So marriage equality is sweeping the west. Slowly but surely, state by state and country by country, we are winning, and we are doing so on a platform which says, in effect, “We’re just like you.” Gay couples want to settle down, raise children, say ‘I do’ before their friends and family. They want the white picket fence and 2.4 kids, to work 9-5 at a respectable, responsible job, pay the mortgage, walk the dogs in the park at the weekend, and enjoy lazy Sundays spending quality family time together. It’s a dream many of us, even in my generation, grew up never believing we’d see come true.
I’m certainly not going to deny anyone their right to that dream. It’s a perfectly valid one — a great one. There is infinite joy to be found in getting married, settling down and rearing children.
However… it’s not for everyone.
The problem with hanging any equality campaign on a “we’re just like you” argument is that, of course, we’re not. For every gay man or woman who wants marriage and kids, there’s another who doesn’t, and those people are rendered invisible by the “just like you” mantra.
But do you know who else is being rendered invisible at exactly the same time? All those straight people who don’t want marriage and kids either.
Couples who choose not to marry, who choose not to live together, who choose not to have children. Swingers and menages, and people who don’t want relationships at all. There’s a whole world of different lifestyles out there, and married couples with kids are but a small part of it.
Marriage equality matters, I’m not detracting from that for a second. (Heh, now the cat’s out of the bag about the fact I’m in a transatlantic same-sex relationship, I bet you can guess why.) But let’s not get swept up in the rhetoric and the romance of ceremony and forget all the people we are marginalising when we hold matrimony up as The (capital T) way of living your life. We want, need, and deserve the right to marry, and to have our marriages recognised. But that doesn’t make marriage mandatory, and it doesn’t mean choosing not to marry is a mistake.
The LGBT community has garnered unprecedented visibility in recent years as we have fought for equality. Let’s not whitewash ourselves to appear more palatable to people who are, when you scratch the surface, more like us than either side realises.
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