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Thursday, 17 May 2012

How Marriage Will Conquer Even Gender

By A. Howard
For all the challenges facing the LBGTI community, and all those who seek to advance equality, the challenges in the rest of Europe are greater. Surprisingly, the Rainbow Map created by ILGA Europe (the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Trans and Intersex Association) places the UK as the highest country for national human rights of these groups. What about the fabled liberal haven of Iceland?, I cry. Only a handful of western European countries have scores equating to any decent rights, with southern and eastern European countries looking downright scary. We need IDAHO as a day to remind people that the days of hiding and institutionalised scorn are really not that far away in the UK, and present in many European countries to this day. Let’s try to celebrate IDAHO, be it by sharing the word that the LBGTI community are here to be heard, supporting charities like Stonewall or making our voices heard by the government through commenting on the proposals. 

May 17th is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. This year IDAHO falls amongst UK discussion of the current Equal Civil Marriage consultation over whether same-sex couples and couples including transgender people should be allowed to publicly declare their commitment to each other in that time-old bond: marriage. Slight shock that such proposals came under a Conservative-dominated government aside, this is wonderful news for all who see IDAHO as an opportune way to advance equality. We need IDAHO in the UK and elsewhere. Only weeks ago, Core Issue Trust’s campaign to tell London’s lesbians, gays and bi-sexuals that they needed to, and could be, ‘cured’ of their sexuality through bus posters only failed after furious emailing and outrage from equality groups. Only eleven days ago the woman who inspires hundreds of feminist blog posts, Nadine Dorries, described the proposals (which specifically prohibit same-sex religious marriages and explicitly allow religious institutions to teach that marriage is only for opposite-sex couples) as transforming ‘[gay couples] into political agitators who have set themselves against the church and community’. I’d like to paraphrase Stephanie Coontz’s brilliant book ‘Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage’ which comments that marriage pre-dates religion and has already shaken off the old prohibitions of love, inter-racial unions, class, equality et al. Silly Dorries. 

Firstly, I’d like to think that all people suffering from legislated inequality are political agitators. There’s nothing like being a political agitator to advance your own political and legal rights, Dorries. Secondly, if a religious institution, note the word institution, tells someone in its teachings that they’d be ‘wrong’ for their sexuality, then what’s wrong with the presumption that they’d go against that institution. I disagree with lots of institutions, mainly because they subtly disagree that I should have control over my body and sexuality. Dorries completely ignores the transgender aspect to the proposals. Transphobia is often dismissed, and IDAHO and the government’s proposals highlight the importance of addressing transgender people’s access to equality. Before reading and responding to the survey, I had, to my current shame, never considered the challenges surrounding transgendered people and marriage. Under the current law, people wishing to change their gender had to end their marriage. Under the proposals, they won’t have to. 

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