lovely, though? The fact that several of these photos mention the kids of the couples involved. Kids who are deliberately excluded from the protections of their parents’ civil partnerships.

Listen, I get that people celebrate their partnerships with their families. But can we leave out things like “[So-and-so’s] partnership day was even more special for them as they anticipated the imminent arrival of their second child who was born 2 weeks after the big day”? Ireland’s civil partnership legislation specifically and deliberately denies the rights of same-sex couples and their children to be legally considered each others’ family. For an LGBT gay and lesbian equality organisation to wilfully ignore this in celebrating civil partnerships is profoundly insulting to these families.

Which is a pity. ‘Cause queer weddings make me happycry almost as much as rescued kittens, unexpected presents, and the wonder of chocolatey chili.


Edited because I posted this and then clicked on a link to this video, which made me almost-cry so much my ears tickled. Despite the fact that I don’t speak a word of Italian*. And now I wonder if I’m the only person in the world whose ears feel ticklish when they almost-cry.


*I lie. I can say one word, which is gelato.

Celebrating civil partnerships?

Marriage equality and the trickle-down effect

I’m writing this on a Saturday, before tomorrow’s* March for Marriage. Marriage equality is something incredibly important to me. It’s important because I care that my friends all deserve the same protection and dignity under the law. It’s important because I want any future relationships I’m in to be judged on something other than single letters on our respective legal documents. It’s also incredibly important because I never seem to have enough chances to dress up pretty and cry in public.

But here’s the thing. While marriage equality is essential, I worry that it might be taking attention from all of the other things that we need to do if queer people are to live our lives with the same dignity and respect given to our straight friends and loved ones. I worry that equality under the law is taken as synonymous with social equality. I worry that assumptions of equality could mask some of the most horrific excesses of homophobia and transphobia.

I worry, in short, that marriage equality isn’t going to Make It Get Better. It’s not going to stop queer kids being excluded, being abused, being kicked out of their families, ending up homeless and dead.

Marriage and Equality
The first thing I’d like to reiterate is that I am absolutely and without reservation in favour of marriage equality. It’s one of the few things that will get me off the sofa and on to the streets. The right to have our families equally protected and respected regardless of the gender(s) of the people who make them up? It’s essential. It’s essential both practically and symbolically, and it’s essential that we legislate for it now, because there are kids out there who are legal strangers to their parents, there are people forced to live thousands of miles away from their loved ones, there are people without rights to visit their sick partners and bereaved people having their homes taken from them. And there are people getting sick of the airquotes around “husband” and around “wife” when people talk about their relationships.
None of this is okay. It is absolutely a good thing that we campaign and work towards marriage equality, and it’s frickin’ awesome that we’re making (sloooooowww) progress.

Marriage equality is very, very important. Essential, even. And yes, I do expect that the legal rights it grants same-sex couples, as well as its symbolic importance, will absolutely do something to erode some of the most pernicious aspects of homophobia in our societies. But it’s not the universal panacea that it’s made out to be, and I want to discuss that.

Equal legal rights are not the same as equality, as anyone with a background in anti-oppression work will know well. They’re an essential part of attaining equality, but they’re just the beginning. Once equal marriage rights are achieved, we’ll have reached an important and visible milestone. We’ll be able to point to the laws of our country and see that they acknowledge our equal dignity and that of our relationships. But will still have a hell of a lot more work to do. The legal system, while all-pervasive and incredibly powerful, is not the only institution of this kind in our societies.

Our laws, you see, are the easy bit. They’re written down, for a start. We have specific and recognised methods for changing them. We have specific and recognised methods for enforcing them. It’s relatively easy to tell at a glance if our laws discriminate against us. If someone disagrees with this we can simply copy and paste the laws that discriminate against us, go make a cup of tea, and automatically win the argument.

Making our society a place which values queer folks as much as straight, though? That’s hard work. A lot harder than legal equality. It’s a job every single one of us has to do every day. It’s a relatively-thankless job, where the things we’re working against are varied and often vague, and it’s hard to tell if we’re making any progress at the time. We’re talking about everything from violent homophobia to unconscious prejudice and heteronormativity, and the whole godawful spectrum in between. We’re talking about making every workplace, every school, every hospital, every hotel, every village and town as welcoming for queer folks as it is for straight.

I don’t say this because I’m looking for some kind of utopia. I say this because I’m sick of hearing about homeless queer kids. I’m sick of hearing about dead queer kids. And I’m sick of hearing all of the concerns of LGBT people narrowed down to “gay marriage”.

Like I said before, I am absolutely in favour of marriage equality. I’m planning on marching for marriage equality tomorrow*. It has huge legal significance. It has even bigger symbolic significance. And I truly hope that the wonderful momentum and energy that’s gone into marriage equality can be harnessed for all the other, fuzzier, but still incredibly important work that needs to be done. But that’s not going to happen by itself.

So what do you think? Do you think I’m asking too much? Or not enough? How do you think we can harness the energy of the marriage equality campaign and put it to work elsewhere? Do you think we need to?

*Last week, to You Lot. I’m trying out writing posts in advance for once.

Marriage equality and the trickle-down effect