Straight Up | Issue 21
It feels like it’s been a rough few weeks
From the moment Louisa Wall’s Marriage Equality Bill popped up on Facebook, I began preparing myself for the worst. The first thought that elbowed its way into my consciousness was not a celebratory “Oh yay, marriage – finally!”, it was a defensive “Shit, how ugly is the debate going to be?”
That defensive feeling has lingered as the weeks have dragged on. Perhaps this is attached to my personal ambivalence towards marriage, and my discomfort that some queer people speak as if this is the final frontier of queer liberation. Or maybe I am defensive because I can clearly remember the horrors of the Civil Union debate in 2005, the Enough is Enough march, the hurtfulness of overheard conversations at university and on the bus, and the rise in intimidation on the streets that often mirrors the violent rhetoric of politicians and conservative pressure groups. It is probably a combination of these two factors.
I’ve also been thinking about the impact of this negative rhetoric. Some people in our communities can be negatively affected by the unhelpful or hateful discourse of the “defend marriage” brigade. No matter how you feel about the cause, if you or any of your friends are feeling yuck after watching the news about it, I feel like it is OK to say, “I need to disengage, I can’t watch any more of this.” Personally, I have done exactly this. For me, this has meant a careful strategy of news consumption –I have gone on a media diet, and only choose to read/watch news that doesn’t give equal weighting to people who refuse to engage in the conversation respectfully. People like Colin Craig, whose contempt for people like me is fairly obvious. It is like any conversation: there has to be mutual respect for it to work.
I hope the bill passes, and that then we can look forward to really interesting conversations about the kind of change that is needed to ensure the equality, dignity and liberation of all queer and trans folks in New Zealand. I was pleased to see The Queer Avengers opening up beyondmarriage.org.nz. I’d love to begin talking about issues that are more central to my life as a (gender)queer person, like safety from bullying in schools, or targeted campaigns to address concerns like alcohol abuse, mental illness, or homelessness in our communities.