So today, people go to the polls in Ireland to decide if same sex couples can get married.
The reactions on Facebook are predictable. Long emotive blog posts about why people should vote YES, but also a huge amount of stuff from radical queers making snarky remarks about the vote, eyerolling that people care about marriage. That’s cool, dude. You do you. But I lied in the title, cause I kind of do give a fuck that you don’t give a fuck about marriage, or at least about this vote. And I give a fuck that you’re acting like you’re so much more evolved and right on and totally down with queer politics for not giving a fuck.
I used to be one of those people. When we discussed marriage in the UK, I was all about how marriage is rooted in ownership, and patriarchal oppression. How us lobbying for marriage was a dangerous assimilationist step. I still hold these critiques, but I missed why it mattered because I was wrapped up in being pious and queerer-than-thou, and what I really missed and soon came to realise – and I shouldn’t have – is the implications on class and social capital going on. I’ll hold my hands up and say, I was being a self absorbed douchebag.
Cause we’re trading on some super queer social capital, when we can live in a queer bubble. When our conversations are about the nuances of poly or mono dynamics, or gender presentation. When I can’t remember the last time I had to come out, when I have at least one other queer person to talk to about being queer, and when I can be snarky about marriage. But this isn’t even actually ABOUT marriage. That’s not why it matters.
The people of a country are deciding in a referendum – a model of direct democracy that works on the basis that every single person involved in the decision making has an equal investment and an informed voice on the issue at hand – whether one category of people should have access to a state benefit. And it IS about rights. Whereas marriage might be a privilege, it becomes a discussion about rights when your access to something is limited because of your sexuality and your sexuality alone. I’m not super big on lauding a human rights model of liberation either, but that’s STILL not why its important.
This is a public discourse. What has a referendum model done? It’s given homophobes and bigots a platform, its said that saying NO and that I am facing eternal damnation because of my sexuality has an equal footing to the slow drudging path of equality. It’s had queer kids, who don’t have our access to a community, having to see NO posters, NO campaigners saying they’re less than human. Had them listen to conversations between their parents and their families debating the whys and whats of homosexuality. Sweating that cold sweat you have when you’re only out to yourself and you feel like every single eye is on you and is going to know that you are queer by the way you blink your eyelashes. It’s unleashed a public discourse of homophobia AND legitimised that as a fair political stance.
But it’s also shown a massive movement for YES. People running off buses for YES badges. Daniel O’Donnell throwing his support in for the homos. It’s had those same kids hear their families talk positively about queer people, giving them the chance to see young queer person after queer person stand up in public and be articulate and passionate about liberation.
So today, when our queer siblings in Ireland are knocking door to door asking people to recognise their existence not knowing if they will have the door swung open by a bigot, when they are being spat at by homophobes, when they are holding their head up high walking past men with banners saying a “yes vote vote is for Jesus, a no vote for Judas”. When they are being posted hate mail calling them paedophiles and sodomites. When their country gets to decide vote by vote how human they are – do you think you could show a bit of solidarity and lay off being queerly righteous about marriage?