So I’m sitting on the couch watching morning TV because I’m sick as, and then a blue sketch image, vaguely resembling ice, flashes up on screen. I can make out the words “sex” and “marriage”, but not until the presenter starts talking do I understand that the scribble on the tip of the iceberg is “same”. Oh, wow, clever metaphor. Who knows what hell lurks underneath, right? Three minutes later, I get a second advertisement, because it’s not enough that I’m reminded once that I’m a secret danger to the fabric of society, no: I have to endure it again.
Great. I already risk homophobia when I step outside the house, go online, watch a TV show or open a book – now I have to get it in the advertisements as well? What happened to government-sponsored political spots about workers’ rights and attempts to flog toothpaste and muesli bars?
(Please note that I despise the words “same sex marriage”: way to invalidate all the binary and non-binary trans folk who are still legally identified as their assigned gender and can’t marry or are legally identified as their gender and still can’t marry. Cis gay, lesbian, bisexual and pansexual couples aren’t the only people to benefit from marriage equality laws, and it’s arguable that marriage is even more important for the protection of trans queers over cis queers, simply because trans queers, especially non-binary or non-medically-transitioning trans queers, have so few protections to begin with. Marriage isn’t the be all and end all, but it’s a start.)
Marriage Alliance have released a scare campaign trying to frighten the Australian populace into continuing to lag behind the Western world in correcting the denial of a basic human right. I mean, come on. The United States, which is hardly the heart of socialism, has legitimised marriage equality across all states. Sure, in Australia we have just about all the protections cis (cis, cis, fucking cis) queers need with regards adoption, IVF, registered civil partnernships and employment, but that’s not actually the point: the point is that queer relationships, cis and trans, are as precious, important, socially constructive and relevant as heterosexual marriage, yet we’re denied the legitimacy the word “marriage” grants to our unions … all the while heterosexual folk are free to marry for three months, divorce, marry again, divorce again and have their relationships considered legitimate despite the fact that marriage is hardly (and thank heavens it isn’t, as I’m all for people being able to divorce and remarry as many times as they wish) the lasting union, in the 21st century, that it once was.
(I’m working on a story that’s largely about the protections non-transitioning non-binary people don’t have. Not that I know anything about that.)
If heterosexual marriage is anything but sacred, what’s the harm in extending the right to a non-sacred marriage to everybody?
Basically: oh, the children, accompanied by murmurings about oh, businesses and oh, families.
(There’s a good break-down of the fears here, although it is a horrifically right-wing publication and their use of scare-quotes is insulting to anyone with a brain.)
The fear is, of course, that marriage legitimises queer relationships, realities and lives: it grants us normality.
A few years ago, in my old job in a big warehouse, I was working with a lady who, as is the usual, asked questions about me and my life. As is the usual, she asked me if I have a boyfriend. I looked at her and said, “No, I don’t have a boyfriend, and I don’t have a girlfriend either,” (trying to convey the point that I’m a single pansexual soul). She looked at me and said something like, “I’m so glad you’re not gay,” before proceeding to give me a tirade on her discomfort with queer people.
I went to my supervisor and asked him if I can please not work with a homophobe on account of being openly queer and not wanting to put up with that shit, then went back to work.
That was bad, I found out a week later, because, according to the company, I should have asked the lady to not say such things to me. (Yes, but I don’t want to be around a woman who thinks I’m vile and wrong and gross, and there’s no reason she can’t work at another end of the warehouse.) I was hauled in to the office and drilled by a chain of three supervisors because, apparently, I’d called this woman a homophobe to others, and she was upset that everyone thought her a homophobe. (That’s right. If I had actually mentioned this incident to anyone, if I had actually called a homophobe a homophobe to anyone but my supervisor, I could have been in trouble. Protections in the workplace, what are they again?) The only thing that saved me was my immediate supervisor, who said that he’d been the one to mention it to someone else, but I still got reprimanded for telling my supervisor in the first place.
By the by, there was no law at the time that prevented my workplace from deciding that a homophobic woman’s distress at being thought a homophobe is more important than my experience of homophobia and not wishing to endure it again. This shit was legal.
Why is marriage equality important? Well, if marriage is available to everyone and treated like a normal thing, people like that woman won’t feel safe enough to open their mouths and voice their bile. People will have to stop assuming that Australia operates on a default straight setting. I will be, over time, safer at work.
Marriage equality doesn’t impact businesses. If they don’t want to hire an openly queer person, they’ll ignore that person’s resume. (Believe me, I know all about this.) The only thing that will happen is that someone will reveal their queer status after hiring and that business, oh my god, will have to not fire that person. (Or find another reason to fire them. Or make the work experience so unpleasant they quit. I know all about this, too.) Again, if marriage equality exists and queer relationships aren’t othered, people will have to keep their homophobia to themselves. What harm happens from creating a world where queerness is ordinary?
(Note here that bisexual and pansexual people don’t get protected from cishet biphobia, cishets’ misunderstanding of pansexuality or monosexual queer biphobia. Have I ever told the story where I explained the definition of “pansexuality” and was accused of bestiality?)
What about family, then? Doesn’t every child have the right to a mother and father?
Sure. Tell that to every child victim of familial abuse. I have a right to a kind and loving sister who doesn’t verbally, emotionally and psychologically abuse me, too. I have a right to parents who are kind and empathetic and don’t struggle with their own internalised homophobia. I have a right to feel safe in the family home, to be the person I am, to be loved as the person I am. What, I don’t have all those things? Right now it is presently legal to deny a child so many of those basic rights; their existence cannot be enforced by any court of law. We can’t successfully protect kids from violence; we don’t protect them from bullying, verbal or emotional abuse. What good is this right here when we fail kids in all the rights that matter? In any case, how do you possibly enforce the so-called right of children to have two heterosexual parents? Or do we look at every single parent and force them into heterosexual wedlock for the children? Do we take a man grieving the death of his wife and force him to marry a woman for the sake of his children? Do we take a woman divorcing an abusive husband and force her to wed some dude so her children can have a father? No, of course not, because we know that will harm children (not to mention the parents).
(It’s a tangent, but I live knowing that the sexual assault I endured isn’t considered sexual assault by any law because I said – after being pressured into it – yes. I live knowing that my former workplace made me feel in the wrong for daring to stand up and say that I don’t want to work with a homophobe. I live knowing that the sister who drove me to contemplate suicide broke no laws. I live knowing that my gender is meaningless. I live knowing that I have few legal protections to ensure the rights I should have, and it is a slap to my face to crow about rights that do nothing to protect children when we can’t even fucking enforce the ones we have in order to protect children and at-risk adults. Don’t fucking talk to me about a child’s right to have a mother and a father, until no child knows what it means to have one’s parent pin them to a wall.)
A child needs a safe home, a safe school, safe family members, safe parents. Gender doesn’t matter, and it’s an insult to everyone who ever had abusive heterosexual parents to even suggest otherwise when one can strip a child of all these things without ever breaking a single law … and a child can have all of these things in a two-father home.
(Never mind the insult to binary and non-binary trans people in the gendered notions of mother and father. A non-binary parent, neither mother nor father, is no less a devoted parent to their child than a cisgender mother. Hell, never mind the insult to my cousin-in-law, who is a devoted stay-at-home father, and together with my cousin, a working mother, they have raised two kids who want for nothing. Why this insistence on outdated and inflexible gender roles?)
But a child might be taught about homosexuality in school, they say, regardless of the parents’ wishes, and that’s … precisely the kind of thing that means I can go to work and mention I’m queer, to children, and get exactly no response. (Cishet adults often don’t understand that I don’t want their I don’t have a problem with gay people speech; I want their cool, now we’ll talk about Magic the Gathering and aggro decks because your sexuality isn’t important speech.) I had a conversation with a child at work, where he started talking about how you can supposedly ID a queer person through body type. I came over, explained that I was queer and it’s offensive to categorise/identify queer people this way, and this child showed a thousand times more decency and maturity than most adults pretend to possess when he apologised to me – a real apology, not a faux apology – and dropped the subject. He’s treated me with kindness ever since. I’ve got nothing but respect for him. So what’s the problem here? That exposure to non-heterosexual people and their realities of being in the world, via legitimising queer relationships, will mean your children will grow up to be decent human beings? Perish the thought.
(Yes, parents, I’m an openly-queer person working at a game shop having conversations with your kids. I do ask people to stop using gay as a pejorative if I catch them at it. My boss has given me permission to do so. Fear me.)
So … if we legitimise queer relationships, if we allow children to be brought up by parents who want kids in order to have them (and are probably as empathetic and kind as heterosexual parents, if not more so, due to the experiences of being queer in a heterosexist country), if we tell our children queer people exist, if workplaces have to employ queer people, we have … oh, a better, more stable society for everybody.
Because I have to ask: what benefit does anyone get from being a homophobe? You’re spewing negativity all the time; you’re raising your children to hate; you’re hurting the people around you at home, work and school; and you’re making society unsafe, unstable and violent for those who don’t fit your narrow definition of how to be human. You risk losing your connection with your children when they step out into the real world, discover that queer people are just people, and begin to roll their eyes when you give voice to your narrow-minded bile. How can it make you happy to wake up in the morning and worry about two men tying the knot? I’ll grant that marriage equality delegitimises what you say and feel, and it takes away that selfish pride you take in considering your lives and loves and relationships more special and important (a pride and belief not backed up by psychological research). Maybe you should be worried about that: it shows you for the arsehole you are.
It also makes it harder for you to spew hate, and that’s the real problem, isn’t it?
Marriage equality isn’t just about two queer women marrying. As an aromantic queer, I couldn’t give a shit about getting married. I sure as fuck want my queer mates to get married, but for me, personally? Nah. I might meet the person who makes me change my mind, but I’m happy as a single queer right now. Figuring me out is hard enough.
Marriage equality is more than marriage, though. It is about legitimising (cis, cis, fucking cis) queerness, and consequently making the world a safer place in which to be (cis, cis, fucking cis) queer. It is the final nail in the coffin to the idea that (cis, cis, fucking cis) queerness is something other, outside, unusual, different. It grants us societal normality by making it that much harder for narrow-minded bigots to spew their hate: it is a protection, in fact, that laws can’t give us, given that a great deal of homophobia (which is a targeted form of abuse) actually isn’t illegal. When a man at the railway station can scream that I’m an ugly dyke without any real legal consequences (the difference between something being illegal and that illegality being enforced) as I get on the train, I need marriage equality. When it’s not illegal to say a great many homophobic things to me, including the many things cishets don’t see as homophobic that still make me cry – like the times I’ve been told I shouldn’t go into female change rooms because I’m attracted to women – I need something to normalise my (assumed cis) identity, experiences and way of being in the world.
I need marriage equality so I can go about my life with just a little bit more safety (as long as I’m assumed to be cis).
Marriage Alliance is a bunch of people wanting to deny other people not only equal rights but also the chance of a future safer society in order to hold on to the illusion that they’re not arseholes making the world unsafe for anyone but cishets.
They’re frightened, pathetic wankers.
And our spineless government has given them the right to invade our living rooms spewing their hate for a diverse, safe Australian society.
I need marriage equality to shut these wankers up.