Marriage equality – what’s that, then?

I was once told by an immature teenager that my gloves were gay. It wasn’t even my rainbow gloves, which i’d have to admit, yeah, they’re pretty gay!

Even my purple gloves, i’d concede that the kid had a point. No, it was my white and black striped gloves; they’re not even gaily coloured!

“Your gloves are GAY!”

So i said, “Oh really? Do you think they are attracted to other gloves of the same gender?”

To me the term “gay marriage” is as ridiculous a concept as “gay gloves”. Marriage doesn’t have a sexuality. And if you’re trying to say it’s for gay people, no it’s not. It affects bi, trans and straight people too, in all kinds of combinations. What we’re really looking for is an equality of marriage: the same opportunities available to everyone.

Some examples:

1. Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle have been trying for nearly two years to get a civil partnership, because they don’t want the historical baggage associated with marriage. They have been denied because of their sexuality: they are both straight.

2. A friend of mine changed gender and had to get divorced and form a civil partnership instead, in order to achieve gender recognition.

3. I am bisexual and married to a man. Do we have a straight marriage? If i had wanted to marry a woman, would it be a gay marriage? No, because i am not gay.

4. Gay people can get married right now! There’s nothing to stop a gay man marrying a gay woman. You might be surprised how often that happens, just for the convenience.

It bothers me whenever i see the term “gay marriage”. This morning i saw journalists Emma Kennedy and Victoria Coren both use it, so i tweeted:

your periodic reminder that “marriage equality” is preferable to “gay marriage” .. thank you!

Emma agreed with me, but claimed that on twitter, “gay marriage” is more convenient, to avoid getting hundreds of tweets asking what “marriage equality” means. I didn’t realise that there was so much ignorance. It can’t be that hard to explain, surely? I think that if more journalists and politicians would start using the terms “equal marriage” or “marriage equality” then people would get used to it and understand what it means.

If we can’t go that far, “same-sex marriage” is at least slightly preferable to “gay marriage” because it’s more descriptive, and it doesn’t exclude bisexual people. It highlights the thing that is currently unequal about marriage. I still don’t like it because it implies that we’re talking about a different, separate thing, when what we actually want is equal access to the same thing.

One friend suggested that we should call it “Marry Who The Fuck You Want” .. people should be able to grasp that concept! Another friend recommends that we do away with marriage altogether, then we’d have equality of non-marriage!

It seems that the terminology of this thing is becoming my big bisexual soapbox of 2012, haha! And yes .. i know .. soapboxes do not have a sexuality. Well done if you spotted my irony there! ;)

Relatedly, for anyone who is trying to preserve the “sanctity of marriage”, the whole “one man, one woman” thing, remember that marriage is a human invention, and is always changing. I loved this poster that i saw the other day.


The Good Atheist on gay rights and equality

I’ve been listening to a lot of good podcasts recently, and one of my favourites is The Good Atheist where Ryan Harkness and Jacob Fortin discuss current affairs and what’s wrong with the world, specifically to do with religion.

It’s often very funny, often insightful and sometimes shocking. The episode i heard today, they were discussing some stupid PDF by a religious sect, listing 77 reasons why atheists should be against gay marriage. They laughed about the absurd nonsense supposed logic behind a few of the points in the PDF, and then they talked about how good it is that religion is going to lose on this one. It’ll take time, but people are mostly growing up these days knowing that being gay is not a big deal. I love Jacob’s rants, and this one was an exceptionally good one …

Jacob: The population is getting older, and older people are more religious. But if you’re putting all your faith in them, i got news for you: they’re all gonna die, man! That’s why whenever you look at reports saying, by 2030 (or even earlier than that) many countries, even Canada is included in this, will no longer be considered religious … and that has almost everything to do with the fact that the elderly are the ones that hold on to this. And, unsurprisingly, they’re also the ones who just, overwhelmingly did not like gay people. Because they weren’t part of a culture that saw that as no fucking big deal. They saw it, in fact, as a very giant big deal!

Think about throughout the history of The West, if you want, think about how long gays have had the shitty end of the sexual orientation stick. Hmm? How long has that been going on? This is probably the best time for them, and it’s not even that great! Think about the suicide rates for young gay men, it’s just ridiculously high, right? Cos all they’re told is that they’re fucking giant pieces of shit – and – that’s – better than it used to be. That’s as good as it’s been. That’s fucked up! That is fucked up.

I’m sure in the future, we won’t be part of that future, but i think it will be a great future when we can look at that and finally be ashamed of ourselves, and just put that behind us. Not forget it, but say, “We’re not going to be like this anymore. That’s not going to be us. We’re not going to look at a person’s sexual orientation and say, you don’t deserve to have the same rights as everybody else”.

Ryan: It’s going to take another generation to get the influence of the elderly bigots out of –

Jacob: Yeah, but that’s just here. I mean, how much work do we have to do in Uganda? How much work do we have to do in the rest of Africa, in Asia? You know, in the Middle East. It’s a nightmare! We’re looking at probably another fucking hundred years of this bullshit for everyone to catch up.

But you gotta be that shining city on the hill. You know what i mean? To some degree, you gotta be a beacon of fucking hope for people. Cos the whole world’s not all gonna fall at the same time but goddammit, we can definitely say that we’re on that top. We are the shining motherfucking city on the hill because we’re not the ones going around saying “Oh! If other people have the same rights as me it’ll ruin everything”.

So very well said. These things are important. We have a right to get angry about these issues. I don’t get angry about a lot of things, but equality is a big issue for me, and people who try to deny it make me angry. I’m actually glad that Jacob made such a good rant and i hope nobody minds me transcribing it, because it echoes my own thoughts so clearly.

We have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. We must make a big noise against anyone who is trying to make us go backwards. It gets better. It must get better. It needs to get much better throughout the whole world.

If you like this, subscribe to the podcast: The Good Atheist. It’s great.

Memories of BiCon 2010

London Docklands from the University of East London

BiCon 2010, the 28th annual bisexual conference/convention took place from August 26th – 30th at the University of East London, Docklands campus. It was combined with the 10th International Conference on Bisexuality, and the first international Bisexual Research Conference. About 450 people attended, from 28 countries!

I got up ridiculously early on Thursday 26th August in order to take the coach from Winchester to London leaving at 06:30. The journey was smooth and I was at UEL by 10am, in time to check in and drop off my suitcase in my accommodation.

The research conference was utterly brilliant, full credit to Meg Barker and Christina Richards for running it. Most of the talks were of exceptional quality, and i feel i learnt a lot. I enjoyed hearing about Helen Bowes-Catton’s research into how people perceive and visualise bisexual spaces. Kaye McLelland spoke about bisexuality in the works of Shakespeare, and i marvelled at how well my English teachers at school managed to hide it all from us!

Robyn Ochs at BiCon 2010

I was thoroughly inspired by a keynote talk from Robyn Ochs, a public speaker, writer, and long-standing bisexual activist. Robyn spoke of the importance of the impact that we make when we create space for people to be comfortably bisexual. I was touched by Robyn’s description of the reward when somebody tells us that we make a difference for them. I felt so proud at that moment that I helped to found Bi Wessex in Winchester: proud that people come along and gain something from the group, and that some of the members were there at BiCon.

Miguel Obradors Campos speaks at BiCon 2010

On Friday i bought Robyn’s book, Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World and attended the workshop where we heard from ten of the people who contributed to the book. They stood up and told us something about themselves and read an excerpt from the book. It gave such meaning to hear them speak personally, and when i reach their stories in the book, i will remember them. Their contributions will be particularly meaningful for me. I asked several of the contributors to write in my book, which they gladly did.

Sexual orientation self-definitions

I enjoyed hearing Heidi Bruins Green and Dr. Nicholas Payne speak about the results of a workplace survey on bisexuality. It was very interesting to hear the results analysed and validated from a mathematical perspective. Their results showed that bisexuality is not a phase on the way to something else, but a valid destination point, as are many other sexual orientations. They had some interesting data to show that happiness at work is directly correlated with LGBT support groups in the workplace, and anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Saturday’s discussion about words and phrases for bisexuality in other languages was intriguing. I shared my Esperanto knowledge about the etymology of the word ambaŭseksema and the positive phrase borrowed from shipping terminology navigi per vaporo aŭ velo (to navigate by steam or sail). We learned phrases, both positive and negative in German, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Italian, Sri Lankan, Welsh and Hebrew. Everybody contributed something, and the results will be published … somewhere.

Knitting a bi pride bracelet

I knitted a bi pride bracelet in the amazing craft room, and then on saturday afternoon i took some time out to visit Central London. I went to Covent Garden to visit the new Apple store (the biggest in the world) and enjoyed spending time by myself.

Saturday evening was the BiCon ceilidh which i enjoyed immensely. When it comes to dancing, i really like being told what to do! :) I made a new friend that night, somebody who i feel could become a very good friend. We danced together a lot and had some lovely conversations. Later on the music became too loud but i joined the Corridor Club upstairs where it was quieter and i enjoyed chatting to more people. We were actually the last to leave because we didn’t realise when the music had stopped and everyone downstairs had left!

Sunday was the disastrous “Bisexuality in Science-Fiction & The Future” workshop. It was marred by the speaker being late, a church group being in the room we were supposed to use, the laptop being broken, the projector refusing to work, and the speaker’s corny sense of humour which did not go down particularly well at 10am. I gave up and left after about ten minutes of technology fail, and went and joined the church, which i actually really enjoyed! Those who stayed said it only got worse, and by half way through several of them had started their own alternative science-fiction workshop out in the atrium!

The highlight of Sunday was “Smutty Storytelling” which was very well attended, and the storytellers did not disappoint! The stories were well written, and delivered with humour and enthusiasm! There were cheers and a standing ovation by the end! I sat with my new-found friend and mentioned that I had “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” on DVD, which we watched later that evening.

Monday morning seemed to go quite slowly. Things were winding down but there were still a few workshops left. I went to one on sensual play, which was well facilitated, and led to discussions of how we might turn the results into an amusing website! Later i went to have my photo taken professionally, so that hopefully i will appear again on the front cover of Bi Community News and maybe in other publications about bisexuality.

Latimer "the buck" and a lion from BiCon 2008 share a hug

Before i knew it, it was closing plenary. Awards and thanks were given, we celebrated the success of this BiCon, and met the team of BiCon 2011 which will be in Leicester from September 1st – 4th. Registration is already open!

The bi community is amazing. So totally inclusive and unquestioning. I am so happy that i went, I am sad that it’s over, but writing this is my therapy: recording my happy memories and celebrating the joys of the last few days.

Thanks so very much to the BiCon 2010 organising team – you did an incredible job!

Homosexuality and Christianity

Please don’t be turned off by the title. This is not the argument that we have come to expect from the Christian church. This is the most sensible thing i have ever read regarding homosexuality and Christianity.

Next time i hear anybody saying that being gay is an abomination, or against God’s will, or forbidden in the Bible, i am going to send them here and pray that their heart is softened.

It’s a very long letter, and i didn’t read all of it in full detail, but i was very impressed by the compassionate spirit of the message.

Thank you to Kevin Sonney for bringing this to my attention.