Posted: May 22, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Tags: bisexuality, equal marriage, lgbtiq, privilege
I can’t believe I’m still writing articles about this, but here we go again. Recently Murray Lipp, a social justice activist in the US, penned an article for the exclusionary named HuffPost “Gay Voices” section titled, “‘Gay Marriage’ and ‘Marriage Equality’ — Both Terms Matter“.
Clearly, not everyone shares the same understanding of the terms “gay marriage” and “marriage equality” and I think it’s crucially important, in the overall quest for equal marriage rights, that the relationship between these terms is explored and articulated.
Just about everyone (even those who have no connection with or interest in gay rights politics) understands what is meant by “gay marriage” — it’s the phenomenon of two people of the same sex getting married, a woman and a woman, or a man and man.
Except it’s not. Gay marriage, is two gay people getting married, not two people of the same sex. If I married my girlfriend I would not be getting gay married, as neither of us are gay. The continual privileging of “gay” to mean QUILTBAG, makes invisible anyone who doesn’t identify as gay.
In general, however, it is the phrase “gay marriage” — and not “same-sex marriage” — which has dominated public discourse when discussion turns to marriage between persons of the same sex.
Which is typically because those who identify as gay have found the term useful, and haven’t pushed back on media using an exclusionary term. Those that spoke the loudest were handed a term that suited their identity and they ran with it. If the media had started with “same sex marriage” the story would be quite different and we’d all be much happier.
In recent years there has been a growing trend by gay rights organizations, and politicians pursuing changes in marriage laws, to downplay the words “gay marriage” and to focus instead on “marriage equality.” While the logic behind this strategy is understandable it has also led to confusion as to what these different labels mean and has resulted in some supporters of same-sex marriage developing an unwarrantedly negative view of the phrase “gay marriage.”
Could that be because “gay marriage” completely excludes those who identify as bisexual, or those trans* folk who don’t identify as gay? I have a very negative view of the phrase “gay marriage” and it is not at all unwarranted. After all, I want to be part of the team, not on the sidelines being ignored as the bisexual community is far to commonly used to.
Adjectives are a key part of language. These important words help to describe differences between similar things. They bring visibility to the diversity that exists in just about every aspect of human existence. Without adjectives language would have considerably less communicative value. Placing the word “gay” in front of “marriage” provides useful descriptive information.
Yup, useful descriptive information that the person using the term doesn’t understand that using exclusionary language is a problem (words matter people). If you want to be an ally to the bisexual community, and bisexuals:
Use inclusive language. Unless you know for a fact that both members of a couple are gay, refer to them as a same-sex couple, not a gay or lesbian couple. Likewise, use “same-sex marriage” rather than “gay marriage”, “LGBT rights” rather than “gay rights,” “the LGBT community” rather than “the gay community”, “pride” or “LGBT pride” rather than “gay pride”, “homophobia and biphobia” rather than just “homophobia”, and so forth. When naming an organization or group, use “LGBT” rather than “gay” if applicable (for example, a “LGBT-Straight Alliance” rather than a “Gay-Straight Alliance”.) [Feministe]
I don’t know how many times people in the bisexual community, and our allies, have to tell people such as Murray Lipp that words matter, and the continued use of “gay marriage” does not include bisexuals and others.
Related to this, campaigns for the legalization of same-sex marriage increasingly downplay the “gay” aspect and focus more on “marriage equality,” which in large part is an effort to avoid having to deal with the very real stigma that is often linked with all things “gay.” While this strategy to neutralize stigma has no doubt helped fuel the success of some of these campaigns, and drawn in more straight supporters, it has also had another impact: the demonization of the term “gay marriage.” It should come as no surprise then that some supporters of same-sex marriage have internalized this and developed a negative view of the term.
I do wonder if Murray Lipp actually spoke to anyone who didn’t like the term “gay marriage” before his article and attempted to understand their objections before just making shit up. I have not internalised homophobia and have a negative view of “gay marriage” because of the stigma attached to the word “gay”. I just really hate being sidelined by people who I thought were on my side.
There are number of reasons why “gay marriage” remains a powerful and very useful way to refer to marriage between people of the same sex. As previously outlined, “gay marriage” has instant recognition value — people know what it means — it’s easy for the mind to grasp and understand the concept. When discussing any issue, and especially when trying to attract supporters for a cause, rapid recognition of this kind is extremely valuable, especially in today’s society in which time and attention spans are limited.
Except… except we’re not all gay. I’m not gay. My girlfriend is not gay. My husband is not gay. My husband’s boyfriend is not gay. By continually using “gay” as an umbrella term, you make it harder for bisexuals to exist. You’re making the only options available straight or gay. Guess what, there are other options, and we’re so very sick of you not paying attention to us. Hello! We’re over here!
“Gay marriage” refers to the actual phenomenon of same-sex marriage, the legal union between two people of the same sex. It’s something which is legal or not in any given part of the world. “Marriage equality,” on the other hand, refers to the equal allocation of rights and benefits to all married couples, regardless of whether those couples are opposite-sex or same-sex. It does not describe a type of marriage. It describes an outcome, an achievement or goal, that being the attainment of equality.
“Gay marriage” refers to the legal recognition of two people who identify as gay being married. Not necessarily all same-sex marriages as we’ve discussed. I’m a big fan of “marriage equality” and “same-sex” marriage, and you should be too if you want to be seen to be an ally to the entire LGBTIQ community.
While it seems like an impossible dream, there is certainly the hope that one day “gay marriage” will be legal throughout the entire world. If that ever happens there will perhaps then be less need to make distinctions between gay and straight marriage.
And this proves my point. For Murry Lipp to even have written this indicates that at no point during this article did he consider those who didn’t identify as gay.
In the comments of this article, which I have contributed to, Murray continues to fail to understand that “gay” is not an umbrella term for QUILTBAG and that his exclusion of those who don’t identify as gay could possibly be a problem. Here is an activist who needs to be educated in being a good queer ally, and ignored until he’s done that education.
Posted: February 4, 2013 at 11:53 pm | Tags: Christianity, equal marriage, family, gender roles, lgbtiq, relationships, Religion, sexism, WTF
It’s not often I bother to click on a link tweeted by ABC Religion and Ethics because far too often I find myself suffering serious eye-roll, if not rage. Sometimes they have articles worth reading, today’s effort by Roger Scruton and Phillip Blond (two UK writers) was not one of them.
The article was florid and pretentious, using language and terms that many people would struggle with, but the worst thing is that the article was masquerading as a balanced view on marriage, which instead came across as sexist, gender essentialist and a bit homo, bi and trans* phobic. I suspect that most people would have been put off by the language use, I almost was, and perhaps for my rage levels I should have let myself be – curse my stubbornness.
Posted: January 25, 2013 at 10:56 pm | Tags: catholic, Christianity, family, lgbtiq, media, privilege, rant, Religion
Apparently the Vatican still having conniptions about the fact that the rest of the Western world is not listening to them and are continuing to recognise same-sex relationships, granting people who are attracted to those of the same sex rights equivalent to those who are opposite sex attracted. And they just won’t stand for it – in order to let everyone know how unhappy they are, and how absolutely morally abhorrent they consider same-sex attraction to be, they came out and said (mid December 2012):
Monday’s edition of Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, features a front-page editorial attacking French Catholic magazine Temoignage Chretien (“Christian Witness”) for supporting marriage equality. The editorialclaims that same-sex couples exist in “a different reality” because they are unable to conceive children, and goes on to claim that marriage equality is part of some socialist “utopia”:
Saying that marriage between a woman and a man is equal to that between two homosexuals is, in fact, a denial of the truth that affects one of the basic structures of human society, the family. We cannot base a society on these foundations without then paying a very high price as happened in the past when there was an attempt to achieve total economic and social equality. Why repeat the same mistake and chase after an unattainable utopia? [(emphasis in original) from ThinkProgress]
It’s taken me a while to write this because every time I’ve thought about it, I’ve just struggled to understand where exactly the Vatican thinks it exists, what century they think it is, and why they think that anyone is going to listen to a bunch of old men in frocks who think that same sex relationships, and the ordination of women are worse or equivalent sins to Catholic Priests raping children and and adults.
Posted: December 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Tags: identity, lgbtiq, privilege
I understand everyone’s desire for umbrella terms, a term to group a whole lot of something under. We grow up with it at school when we start grouping like things together. We have birds, which are then broken into subsets of birds (chickens, eagles, sparrows, parrots, etc). We have dogs, which are then broken into subsets of dogs, we have fish, we have butterflies, we have flowers, and grasses, and trees, etc etc etc. Some of these things are very similar, such as dogs, and some of them are incredibly different, such as birds or fish.
So once you know you can group things together, you keep doing it. You group people from countries, language groups, hair colour, skin colour, relationship status, age, food preferences, employment status, religion, sexual orientation, etc. You realise that the group “people” has many subsets under it, and that people can fit into many of them at once, and that people are generally awesome. This is called demographics and people study this in depth – nothing particularly earth shattering with this knowledge – except that in each of those subgroups, people like to have easily pronounceable labels to apply to the sub sub groups (and the sub sub sub groups, because it all depends on how deeply you want to dig), and this is where this blog post comes in.
Far too often when people talk about sexual orientation, they talk about “straight and gay” as if all those people who do not identify as straight, identify as gay. I’ve blogged about how “gay” is not an umbrella term, and I’ve blogged about how bi invisibility makes me mad. What I haven’t blogged about recently is how favouring “gay” over the remainder of the lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual and gay community (and I’m only talking about sexual orientation) continues the privilege of those men who identify as gay over the remainder of those who do not identify as straight. Not all lesbians identify as gay, no bisexuals or pansexuals identify as gay, and probably only a handful of asexuals identify as gay.
It’s insidious too, it’s so common for media outlets, fellow bloggers, conservative religious spokespeople, and the general public to refer to “gay rights”, “gay marriage”, “gay activists” or people/decisions/laws to be “anti-gay”, as if “gay” is the only and best word to describe a wide group of sexual orientations that make up the not straight sub sub group of sexual orientation.
Grouping together disparate sexualities under a term used mostly by the monosexual men of the subgroup privileges them over everyone else. Whenever they read about issues that affect them, they are reading it in language that they immediately identify with. When they participate in conversations with other people about specifically queer issues, they can use societal shorthand and make the conversation immediately relevant, without having to spend time explaining what the terms that identify their group are, and how that fits in with “gay”. Those of us who do not identify as gay become invisible under the onslaught of using gay as an umbrella term, an ill fitting jumper that I just do not want to wear.
It is beyond time that the gay members of the queer community was not privileged over the rest of the community. Where specific issues relate directly to them, using gay is understandable, but where an issue is broader, such as equal rights, marriage equality, queer rights activism, etc there is no reason for those who identify as gay to be solely identified over and above the rest of the queer community.
If you are a writer, please do not use gay to refer to the entire queer community, find another word or phrase or acronym. I know that there are those who are concerned with the usage of the word “queer” because it was used as a pejorative insult some time ago, I believe that it has been reclaimed, though not everyone else does. LGBTIQ isn’t pronounceable but does capture the majority of the community. QUILTBAG captures pretty much all of it, but some people find it too whimsical/cute and not suitable for serious conversations (I think it rocks all the time).
I don’t care how much “gay [x]” (where X is the topic under consideration) appears in your search results, don’t title your article “gay [x]“, put that in as a tag or keyword, don’t make the rest of the queer community invisible. Educate your readers that the queer community is made up or more than just those who identify as gay.
Posted: November 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Tags: equal marriage, exclusion, identity, Language, lgbtiq, media, minority rights
Whenever I read the term “gay marriage” I get annoyed. The word “gay” has a specific meaning, it is a sexual orientation in this context, so therefore “gay marriage” would be wedding between two gay people. Macquarie dictionary (the Australian dictionary of choice) states that gay is especially of male homosexuals, though also states that it relates to homosexuals in a broader sense, so that may include those who identify as lesbian. The groups that the term “gay” describes does not include bisexuals, trans* and intersex individuals.
So if you decide to use the term “gay marriage”, then you are excluding bisexuals, trans* and intersex individuals from your definition of marriage – which is why I prefer (and argue for) the terms “marriage equality”, “equal marriage” or “same-sex marriage”. If you’re happy excluding the bisexuals, trans* and intersex members of the LGBTIQ community, then I don’t want to be part of your group.
I know I’ve written about this before, but it keeps happening and so I keep pointing it out. It happens in places who should really know better, such as in the Fairfax media, or the Huffington Post, or even at my own workplace. Recently at work, when I called out the person on it, I told them that they should be using inclusive language, and not exclusive language. The guy I addressed my issue to started to argue with me, but then listened to what I was saying, apologised and agreed to correct the language in the presentation pack.
Fairfax and the Huffington Post completely ignore my requests to them to change their language use. Fairfax hasn’t been on my radar much recently, but the Huffington Post has been making me growl regularly. For starters, the section in HuffPo that covers LGBTIQ issues is called “Gay Voices” which really seems quite odd when they have bisexual and trans* content (I don’t know if they have any intersex content). I have asked that they change it to “Queer Voices”, but have not received any response from them. Clearly I am a lone (ish) voice in Australia, it is possible that a concerted campaign might get through to whoever manages that site.
HuffPos’ twitter account regularly refers to “gay marriage” and doesn’t use inclusive terms. Tonight they tweeted about a wedding that had to be moved due to Hurricane Sandy, but they called it a “gay wedding” despite no one in the article using the term. I then argued with people on twitter about orientation – always a fun activity.
All I want, and I don’t think it’s really that hard, is that when referring to issues that affect the entire LGBTIQ community, that attempts are made to use inclusive language. Using umbrella terms like “gay and lesbian” alienates entire sections of the LGBTIQ community, and that’s not cool. Making us invisible because saying gay or lesbian is easier is not cool. We want to be included, we don’t want to be invisible because keeping us invisible makes it harder for us to participate in the wider community, being invisible leads to worse health outcomes for us, being invisible leads to higher rates of violence against us, and generally weakens the community overall. So next time you hear someone refer to “gay marriage” or the “gay and lesbian [insert group here]” ask them if they intend to exclude bisexuals, trans* and intersex people.
Posted: September 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Tags: bisexuality, lgbtiq, politics, pride
23 September is Celebrate Bisexuality Day, and as a member of an active bisexual community, we celebrated by getting together, having dinner, and having a great time. I thought I’d share some other bisexual related news in order to make this day all about us
First up, bisexuals in Berkeley have Celebrate Bisexuality Day formally recognised by the city – the first US city to formally recognise the day.
Berkeley on Tuesday became what is thought to be the nation’s first city to officially proclaim a day recognizing bisexuals, a sexual minority that often complains of being derided as sexually confused fence-sitters.
The City Council unanimously and without discussion declared Sept. 23 as Bisexual Pride and Bi Visibility Day. Since 1999, bisexual activists have claimed the date to celebrate their community, and bisexual pride events routinely are held in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and other cities across the nation.
Berkeley, however, is believed to be the first U.S. city where a government body has taken the extra step of to formally acknowledge the day, the San Francisco Chronicle reported ( http://bit.ly/S4L00p ). Other cities support and participate in gay pride parades held in June and July.
The Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, devoted to the study of sexual orientation and the law, estimates that more than 4 million Americans identify as bisexual, more than the number of Americans who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender combined.
Some bisexuals nevertheless say they feel overlooked or misunderstood, frequently finding themselves portrayed in popular culture as the punch lines of jokes or pathological. And while bisexuals are part of the acronym that makes up the LGBT rainbow, some activists protest that gays are some of their harshest critics.
Faith Cheltenham, BiNet’s President, writes on why she celebrates Bisexuality Day:
Back in the 1990s I hadn’t even heard of the word bisexual, and coming from the small coastal California town of San Luis Obispo, my exposure to anything gay was very limited. Having been raised in the Church of God in Christ, a primarily black Pentecostal denomination, I had been placed in pastoral care by elementary school so as to stamp out my unnatural urges. My mom was doing what she then thought was right to save my soul, so I read from Ezekiel and had elders lay hands on me to pray that devil right on out. Like many queer folks, I escaped my confusion of sexuality into a clusterfuck of sexual activity because none of it made a whole lot of sense. People told me I would “come out eventually,” but I didn’t have any idea what they were talking about, as I had a preference for living indoors and really hated camping. So I carefully folded up my pictures ferreted out of a trashed Playboy, hid them under the bed, and prayed after doing such “bad things” at the end of every night. My heart still pounds to think of my fear, to remember the feeling of being caught in an undertow, as if I jumped into the biggest wave, only to find the light lacking and the deepness of the ocean void of air. It seemed I lived without breathing for years, caught between the worlds of gay and straight.
Finding the bisexual community saved me, finding others like me online and off made me feel completely normal and finally capable of loving relationships with whomever I wanted who wanted me. No one should need a permission slip to fall in love, and no one should have anyone else’s definitions define them. This Bi Pride Day I celebrate the heroes who helped me get here, and all the people who work toward a world where none of us live without being able to love ourselves. In a stunning letter from a person who’s loved more than one gender, Frank Ocean tells me “I was never alone, as much as I felt like it… as much as I still do sometimes. I never was. I don’t think I ever could be.” Frank’s letter shot off into space, breaking barriers and embracing the kids on the street, people between sheets, and all the other lovers who had missed a beat. For there are still too many people waiting, watching, and wondering about the line of best fit; how they intersect, and if they’ll ever connect.
The Gay News Network writes on bisexual erasure, particularly the erasure of Cynthia Nixon’s sexuality:
To return to Cynthia Nixon, she did clarify her remarks. Very reluctantly, she admitted bisexuality. “I believe bisexuality is not a choice, it is a fact,” she said, “What I have ‘chosen’ is to be in a gay relationship.” Now that is beyond reproach, but why was Nixon so hesitant to identify as bisexual? She had this to say: “I don’t like to pull out the “bisexual” word because nobody likes the bisexuals. Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals. We get no respect.”
Despite the alphabet soup of GLBTIQ , discrimination against bisexuals remains pervasive in our community and in broader society.
Bisexuals don’t deserve to be belittled (oh, you haven’t made your mind up yet, it’s just a phase) or ignored (as often happens in rights debates). That many bisexuals have more conscious choice over who they choose to fuck should not be seen as a cause for insecurity among people who do not. Nor are they a threat to our community’s basic human rights – if your sex life isn’t hurting anyone, there is no rational basis for discrimination.
Posted: September 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Tags: equal marriage, lgbtiq, politics
It was a known thing that the vote on this Bill was going to fail. I didn’t expect the numbers though (42 for, 98 against). Though those numbers are telling as we now know who is for and who is against marriage equality in the ALP. The Liberal party were ordered to vote against.
My own MP, Kelvin Thompson (ALP) for the Wills electorate voted against the Bill. I have just written this letter to him on his contact form:
I am incredibly disappointed to discover today that you voted against the Marriage Equality Bill. I would love to hear from you why you voted against according those who are in same-sex relationships the equivalent rights as to those who are in opposite sex relationships.
I had hoped as my MP that you would represent my views, and the views of the majority of Australians (as is your job) when voting on the rights of others.
I also thought, that granting rights to people, that do not take away rights of others, was an easy decision, something that would be straight forward to support.
I am eager to hear from you why you believed that this Bill, to allow those people in same-sex relationships to be able to marry each other, was to be voted against.
Please consider when replying to me that your response will have a lot of influence on how I vote for you at the next general election. I am not interested in receiving a form letter from you, I want to hear your personal reasons for voting against granting rights to a minority group that would equalise their status with the majority.
Let’s see if I get a response to that one. I will remember that my MP voted against this Bill and has demonstrated that he is not in support of the LGBTIQ community. That’s something that I won’t forget in a hurry.
Posted: August 14, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Tags: arsehats, Christianity, differences, equal marriage, lgbtiq, Religion
*Trigger warning for homophobic speech*
I don’t hand out this award very often, although there are quite a few arsehats walking the earth, the rarely do or say something so amazingly awful that I feel the immediate urge to write about it, generally I just call them an arsehat and move on. But today Pastor Peter Walker, a self-confessed Christian (as evidenced by his title), was so horrendous that I have to write and tell everyone that this man has won my Arsehat of the week award. It is entirely possible that he has won the arsehat of the month award, given the magnitude of his offence.
So, I hear you asking, as you’ve wisely kept you head out of offensive LGBTIQ news, what was Walker’s great offence? So great that I am blogging while on my holiday in Cologne, when I could be wandering this fine city instead (well I’m actually doing some washing so I have clothes to wander in)?
Posted: July 31, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Tags: catholic, Christianity, equal marriage, lgbtiq, media
I was really excited to hear that New Zealand was considering a marriage equality bill, and hoped to avoid reading comment from homophobic alarmists, decrying the current decay of modern society, and stating that allowing “teh gays” to marry will bring about the collapse of civilisation as we know it.
However, today a few people on Twitter linked to a “he said, she said” article from stuff.co.nz which sought comment from Christian religious personnel regarding their thoughts on marriage equality, one Catholic Priest and one Uniting Reverend. The comments from the Catholic Priest, Father Merv Duffy were jaw-droppingly astounding, and so ranty pants strapped on, I’m all prepared to have a go.
Posted: July 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Tags: ACL, Christianity, equal marriage, lgbtiq, media, Religion
Malcolm Turnbull gave a speech on equal marriage and how perhaps Australia should have civil unions first as several other countries have, in order to demonstrate that the sky won’t fall in if same-sex relationships are recognised. I’m not going to engage in this debate here other than to say I support marriage equality now.
The Age wrote about this today, and for some reason quoted Lyle Sheldon from the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), I have no idea why:
The Australian Christian Lobby, which is campaigning against the gay marriage legislation, is warning the Labor Party it risks the creation of a US style religious right if it continues to push for a change to the definition of marriage.
“At the moment both sides [of politics] have policies that appeal to Christians but this issue is damaging Labor,” the lobbby’s chief of staff, Lyle Shelton, said.
Mr Shelton said the rise of the religious right in America had been “polarising politics horribly” and “we don’t need that in Australia at all”.
Now, how I look at this collection of statements is as follows, the Australian Labour Party (ALP), for the most part, supports marriage equality. The ACL warn that if the ALP continues to support marriage equality and not the ACL’s favourite form of bigotry, then there is the potential for the (small) religious right to get political and active in Australia, the way that the religious right is active in the US. The ACL are suggesting that if the ALP continues to support (for the most part) marriage equality, then Australian Christians (and by this suggestion they think most of them although this is not the case) will abandon the ALP and will form their own political party. The ACL go on to suggest that this is a bad thing.
Here’s a small hint for the ACL. Australia has been for many years now a far less religious country than the US. To even suggest that the religious right (such as the ACL) could suddenly be more polarising and horrible than they already are is somewhat laughable. It is sad that the ACL has focused so much energy and fear marriage equality when the majority of Australia is on-board with the idea.
As we know the ACL is linked to the religious right in the US and Dominionism. I suspect their “Warning, warning, you will create the religious right in Australia” is far more of a “YAY RELIGIOUS RIGHT”.
If the ACL want to stop “polarising politics horribly” they should just get out of the marriage equality debate and stop spreading fear and bigotry. After all they cannot know the mind of their god, they cannot practice unconditional love while denying rights and recognition to others and there are so many other social justice issues to look at, poverty, war, the continuation of the NT Intervention, etc. So many issues where Christian compassion, unconditional love, and care can be better spent, in my opinion, than continuing to fear a group who just want to be like everyone else.