Monday, April 6, 2009

Open Forum: Battling Against Words to Define Our Cause

This is a guest post from Queers United. The activist blog uniting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual community & straight allies in the fight for equality!

image Gay marriage, same-sex marriage, homosexual marriage, marriage equality, civil marriage rights, same-gender marriage... The list goes on, and we have heard all of these terms and many more to describe the ultimate goal of many in the LGBT community which is to achieve the ability to attain a marriage license regardless of your identity.

But which term really best fits our cause, most represents what we are fighting for and is likely to get the most people on our side? In a battle of politics, heated issues and close votes, terminology and phraseology is critical in the battle for full equality.

Pros & Cons of the most widely used terms:

Gay Marriage - Everyone has heard of it, everyone knows what it is referring to, but it is not inclusive of those who are not gay. Lesbian women who eschew the term gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people all face legal challenges when it comes to the institution of marriage, so can "gay marriage" truly be an inclusive term?

Same-Sex Marriage - Widely used by the mainstream media in referring to the marriage civil rights movement. It is seen as a more inclusive way of countering the "gay marriage" term but has its pitfalls. What about trans people who transitioned but are not regarded as the opposite sex, they want the right to marry and they are not same-sex couples. The other downside is that "same-sex" has the word "sex" in it, bringing people back to focusing on the sexual aspect of queer couples and not the emotional, spiritual, and financial aspects that come with marriage.

Homosexual Marriage - This term is used most widely by opponents of equal marriage, and rightfully so, poll after poll shows that the term homosexual is viewed as negative and clinical by the public at large. While everyone knows what a homosexual is, the word often conjures up very negative stereotypes that are hurtful to the cause for equal rights.

Marriage Equality - The term is seen as a progressive one, those who use it support the LGBT movements efforts to attain marriage rights. The term will not likely be picked up by the media in an effort not to appear biased in one direction or another. The term also is not specific in defining who seeks the rights of marriage, while academics and those informed may know, the majority of Americans may not.

Civil Marriage Rights - The benefit to the term is that it is clearly indicating that the right is civil one and has zero to do with religion. The downside is that it doesn't specify which group is trying to achieve these rights. Is it just heterosexuals who want government controlling the institution of marriage and not church?

Same Gender Marriage - This eliminates the sex part of the equation, but provides for a new dilemma. Is the marriage fight about gender or sex? Can a couple who is not the same gender (one transitioned) be married if the birth certificate still declares them their birth sex?

The language in the debate about marriage rights is critical. What do you make of the above terms. What do you feel the pros and cons are and which word would you use to describe our fight for equality?


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