Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Gays Don't Want Marriage, Apparently

It's a very strange feeling to be on the other side of the world (Taiwan) while your home country debates the future of your rights as a human being. That's how I am experiencing the debate over gay marriage that has been bouncing around the Web and British mainstream media over the last week or so. The fact stands that we will almost certainly get the law passed by this end of this parliamentary term in 2015, so whoop-de-do, huzzah and hooray! But this hasn't stopped those opposed to me being able to marry the person I want to spend the rest of my life with let out one last whimper as they enter the beginning of the end of their argument.

I have been openly gay to my friends and family throughout my adult life. I suppose I am one of the lucky generation that has been able to grow up realistically presuming to not be on the receiving end of abuse and expecting the love and support of those around them, regardless of their sexuality. In fact, in over six years of being out, I have never received any abuse or even negative comments about my sexuality from a single person I have met - let alone family members. Of course I know I am one of the lucky ones and that young, queer kids still have a hard time - but I think I can safely say the trend is positive. We no longer need to grow up on the periphery of culture, we can be at its heart.

Maybe it is because I have been protected in my homophobia-free bubble that I was baffled to read about the Tori MP David Davis say that parents would prefer their children not to be gay because of the fact they would not have grandchildren. Now he may see his words as a fair comment, but I can guarantee a kid, somewhere, will read that and think twice about coming out and living an open life with the rest of their family. I know it would have affected me.

I'm also baffled to hear caller after caller on this week's Any Answers of Radio 4 (the sister programme to the current-events panel show, Any Questions) give reason after reason why I shouldn't be able to marry another man.

Listen to the episode here.

According to one of the callers, a number of homosexuals have said it is unnecessary, that civil partnerships are enough and that there is "no clamour for a redefinition of marriage from the homosexual community."

Firstly, the thing that struck me first was her use of the term "homosexual community". I'm as proud and happy of being gay as anyone in my position, but I have never felt like part of a homosexual, gay or queer community. My closest friends are people I have spent time working, studying or travelling with. I have at no point chosen to be part of a group because I happen to share a sexual preference with them, the idea of it seems strange to me. Every now and again I will go to a gay bar but these are by no means my main haunts. When I used to live in Manchester I was more likely to be seen at the indie bar, 5th Avenue than the gay village down the road.

I think this is normal for my generation of young, gay people. We have not needed places to escape to because of society not accepting us and therefore haven't had the need for a gay network. So I found it distinctly strange that this woman on Radio 4 was clumping my rights under the umbrella of a community with which I struggle to identify.

Secondly, where is this clamour from the gay community that is so conspicuous due to its absence? Every now and again the Prime Minister will reiterate that he wants gay marriage to go through and there will be a few articles in newspapers supporting him and a handful with loud voices that will be opposed, but where are the big public figures pushing for this? Where are the comedians, politicians  business people, broadcasters or any of the many public, gay figures that we have in this country that will correct people like the woman on Any Answers? I want someone to confirm that yes, we do want to have marriage and no, equal but different civil partnerships are not enough! If there are people who have been fighting this fight on my behalf, then please set me straight (no pun intended).

It may be rather hypocritical of me to say that I don't feel like part of the gay community but in the same blog lament the lack of a community standing up for my rights. But maybe this easy road that I and many in my age group have been treading, had led us to be complacent and believe that this is not worth fighting for.

The lady on Any Answers mentioned that her husband is buried somewhere with the words "loving husband" engraved on his tombstone. As the law stands, no matter how long I have been in a civil partnership with the man I chose to build a life with, I will not have the option of putting that on my grave. I have been raised in a society where couples mark their commitment through marriage. Regardless as to what social group a woman on the radio places me into, I just want the right to do the same.


Brian Farrey said...

This past election season, the Republican party in the US tried to make marriage equality a major issue in the hope of galvanizing their ultra-conservative base. It backfired in a major way. The Democrats, conversely, came out in support of equal rights for LGBT (for the first time in history, I might add) and it was clear a majority of the country supported this.

You probably know this already. My point is that Great Britain and, indeed, most of Europe has always been more progressive than the US on these matters and I think any effort to suppress marriage equality is going to backfire there just as it did here. The statistics are clear: the majority of those opposed to marriage equality are old and will be dead soon. The majority of those who support it are young and will be politically active for a long time to come.

Hang tight, Jazza. Equality is coming to the UK, as I believe it's coming to the US. And with people like you continuing to speak up and speak out, that day will come sooner than later.

Eline Z said...

I remember having just turned 11 and coming home from school one afternoon. The TV was on and my mum was going round the house doing whatever she was doing (cleaning, probably) and me and my little sister were playing or colouring or something similar. At one moment my mum stopped what she was doing to watch the TV and so I asked her why and it was a gay couple getting married. This was April 1, 2001. I remember not really understanding the significance, because much like you, I grew up in an accepting environment. My parents told me that before that day people of the same sex weren't allowed to get married, and that this was a step forward.

As I said, I grew up in an environment where being gay wasn't a big issue, in a country where being gay wasn't a big issue as far as I knew (The Netherlands if you hadn't guessed that yet) so I just thought 'oh how silly people of the same sex couldn't get married before, but luckily that is fixed now' and I went on with my life.

Not until the last couple of years when same sex marriage has been a hot topic in the US and (less to my knowledge) the UK, have I ever really paid any attention to the issue. At some point I became aware that other countries did not have same sex marriage (which I was quite frankly shocked to find out about) but until I started reading about it on the internet, I always thought it was an issue they just hadn't got round to, but surely that would happen soon.

We're a couple years further now, and while I read up on the subject a lot and learned a lot about different cultures, I can't really wrap my mind around the fact that it's STILL not legal. I think of the USA and the UK as modern countries, but then they pull shit like this which proves that they're NOT. Once again, having grown up in the environment that I have I do not see how someone could be against same sex marriage, and it's totally strange to me how it's not legal in at least other first world countries.

I am not saying the Netherlands is perfect. There are still people against gay marriage, but of people of Dutch descent it is such a small percentage that they aren't really taken serious by anyone. The bigger problem we have is acceptance amongst minorities such as people from Turkish and Moroccan descent. That said, the hate crimes that do still occur sometimes, 86% of them are committed by people from Dutch descent, so a very small group of people is responsible for the vast majority of the violence.

Anyway, overall I think the Netherlands are heading in the right direction and I have no doubts that the UK and the USA will eventually follow.
From an outside perspective it's just frustrating to see things moving so incredibly slowly.