Friday, 28 March 2014

Not To Rain On Anyone's Same-Sex Marriage Parade But...

Way back in 2009 and 2010 when I was discussing marriage equality with some left-wingers (such as members of LGBT Labour), their reluctance to listen to any mention of marriage stemmed quite strongly from their belief that I was "undermining" civil partnerships. My attempts to point out civil partnerships were not perfect and did not grant legal equality (on issues I laid out here) were seen as an attack on their current, or future, relationship.

They'd taken civil partnerships to their heart and any criticism of the legal issues was seen as a criticism of their own personal choices. So, as I am about to embark on yet another adventure in being the only miserable one at the gay pride party, I want to make it clear from the start here: I do not begrudge anyone who is going to enter into a marriage under the newly introduced law. I plan to take advantage of the opportunity, partner willing of course, to enter a blessed state of matrimony (blessed by the arms of Thor in case you were wondering ;) ). I wish those getting married every happiness and success. Enjoy yourselves!

However... same-sex marriage is not what I was arguing for back in 2009. As I said here, what we are getting solves only a small percentage of the issues that created the need for something better than civil partnerships in the first place.

Our Government has done marriage equality on the cheap. Stonewall, after they got over the opposition of 10% of their members drowning out the other 90%, have been next to useless in doing anything useful other than cheering from the sidelines. I don't think even today they've realised how rubbish the legislation really is, and it'll probably be another 10 years before they even get around to declaring their opposition to any correction of the failings.

We must continue to fight for a correction to the errors made over the last couple of years and make the same-sex marriage act into something even better. I'm not sure I have the heart for that fight. But I'm principled enough to point out that we are not yet there...

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Feminist Theory Continues To Undermine LGBT Rights

“Those are people, quite often for example lesbians, who feel very strongly that marriage is a 2,000-year-old vehicle for the subjugation of women, and they don’t like it at all. And I think what we have succeeded in doing, certainly with Stonewall stakeholders and our support has continued to rise throughout that period, is to persuade them that even if they don’t want to get married, other people should be able to.”
So said Ben Summerskill, former head of the charity Stonewall, in the recent radio retrospective of LGB rights in the UK "Gay Rights: Tying The Knot?". He was defending that organisations "caution" over same-sex marriage (for which note: not only were the words he used in 2010 less cautious and more "oppositional" but even their behind-the-scenes attempts to convince the Government same-sex marriage wasn't needed to fix issues affecting trans folk were anything but "cautious"). What his statements seem to imply is that in 2010 the freedoms of LGBT people were dependent upon what feminist theory says about the institution of marriage. Yes, Stonewall really did take seriously the idea that a marriage between two women might cause them to subjugate each other and let us not even get started on the evil subjugation of women that might result from two men marrying each other. Thank you Stonewall for persuading feminists to agree to my right to marry, getting their stamp of approval for the Government treating us as citizens worthy of similar rights and protections to other citizens was important to many of us.

I'm very concerned that feminist theory (rather than a genuine concern for the liberty of men, women and intersex people) continues, even 40 years after the first criticisms of its negative influence on LGBT liberty, to subjugate LGBT people's rights to the agenda of a minority of radical feminists.

Further examples of feminist influence on Stonewall, and the way they deal with LGBT rights in the light of this influence, can be found in the post-Summerskill document "Staying Safe Online". Ruth Hunt, the current acting head of Stonewall, starts the document off with this:

Unfortunately, as we’re increasingly aware, the internet has a darker side. Young people are encouraged to develop an overly sexualised view of relationships as a result of the widespread prevalence of pornography and many young people are creating sexual images of themselves.
The document attacks pornography further with the usual attempt to conflate porn with images of child abuse.
Pornography exposes young people to unhealthy, sexualised portrayals of relationships and often portrays unsafe or underage sex 
Attacks on pornography and a sex negative polemics are signs of either fundamentalist religion or feminism. Stonewall has either found God or remains dangerously mislead by an agenda that is opposed to LGBT liberty.

 The debates over the effects of pornography on those who view it and on the possibility of over "sexualisation" of children are not over. Evidence points in both directions and there is a genuine concern that in our attempts to "protect" children we are in danger of undermining their freedom and the freedom of adults to engage in harmless activities (see here)

The rights of women to liberty do not conflict with LGBT rights. Women's liberation is something we should all be fighting for (along with liberation for everyone else too!). But feminism, with its worryingly puritanical and militant outlook on the world, DOES conflict with LGBT people's ability to live the life they want to live. We must oppose sex-negativism and authoritarianism within the LGBT movement before our real opponents get wise and join forces with folks like Stonewall to interfere with our freedom.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Phags For Phelps

Many moons ago I listened to a rather interesting Feast of Fun podcast (haven't listened to them in a long time, I really should give them another go) which featured a discussion between Shirley Phelps-Roper and an OUT magazine journalist who argued she, her family and the Westboro Baptist Church were one of the greatest things to happen to LGBT rights in the USA. Ever.

The argument has become a fairly common one, but no less compelling for that. Fred Phelps' church had become such an extreme caricature of religious hate and had pissed off a wide enough demographic that they'd managed to actually force people to confront their own beliefs and, in some cases, change. 

Just watch one of the two Louis Theroux "documentaries" on the WBC and you'll see their protests receive real anger from passers-by, even those who say things like "I don't agree with the lifestyle either BUT..." 

So with the news of Fred Phelps passing, and further recent news that Shirley Phelps-Roper has been deposed as chief spokesperson, I feel I should pay tribute to the work the Westboro Baptist Church has done in moving hatred of homosexuals away from the "acceptable behaviour" region and to the "batshit crazy" arena.

Thank you Fred, I know that you will never know how much you've helped. But thank you all the same.