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”