Thursday, 30 May 2013

The cowardice of being an "oppressed" majority.

Today I learned on Twitter, through @tauriqmoosa (thanks, Tauriq), about an intriguing group of UK campaigners.  Depending upon your viewpoint, you might find them controversial, challenging, psychologically and anthropologically fascinating, hilarious, infuriating... or embarrassing.  Or possibly all of these things, actually.  Check them out:

Now, if you react as I did you're probably going to spend ten minutes convinced this has to be a parody.  Part of me still hopes that might prove to be the case (and if so, I will confess myself taken in but take comfort in the fact that I have not been the only one), but I don't really think it's likely.  Based on the balance of what they're saying on their site, combined with their Twitter feed, I think they're serious.

The group's aims, as laid out on their page, are informative:

Personally I can't help finding this immensely funny at the same time as being revolted by it (and as I reread this I find myself unsure again that I don't think it's a deliberate joke), but I'm amused rather against my will and I can certainly understand it if other people are not.

I think my favourite bit may be that these lunatics reckon there is a need to "raise awareness of the heterosexual part of society and make sure ... their views are heard".  This in a world where the default assumption of heterosexuality is so ingrained that a US basketball player made international headlines when he came out as gay earlier this year.  It's funny, but it's also sort of scary.  There are straight people out there who actually believe their voices are drowned out by those of gay people; this is the sort of self-deception of which humans are capable when we try to reconcile nasty, bigoted views with our wish to think well of ourselves.

More than anything, I am reminded by this of the ludicrous complaints of oppression so frequently made by members of the powerful religions.  Christians in the USA whose rights to practise their faith is protected by law but who complain bitterly that they are persecuted while their collective voice is enough to keep gay people from marrying in all but 12* states, and to make it practically impossible for a non-Christian to become President; Muslims who complain that they are victimised when the right they think they have to treat women like livestock is opposed.

There is one sense in which people like those behind the "Straight Pride" movement (I still can't quite believe this is a thing, but it seems to be sincere) could be said to be helping.  Gay people seeking equality already have the support of many straight people, a fact that regularly makes me proud to think that - however far we still have to go in many areas - we humans are, in the broad sweep of things, becoming more compassionate, more given to choosing compassionate secular values over superstitious dogma, and more ethical.  I think people like the members of "Straight Pride" can serve to remind us that the fight against homophobic bigotry is not yet over - in fact, if this does eventually prove to be a hoax, I suspect it will be one perpetrated with precisely this aim in mind.  It may also sting more straight people into openly, actively supporting gay rights - I know I for one would never want anybody to imagine for a moment that the Straight Rights campaigners represent anything I want any part of.

I've been tweeting about this today, and more than one person has said they're reluctant to give such a loathsome movement a platform by publicly opposing it.  People have every right to make that decision for themselves, of course, but for what it's worth my own opinion is that this group's claims to being oppressed are so transparently nonsensical that I don't see much reason to fear we might inadvertently give them legitimacy.  They're not only bigots, they're cowards and hypocrites too; I could allow a tiny, grudging measure of respect for these people if they were at least honest about their obvious homophobia (terms like "heterosexualy [sic] normal" are a dead giveaway, guys).  But by hiding behind this ludicrous fa├žade of oppression they make themselves contemptible not only for their views but also for their cowardice.  I think they can only galvanise the GLBT movement, so far as they can have any effect at all on a societal change that has gained such momentum over the last couple of decades - and for that I thank them.

*Actually not quite that simple, but I don't think my point is affected.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Why marriage equality will make the institution of marriage MORE, not less, meaningful - and in a far better way.

Yesterday I had a long conversation with a friend, stemming from the ongoing debate in the UK and elsewhere about marriage equality, about marriage as an institution.  He and I both support the right of gay couples to marry if they wish, but we both confessed that we couldn't really understand why anybody - of any sexuality - would wish to marry.

This has long been the case for me.  Although I understand that marriage is important to many people, and therefore support the right of any couple to enter into it regardless of their respective sexes or genders on principles of basic equality, it's not an impulse that seems to exist in me.  I'm twenty-nine now, and many of my friends and contemporaries are married... but I don't really understand why they've bothered.  I've lived with my partner for nearly six years now, and virtually nothing would change if we decided to marry; I wouldn't even need a new passport since I wouldn't change my name.  If we wanted to have kids that would make being married a more sensible financial and legal choice for us, but even that, I think, is more an argument in favour of amending the UK's rather outdated laws than in favour of marriage.

Many opponents to marriage equality argue that allowing gay people to marry will render the institution of marriage meaningless.  In fact, I suspect that the opposite might be true.  I think marriage - at least in the UK and  other parts of Europe - already IS pretty meaningless; certainly it's no longer necessary for purposes of respectability, or for recognition as a couple.  And I consider that loss of meaning to be a good thing; it's good that I am not the property of my partner, that our sex life does not require a stamp of approval from the church, that my legal rights are not different to those of my (male) partner.  But when true equality is achieved in the UK (and it will be, although I predict it'll take us a while to work out all the kinks resulting from the current, rather strange, laws) I can see marriage regaining some of its lost meaning - but in an entirely new and positive way.

Marriage could be reborn as a TRUE symbol of love - and also of acceptance, equality and freedom.  Purified of the taints of religious bigotry, of outmoded notions of respectability surrounding sex, and of the hangover of gender inequality that cannot but be present in an institution requiring that participants be of particular sexes, it could become meaningful in a positive way for the first time, arguably, ever.  As marriage in the UK currently exists, I feel not the smallest desire to enter into it; in fact, the more I think about its history, its archaic, exclusionary and arbitrary messages about what is and is not "acceptable" to society, and its ongoing, inbuilt homophobia and sexism, the more actively opposed I become to the idea.

But when any consenting adult can marry any other consenting adult, and when the only motivation to do so is love, then I will consider that an institution I can support, and perhaps even want to be a part of.  Then it will carry meaning that is truly deserving of our protection.