Gay marriage? Is that the best you can do?

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
August 15, 2011 /

Click here to view original /

Gay rights I feel passionate about. Gay marriage and I’m less jazzed. Personally I have to consider the whole thing just another equal access issue to get even mildly motivated. Supporting the institution itself just makes me queasy.

Recently Penny Wong and her partner Sophie Allouache were revealed to be expecting. Certainly worth a congratulations given that two lesbians can’t blame it on a few too many tequilas and a snowstorm. Well done, I say, well done.

The pregnancy was announced and within a hare’s breath calls for gay marriage were heard.

For as long as I can remember, much like Neighbours’ Lou and Harold and House’s Greg and Wilson, Sesame Street’s favourite citrus-complexioned duo’s love existed without a need to follow Allan and Denny down the aisle.

That whole scenario apparently needs a rethink however, according to some social networkers with a penchant for social engineering. They’re calling for Bert and Ernie to make it all official-like. Apparently the puppet-ty duo’s cohabitation requires explanation to the confused masses.

It’s time we pause for thought.

If a gay person wants to buy into the wedding industry, I truly do champion their rights to do so. (Albeit with the same enthusiasm I support straight folk making this mistake: i.e., none.)

But surely marriage is not the only way to grant gay couples – gay families – some respect.

The implication that because Penny and Sophie are in the “family way” we simply have to rethink gay marriage is so incredibly conservative.

The implication that because Bert and Ernie have a love that dare not speak its name we need to make it all “real” with a multi-tiered cake is plain offensive.

In Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants, she writes of her Greek-born mother drawing distinctions between the “Greeky Greeks” and the “normal Greeks”. That there are, apparently, right ways to do your thing, to do your culture, and then there are wrong, woggy and unacceptable – if not offensive ways to do it.

It’s as though culturally we’ll accept Penny and Sophie’s obviously deviant dyad provided that they make it look as close as possible to a vanilla, heterosexual union.

This of course means no letting of your freak flag fly, no appearances at Mardi Gras, just look as respectably heterosexual as possible and we’ll treat you half decently.

Not quite what I’d consider progress.

Personally I’m a big fan of subtext. I’m an academic so reading queer and kinky stuff into bad film and television entertains me wildly. That said, kids aren’t as predisposed to doing this as I am. For this reason, I’d quite love an out-and-proud gay couple on Sesame Street.

But why do they have to be a married gay couple? Why do we need to trumpet the idea that the only way that gay people are palatable is if their lifestyles look exactly like heterosexuals?

I love that I live in a country where a lesbian cabinet minister is shacked up in sin with her up-the-duff partner. I love it not because it’s scandalous, and not because it gives Fred Nile yet another reason to drop to his knees – okay, I do quite like it for these reasons – but most of all I like it because it showcases one of the infinite kinds of families available.

There used to be a crappy ad on TV for foster parenting. In it were mini-vignettes of all the different families that were permitted to foster. Single people, people with kids, people with no kids and one strange guy dribbling ice cream down his face evidently representing men who can’t quite feed themselves. Yay, they can foster too!

This is what society looks like. In all its very many manifestations.

Of the many political issues vying for attention in Australia, equal rights for homosexuals is one of few that gets me really excited.

But the equal homosexual shouldn’t have to act straight-enough to be accepted by bigots. I don’t call that progress.

© Lauren Rosewarne