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.

Inevitable does not mean Okay: Respectability Politics, Erasure and Marriage Equality

Campaigns on both sides of the marriage equality debate have begun in earnest in recent weeks. On the No side, there are the predictable demonising of queer people, pleas to some kind of imaginary distinctiveness and special status of heterosexuality, and misguided calls to please protect the children. The actual children of same-sex couples are, of course, on the other side defending their parents and families from those who would seek to explicitly deny them. As, of course are people of all orientations and family situations telling their stories and asking for equal treatment.

So far, so good. The humanity of queer people- and the families and friends who love us- is what will win this referendum.

But marriage equality, far from being the universal arbiter of LGBTQ equality, is a single issue. And single issue questions breed single issue conversations. 

This is not always a bad thing. It feels inevitable that a narrowing of focus occurs when large groups of people are asked a particular question. And it’s definitely not a bad thing that an important LGBTQ issue is getting significant mainstream attention. 

A thing feeling inevitable doesn’t make it okay.

There are two negative impacts that this narrowing of focus has had. It’s meant that inconvenient facts get brushed under the carpet ‘for the time being’. Those queer people whose lives fit a respectable marriage narrative are showcased- and that is lovely. There are many wonderful queer couples who want to marry in this country. The narrative of queer couples falling in love and marrying is one that has never really hit the mainstream in this country until now. Much as those of us of a more radical persuasion would prefer marriage to not be a focus, there’s nothing about being born LGBT that leads to any particular political viewpoint. There are plenty of queer kids growing up who need to know that some kind of mainstream acceptance- fulfilling the same dreams as their peers, having the possibility of a future that doesn’t seem utterly alien- is possible. Continue reading “Inevitable does not mean Okay: Respectability Politics, Erasure and Marriage Equality”

Inevitable does not mean Okay: Respectability Politics, Erasure and Marriage Equality

Arguing for Marriage Equality: Engagement over Debate

I love a good argument as much as the next person. There’s something glorious about a perfectly placed point and the delicious combination of wit and incontrovertible evidence that feels so damn satisfying. Watch your opponents crumble before your logic. High five with your friends. Or, if it’s a friend you’re arguing with, high five anyway and make them buy you a beer for the privilege. Good times.

That said, I can’t remember the last time I argued someone- particularly a someone who I didn’t have a preexisting connection with- into agreeing with me. Most of the time being argued with just gets your back up, makes you feel attacked and digs you even more firmly into the position you already held- particularly if the position is one that you had an emotional attachment to. And, in fairness, if you didn’t feel attached to your position it’s not likely that you’d have bothered arguing it in the first place, is it?

This isn’t an intellectual exercise. This is something that is becoming incredibly important in Ireland right now. It’s a little over two months until the marriage equality referendum here in Ireland, and the No campaign have already started resorting to every dirty trick they can muster in order to scare people into voting with them. Supporters of equality already have facts, arguments and research on our side. Those aren’t going to be enough. Continue reading “Arguing for Marriage Equality: Engagement over Debate”

Arguing for Marriage Equality: Engagement over Debate

Catholic Bishops Thinks Queers Can Marry Just Fine, Just Like Straight People

So, a Catholic bishop said something completely wrong about marriage and queer people. I know. What else is new? Really, the newsworthy thing here is that I’m actually bothering to respond to it. But y’know something? Sometimes people who you expect to say terrible things do exactly that, and do it in a way that gets under your skin. Like this guy.

Of course, when an article has a title like “‘No obstacle’ to gays marrying, just not each other, says bishop“, you know that your blood pressure’s in for a bit of a boost. You also know it’s going to involve that delightful combination of someone talking about something they have zero experience of, and the particularly sanctimonious smugness that the Catholic Church has such a way with. Around this part of the world, at least. 

Also, before we go on can we take a moment to note the sheer audacity of this kind of moralising coming from a representative of an organisation well-known for depths of abusiveness towards children that I sincerely hope are absent from even your worst nightmares? Yep, let’s think about that one for a moment, because the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland have zero moral high ground to stand on. And yet there they are, standing on their Emperor’s New High Ground, acting like their right to tell people how to live their lives has any basis in reality. 

With all that in mind (are you feeling angry yet? I sure am), let’s take a look at what this guy- one Kevin Doran- had to say last Sunday. In public. To a congregation of people. Many of whom, of course, must be either LGBTQ themselves or have loved ones who are. And many of whom will, bizarrely enough, probably be back next Sunday. 

Doran starts with this:

 “You don’t have to be a Christian to recognise the truth about human sexuality; the joy of it and the heartbreak of it.

Well. So far so good, eh? People from all religions and none can understand that human sexuality can be a profoundly joyful and devastatingly heartbreaking thing. If Doran had finished that sentence, stepped down from the pulpit and toddled off home, I’d have nothing to disagree with. Continue reading “Catholic Bishops Thinks Queers Can Marry Just Fine, Just Like Straight People”

Catholic Bishops Thinks Queers Can Marry Just Fine, Just Like Straight People

LGBT Community and Pride: Where have they been?

In the past week we heard a lot from people from all sides of our community regarding Dublin Pride’s decision not to allow speakers from community and activist groups after Saturday’s parade. Fortunately for everyone, Pride were able to come to an agreement with LGBTQ groups, allowing them a small amount of time to address the Pride crowds.

There’s one thing I kept on hearing last week from some people associated with Pride Committee members that I’d like to address, and that’s this: where were the community and activist groups all year? While Pride Committee members were volunteering their time to put on a festival.. where was everyone else?

Where were they? Here, of course. Everywhere.

I find it difficult to understand how members of the Pride committee could see that they gave long hours to their group, but not that everyone else is doing the same.

The vast majority of the work that goes into every LGBT community or activist group in the country is voluntary. Even organisations with paid staff rely heavily on volunteers. Throughout the country, every evening and weekend, people give long hours of their time and donate their incredible expertise to build our communities and campaign for inclusion and equality.

We all give our time.

Activist and community groups build and sustain the community that Pride celebrates. They give us a place to go for the other 50 weeks of the year. They run the support groups and helplines. They organise our regular meetups. They run the campaigns that will- oh, they will– build a society where LGBTQ people are not only equally respected under the law, but equally valued as members of our society.

Activist and community groups have been working their butts off on activism and community building. That’s what they do. They also gave Dublin Pride what they asked for- filled out their forms to be part of the parade- and no doubt assumed that in the absence of any further information, the day would continue to be organised in a similar way to how it had been for years. Dublin Pride are the people who had responsibility for letting everyone else know if something else was going on.

If they didn’t do that? They should own up. Complaining about having put in long hours to people who do the exact same thing with their own evenings and weekends? Not doing anyone any favours. Hopefully next year’s committee can learn from this year’s mistakes, take ownership of their jobs and make an event that is both a spectacular party and a call to action.

LGBT Community and Pride: Where have they been?

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.


Equality, already!

Why Marriage Equality Should Matter To Straight People


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?

Why Marriage Equality Should Matter To Straight People

From Marriage Equality: Do us a favour?

Check out the video.

And then go here to send a message to any of your local TDs in the Constitutional Convention, to let them know that you support the right of all people in Ireland to marriage equality, regardless of gender or orientation.

And then share the video and get everyone you know to do the same. Because it’s about damn time all marriages were treated equally under the law here, don’t you think?