Sunday, October 02, 2005

But what about the maaaarriage phoooobic?

The general Crud Quotient of Tuesday a couple of weeks back was reduced yet further by finding, on checking my comments, that I had a new reader. I love knowing that people are actually reading this.

Trista, the reader in question, is someone that I previously encountered when she commented on the Leery Polyp about her partner's labour. I was interested enough in her comment to track her back to her blog, where I was pleased to see that she not only has a lovely new daughter, but she is also a Harry Potter fan. So I left a comment about Book 6 on her blog. I'm presuming that it's from there that she found this blog. Either that, or she found it via some other route by total coincidence, which would mean the Internet is smaller and scarier than I thought.

I've had more comments since then, from new readers and old, and I'm delighted about those as well. However, the reason Trista is getting special mention (apart from the fact that I actually started this darned post two weeks ago when she was the only person who'd commented) is because, when I went back to her blog to see what was going on in her life, she'd just mentioned a theory that I thought was rather interesting. Namely, the idea that all homophobic rhetoric resides in a "But what about the children? We must protect the chiiiiiiildreeeeeeen!" mentality. (Mocking tone mine, BTW, original thought hers.)

Which, of course, got me thinking about to what extent this was true and whether I could think of any examples of incidences that didn't fit that pattern. Whereupon I promptly realised that this tied in beautifully with something I'd read the previous day in the Sun (one of our lower-level tabloids, for the non-UKian readers) and had vaguely wanted to rant about but hadn't quite figured out how to lead into. How's that for good timing? (Well, admittedly it would have been even better timing if I'd actually managed to finish writing this darned post at the time. But better late than never, and all that.)

The article in question was about the Army's latest decision concerning gays. In a refreshing deviation from expected tradition, that line is not going to be followed by a story of cringe-making homophobia. No - it seems the Army's latest plan is to allow 'married' gay couples to live in Army accommodation for married people.

(I put 'married' in quotes there because, although the Sun kept referring to married gay couples throughout the article, my understanding was that what's being legalised in the UK is not actual gay marriage but civil contracts, or something of the dull and official-sounding sort. Exactly what the difference is in practice, or whether there even is a difference in practice, I don't know. If anyone actually has a clue on this subject, by all means enlighten me.)

Anyway, regardless of whether or not it's the same as straight marriage in the eyes of the law, it seems it'll be the same in the eyes of the Army's accommodation offices. Gay couples who marry will be able to claim married accommodation in the same way as straight people can, it appears. Which had, of course, got the Sun's knickers in a bunch, because, well, can't go giving gay people the same rights as straight people, can we? But they hadn't - and I didn't think about this until now - taken the "But what about the chiiiiiiildreeeeeen?" line. Their line was that it Wasn't Fair.

It was unfair, they claimed, to committed but unmarried heterosexual couples. For example - what about a couple who want to marry but can't because one or the other is still encumbered by a previous marriage and the divorce is taking a long time to come through? As well as all the other disadvantages of this situation, they'd be unable to claim the same marital accommodation that a married gay couple can now claim. And this, say the Sun, is unfair.

And, yes, it is. But it's unfair in the general life-is-unfair sense. It's unfair that some couples are stuck in a situation where, however much they want to seal their lifelong commitment to each other with an official ceremony, they simply aren't allowed to do so, and it adds an extra dash of unfairness to the pot when they run into practical disadvantages as a result of being unmarried, such as losing out on the option to move into decent accommodation with most expenses paid. You know, it's really terribly obliging of the Sun to provide such a good illustration of why gay marriage should be allowed. (Oh. Wait.)

But the thing is - a straight couple who are already unable to get married and hence to claim married accommodation aren't any less able to do either of those things just because a gay couple now can. There isn't a finite amount of marriedness in the world that is being unfairly stolen from the straight couple by all those upstart gay couples who weren't really entitled to it. There is, admittedly, a finite amount of married Army accommodation in the world, but that doesn't mean an automatic cause-and-effect between the ban on straight unmarried couples and the new permission for gay couples. The ban on unmarried straight couples claiming married accommodation existed already, and allowing gay couples to claim that accommodation doesn't make unmarried straight couples less able to claim it than they already were.

There is absolutely no benefit involved to anyone in considering this to be a zero-sum game where, if one person isn't entitled to something they want, everyone else ought to be prevented from getting it as well because It's Not Fair otherwise. It's very natural to feel resentment on seeing someone else able to get what you desperately want but can't have. But assuming that other people ought to be prevented from getting something just because you can't have it - that's just childish.

I did at least feel some sympathy for people in that position, though, unlike those in the other example the Sun came out with. Plunging further into sheer silliness, the journalist asked rhetorically: what about couples who were simply living together, committed to each other lifelong, but who didn't see a need to make the position official by getting married?

Well, what about them? When they discover they can't get the accommodation they want without getting married they will, by definition, be transformed into couples who do see a need to get married, that's what about them. And it's then up to them to do the necessary. Considering that the necessary, in this case, is two visits to the local registry office (one to get the licence, one for the marriage ceremony) and a smallish fee, I think they'll find that this is perfectly feasible.

I was all set to rant about people who "don't see a need to get married" but expect to get the same privileges as married people anyway, before it occurred to me that there isn't really much point in ranting about figments of the Sun's imagination. I suspect that couples who plan to spend the rest of their lives together but refuse to make it official even if that's all it would take to get them a decent house don't actually exist outside these sorts of ill-thought-out articles. However, since the concept of people acting this way did at least provide me with a decent title to this post which I can't be bothered to change, I will say: just in case there's anyone out there who really is being that silly, get over it. And if you can't, then at least stop blaming gay couples for it.

(Come to think of it, maybe Trista was right after all. Maybe the link between her "But what about the chiiiiildreeeeen?" theory and the Sun's article is that the Sun's line was actually "But what about the people who just want to act like chiiiiiiildreeeeeen?")


At October 03, 2005 11:52 AM, Anonymous Jo said...

What about the couple who might get married but can't because the stupid person who got maried to one of them first, refuses to get unmarried without causing a whole lot of grief for the chiiiiillllldreeen? Oh wait...that's just us. But for what it's worth (10p and a wine gum?), no way I'd get married so that I could live in House A rather than House B. That would just be daft.

At October 03, 2005 2:45 PM, Blogger Trista said...

I did wonder how you found me. And yes, I found you through your comment on my post, though I must say, your comment came to my inbox and had no reference attached and because it was to a post from the imaginary time before I had a baby and could read whole books (or so they say) I was stumped for a couple of days as to what the mysterious message might mean. Who was this Ginny and what wasn't she going to let whom get away with? Eventually, I figured it out, followed the link to your blog and really liked your style.

As you've already commented on my post, I was speaking about legislation rather than real-life homophobia. In real-life I do believe there is a strong strain of homophobia that manifests through the line of thinking that gays are getting away with something -- that they are wanting too much -- and that their very existence and pursuit of completeness is somehow depriving people of something intangible, such as the ability to know that everyone else is as miserable as they.

Of course, your example could never happen in the US because not only are gays not allowed to register as committed couples in the vast majority of the country, but the federal government, and most particularly the military, refuse to accept the inclusion of even single, non-practicing (non-practicing, as if you "practice" who you are) gays. Of course, that's changing now that our government needs bodies to fuel the flames of our war of aggression. If we're going to be killing our citizens in an attempt to kill another countries citizens why not use gays?

The long, bitter part of my post is over now. Really, for all of Sarah's other readers, I'm not always this peevish (look at me, using an English word and all) in fact, I think I'm quite pleasant and entertaining and, of course, a fabulous artist...


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