Friday, 8 February 2013

The "LGBT People Don't Want This" Argument Against #EqualMarriage Is Getting Really Old

Of all the arguments against marriage equality I've encountered the two most tiresome are very closely related. We have the "LGBT people don't want to get married" argument (often backed up with historic examples of queer radicalism) and, worse, the "LGBT people shouldn't want to get married (because I thought they were cool)" argument.

Both have been used yesterday in two newspaper comment pieces and I think it really is time we put this one to bed.

Some LGBT people don't want to get married. I'm not just talking about individuals who have decided it just isn't for them either. I've encountered many people who oppose the very concept of marriage. You can see an example of LGBT opposition here. The range of opinions of opposing equal marriage among LGBT people go from sharing the same beliefs as the Coalition for Marriage (complementary nature of marriage etc.) through a sense of unease at the hate this might stir up and all the way down to those some might describe as "radical queers" who think heteronormative institutions are a crime against humanity (I may have exaggerated somewhat there).

So I'm not pretending that there is not opposition to marriage and marriage equality from LGBT people. But I think it is clear that this is, at best, a minority position. A recent Stonewall/YouGov poll found 91% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the UK support marriage equality. Now, to be fair, it was proposed by Stonewall and as I'm harsh on polls commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage so take that figure with a pinch of salt but I think it is pretty clearly a majority in favour. This doesn't stop some trying to portray things differently.
I don’t think many people want gay marriage. I even doubt that the majority of gays do. Indeed, ComRes asked gays and lesbians whether they would consider entering into a gay marriage: only 31 per cent said they would. For all the noise created by campaigners, it’s not the burning issue David Cameron thinks it is.
Numbers wishing to get married do not equate to levels of support for having the option. Really unbalanced to mention that poll without the YouGov findings too.

But messing around with the numbers is a game people play in arguments all the time so this move is hardly surprising. But what is annoying is those bemoaning the fact LGBT aren't like they used to be (in said persons own rather narrow view of what LGBT people "used to be"). Brendan O'Neill has taken that particular route today in the Telegraph. For him all of our history is just one big "F*** you" to heteronormativity and marriage in particular.

It glosses over the fact that those early gay radicals were not remotely interested in getting married, or in winning equality, the only thing that today's super-square gay campaigners and their cheerleaders go on about. The Stonewall radicals wanted liberation, not equality, and they wanted to destroy marriage, not buy into it. The Gay Liberation Front that emerged out of the Stonewall riot insisted that "complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished".
Well I hate to point this out but... our "early gay radicals" had a few more pressing matters to deal with than fighting for marriage equality. Just having sex was a crime, associating with like-minded people was difficult and often dangerous and your home or job might be at risk if anyone found out about your sexuality or gender. Overcoming those hurdles to a very basic existence required determination (and quite a lot of bravery). So yes, sorry if they didn't spend their time running up and down screaming about marriage equality   so that we might look back and say "Oh that is what this whole thing has been about!" now. And yes some were deeply against the concept too, as they are today.

But the idea that there were not people seeking to marry in our past is, to be frank, quite ridiculous. There are examples here and there of same-sex couples considering themselves "married" throughout the 19th and early 20th century but even in the more modern Stonewall-era we had the Metropolitan Community Church attempting to marry people as early as 1969 and there are plenty of other examples in the USA from then on. Here in the UK we had OUTRAGE! (and let us face it, they were the poster boys and girls for "radical queers") in 1992 seeking the freedom to marry. This attempt to portray the fight for marriage equality as some completely unexpected very recent turn of events is completely without merit. Absolutely it was not at the forefront of LGBT rights until recently but it was there for quite some time.

Suzanne Moore has the other flavour of the argument in which she is unhappy that LGBT people aren't as much as fun as she would like. Oh she is careful to be supportive of marriage equality but suggests marriage will make gay men boring and they'll start acting like the oppressive husbands and oppressed wives she imagines inhabit all marriages. Ignoring that not all marriages are like that, it is also highly unlikely that such gender politics will affect same-sex marriages. Sigh. Not all LGBT people can, or want to, be "fabulous" and not all LGBT will get married. Those who wish to be non-conformists are free to non-conform and, if we get equal marriage, will be able to properly CHOOSE to non-conform unlike nowadays when we are all rebels, outcasts and cool people by default. What is more dull than that?

Peter Tatchell is the single most recognised "radical" human rights campaigner out there. No conservative middle-class gay man him. And he admits marriage isn't for him, but unlike many he understands that what is important is letting people have the choice rather than to dictate that they live their lives only in the way you want them to. I just wish others would get that too.

1 comment:

Laurence Boyce said...

Everything Brendan O'Neill says is the most unbelievable predictable contrarian bollocks. He calls himself a "Marxist" as a precursor to promoting an ultra-conservative line every single time. So early gay radicals were against marriage which means we should be too. Great argument Brendan. You can always count on Brendan to grovel before established power while posing as the "true radical." What a cowardly piece of detritus he is.