In the runup to today’s election (and fine, okay, that one you USians are having next year that I’m already tired of hearing about), I’ve seen a lot of you write eloquently about why you refuse to vote, and I get it: voting is flawed. Representative democracy is too. If you’re looking for a complete overhaul of the way that we construct our society or run our economy, this election is unlikely to bring you the change you need.
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.
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.
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?
- Marriage equality passes in Maryland and Maine, ahead in Washington (dailykos.com)
- Marriage Equality Wins For The First (And Second) Time In Maine And Maryland (buzzfeed.com)
- A Potentially Historic Day for Marriage Equality and Marijuana (elections.firedoglake.com)
- Exit Poll Shows Latino Voters Go Big for Marriage Equality (advocate.com)
- President Obama Responds To Bullied 10-Year-Old With Two Dads (thinkprogress.org)
- Obama’s Reelection Signals Rise Of New America (huffingtonpost.com)
I get why people think those things. I understand that my vote is only one among millions, and I understand that by voting I am cooperating with a fundamentally imperfect and broken system. But, you know what? I’d rather have a somewhat broken system than one that’s completely shattered.
The pursuit of perfection is a wonderful thing. It really is. It’s a wonderful thing, until the moment that the pursuit of perfection gets in the way of pursuing the slightly better imperfections that might let us get by. The bandages and stitches that might just let us limp along in a way that doesn’t screw us up too badly. Sure, it’s a let-down. Sure, it’s not perfect and it never will be. There’ll always be fundamental problems with our current system.
But right now, the question isn’t whether you would rather our current system or one which is completely different. The question is whether you would rather let our current system to continue recklessly careening downhill without even the minor checks which we allow it, or whether you can be bothered to help steer it in a slightly different direction which we might just be able to live with.
It’s not pretty. It’s not nice. It’s not a satisfying choice. But it’s the choice we’ve got, it’s the small thing that we can do. And if you don’t do it, you waive absolutely your right to claim innocence for anything the government does for the next half-decade.