Having grown up during the 80s and 90s, there have been many changes to the world which have been regretted, and many too which have been a source of celebration. Many loved ones have gone the way of us all, including the last in species both major and minor, but on the positive side we have seen advances in technology, education and social awareness which are surely steps forward rather than backwards.
Over the last few weeks, another chapter has been added to the story of equality in my own country, mirroring political and social upheavals around the world and in stark contrast to a few backward nations.
On Saturday the 29th of March, a new choice became available for all inhabitants of the British Isles. The choice, should one wish, to legally marry a person with the same gender – generally known in the public and private vernacular as Gay Marriage.
This is, no doubt, a great thing. For the first time everyone, including myself, can choose to marry the person I love, regardless of their assigned gender. And that is a sentence which requires some explanation.
We tend to think of gender in terms of black and white. On or off. But, unlike a lightswitch, that’s not how our bodies work. For a minority of people, genuinely small but important number that is, the assignment at birth of the label Male or Female is both unimportant and damaging. There are those who can medically be categorised as somewhere in between – neither totally male nor female. There are also those who are born genetically male, who associate with being female and vice versa. Whether this is a ‘choice’ – and I’ll come on to that pernicious word later – or because this is forced on them by their subconscious is neither here nor there.
So to claim, because a baby happens to be born with certain defining genitals that they are to be dressed in a blue romper suit, or have flowers braided in to their hair is nothing more than an attempt by their parents, and more damagingly by society in general, to define something which is entirely out of their control.
So why do I – a man who identifies as such and who is attracted to women – celebrate the rights of others to publicly announce their love for and attachment to another person – a stance traditionally referred to as homosexuality?
Well, it’s to do with another imaginary gap. Just like there is no binary selection between male and female, I do not believe there is such a thing for sexuality either. To have to define oneself by the people, or sub-set of people one finds attractive is limiting ones ability to love. It may sound perverse, but my first experience of this – philosophically speaking – was while watching the 1992 film “The Crying Game” – the first film I saw which challenged the traditional gender roles in a way with which I could associate. (For those who have not seen it, I would recommend it wholeheartedly. Both Stephen Rea and Forrest Whittaker are fantastic in it…)
That was the first time I actually thought of what it must be like firstly to challenge one’s own approach to sexuality, but then to discover that because one person was bound up in a gender classification that did not fit them, any love which existed between them would be not only taboo, but potentially illegal.
Is it a choice? I have heard people say that gays CHOOSE to be so, as if it is a wilfull and contrary middle finger to society, and yet I refuse to believe that homosexuality is a choice any more than one can choose to be white, or tall. Would people have chosen to be gay, and also chosen to have taken their own lives to avoid the shame of it? Is what we are attracted to something we have any say in at all?
Imagine for a second taking the one thing you love to eat most. That may be a favourite cheese, your perfect pizza, a milkshake from your childhood diner, or anything in the world. Now imagine being told, that because of an arbitrary decision it is now illegal. And now imagine that the people telling you this, don’t actually eat in the same diner. They’ve never had a pizza, or hamburger, or they can’t drink milk. How stupid would that be? And how aggrieved would you feel? But, they will say, it’s only your choice to like it.
Now transfer that feeling on to someone you love. Someone is telling you that because the person you love has the ‘wrong’ genitals, you are not allowed to share the same standards of life with them as someone who has the “right” parts. And this, largely, is decided by people who are ‘secure’ in their gender because they happen to agree with the status quo. This, I posit, is the most ludicrous and pernicious example of confirmation bias I have heard. Because it’s what I do, it is right to do so, and nothing you can say will change my mind…
And so now I celebrate. I celebrate that people from every part of the gender continuum can choose to declare their love for whomsoever they choose. I celebrate because we are one step closer to a society which does not care whether someone is male or female or somewhere in between, which draws no conclusion from a person’s professed sexuality and instead chooses to say that anyone capable of love should be allowed – indeed encouraged – to celebrate it.
One step closer. We are not there yet, but eventually I hope we will be. We will – one day – live in a world where so-called homosexuality is no longer considered a paraphilia, but is upheld as the demonstration of a compassion which we should all strive towards. And in the years which follow, it becomes so normal, that no one who follows his or her heart will be sneered at and put down by a society professing to have the best interests of a callous nation at heart.
Teach the kids. Tell them about the vast spectrum of love, because to fail to do so will trap their own small minds – the future of our country – in the despair which members of our own generations have struggled to overcome. Tell them there is nothing traditional about heterosexuality – only that those who strayed outside the callous lines drawn by despots and villains were once punished for doing so. But no longer.
Right now, all the child wants is a hug and your love. To deny her either will be like a slap to the face. Next year, she will need the freedom to express her love, and to deny her that would be to end her life.
Look up, Hannah, look up.