Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Mea Culpa: I Was Wrong On #EqualMarriage

I'm not a "radical queer". Oh I had pretensions in my youth but, ultimately, I'm too lazy to be a radical queer. And, let's face it, I've been in a monogamous relationship with the man I love for 10 years, living in domestic bliss with a dog, a bearded dragon and plans for a wedding. I'm about as radical as the man who chooses to repaint his house in a slightly different colour of beige.

I didn't choose to make marriage equality "my thing". I didn't go looking for an issue to get a bee in my bonnet over. Marriage equality sort of just fell into my lap. Unwanted but insistent. There I was, a happy 21 year old working weekdays and trolling down Old Compton Street on the weekends, and suddenly people started getting all excited about civil partnerships. I couldn't understand it. That's not equality you dimwits, my less than tactful inner monologue said, that's just crumbs to keep you quiet. I couldn't comprehend the fact no one else, other than folks like Peter Tatchell, could see what was happening. All my gay mates were beside themselves with glee and the media was lapping it all up, and I was sitting grumpily in a corner wondering if everyone had lost their mind. I was naive.

I was naive to one think that LGBT politicians would stand up for what was right rather than do deals behind the scenes. I was also naive to believe that most LGBT people had the ability to see things more clearly than most other people. I stupidly had this odd notion LGBT had more common sense than Joe Public. Which probably in itself proves we don't.

At the same time I fell deeply in love. My connections with the gay scene dwindled as my other half and I disappeared into our own little romance. Safely out of touch with the general lack of excitement of LGBT people for it, I started to argue for marriage equality.

There was a genuine injustice to be corrected. Civil partnerships were not equality, though they served a purpose, and I was not going to just allow that to be forgotten. I came up against a brick wall when it came to LGBT politicians and organisations who seemed to think I was completely mad. Marriage? Why ever would we need that? Labour, in particular, seemed unable to grasp the concept that their beloved civil partnerships may not have been perfect. And that just spurred me on. I'd always, in my younger days, been open to radical queer theory, but when I encountered arguments from that perspective against marriage equality (that it would serve to neuter our sexual expression, for conformity on to us etc.) I dismissed them as just more lefty incomprehension of the injustice I saw.

I admit I never really wanted marriage equality. I had bigger dreams. But the rejection I got from all I brought up the subject with (a lot of people!) turned my belief in equal marriage from a principle into an obsession. And soon I found others who actually did share my views and eventually they reached the right people and here we are 9 years later with same-sex marriage.

And now the chance to rest and see if what we have created is good. And I do not think it is. Partly that is because it isn't equal marriage. Same-sex marriage is yet another messy compromise and, in the same way as happened with civil partnerships, most people refuse to acknowledge that fact. We failed here in England and Wales to get marriage equality.

Mostly though, now I feel the fight has reached a stalemate (I doubt the changes we need to fix same-sex marriage will come about any time soon), I look upon what has been created and shake my head with shame.

This was meant to be a liberation. Same-sex couples could marry and enjoy the same benefits as opposite-sex ones. We could choose our futures and live our lives as we wished, whether that was through a marriage or by fucking our brains out with a different guy every night. Suddenly we'd have the right not to have to conform to any one culture. Conservative gays and radical gays and all those in between finally had the right to be themselves. How stupid was I hey?

Instead a new conformity seems to be forming around a conservative homosexuality (trans folks need not apply), I realise this was happening before 2014 but I was too single-mindedly obsessing over equal marriage to notice. Through chats with others about my opposition to many of Stonewall's latest prudish initiatives and my issues with how gay couples have gone from pariahs to Disney-fied paragons of virtue on TV I realise same-sex marriage has helped shore up the more conservative outlook of some LGBT people. It plays into the hands of those who wish to demean sexually active teenagers, who wish to prudishly oppose even partial nudity and who wish to close bathhouses and "clean up" the gay scene. Now I know those people weren't in this fight from the beginning. I know many of these folks didn't even think about marriage equality until the bandwagon was practically over the finish line. They were the very people, in some cases literally, who dismissed my questions and arguments about marriage equality pre-2010.  But... now I've supported giving them a weapon with which to craft a new narrative of clean-cut, prudish homosexuality. I've supported giving them a new rod with which they can beat those who don't conform. I should have seen what they'd do with even this slight amount of freedom. And I didn't.

And I was wrong not to see this. Foolish. Naive. I'm angry now to know that, in years to come, pain will be caused to those who don't conform because of something I supported. Angry that now emboldened elements will up their fight to desexualise, normalise and "sanitise" others.

This isn't what I hoped for. This isn't the freedom I signed up to. And I just don't know how it can be made right.

I still think fighting for equal marriage was right in principle. But the consequences... I should've seen them coming.

1 comment:

Andrew Hickey said...

You were *not* wrong. Those people *were* wrong back then when they didn't want same-sex marriage, and they *are* wrong now that they are using it as a stick to beat same-sex-attracted people who don't fit into their little boxes.

Yes, we handed them another stick. But they already had hundreds of them to choose from. It won't make any material difference to their rhetoric or goals. But it will make a huge difference to millions of people who can now get married.

ANY incremental change can be used in this way -- it's no different from "the buggers are legal now, what more are they after?" -- but incremental changes are still worthwhile.

The existence of Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and Barack Obama doesn't mean it was wrong to give black people the vote.