An oldie on civil partnerships

As you read this, I’m off learning how to drive bikes around Kildare for the day. If you’re in Kildare, you’ll be able to recognise me by the giant L plate on my jacket (classy!) and the look of sheer terror on my face every time my instructor makes me go past 40kph.

Since I’ve been talking about marriage a lot lately, and in recognition of the fact that the UK and France are both planning on bringing in equality while Ireland drags its feet and files its nails, here’s a video I made back when Ireland first brought in civil partnerships. You get to hear my thoughts on the matter AND see three-years-ago me. Bonus!

An oldie on civil partnerships
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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.

Why Marriage Equality Matters To Me

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.

A Terribly Polite Homophobe

When I Can’t Argue Inequality: Homophobia and Vulnerability

I’m an activist. I’m outspoken about my opinions and willing to argue them. I put my views out here on the internet on a regular basis, knowing that at any point anyone could see what I have to say and respond. I do it because I love to discuss, share and persuade. I love to communicate and write and find common ground amidst all of our differences. It’s interesting. It keeps me on my toes and learning every day.

I discovered something today, though.

Geoff’s Shorts posted the other day about about his support for marriage equality. He’s been getting a lot of comments and, as us bloggers are wont to do, popped a message around a few of us asking us to take a look and contribute to the conversation. Since I’m a great big badass queer activist, I figured I’d take a look.

I couldn’t.

That doesn’t happen very often. You can’t hang out around social justice bits of the internet very long without developing a thick skin. And I’d thought that when it came to homophobia, I’d calloused up a long time ago.

I hadn’t. I haven’t.

I started reading comments detailing calm, friendly arguments against marriage equality. Everyone on both sides discussing things nice and rationally. That is, as rationally as you can get when one of the arguments is inherently irrational. I made it about three or four comments in. Then I had to stop.

Maybe callouses come and go. Maybe you need to get them periodically toughened-up. Maybe it’s just that I’m a few days out of a wonderful week with Ladyfriend, feeling a bubbling kind of besotted and missing her badly. Maybe it’s hard because homophobia doesn’t just attack our selves. It attacks our deepest and most intimate relationships. It hits us right where our hearts are, right down where we make ourselves the most vulnerable. Right there in the giddy longing of crushes and sweet joy of love, where we can’t help but feel every damn thing because that’s what love is like. It’s where we are at our most tender. And that’s a wonderful thing.

It’s funny, though. When I hear yet another bishop yammering on about openness to life and fundamental disorderedness, I roll my eyes and continue on. This week or so as they’ve been claiming that people can’t marry someone of the same gender because we can’t consummate our relationships? I giggle. And then I offer to send them some handy diagrams. The WBC picketing yet again? Eh, whatever. But ordinary, thoughtful, well-spoken people detailing why they think that the love I have for some people is inherently inferior than the love I have for others? That one hits me where I live. Y’know how words can sometimes feel like a real punch? How they can stop you in your tracks, leave you dizzy and disoriented and vaguely ill? Yeah. That.

It’s funny, because feminist issues rarely hit me in the same way, although they have a similar potential to mess up my life. I can talk about reproductive rights and workplace inequality and abuse and all of it. Not always calmly, but the worst I’ll get is angry.

I guess that attacking our relationships has always been a way to get to people. Not just queers, of course. All of us. Isn’t jealousy often just a response to feeling like our relationships are threatened? And jealousy can feel overwhelming physical. Primal. Like the deep desire we often have to protect our families and the people in them. You mess with my family, you mess with me. It’s the same thing, I think.

It worries me. I want to talk about the things that are important to me. Love matters to me. I have so many conversations I’d like to have here, not just about queerness or polyness but about everything around those things- how we make relationships, what they mean to us, how we create and live them and what it means to be purposeful and considered in the kinds of relationships we have. And I know that in having those conversations I’m opening up one hell of a vulnerable place.

What do you think? Do you know what I’m getting at here? Do you feel the same, or is there an issue that gets to you in a similar way, to the extent that you have to be careful when and how you can engage with people on it? If it’s something that is close to your activist heart, how do you protect yourself?

When I Can’t Argue Inequality: Homophobia and Vulnerability

She Blinded Me With Linkspam

Literacy Privilege: How I Learned to Check Mine Instead of Making Fun of People’s Grammar on the Internet

Some kinds of checking your privilege are more difficult than others.  Accepting that I get shedloads of unearned advantages because of being white, Western, cis and middle-class, and that I should do something about that? Not a bother. Coming to terms with the fact that my beloved Eats, Shoots and Leaves might be a bit on the problematic side? IT IS KILLING THE KITTENS OF MY BRAIN. But here you have it:

It’s one thing to take an erudite journalist or grandiloquent blogger (don’t know any of those, myself) down a notch, although there are valid arguments against even this; grammatical exactitude can suffocate creativity and clarity, and many prescriptive rules were totally fabricated by Latin-centric snobs. But when a poor newbie on a discussion forum introduces himself with “hi im jonny n i like wachin x facter” and gets linguistically skewered by someone because they personally hate the pants off of Simon Cowell – well, that is a different kind of problem.

It’s like they got right into my brain. Damnit.

Empathy for the Devil

This one is similar in brain-breaking but with far more trigger warnings, for bullying and rape. TW for the following quote as well:

You and I might be appalled by the idea of being a rapist dear reader, but we can’t understand rapists unless we leave open the door to the possibility that they do it because they like it, and feel good about it afterwards. In the original article that triggered a Twitter storm and aroused the writers at Feministe, Alyssa Royce sought to explain why nice guys commit rape, but for whatever reason she sought to exclude the possibility that rapists pass themselves off as nice guys. If we want to empathize with rapists we have to be able to understand, at a visceral level, that they might be enjoying themselves, that it might be the culmination of every wank they’ve had since puberty.

Returning to Mel Greig and Michael Christian, we have to be brutally honest. They might be nice people who got sucked into doing someone else’s dirty work, or they might just enjoy being bullies. We don’t know. Empathy is not sympathy, and if you wish to empathize with the devil, you have to consider the possibility that people do the devil’s work not because they have fallen, but because he has all the good tunes and they like to dance. (emphasis mine)

I Learn So Much from Twitter: Why Marriage Matters

The ever-awesome Dusty Rose over at Tutus and Tiny Hats talks about marriage, practicality and the dodginess of being more-radical-than-thou.

[D]espite Jenn’s insistence that marriage is inherently linked to capitalism,  ”people get married in socialist countries, communist countries, tribal cultures that have no monetary system.”

I think this is a really important distinction. Marriage can definitely be a vehicle for consumerism, but it doesn’t have to be, any more than it has to be a vehicle for sexism. It seems sort of…closed-minded to assume otherwise.

The Space We Need

One of the things it has triggered a lot of thinking about lately is how those of us with fat bodies negotiate our way through the physical spaces of the world.  I got to thinking about just how conscious I am of the space my body takes up, and how I have to negotiate my body in a world that marks me as “abnormal”.  The more I paid attention to it, the more I noticed that almost every aspect of my life is framed around this process of moving my body around in the world.

On a similar (yet more fabulous) note, check out awesome Irish fatshion blogger Haute Proportions! And throw her a ‘like’ over on Facebook while you’re at it.

Surviving the Holidays as Queer People of Colour: Give the Gift of Media

I discovered Saving Face, a film drama-comedy about two lesbian Chinese-American girls navigating family expectations about career and marriage. That film was the closest I had to reflecting the complexities of my identity as a queer person of color who was also an immigrant — another narrative that is also missing from mainstream media.

I remember making my sister watch the film, and noticing afterwards–even though she may not have–how it changed our conversations and relationship for the better. She loved the film so much because she could relate to the immigrant-in-America theme, the plight of the main character, who was torn between following  family tradition and making her own choices. After watching the film, my sister saw my own circumstance in a new light, making her my biggest advocate and ally within my family.

And finally, I rediscovered an oldie-but-essential from Crommunist: You’re Not A Racist, You’re Just Racist

Racism is best understood as the product of ideas, both conscious and unconscious, about other people, and our tendency to try and reduce people to convenient labels (like… oh, I dunno… ‘a racist’). I can certainly understand why people like to use this term, because it allows them to preserve their self-concept of being a good person and scapegoat racist activities as the product of “racists”. Once blame has been assigned in this way, then the speaker can dust her/his hands off and say “it’s not my problem – I’m not a racist.” However, that simply means the problems never get solved, because the only people whose self-concept allows them to brand themselves as being “a racist” are proud of that appellation.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

She Blinded Me With Linkspam

Obama! Marriage! Weed! Lesbians! HELL YEAH!

Oh, America. You lovely, headwrecking country you. You put half the planet through months of nailbiting nerves. And then you come through. I want to give you a great big smooshy kiss, like I was an overbearing aunt and you’re a somewhat bemused kid.

I just heard Housemate moving about the place. So I bounded into the living room where she was sleepily eating cereal. She looked at my impossibly wide grin and said “Oh yes, you’re off to see Girlfriend today yes?” And I said “Yes! And Obama! Marriage! Weed!” and proceeded to explain to her that this morning was the first time ever that marriage equality has won a popular vote in the US. And it won THREE at the same time as re-electing an African American president. Then she started grinning too.

Congrats, America. You ain’t perfect, and you’ve a lot of work to do. But today you did us all proud. You voted for equality. You voted for an inclusive society that values and cares for all its members. You voted for women, for POCs, for queers, for poor (and middle-class!) people. You voted for science and rational discourse and evidence over rhetoric and fearmongering. You voted for cooperation. You voted for body sovereignty. You voted for healthcare.

You went and did some awesome things today, America. Now c’mere and let me give you that great big wet smoochy kiss, why don’t ya?

By the way? THIS is how I’m feeling right now. Care to join me in a happy butt dance?

 

Obama! Marriage! Weed! Lesbians! HELL YEAH!

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?

Kids These Days and marriage equality.

I remember when I thought that civil unions would be fantastic. I was a teenager, freshly out, embarrassingly enthusiastic about all things queerish. This was a little over a decade ago, back when barely any countries recognised same-sex couples. The idea of legal recognition- any recognition- was one I was amazed by. How wonderful would it be to live in a country that acknowledged the existence of same-sex couples?

I no longer think that. Many of the freshly out, embarrassingly enthusiastic queerlets these days couldn’t imagine thinking that either. There’s an assurance and an unspoken confidence that wasn’t there a decade ago.

Kids These Days, as well as a lot of us grown-ups, aren’t happy with half-measures. We’re not happy with second-class recognition. Something has happened in the last decade- something real and pervasive. We don’t ask for recognition anymore. We know that we’re equal, and we demand to have that existing equality recognised.

And that’s one of the best things about the marriage equality campaign. We’ve crossed a tipping point between asking for rights and demanding our existing equality. And society as a whole seems to be largely with us.

How awesome is that?

Kids These Days and marriage equality.

March for Marriage!

I wrote on Saturday about a few concerns I have regarding the marriage equality campaign. The day after I wrote that post, I attended LGBT Noise‘s annual March for Marriage.

I’ve got to say, I was impressed. Not just by the number of people who marched- though there were thousands. Or the palpable enthusiasm and optimism throughout the day. Or by the absolutely lovely support from passers-by. Not that all of those things weren’t impressive.

I was, aside from all those things, impressed by how Noise addressed the very things I had been worrying about. Marriage equality is a campaign with a huge momentum- where better to highlight voices like anti-homophobic bullying group the Butterfly Project? How about this wonderful speech from TENI‘s Leslie Sherlock on trans marriage rights?

What she said.

But enough about that serious malarkey. Today is Monday, and Monday is not for seriousness. So have some pics instead, starting with your loyal blogstress:

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And remember:

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And finally, highlights of the march from LGBT Noise. We give good march!

March for Marriage!

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