Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We Don't Need Your Opinion On Our Rights

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

So quite often people want to tell me their opinions about various issues. They want to tell me what they think about marriage equality, or about anti-gay slurs or anti-gay discrimination, or whether religious based homophobia has an excuse for – or any number of a million damn things.

And, frankly, quite often my answer is “no, actually, you’re straight, I don’t really care what your opinion on the matter is.” Oh I rarely get the chance to say that, because most of the world strongly believes that my life and the life of other GBLT people should be open to the scrutiny, judgement and approval of the all-important-straighties. But occasionally, just occasionally, I do – and I do so with gusto and no small amount of relish, not least of which because it is a message I want desperately to shout from the top of very tall buildings except I fear I may be arrested. Or fall, because y’know, not that good with heights. Or stairs, or lifts. Actually can we make that small to medium buildings?

Anyway, I digress. The problem is, because our legal rights are still being denied and challenged and fought against for every damn inch, our rights as human beings are constantly topics for the straight world’s delectation.

In the UK we have the ongoing marriage equality debate. In fact, no, back up – we have a marriage CONSULTATION. See, part of the Tories’ grand plan to put off actually having to have a vote about this involves asking the (straight) nation what they think about (our) marriages. So we’re actually having a long going debate about the debate on whether to give us equality. Which means every news agency out there, every channel and every damn newspaper is chock full of experts (read: straight people) discussing whether or not equal rights are something gay folks deserve. Usually this involves dredging up various dusty bigots from the church (especially the right Bigoted Lord Carey – though usually in print because I don’t think he can go out in daylight). Then the opinion pieces come along with all the columnists sticking their oar in – prize for most bitter and vile will come from Melanie Philips, Chief Troll at the Daily Mail (we want to stop her, but we’re afraid of her Wing├ęd Monkeys). At some point, some wit will summon Nadine Dorries from the Nether Hell from whence she came to get some genuine political homophobic drivel. This usually follows oh-so-extremely tired snickering jokes about who has “come out” for marriage equality (I’m developing a nervous tick where I swear furiously every time someone appropriates “come out”. But it happens so often I fear I may no longer be able to communicate without profanity.)

Then there came the latest election debacle where the Tories defeat was blamed on, guess what? Yes, gay folks! (Not the fact we have an economic policy that makes Marie Antoinette and her cakes seem positively generous and compassionate) So back to the news cycle again with a Tory charge against “useless” and “distracting”  gay rights, lead, of course, by Nadine Dorries (I’ll have to make a point not to mention her again, one of you may read this aloud and everyone knows if you say her name 3 times she appears)

And it’s hardly the first time –  from the eternally renewed debate of business owners wanting to run all straight establishments, to our right to have families –  even Elton John having children caused the BBC to dredge Christian Voice’s  Stephen Green out of his cess pool. It’s getting hard to go near the media without more straight people pontificating about our lives, loves and rights.

This, of course, bleeds into daily life.

And what are we discussing at the watercooler in the office today, Fred?

Why, Sparky, we’re discussing whether you gay folks should be considered the same as real people

Really? Well, Fred, I kind of think I’m just as good as you.

Now, Sparky, I think it’s not that simple, let me tell you the ways I think you may not be as good as me, what do you say, Janey?

Oh, I also think we really should respect the people who think Sparky is going to burn in hell for all eternity as a miserable, corrupting sinner.

Oh that’s super! Because there’s nothing like having to defend one’s right to be a full citizen over lunch to really liven up a work day! Funsies!

Yes, from the work place, to families, to wider circle of friends to just about everywhere else, we have the ultra-fun of listening to straight people decide whether or not we’re worthy of equal rights. Can you imagine how much that lightens the day? And I’m not just talking about people expecting you to be The Official Spokesman of the Glorious Gay Mafia, but all these people merrily discussing your life, your rights, your worthiness as a person as some interesting political debate.

Which I know is wending its way towards me as an excuse. “It’s in the news, of course we’d talk about it. It’s not personal!”

Of course it is personal. How can it not be personal? Straight folks have the privilege of this being an abstract debate, a political argument, a pet cause, hobby or whatever – but it’s our lives, our identities and our personhood. You aren’t discussing abstract concepts, you’re discussing my life – and, yes it bothers me. Not least of which because I really want to know why my life, my love and my worth as a person is up for national – if not international – debate and judgement.

So all this means? It means, rather a lot of the time I really don’t want to hear the “debate” or the “discussion.” Support, yes, but there’s nothing to debate or discuss here, our lives aren’t fodder for gossip or news grist and our worth as people doesn’t need to be discussed. It also means that there’s various topics we just don’t want to drag out on the carpet again – especially if we haven’t raised the topic first. It’s lovely that you think I should have the right to marry, but if I haven’t raised the issue then… why are you telling me this? I know it’s a random message of good will – but it’s also a reminder that, unlike your nuptials, mine are subject to public (straight) approval and are, somehow, your business. Totally not your fault and I appreciate the support and protection of our allies – but this societal training of my love life as public property is vexing.

And really really really don’t be surprised if, in a GBLT space, absolutely no-one wants to know your opinion on, well, anything about our lives, culture, community, rights or anything else. And yes, it can be harsh and you may be shocked at the number of people who may rise up and tell you to, well, sit down and shut up – but  we spend the better part of our lives with every aspect of our beings and loves being considered fodder for public comment and debate. So some of us can be… testy when another straight person comes to share their opinion with us (about our lives and personhood) again.