Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Marriage Debate and The Barrage of Homophobia

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. 

We’re battling for marriage equality in the UK at the moment. And I dearly want this fight to be won.

Not just for the obvious reasons –  though I am counting the seconds until Beloved and I can marry.

But the debate is wearing. I’ve said before how studies and debates can be insulting, well there can be no greater proof of it than the last few months and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon.

Of course, there’s always some homophobe somewhere spouting some vile bigotry – and certainly you can’t go near the internet without being pelted with slurs, screeching and sheer nastiness. But when we decide to have a public debate on whether or not we’re real people due rights and respect due actual, proper citizens, we’re treated to a double – and unavoidable – load.

Tory MPs have crawled out from under every rock (after dark, of course, sunlight being anathema to them) to talk about incest and paedophilia and the poor poor children with nice side trips to “bring back section 28”. One has announced that his chief whip is the pope, to which I invite him to fuck off to Rome then. We have so many open letters from “concerned” MPs that they probably extend to several volumes now and the phrase “I support equal rights for gays but…” has been used so often most reporters have probably set up a macro for it. If you write the phrase into office that annoying paperclip will probably pop up “you look like you want to write a bigoted screed, would you like to time travel back to the 1950s?”. We have innumerable people screaming about the freedom of religion – which is apparently a special right bigoted Christians have to ensure the whole country follows their belief system. It seems like rather an odd definition of “religious freedom” to me. We have some wonderful claims like “no gay people have said it’s important to me!” from Tory MPs who have managed to score a great big zero when it comes to gay rights record, oh why do they think ANY gay person would say anything to them? And then we’ve got the wonderful “haven’t we got more important things to worry about!?” crowd who completely ignore the fact that if it weren’t for them jumping on the tables and screaming like drunken howler monkeys this law would have long since been passed and done.

Also Nadine Dorries has Said Things, which is never ever ever ever a good thing. She’s like a human manifestation of the Daily Mail.

Which brings us to the papers who have gleefully reported bigotry from every corner. Editorials have been written by the usual poisonous suspects to spread venom and bile everywhere. The Telegraph has been positively hunting down ANYONE they can find who can be reliably depended upon to provide some homophobic quotes and desperately tackling them to meet their hate quota (the Daily Mail has just unmuzzled it’s slavering rabid attacks dogs and let them lose from the pens in which they wallow in their own filth. And has never ever had a problem meeting their hate quota). Even the more liberal press is full of the debate with earnest people having to counter the ridiculous constantly. And, of course, good ol’ nasty auntie has been there, “unbiased” as ever, giving a platform to every passing bigot who happens to flag them down. And, of course, they can’t challenge the hatred, oh no, that would be BIASED.

Then there’s the religious groups – we’re rapidly working on a full set. The Catholic church, Anglican church, Chief Rabbi, Muslim Council of Great Britain, the Network of Sikh Organisations they’ve all done their bit for bigotry and hate. It’s almost touching to see all these diverse religions coming together so passionately – shame it’s to condemn and attack our human rights. The Catholic church has had a wonderful showing of utter venom that’s been so poisonous I’m stunned how any person in this country can even remotely view this toxic institution as remotely moral. Rowan Williams has shuffled away, leaving a parting shot of bigotry, but the New Archbigot Justin has made it clear he’s just as bad. I think the CofE has given up presenting themselves as “not as extreme as the Catholics” and are really giving them run for their money in the bigotry department. I don’t think I’ve gone 2 days without someone waving a cross with one hand, a Bible with the other and telling me why I’m beneath them and other proper straight folks on some channel or some publication.

Then there’s people from all corners – the religious groups, the MPs, the media all squealing about the world ending. Marriage is being redefined and then there’s the teachers! The poor teachers will have to teach that gay marriage is legal! They will have to go against their principles and teach that it exists! Why any teacher has a principle of not telling children what the actual law is, I’ll never know. And I fail to see why teachers being forced to teach equality is somehow a BAD thing? Or teachers no longer being able to slop bigotry on the kids is supposed to be worrisome? Hey, gay bullying epidemic, have you heard of it?

People have brought up the case of Lilan Ladele who just lost her case before the ECHR about being discriminated against because she had to do her actual job as a civil marriage registrar – and apparently expecting good straight people to do their job when it means dealing with gay folk is just far too much to ask and so very very awful. They’ve even thrown “consummation” and “adultery” into the ring because marriage equality conflicts with the archaic definitions of these ridiculously out dated laws – and you know they’re scraping the barrel when they want to talk about “consummation” (got to love the sight of MPs arguing about consummation by being unwilling to use any sex words).

Horror stories abound which either a) are not very horrific and just show how bigoted the commentator is (civil registrars forced to perform marriages! Hotels hiring out to gay couples! People no longer being able to use the “married people only” as a desperate excuse to kick out gay people – and yes, as a lawyer I know all about that one. The horror! The horror!) or b) completely ludicrous (like churches being forced to tolerate our nasty presence – just weeks after the Anglican church STILL can’t bring itself to have bishops who are *gasp* WOMEN!)

I’m tired. I’m really really tired, worn through in fact. A large part of me wants to hibernate until the collected bigoted attention is directed elsewhere and we’re beneath their notice again.

I wonder if this is their intention. If they are hateful enough, if they throw enough bigotry at us, if they’re venomous enough, of they can delay enough and throw enough shit at us, do they think we’ll go away? Do they think we’ll give in? They need to look at history if they think that.

But what this unrelenting barrage of hate tells us is that there’s a major battle still to fight – not about the law, but about acceptable public discourse. And this? This is not acceptable. This level of overt hate speech is not acceptable, it’s not tolerable, it shouldn’t be happening. I know now there are people squealing about censorship but this is ridiculous – we have a level of acceptable discourse from politicians, from the media commentators. There are things we know they cannot say without their parties or their bosses or their editors kicking them out to disassociate from such bigotry. Such considerations do not extend to homophobic speech –and this is a major problem. We cannot go on expecting to be treated as full members of society when this is what constitutes civil discourse, when this is considered reasonable conversation. We cannot expect to have a decent sense of self-worth, or people not to denigrate and attack us when such dehumanisation is such standard fare.

Until the political parties and the media (I give up on the religions – I don’t think our humanity will ever register with them; I can only hope they dwindle in relevance and power until their hate no longer has any influence on our lives) accept that GBLTQ people are due basic respect, we will never be treated as full, equal members of society who have every right to be here, every right to exist..