Friday exploded in an Internet rainbow. Every mainstream media title had its report, and the world cheer that came with it drowned for a while the dissenting voices. Rainbow backgrounds flooded Facebook faces, flags waved and people celebrated. I celebrated, and shared my feelings because after many months of debate, the US Supreme Court by a fairly narrow margin, voted to ensure equal marriage rights to all couples, regardless of gender, in all states. It really did feel like a moment in history, when rainbow fireworks shot into a dark sky to be seen unavoidably worldwide. The message wasn’t ‘gay marriage’ but equality for anyone who really loves someone enough to commit their lives together, without judgement of whether they are good enough to deserve society’s blessing.
For a moment the simplicity of #lovewins was glorious. I was particularly impressed by the breadth of support and happiness coming from people who are not in the QUILTBAG minority cluster, and who have no vested interest themselves in this outcome. Here in the UK, we could have shrugged our shoulders and said ’welcome to common sense’. But anyone reading the arguments from the US in recent times with some bemusement, can be glad that the decision did not go the other way, because that would have been a dark day, for enshrining the right to discriminate in the US Constitution.
Unavoidably, I was born transsexual. Inevitably, any sexual preference I also feel comfortable with places me in some minority for some part of my life. Was I gay when I lived in the guise of a man? No. That much is clear. Had I shown preference for men after transition, would that have given me a latent gay history? No. And because I say my gender was always female, have I always been lesbian? That’s harder, because the same could be said to my ex, and she would certainly say no about herself. How can one partner be lesbian and the other straight? My sexuality has not changed, nor has hers, but any onlooker would say I also used to be hetero. And now? I am definitely lesbian. Nor would I define myself as queer – so I feel that my identity is actually unchanged. Transition has been a big adjustment, but it is not a conversion. I am now just as I was born, apart from one small area of my anatomy.
Why then, should anyone have the right, through their personal opinion (which they may describe or legitimate as ‘faith’, or ‘tradition’) to say that the love I share with any other cannot be legally recognised as a binding commitment? It seems that in any diverse society to limit this is an ownership by a minority of definitions of shared rights. (I don’t want it, so no-one can have it.)
It is a deep irony that most if not all of the ‘great’ world religions have as their basis: righteousness, justice and love. That embraces fairness and equality in any language, and protection from abuse. And yet the loudest voices in this US debate against marriage equality have based their objections on cherry-picked biblical interpretations and denominational dogmas. That is sad. Sad, because marriage was not invented by any particular religion. Whilst it may have had purposes described by religions in order to protect it, and to enshrine it in laws to encourage family integrity in less secular times, it was not invented by those religions.
Not the end of the rainbow yet
So as soon as I saw the rainbow shining in the sky over the US, I knew it would silence no-one. I also knew that it was only a belay-point, an anchor on the rockface, not the top of the climb.
Trans people of all kinds will also once again feel left behind, because they are unprotected and widely discriminated against, and this change makes only a difference should they be in a position to marry someone of the same gender. That is, if they are fortunate enough to be able to have their gender recognised in the first place. Transition, in the sense of documentary verification and clinical support, is still inaccessible to very many people, especially in the US. So now re-read my third paragraph above with the premise instead that I could not have had surgery or a gender recognition certificate, birth certificate change, and identity correction. Marriage equality is a fantastic step, but we are a long way from the humanity of full, equal recognition.
Love, in the end, is not what another makes us, or confers on us, but the means by which we can help another achieve their authenticity.
If any world religion has anything reasonable or rational to say about love, then it should begin here, because to say the opposite is repression by dictat.
Here are two quotes to leave you with this week. The first is the closing paragraph from the Supreme Court:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.
As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves.
Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilisation’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
Against this, there have been many voices on the Internet these past few days citing snippets of text from one translation or another of the collection of ancient writings, written in many languages and assembled by various committees over centuries, untouched for 16 centuries, which have come to be know as ‘The Bible’. It’s OK to read a book and keep it for moral guidance, but if you’re going to make it prescriptive, then keep it prescriptive for yourself. Please do not use it to impose your personal views about it by declaring your god the author and supreme authority, on the grounds that its own pages (and nothing else) suggest that. Read this humourous but incisive (if well-known) summary of what that prescription really implies. If you’re going to quote some, quote all, and live by it.
Otherwise read my little box on love again, and decide if that is what you mean by love.
From my end of the rainbow, enjoy these times.