I hope my face isn't hurting your boot

By | 2012/06/19

There is, I think, nothing quite as sad in the GBLTI community, as a homosexual who believes in keeping the status quo and insists we have “enough” rights.

Under heel

Over the last few days I’ve been seeing more friends post messages on Facebook to the extent of:

If you don’t support same-sex marriage – if you don’t support full, equal rights for all, then please unfriend me. You’re not really a friend at all.

This has, predictably, triggered a rush of comments from people who all intents and purposes appear to be gay apologists. You know, the “Oh, yes, I’m gay. Sorry about that. I hope you aren’t offended by me. Please don’t be offended by me” types. They’re the people who say things like “There are more important matters”, or “We have enough rights now”.

It’s something I’ve equally seen some hardline homosexual rights activists promote as a reason to shun the notion of same-sex marriage – that it equates to self-assimilation and subjugation into a mainstream culture – a rejection of some “gay ideal”.

I don’t believe either of these arguments are valid.

The self-assimilation/subjugation approach is frankly the easiest to tackle. To re-use a flippant come-back, one might simply refute it with “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married”. But it does deserve just a little more attention than that. Rejecting marriage because that’s something traditionally “owned” by the heterosexual community is as logically fallacious as heterosexuals claiming that there’s a “tradition” that marriage is just between a man and a woman. We know that’s rubbish: marriage was traditionally a man owning a woman, or a man and a woman so long as they were of the same race, or a man and his slave, and so on. Taking the argument to its logical conclusion, it would suggest that anything “traditionally” owned or associated with the heterosexual community should be avoided by the gay community, it doesn’t leave us with very much. Look at all the overwhelming number of heterosexual artists, writers and musicians. Does that mean a gay artist is self-assimilating into the heterosexual art world? Is a transexual singer subjugating herself to the mainstream culture? Is a lesbian writer rejecting some “lesbian ideal”?

Those who seek to allow us to do only things that are “seen” to be belonging to the GBLTI community need to understand the logical extension of their argument would see us in enclaves and dedicated suburbs, minimising our interaction with the heterosexuals for fear of cross-cultural contamination. It’s not equality, it’s self-imposed sexual-orientation-based apartheid. The raging homophobes would love that, after all.

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the GLBTI people who firmly talk about us having “enough rights” or “sufficient rights”, or that there are other things that are more important to focus on.

Without wishing to trivialise their attitude, when I hear them talk, I hear a battered wife. “No, it’s my fault I made him mad”, or “I shouldn’t have asked him where he was last night”, or “I bumped into the door, silly me.” They’re defeated. Whether they want to admit it or not, they feel that there’s no point pushing for more equality because we’ve got as much as we can hope to get. Oh, the justifications are a little more interesting – a couple I’ve seen in the last 24 hours include “we should focus on the rights of the aged gay community” or “we should focus on the rights of those afflicted with AIDS”. Both of them are compellingly dangerous arguments, because they appeal to a sense of helping the weak. And of course, we should help the weak. It’s a moral obligation to do so, and both of those groups of people deserve attention. But if we accept that homophobia is another manifestation of the same sort of bigotry that drove racism, those arguments are utterly without merit. What would a slave master have thought in the 1800’s of the welfare of his older slaves, or his sick slaves?

If a group of people aren’t fundamentally considered to be equal, then arguing for a subset of those people to be treated better is, to be perfectly blunt, pointless.

Regardless of which direction they’re coming from – either the apologists, or the radicals – the message is clear: “I hope my face isn’t hurting your boot”.

We have a right to stand tall and stand as equals in society. There’s still a long way to go, but one thing is abundantly clear: we won’t get there by refusing to fight any more, regardless of what the rationale is behind that decision.

4 thoughts on “I hope my face isn't hurting your boot

  1. Simon

    As one of those gays who doesn’t see the point in getting their knickers in a knot about the “right” to marry, I take offense at the implication that I’m either complicit in my own victimisation or internally homophobic.

    There ARE more important things in this country and this world to worry about than whether gays can get married. I’m not saying that they should NOT get married; I certainly do not think ” we’ve got as much as we can hope to get.” However, I am saying that same-sex marriage doesn’t need to be at the top of our political shopping list. And, all this moaning and griping about being second-class citizens is just another form of self-victimisation. It’s like, after 40 years of fighting the good fight, homosexuals don’t know how to define themselves if they don’t have an oppressor to combat.

    In the 40+ years I’ve been alive, homosexuality has progressed from being a medical illness and a crime to being a fully accepted and embraced part of a diverse culture. A marriage certificate won’t change anything else, except a few financial matters for some middle-class poofs and dykes.

    Meantime, teenage homosexuals are killing themselves. But, the energies are going to rallies about marriage, not about preventing suicide. As long as this minor bureaucratic matter dominates the GLBT agenda, we’re diverting limited resources (money, time, people) away from the fights that matter – people’s lives.

    I do not think we should NEVER get married. I just don’t think it’s the most important issue facing us RIGHT NOW. Especially when generational change will take care of this matter almost by default. And, that does not make me a complicit victim. It makes me a realist and a political pragmatist.

    1. PMdG Post author

      I’m not convinced; we can simultaneously pour effort into multiple initiatives.

      I also believe that from small, symbolic changes, big changes can grow. How will GBLTI youth start feeling better about themselves? By knowing that society treats their relationships the same. Marriage equality isn’t just about allowing people to marry, it’s about allowing people who are growing up and dealing with discrimination or peer pressure or whatever the issue to be able to see that a same-sex relationship is just as good as a heterosexual relationship.

      This in itself sends a powerful message, not only to broader society, but to GBLTI youth starting to come to terms with their sexuality.

      1. Simon

        “How will GBLTI youth start feeling better about themselves?”

        By not getting bashed or rejected or ridiculed by their family and friends and schoolmates. And, you won’t change those people’s homophobic attitudes just by legislating for same-sex marriages – just as the Americans didn’t remove racism when they allowed mixed-race marriages.

        However, whether we agree or disagree about priorities and sharing resources, I still resent – and am offended by – your portrayal of me (and people like me) as being equivalent to a battered wife. That’s highly inaccurate, and MORE derogatory than being insulted by some random homophobe.

        1. PMdG Post author

          And how will you convince bigots to not bash and ridicule them? As I said, the answer is a multipronged one. Like it or not, legislating same-sex marriage will start to have an effect – for there’ll be that extra bit of societal understanding that same-sex relationships are the same, and therefore homosexual people are the same.

          As to you feeling offended by what I have to say – I really don’t care. If I chose to never say anything that might ever give offence to anyone, I’d never say anything at all. You’re offended by an interpretation I choose to make? I’ll respond with a quote from the great Steven Fry:

          “It’s now very common to hear people say ‘I’m rather offended by that’. As if that gives them certain rights; it’s actually nothing more … it’s simply a whine. It’s no more effective than a whine. ‘I find that offensive,’ It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that’. Well so fucking what?”

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