I’ve been to three marriage equality rallies in Melbourne now; the third, yesterday, was by far the most disappointing.
I believe the organisers of the rally need to have a good hard look at themselves and their bringing of partisan politics, unrelated to the rally, into the event.
In the second rally, a speaker (paraphrasing) stated:
President Obama has recently changed his mind on same-sex marriage. If a war criminal can do it, why can’t Julia Gillard?
Then in this rally, that same speaker sought to equate “gay apartheid” with the “apartheid being experienced in Gaza, right now” (again, paraphrasing).
This is no place for partisan politics. Each rally I’ve been to has had speakers complaining that no-one from the Liberal/National party has attended the rallies. Perhaps when the rallies are attended by socialists pushily handing out their agendas, this may assist in explaining it? There are plenty of people within the Liberal/National party who are supportive of marriage equality, but maybe they feel uncomfortable attending an event where the organisers so clearly show their extreme-left leaning attitudes?*
Here’s the crux: there’s no such thing as the gay agenda because the GBLTI community has radically different backgrounds. I’ve known gay men who are such screaming racists that they’d make the people on that Frankston bus look like tree-hugging diverse-ethnic-loving hippies. I’ve known Lesbians who are such misandrists that they’d sooner immolate themselves than socialise in any way with men. I’ve known closeted bisexuals who would passionately argue that all gay and lesbian people should be rounded up and shot.
We don’t have that many common causes to begin with. We certainly don’t have common politics. There’s log-cabin Republicans, there are GBLTI people who are passionately Liberal (as in, Australian Liberal Party, our de-facto conservative party) in their fiscal outlooks and happy to take a potential civil rights hit to have a happier tax rate. There’s the rainbow alliance within the Australian Labor party, there’s GBLTI members of the Socialist party, the Greens, and as one might imagine, the Australian Sex Party. I got asked yesterday when mentioning in advance of the rally my aversion of partisan politics being brought up, “you do realise there are gay socialists?” Yes, I’m not stupid, I do realise there are gay socialists. But perhaps the gay socialists may do well to remember that there are gay Liberal supporters and gay National supporters and gay Green supporters and gay Labor supports and gay Independents. Why should one group gain off-topic ascendency when off-topic politics shouldn’t even be on the agenda?
There is no common political outlook for the GBLTI community because, despite what some in the mainstream community might imagine, we don’t all think alike. If we did, I wouldn’t be writing this now.
So too have the Melbourne rallies injected with partisan political messages unrelated to the topic at hand is disingenuous, and it’s unrepresentative.
The rallies aren’t even full of people who want to get married. The common, unifying cause is just one thing: a belief that marriage equality will lead to greater equality, regardless of whether any specific couple chooses to get married. The fight is to have the choice, not make the same choice.
That’s the only unifying factor at the rally. The desire for choice, the desire for equality. Calling Barack Obama a war criminal is not a unifying statement. Talking about apartheid in Gaza is not a unifying statement.
Yesterday we couldn’t even get unifying statements from the speakers who stayed on topic. I applaud the sentiment of having a 15 or 16 year old heterosexual teenage boy on stage declaring his solidarity, but him starting with “I think marriage is stupid” was hardly a ringing endorsement. Having him declare that he understands what it’s like to be gay and bullied and teased because he wears glasses at school due to a vision problem and gets teased by that may have been an attempt to stand in solidarity, but pretty much everyone I spoke to after the event saw it as the worst kind of condescension.
I’m seriously debating whether I bother to attend future rallies. If I’m going to be lectured to by pamphlet waving socialist party members, or have people half my age insisting I attend lectures about Stonewall to understand what it’s about, or have to listen to partisan politics utterly unrelated to the rally, it’s no longer being inclusive, it’s being exclusive. It’s becoming mean–spirited.
Here’s 3 things the rally organisers should consider next time:
- Don’t give people a microphone (including the organisers) unless they agree to stay on-topic.
- Remind the political party representatives attending the meeting to circulate amongst the crowd that they’re there to support the marriage equality cause, not pester attendees to support their causes.
- Publicly commit to both of the above, well in advance of the rally, to show they are truly being inclusive.
[Link added 2012-11-26 18:00]
Based on some of the feedback I’ve been getting, and some of the comments being fired around on various forums about this article, I’ve written a second piece, “Socialism and GBLTI Rights“.
* NB: There’s a big difference between bringing partisan politics into something in a public vs private forum. If you’re blogging about it or talking with individuals, go nuts. If you’re standing in a public forum, stay on topic.