Friday, December 24, 2010

Open Forum: Is It Wrong to Say 'Gay Marriage'?

Are marriage equality advocates unintentionally using self defeating terminology in the fight for broader civil rights for the LGBT community? The vast majority of the community consistently argues that civil unions are a separate and unequal institution from that of civil marriage. The argument is that queer people should have all of the same rights and responsibilities that come with government sanctioned recognition of our relationships and that includes the vocabulary used to describe that union.

The idea that heterosexuals should have sole access to marriage while LGBT people can have civil unions or some other form of contractual agreement feeds into the notion that somehow our relationships and bonds are not equal to that of a male/female couple. This serves to reinforce the idea that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is somehow inferior to being a cisgender heterosexual.

Queer activists certainly do not subscribe to the heteronormative thinking that being LGBT is inferior or less than in any way. Is it possible that by virtue of our arguments in favor of equal protections that we are diminishing our chance and giving credence to the anti-gay oppositions notion that we are indeed so different that we cannot be treated the same?

When discussing the issue of marriage and how the institution should evolve moving forward we often speak of the term 'gay marriage.' If we are arguing that our love is the same and we are entitled to equal protection should we by default of our terminology be segregating ourselves by using 'gay marriage' as opposed to just saying marriage or marriage equality? 'Gay marriage' would just be regular marriage and perhaps the idea behind it scares people that somehow this institution is changing and expanding when it only would remain the same yet more inclusive.

What are your thoughts?

13 comments:

Bridge Journey said...

Of course not! I can't imagine why...
Merry Christmas friend!

Sean said...

As a gay guy, I think you need something else to worry about.

Sean said...

As a gay guy, I think you need something more important to worry about.

outoutout said...

Agree 100%. I always cringe when I hear terms like "gay marriage" and "straight marriage", as if they're two wildly different things. I always say we're fighting for "equal marriage" or "marriage equality". Marriage is marriage is marriage and it shouldn't matter.

Bethany said...

You lost me.

SM Kovalinsky said...

I think "Marriage Equality" is the best term by far.

Queers United said...

I try to just say marriage but make it obvious im talking about the ability for gay people to get married. Sometimes its easier to just say gay marriage since its so commonly used but im not the biggest fan of it. I am not majorly opposed either. Marriage equality is the best.

CrackerLilo said...

I say "same-sex marriage" because as a bisexual woman, I think it's more inclusive. We're too often forgotten in this debate. I also like to use "mixed-sex marriage" for marriages between women and men. I would rather it just all be "marriage," but we ain't there yet.

AlterPride said...

Gay marriage is inherently a misnomer. Gay and lesbian people are not being given any special privileges that are not available to other sexual orientations. Biased expressions like this always lead me to reply, "Maybe next year we can tackle bisexual marriage." It's amazing how we struggle for equality, but in the process only try to further segregate and marginalize other minorities in the queer community by promoting these types of fallacies.

I believe the proper phraseology should be "marriage equality" or at minimum, the still technically accurate, "same-sex marriage".

When I visit Websites like Queerty or Towleroad and see actual subsections devoted to "Gay Marriage", it truly makes me cringe.

Queers United said...

A few of you raise an interesting point that I didn't think of which is the term 'same-sex marriage.' I use this seldomly because I really do hate the term. Same-sex marriage has the word sex in it and I feel it's wrong for 2 reasons. 1. marriage between same-gender couples is not only about SEX. 2. there is a distinction between sex and gender which people often confuse which can make it even more confusing if there is a trans partner.

AlterPride Project said...

I would be happy to respond to your points :)

1) You state you are not opposed to the phrase "gay marriage" but then later remark that gender and sex is an imperative distinction. That seems rather contradictory since gay is defined as, men seeking men, but that does not include genderqueer nor intersex couples. This is the very reason that I discourage "gay marriage" in any social or political context. It promotes bias and is inherently discriminatory language.

2) Bisexuality is not all about sex either, but for some reason GLAAD (the nationally recognized media watchdog group for LGBT community) still promotes it as an acceptable term in its style guidelines while relegating "homosexuality" to obsolescence for the very reason that you cite (being gay is not "all about sex"). That seems like a very remarkable double standard. To be politically correct, based on your assertions, the term should likely be bigenderphilia or simply bi for short.

3) Distinguishing between sex and gender in committed relations is of significant import, but it is curious why we even still include bisexuality in the LGBT initialism instead of replacing it with the more gender inclusive pansexuality, e.g. LGPT.

4) I would argue that same-sex marriage is still a socially relevant and appropriate concept, even if it does not ultimately pertain to the statutory language (and as I said previously is far from my own personal preference). "Same-sex marriage" is certainly more accurate than the outdated term "gay marriage", which excludes all persons who do not identify as gay. It is also technically accurate in the context of bisexual, gay, and lesbian couples -- people who seek out partners specifically based on their sex (that is, their birth assigned gender). True it does not include intersex couples, but then neither does "gay marriage."

The way I look at it, progress takes time. Since many journalists have already adopted "same-sex marriage" I'm at least willing to respect their effort to encourage sexual diversity. I hope that we continue to strive for "marriage equality", but frankly anything at this point is a step above the constant barrage of "gay" rhetoric in civil rights dialog.

Anna said...

As far as the trans issue goes, in regard to sex-versus-gender in marriage, sex, not gender, is what defines whether they can get married or not, in every place in the states that I know of, and even then, many states don't recognize SRS as actually changing sex. (It is either genitals or chromosomes, or sometimes in the case of IS folk, a doctor's guesswork, that determines who you can marry.)

Plenty of trans people are perfectly able to have gay (same-gender) marriages in states that do not allow same-sex marriages. Of course, in some states trans people can't be sure they can be legally married at all.

I am tired of people referring to sex as gender (as Canada does with "Gender Reassignment Surgery") because the word "sex" is so squicky and politically incorrect. That is demeaning to pre- and non-op trans people. What is between people's legs his not "gender." When sex is what is meant, what matters in the case of law, it should be what is said.

Same sex marriage is clearly better terminology than gay marriage, and marriage equality is better than either of them.

AlterPride Project said...

I completely agree with Anna *_* It's so reassuring to finally come across somebody with so many shared viewpoints, particularly about the sex vs gender debate.

I know there is growing rebellion in the "trans" community, by progressive trans activists who argue that sex prescribes a birth assigned gender and it is entirely socially constructed. Sex is therefore no longer relevant, and can be more concisely defined by gender (that is how you self-identify without regard to physical qualities or characteristics). They are working to completely undermine the clinical notions of biological sex. In effect, their conception of the future for transgenderism is the rejection of physical sex attributes (mind vs body) while concomitantly reinforcing gender roles.

Of course, this is hardly laudable. Biological sex will remain culturally relevant for a very long time. For many people, sexual attraction is inherently tied to biological sex. And those seeking sex reassignment therapy are clearly more apt to undergo a "sex change" than a "gender change". And of course, the legal implications of gender vs sex are invariably even more complex, although I suspect most American legislation still favors the latter.

--Randall

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