Posts Tagged ‘lgbt’

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Traditional Marriage (revised edition)

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2013 by Miche Tagged: , , ,

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In the debate – or what passes for debate – about marriage equality, on both sides of the Irish border, a lot of breath is being wasted in re-enactments of civil liberties battles already won and lost. Some of the opponents of marriage reform are opposed to homosexuality itself, and would like to turn back the clock to a time when gay people had the decency to live out their lives in fear, shame and concealment, so that the rest of the world could pretend they weren’t there.

Those people can’t really be argued with in any constructive way. As soon as you try, they whizz about like Daleks shouting <LEV-IT-I-CUS!> or <AD-AM-AND-STEEEEEEVE!> and you just have to walk away.

They will never be persuaded. But they can be outvoted. And to do that, we might well need the help of what I’ll call the sympathetic objectors – the people whose views might be expressed thus:

I have no quarrel with gay people. I totally accept that your sexuality is different from mine. I respect your right to live your life, and love who you love, and I oppose discrimination against you. But I think it’s a step too far to ask for a redefinition of marriage: the centuries-old institution of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

If that’s you, I have some observations to make. They’re not original, but they might be worth considering.

When people talk of “traditional marriage” they are, I think, talking of a bond freely entered into by two people who are equals. That’s actually a very modern idea.

For centuries, in the great institution of traditional marriage, a husband became the possessor of his wife’s property. The line in the marriage vows: “With all my worldly goods I thee endow” was a monstrous hypocrisy. A wife had her paraphernalia – her clothes and her jewellery and various bits and bobs that she could dispose of as she saw fit – but that was all.

Indeed, for centuries, in the great institution of traditional marriage, a husband was the possessor of his wife and any children. He could SELL THEM.

For centuries, in the great institution of traditional marriage, it was almost impossible to escape from a marriage that had broken down. A woman who fled from an intolerable marriage could not hope to have custody of her children.

All of those things have changed. And the trend has always been towards greater justice, equality, fairness. Society’s norms and expectations change faster than institutions can keep up. But every now and then those institutions are revised, reformed, redefined to bring them in line with what people want, need and expect.

So. Yes, extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples is a significant reform. But not the first or the greatest. Just another step in the right direction.

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Articles

Flaunting it

In Life & Stuff on June 17, 2012 by Miche Tagged: ,

“They’re out on the streets! …Flaunting! Flaunting this deviant practice!… We’re coming down with gay parades, for goodness’ sake.”

I’m not going to go off on a rant about Lord Maginnis’s Radio Ulster appearances lately. The fallacy of his “rung of the ladder” argument is obvious, as is the hypocrisy of saying “I respect…” a group of people he repeatedly called “deviant” and “unnatural.” If there’s a coherent case to make that marriage equality would undermine civil life, he was unable to present it. I just want to say a word or two about flaunting.

"Muppets" at the marriage equality march, Dublin 2011

I’ve just been to Tesco (don’t judge me). There were lots of different-sex couples doing their shopping, bickering gently about which cereal to get, giving their kids a ride in a trolley, one couple absent-mindedly holding hands as they looked at televisions. Heterosexual and not caring who knows it. Is that “flaunting?”

Sit down round a table with a group of men who don’t know each other well, and within ten minutes each will have revealed his orientation. He’ll mention his wife or girlfriend, comment on the shaggability of a female pop star, or make sure his admiration of some footballer is not misconstrued: “I bloody love him – not in that way, like!” There may be an element of insecurity sometimes – a need to assert masculinity, which is erroneously equated with heterosexuality – but mostly it’s just what happens when people talk. We reveal things about our lives, looking for common interests and common ground. Our partners and our orientation are likely to be revealed unless we’re being careful not to. If there’s an exception at the table, it’s likely to be a shy gay/bi guy who hasn’t yet worked out whether he’s going to be welcomed.

I never wander round Tesco and think “Look at all these people flaunting.” I never sit at that table and think “Why oh why do they have to harp on about being straight? Do they have shove it in my face?”

Belfast Pride, 2011

As for the Pride parades with which Northern Ireland is “coming down” – one a year in Belfast and one in Derry, out of hundreds of marches every year – of course they are part protest, part celebration, part campaign and part flaunt. I suppose there’ll be no need for them when we’re equal, when we’re not made to sit at the back of the bus. When we know our young LGBT friends are able to speak about who they are as matter-of-factly as anyone else, we won’t need to make a noise about it once a year. Maginnis may yearn for simpler times when men went out to work, women stayed at home and made traybakes, and homosexuals stayed furtive and lonely (or at least took the boat to England), but we’re going to carry on flaunting.

Dublin 2011: "I have a sign."