On why gay marriage advocates see us as the enemy

An ask.fm correspondent asks:

Why do you think those within the gay community who oppose same-sex marriage aren’t allowed to speak without being shouted down or made to feel like a traitor? I confess to being ‘meh’ on the subject but 2 of my uni lecturers (both gay) are very much against it & make extremely valid points.

It does seem strange that there are people in the LGB+ community who oppose gay marriage, at least at first, but we do exist, and most of us have gay rights very much at the center of everything we stand for. However, we do realize that we are very much in the minority. Many of oppose gay marriage because they see it as assimilation into a heteronormative society, which is seen as negative. Others see gay marriage as an an erosion of our rights rather than an advancement, and some simply view the attention the issue gets as erasing other far more important issues, which is harmful.

Still, mainstream proponents of gay marriage perhaps do see us as ‘traitors’, or at least as the enemy. Again it seems strange, given that both sides ultimately are fighting for LGB rights, but I think that there are a few reasons that this would be the case.

Perhaps, most importantly, it is because mainstream society, as well as gay marriage proponents, view marriage as a right – a civil right, a human right, whatever – but either way they see marriage as something that people (should) have a right to access, so in turn, allowing same-sex couples to marry within the law would be an advancement of LGB rights. Naturally this leads to the assumption that opposing gay marriage means opposing LGB rights. Of course many of us do not view marriage as a right – rather as a social responsibility or duty, and we demand our rights without the requirement to marry in order to access them.

Similarly many argue that opposing society’s accepted ways of accessing our rights means that we will never get those rights – and in that way it’s easy to see why opposing gay marriage is seen as an attempt to block LGB rights.

The homophobes of this world have also managed to turn the issue of gay marriage into what is now very much a two-sided issue: gay marriage versus homophobia. And it should be said that the majority of people who oppose gay marriage do so from a position of homophobia – they don’t just oppose legal recognition and protection of our relationships, they oppose our relationships altogether. So when those of us who are part of the LGB+ community oppose gay marriage (for our own positive reasons), we are seen as siding with the enemy. It’s not the case, however. Homophobes are our common enemy, but because we want the same initial outcome (followed then, of course, by very different changes to society), we’re also viewed as the enemy. And of course, given that this has been turned into a two-sided issue, we are put on the same side as homophobes.

Maybe most significantly, we should recognize that the fight for gay marriage to be recognized by the law has been a long, hard fight, and in Australia, that fight is so close to being won. So many people have been fighting, and they have every right to do so. They’ve been fighting for what they truly believe is the best outcome in terms of LGB+ rights. So it’s understandable that when, so close to the end of this long, hard fight, some of the people who they think they’ve been fighting for suddenly stand in opposition, they get a little upset. We know they think we’d benefit – we know that this is a belief that they hold so firmly. But we disagree.

Ultimately gay marriage advocates and LGB opponents of gay marriage want the same thing – the advancement of LGB+ rights, but we propose different ways of achieving that. One side through marriage, the other side without. However when LGB rights and gay marriage are viewed as synonymous, anti-marriage becomes the same enemy as homophobia.

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