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.