The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The M Word (same-sex marriage)

Around 500 or so people attended a rally on Sunday in Sydney in support of same-sex marriage (it was part of a national day of action, with protests taking place across Australia). Considering the numbers that rock up to Mardi Gras or other party events, 500 was a pretty meagre figure, but I guess it's a reflection of how the M word has GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) communities across the world divided.

Equal rights for all means the right to marry if you choose to, says the pro-gay marriage lobby. Buying into a heterosexist institution whose roots are steeped in oppression flies in the face of what the early gay liberationists (drag queens and trannies at Stonewall) fought for - the right to live an unconventional life, say those on the other side of the debate. So pissed off are the latter in the US, that over 250 activists, academics and writers, including feminist poster woman Gloria Steinem, Sarah Schulman and Armistead Maupin, have signed a manifesto called Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families and Relationships.

The manifesto calls for the legal rights and privileges of marriage to be extended to a myriad of relationships which traverse the lines of sex, gender, sexuality and even include close friends in long-term care-giving relationships. Schulman fears that the push by gay activists for the right to marry is harking back to the repressive values of the 1950s. She told The New York Times recently that, as a teacher, she sees a lot of younger gay people, especially women, adopting the heterosexual fantasy that even Barbie has distanced herself from - that someday they will meet the right person and they will get married and they would have children. She fears that lesbian mothers are embracing a poverty model and denying themselves the chance to be the next Emma Goldman.

I supported the rally on Sunday but not because I am a big fan of marriage; on the contrary, actually. I was annoyed that in 1997, the only way for my male-to-female transsexual girlfriend and I to protect our property and inheritance rights in England was to get legally heterosexually married under British law (we did it partly to get those protections and to expose the ridiculous legal loopholes). The irony, of course, is that last year, when I applied for permanent residency as her spouse (wife no less), Australian Prime Minister John Howards government refused to recognise our legal, British heterosexual union here in Australia and forced us to embrace the L word.

I supported the rally because I believe same-sex relationships to be as valid as heterosexual ones (and because I enjoy a good demo although I'd prefer it to be on a busy Saturday all through the city causing maximum disruption to traffic and business and ideally to the tune of '60s protest songs). I can see where Schulman's coming from though (lesbian mothers totally scare me!) and if there's a rally planned which calls for the promotion of sex and gender variant, polyamorous affiliations as a valid alternative to marriage to the young people of today I'll be there too.

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