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.
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.