Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Brides Not of Christ

Big fat goanna sunning itself on our driveway

Tonight I went to hear Rodney Croome, the Tasmanian gay & lesbian activist , on equal marriage rights. It's a fraught issue among G&L folk, with many believing it's an outdated, heteronormative institution that we should have no part of, but an increasing number believing it's an important touchstone of equal rights. I think I'm more in the latter camp. I'm speaking on this issue in a few weeks, to the HREOC inquiry into relationship recognition of same-sex couples or some such. HREOC wanted to hear from 'rural same sex couples' and I guess that's my demographic these days, although maybe they're hoping for someone a bit more earthy.

HREOC I think particularly wants to hear about how lack of legal recognition has practically affected us - money, access to particular things, medical decision making and so on. I can talk about that but really the biggest thing for me is the symbolism of state recognition. Not just for me, but in the way it enables others to think about what our relationships mean. It's like - you know that thing about how the Inuit have something like 17 different words for snow? And we only have one word for snow so we don't see the different gradations of snow. Well, there's no word for a long-term, committed same sex relationship. And not having a language for it denies the possibility of it existing. It means you are always carving out the niche of what one's relationship means in the world, rather than just relaxing into a pre-existing concept. And I know, sometimes those concepts can be really restrictive, and marriage is rooted in traditions of property and patriarchy and women-as-chattel. But it's also convenient to have a way of stating your relationship in a language that people understand. Vanessa and Jill, who I stay with in Brisbane, are planning to live overseas for a year. Vanessa will get work easily, but for Jill to get a work permit they have to prove they are in a relationship. 'That won't be too hard,' said Vanessa, 'We've got joint bank statements going back eight years, and our mortgage documents, and we'll get stat decs from a few people...'

I find something very demeaning about the idea of taking eight years' worth of bank statements to some bureaucrat in order to get a work permit, when all they need is a marriage certificate.

Maybe I'm being co-opted by the mainstream. My mind's not made up on the value of marriage, but on the whole I'm leaning towards it being an important signifier that g&l relationships are as valid as straight ones.

I've never really been involved in gay & lesbian issues. I always thought it was a bit frivolous and unimportant, what with destruction of Brazilian rainforest and coral bleaching and child labour and torture and apartheid and the threat of nuclear war and whatnot. Maybe it's to do with getting older, and getting tired of bucking the system, but I'm thinking it would just be nice if some of these small (on the global scale of these infinitely more disastrous issues) oppressions were gone . One young thing, 'the convenor of the queer students' collective,' she announced, asked Rodney, 'But what about those of us who are polyamorous? I'm concerned that this is setting up a hierarchy and we don't fit.' Rodney gave some nice answer about being open to different types of relationships but I wanted to say, 'Sweetheart, you're nineteen! That's not marriage, that's fucking around, that's what you're meant to do at that age. Go forth, have fun by all means, and come back in fifteen years and tell us whether you still want to go out and party and stagger home from some bonk's house in last night's smoky clothes, or whether you're ready for some nice predictable nights in front of the Scrabble board wearing your old flanny pyjamas.'

I'm going flanny pyjamas every time, these days.


Susoz said...

I'm in the anti-marriage camp, though it's hard to resist the tide.
After 18 years together, we find no trouble at all in people accepting the significance of our relationship. And haven't had any legal issues. I have no desire to think of my partner as my spouse. Having a child throws you together with many het couples who got married because that's what you do in life and I'm just not like them, my life has been different and I don't want to be in their club. (Though I like hanging out with them on occasion.)

Mikhela said...

Many of my friends are firmly anti-marriage; in fact I'm surprised that it's such a controversial issue. For me it's not so much about whether I personally would get married - although I'm not vehemently opposed to the idea of a pretty frock, a party and lots of presents - I suppose it's another bastion of discrimination and disregard. I don't like being told that I can't marry.