Same Sex Marriage – everything to gain

Same Sex Marriage – everything to gain

John Scalzi’s reading last night was lovely on multiple levels. Great to hang out with friends, great special surprises, lovely reading and Mr Scalzi is of course adorable, thoughtful, funny and engaging. I particularly enjoyed how he smiled and eyes got all soft and dreamy when mention of his wife crossed his lips. Folks speaking of the ones they love is always a delight to see.

Speaking of marriage Scalzi stated his support for same sex marriage and said (to paraphrase and semi-make up from memory) “What do I lose from same sex marriage? Nothing? I enjoy being married *cue soft smiley face* my gay friends should be able to enjoy that too. I don’t lose a thing.”

I would go a step further and encourage folks in general to shift language to the positive (no criticism of Mr Scalzi here, indeed thanks for inspiring this post and being an all round good guy). “What do I lose” is a place to start when people are processing their fear around sexualities, but we can move through that to something that isn’t reacting against perceived badness as part of its structure.

As a happily married contextually heterosexual gal I feel like it’s not about “what do I lose” when I have everything to gain from same sex marriage. Making marriage equally and equitably accessible is a positive gain for everybody (though some might need to move past fear to get there). When the consensual love between two people is made lesser because of some chromosomal bigotry I feel it diminishes all consensual love.

I have even more to gain from universal gay rights because it frees me from an additional burden of privilege guilt that I carry around. There’s a lot of heterosexual privilege that exists in the world (there are many articles and checklists if you’re not sure what this means, here’s one) and as someone who was brought up with a sense of fairness it rankles that things like privilege exist. It’s just not fair and it makes me grumpy. On a basic pleasure principal and because smiles breed smiles when my friends suffer less, when folks I don’t know suffer less, I benefit.

When smart people of amazing capacity do not have their capacity limited because of bullshit prejudice I get to enjoy so much more of what they have to bring to the world. When a woman who looses her wife is given the cultural space to grieve and be supported I benefit. When a man who loses his husband does not also lose his home and pension I benefit.

Often heterosexual priviledge is invisible, but the fact that I get to live at all in the USA is grounded in heterosexual privilege and I have to look at it every day. If I had fallen in love with a woman instead of a man I would not be able to live in this country. There are friends I never would have met, conventions I never would have gone to, publishing opportunities I never would have had and rawking writers workshops I never would have done. The idea that the gender of the person I love could have rendered all that impossible chills me to the bone, it makes me feel sick and sad and guilty that so much of what I have now is built on heterosexual privilege when it doesn’t have to be.

Privilege, to my mind, diminishes accomplishments. It adds a sour note to every victory no matter how much struggle it took to get there (ah yes, I got that, but did I get it on my own merits is that just because I’m ‘pretty’? because I’m white? because my situation is monogamous hetero? because of my intellectual middle class upbringing?). There’s always a part of me looking for some way to undercut praise, and that’s not always healthy, but privilege is real, inequality is real.

Where inequality exists it makes us less than what we could be. When a voice is silenced the choir loses complexity and volume or the music festival looses a stage.

So on purely selfish terms I don’t lose a damn thing with same sex marriage in the world. I gain, my life becomes richer and healthier because of it.

5 thoughts on “Same Sex Marriage – everything to gain

  1. Tentative entrance given I don’t have strong feelings about the issue really, but I do wonder what definition of marriage must apply in this context. I think the origins of “marriage” as we know it were Biblical and therefore heterosexual. I know the nexus(?) is not necessarily a given for many people. Does that mean that ‘marriage’ as a right is about the fact that this ‘institution’ has been adopted by the state and is about legalities rather than the spiritual in this context?
    Much ado about this locally just now, so just trying to find clarity for myself about the point.

  2. Heya Sue… the checklist link is a good place to start. Heterosexuals get a lot of advantages and part of that privilege is that it is invisible. Here’s a nice definition from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/Advisingissues/GLBT-Definitions.htm

    • Heterosexual privilege is an advantage given to heterosexual persons simply because they are heterosexual. This is similar to privileges White persons receive because of their race.

    Examples of heterosexual privilege include:
    • being able to display simple affection, e.g., hand-holding, in public without fear of retaliation
    • discussing dating relationships without wondering if the conversation will be okay with all participants
    • receiving empathy when a relationship ends
    • never being afraid of losing a job because of your partner’s gender.

  3. The origins of marriage are actually a bit more complex than that. This is my recollectionI wish I had references for you but alas they are in history books back in Australia.

    In UK marriage traditions originally marriages had to be conducted outside of physical churches. It was an arrangement between couples with their community and under common law, a priest could officiate (outside the church), but so could village elders etc. As marriage became more popular it became insourced by the church who did not want external marriage practice undermining their central role in communities. Marriage shifted from something too sexual in nature to be conducted in the house of god to something that was a more central christian concern and transformed into a more sacred practice. Marriage often existed as a custom that christianity then attached itself too and became part of as christianity integrated itself into community (much like St Brigid).

    Christianity’s relationship to homosexuality has also shifted and has not been a static thing. Much of the homophobic interpretations of the Bible seem come out of the intense political activity of St Bernard who turned the knights templar into a powerful organization and was the right hand of the pope. One of St Bernard’s great enemies was an openly gay and somewhat promiscuous Bishop (whose name I cannot recall). As part of St Bernard’s attacks on this guy he really powerfully and effectively clamped down on homosexuality (which hadn’t been a big issue before). St Bernard wasn’t a fan of sex in general and not a fan of women much either (a lot of hair shirts and convinced his father to put his mother in a nunnery so that he could join the church too). The ways the bible is interpreted (both between languages and which passages are emphasised) and the framework it is place are not natural constructs and worthy of challenge.

    Marriage has certainly shifted and changed as cultures and societies move. I think it is important that it be adaptive and to support people who want to add love, joy and happiness to the world. I know I am more capable of adding love and joy to the world because of the delightful support of marriage. It feels strange to me to limit that capacity in others.

    I could go on, but that’s probably enough for now :-)

    Hugs and love

    L

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