Friday, May 15, 2015

On The Importance Of Gender Roles And Hysterical Silly Little Bitches

Kerr's Ladies Football Club in 1921I come late to the realisation that my marriage does not meet the standards promulgated by our friends in Mothers and Fathers Matter.

I could forgive their focus on child rearing as the sine qua non of marriage. True, it devalues my childless union. The respect afforded to my parents' marriage is also diminished; their days raising children are now complete. Mothers and Fathers Matter's slurs against marriages that start or continue outside the formative years of progeny are softened by an occasional pleasantry of inclusion, a nod towards my capacity to pass on my genetic code, a formalised affirmation that, although not of the same kind, a technicality allows us to claim to be of the same category as those marriages Mothers and Fathers Matter choose to affirm.

I can no longer even claim this consolation of second class marriage. It seems my wife and I have run afoul of another condition. Let's look at articles written by some of their founders:
"Importance of gender differences in marriage is a matter of common sense... [same sex marriage] is based on a proposition that gender does not matter. But if we take the time to look around, observe and listen, it clearly matters." Prof Ray Kinsella

"[same sex marriage] proponents ... insist that two men can do the job of a mum and a dad just as well, as can two women. This means they deny the importance of sexual complementarity." - David Quinn
"Mothers and fathers bring distinctive gifts to parenting. They tend to show their love, and to provide strength and comfort, in different ways.

Our instinct is to say that there are very real and important differences between men and women and it really does matter whether one is born male or female." Dr Rik Van Nieuwenhove et al 
Emphasis mine in all cases. There is a common thread in these articles - that, solely by virtue of their gender, men and women have unique, distinct traits that are important to a child's upbringing and it is in society's best interests to ensure only marriages which provide the entire gamut of these otherwise inaccessible traits earn state recognition.

It is here I learn that my marriage is not counted as such by Mothers And Fathers Matter. My wife taught me how to drive. I have abandoned teaching her how to iron and instead do her ironing for her. Despite my best efforts she's still better on the farm than I. None of these characteristics are based on our genders. The closest we have ever come to gender specific roles in our relationship is a brief yet binding discussion on the ideal placement of the toilet seat.

Monday, May 4, 2015

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child

A guest post by the talented Joanne Duffy of Oriental Cutlery.

Hey Dave, how’s it going?

So I’ve just been watching this video that I found of you speaking against marriage equality, while 6 signs for YES EQUALITY that got ripped down in Galway are sitting in my house waiting to be put back up by the tireless campaigners here. You know all about tireless campaigning, I’m sure.
So, you said that this referendum is connected to protecting the 8th amendment. Now, Dave, I know you didn’t mean that. Because later in this same video you go on to tell us that this referendum is about changing Article 41, The Family in our constitution. Gay men, as you so often remind us, cannot have babies. So why would they care about abortion laws? I’m sure this was just a slip up, forgot the morning coffee did you? Sometimes I forget my coffee too and it makes me a little groggy, but it doesn’t make me confuse segments of documents upon which a Republic is founded.

Moving on then. So you’ve said that the media are biased and are on the yes side, and have been perpetuating “uninterrupted propaganda”. Now I’m no history buff, I got an honour in the junior cert but that’s about as far as it goes.  But I know that the word propaganda means  communications, usually from the Government, that are designed to influence the opinion of citizens. Can you point me to where you’ve seen propaganda? Or more importantly, go straight to the BAI. They’ll be very helpful if they hear that there is an outlet somewhere who is not adhering to the balance ruling they made. I really hope that sound I just heard was your coffee machine going on.

You went on to claim that some people are comparing you to racists, and comparing the acquisition and pursuit of same-sex marriage to the pursuit of interracial marriage in the United States. You claim that allowing people of different races to marry is fine, as no one else’s rights are affected. But the thing is, at the time, white people believed their rights were being affected. They believed it to be an affront to society that black people would be allowed to marry white people. Kind of like the way you believe that your rights, and the rights of children you don’t know, won’t ever know, and who haven’t even been born yet will be affected.  Is that coffee ready yet?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Taste of Sincerely Held Beliefs

I've been wearing a wedding ring for three happy years. We'll be celebrating our fourth anniversary in September. More recently I've been celebrating my support of marriage for all couples by wearing a Yes Equality badge, sometimes in English, sometimes in Irish.

Last Wednesday on College Green a lady of sorts asked me if I spoke Irish. "Tá roinnt agam ach ní bíonn mórán seans agam í a úsáid", my brain answered, a plan stymied by the fact my mouth was full.

I waved my hand in front of my face to explain my predicament and she saw my wedding ring. Pausing only to identify herself as a no voter she embarked on a monologue more shouted than spoken. I wasn't "really" married,  she told me. Nor, I learned, was I truly in love. I was merely fulfilling base sexual desire.

Having publicly denigrated the most important relationship in my life she moved focus to its wider social implications.

Those within her considerably expanded earshot learned that my sham marriage was a tool of division, malevolent in its intent to force women in the majority world to rent their wombs.

I'm not an unreasonable sort. I attempted to make the conversation less of a one way affair but she proved unwilling to indulge me. She paused only long enough to add that she was yet to wed before - perhaps sensing the surrounding audience had changed - moving to repeat her cold refrain that I should not call myself married.

I had started walking and she viewed this as an opportunity to join me, her earnestness expressing to those of reasonable hearing that the band on my left ring finger signalled the destruction of childhoods through the combined selfishness of my partner and I.

This continued, unencumbered by social grace, pleasantry, or acknowledgement that my profession of love was anything more than an abstract thought experiment to be dashed by right thinking members of society. We approached my bus stop where I half expected an unfettered treatise on the rights of people like me to avail of public transport. Instead - absent trace of irony - she apologised for being unable to spare me further time and entered Temple Bar.

And I laughed. A nervous laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. Telling me my wife and I are not truly married is as threatening  to me as saying I'm a lightly grilled cheese sandwich. We have signed government documents and constitutional protection of the commitment we have made to each other. The good folks that people this island broadly see the enterprise of our union as positive both for us and for society. They may not celebrate our anniversary with us but in general they wish us well. Our commitment is afforded a certain respect.

What if that were absent? I cannot, indeed dare not call this no voter homophobic. She is the human embodiment of a no poster and I am called upon to celebrate the expression of her sincerely held beliefs in the public square. The no side's obtuse demand is that we consider our partners, our children or our parents - that which is at the heart of our lives - fair game, a distant second priority to their sincerely held beliefs, and utterly undeserving of any modicum of respect.

We see this when Keith Mills of Mothers and Fathers Matter used air quotes to refer a student's mothers on the Late Late show last night. We saw it again, minutes later, when fellow no campaigner Paddy Manning employed the phrase "I don't care what children's charities say",  dismissing the evidence of hundreds of child welfare professionals to better denigrate families not headed by opposite sex parents.

I see it in the single parents and adopted people I have met both through friendships and through canvassing, their families ruled inferior by the stock photos and glib phrases of the No posters. And I see its effects on those who are forced to conceal the truth about the person they love.

Nearly every week I'm joined on a canvas by a first timer. We don't get many natural extroverts. What we do get is people of courage. People willing to risk personal abuse or - to my mind worse - public indifference to their desire to celebrate their love and commitment in the way my wife and I can. As a married person it buoys me to see so many willing to fight for the institution. I see a trend in these new canvassers as they shuffle through their notes and rehearse long practiced conversations. They all worry that they won't correctly recall the myriad legal distinctions between civil partnerships and marriage.

In ten weeks of canvassing that question has never arisen.

To my mind this is because the population already knows the privation inherent in a civil partnership that can never be corrected by legislative tweak: respect. The bulwark of societal support that could counteract the attempts to be made feel less by No posters and their public speakers. The right to share your relationship status without concern for the reaction. The privilege of crossing the road without strangers following you to disavow your love for your spouse. This respect, this difference between civil partnership and marriage is why my experience of what the sincerely held beliefs of that no voter is now an anecdote and not a damaging experience.

Can we grant this respect with a yes vote on May 22nd? Interracial marriage did not end racism. Mixed marriages, as they were once called, did not immediately end sectarian conflict between Catholics and Protestants. But they were both damn fine starts.