I don’t want same sex marriage (confessions of a right-wing Greens member)
I don’t want same sex marriage. I support same sex marriage. It took me a while to make sense of this, so I’m writing it down.
I think that Gay Rights (Sorry, Gay and Lesbian rights. I mean LGB rights. I mean LGBT rights. I mean LBGTQI+ rights. I mean, I’m fed up with trying to keep my dictionary up to date. I support same sex marriage. I don’t support political correctness.) have come a long way since the 1980s. As a young boy who thought it might be really good to put on a dress (and perhaps escape the tyranny of ‘boys don’t cry’), I spent the 1980s being terrified.
If I had actually put on a dress, then I was pretty convinced that my father would have found out and killed me. If I’d somehow managed to keep that a secret, then all I had to worry about was encountering a group of bored adolescent boys. “Tranny bashing” was very real, and it was treated by society as ‘a rather distasteful hobby, if you’re going to do it, please have the decency not to talk about it’. Had I been beaten to death, or drowned, or stabbed, there’s a very real chance that the police would not have investigated.
I look at men wearing dresses (let’s admit it, the political correctness ship has sailed) and my instincts scream “For God’s sake, get out of sight, put on some normal-looking clothes and you Might Not Get Killed!” But they do it, and they don’t get killed and every time they don’t get killed, I feel a sense of relief and gratitude. But I was never really part of the LGBTQWERTY community and I never really got used to it. (I remember a gay man telling me: “Never get into a fight with a tranny. They get a lot of practice.” Given my slight frame and terrible performance in school sport, ‘not being a tranny’ seemed to be the only viable option.)
Two years ago, a really valued friend told me that he was gay, and that he had a partner, they’d been together for years, and he was frustrated that they couldn’t get married. My thought was “Nobody’s beaten you to death, take the win and be happy about it.” What I said was “In my mind, you are married, and the law can go to hell.” There are three reasons why I said that:
- It was true (this always helps)
- I rather enjoy saying that things can go to hell, especially when I don’t get hit for saying it
- I sometimes make an effort not to be cruel to my most valued friends
He seemed to like hearing that, but I felt a bit uncomfortable. I tend to think that it’s good to respect the law — there’s a lot of ‘not getting killed’ that I associate with having a strong legal system.
I think the problem with kids these days is that they seem to think that ‘not being killed’ is a right, instead of a privilege. I also remember being young, and that the problem with the older generation was that they seemed to think we should be grateful for what we had, instead of trying to make it better. Sometimes, I think that the job of the old people is to protect what we have, and the job of the young people is to try to get more.
The problem with young people is that when they want things, they seem insistent on pointing at the thing they want, and screaming while waiting for someone to give it to them. (This was definitely true for both of my kids when they were two years old. I’m starting to suspect that it becomes less true over time; I’m not clear on how long the process takes.)
When my kids were toddlers, I resolved this issue by working out whether they should have the thing they were screaming about, and then handing it over as gracefully as I could manage. If I was feeling especially virtuous, I might try to get them to say ‘please’ or otherwise demonstrate good manners along the way. In general, they could play with anything they wanted, so long as it wasn’t going to hurt them, or damage something valuable.
Assuming that’s a good way of handling things, the question becomes “Is same sex marriage something we should stop the kids from playing with?”
It’s not going to change how many boys put on dresses. It’s definitely not going to change how many girls put on trousers. It’s not going change how many boys kiss boys, or how many girls kiss girls. Those ships have sailed.
Stopping same sex marriage is not going to stop them from living together, or from adopting children, or abandoning God. Those ships have also sailed.
It is going to stop them from being able to make funeral arrangements when their partner dies (not every time, but with a frightening lack of predictability). It is going to complicate legal issues around medical care, and it’s going to be just plain unpleasant and uncomfortable. It’s going to mean that if they say “This is my husband” or “This is my wife” it’s going to hurt. And if they don’t say it, that’s going to hurt too.
All in all, I think the kids will be happier if they get to have same sex marriage, and it’s not going to make life any more dangerous for them. But what about marriage? Is marriage a priceless crystal heirloom being juggled above a tiled floor?
Let’s face the truth about marriage: it’s a battered old football that has been kicked so many times that it’s hard to tell why anybody wants to touch it at all. Marriages fall apart all the time. In the olden days, you had to murder your spouse to get out; these days, they get divorced instead. It’s easier to get out of a marriage these days, and marriages are ending early a lot more often (this is bad). But a lot less people are getting murdered (this is more important).
Why do same sex couples want to get married? Why do different sex couples want to get married? I don’t really know, but I know that if I was separated from Wife 2.0, I would be heartbroken. And if she had died and someone wanted to overrule me about the funeral, I would probably turn feral.
Nobody can explain why they love football, and nobody can explain why they love marriage. The invention of Australian rules football didn’t ruin rugby, and it didn’t ruin soccer, and somehow all of these things manage to be called ‘football’ at the same time. There will always be marriage, and there will always be football, and there will always be a bunch of idiots who are doing something different and using the same word for it.
Because a Jewish marriage isn’t the same as a Buddhist marriage or a Catholic marriage or an Icelandic marriage or an Anglican marriage or an Islamic marriage. Same sex marriages aren’t going to be the same either. Marriage is tough — if it can’t be destroyed by droit de signeur (a particularly awful English law where the local lord got to spend the wedding night with every local bride) then it’s not going to be destroyed by same sex marriage either.
So, looking at it, I have no reason to oppose same sex marriage. But there’s a difference between ‘not opposing’ something and ‘supporting’ something. I support same sex marriage. Why is that?
Because nobody is going to be happy — either the people who want same sex marriage are going to be unhappy, or the people who oppose same sex marriage are going to be unhappy.
If same sex marriage remains illegal, then same sex couples are going to be reminded every time they talk to anyone about their relationship that they’re not married. They’re also going to suffer at the most painful moments of their lives because they could lose control of important legal processes.
If same sex marriage is recognized, then an idea that they really love is going to be diminished. That can be extremely painful, and they may be reminded of it from time to time.
“Every day” seems much worse than “sometimes” to me. “Losing control of important legal processes in relation to the person you love most in the world” seems much worse than “Sharing a precious idea with people you don’t trust.” I support same sex marriage because I think that people are more important than ideas. The difference is big enough to me that I’m going to pick a side.
I’m not going to be bullied into political correctness by either side of this debate. The people who want to control ideas about how we communicate can learn that it’s OK when others refuse to learn the Queer Alphabet. And the people who want to control ideas about marriage can learn that it’s OK when others fall in love and want to make a commitment to each other.
So I support marriage equality. If nothing else, then because no matter how loud and annoying and frustrating my kids can be, I want them to know that I love them. Sometimes, loving someone is painful or inconvenient. But it’s always worthwhile. Let’s make an effort not to be cruel, and to value each other as friends.