After reading Matt Young’s piece on why he wants a man forever and the Just Like You initiative from Australian Marriage Equality, Sean Mulcahy thinks enough is enough and debuts with the Star Observer to explain why he is sick of sameness.
JUST this month Australian Marriage Equality kicked off its Just Like You campaign, a “photographic movement supporting marriage equality in Australia by highlighting how relatable gay and lesbian relationships are”, which culminates in a rather bland and overpriced black and white calendar of same-sex couples doing everyday things like drinking beers, sitting on sofas and hanging out the front of shop doors (I don’t know who’d pay $33.60 for it, but good luck to them).
To the organisers, it’s all about showing how similar same-sex couples are to others in the wider community.
We’re starting to see this desire for sameness reflected more and more in the gay and lesbian community. Young gay and lesbians wanting white weddings, questioning why they can’t find love forever and why sleeping around is so normal, and why we can’t just integrate into existing social institutions and kill off gay liberation.
To organisations like AME and the UK’s Stonewall, gays and lesbians are “ordinary people” who are equal to their straight counterparts and the formal recognition of their relationships through the rite of marriage is the natural way of proving this.
Their argument is for formal equality – gays and lesbians should be treated the same as straight people and have the same access to marriage that straight people have historically had. However, others like journalist Brendan O’Neill are critical of “the gay movement’s switch in recent years from pursuing liberty to becoming subsumed by the politics of identity” and abandoning the notion of difference.
In a diverse collection of essays on same-sex marriage in Australia, gay activist Dennis Altman picks up this point, questioning the movement from an assertion of difference to a claim for same treatment.
While recognising the importance of formal equality, Altman questions the utility of subsuming same-sex relationships into a heterosexual model that is generally not inspiring. Altman believes that “same-sex partnerships are as valid and as significant as heterosexual ones, but they are also different, and maybe we should celebrate, not deny that difference.”
Academic Wayne Morgan is of the same view. Noting the “shifts from a desire to recognise difference to a desire for “same-ness/equality”, Morgan argues that by focusing on formal equality, “we will sell ourselves short and marginalise those in our communities who do not desire ‘same-ness’ and who do not fit the conjugal ideal couple.”
As Professor Annamarie Jagose argues, “the real test of an ethical position should be whether we are willing to extend rights, recognitions and privileges not to those almost exactly like us but to those we don’t know and with whom we might not have anything in common, to those whose ways are unfamiliar and not fully understood.”
Much of the debate on same-sex marriage is couched in moral terms of equality but is ultimately concerned with proving the sameness of same-sex relationships to different-sex coupledom so as to gain admittance to the institution of marriage and being sure to close the door to those that don’t replicate sameness lest they slip in while it’s left ajar.
AME says its campaign “seeks to strike a cord with people beyond the gay community who may not have made up their mind what they think of gay marriage”, but if straight people can only accept same-sex relationships on the grounds that they are ‘just like you’, then there is something very, very wrong with that.
Why don’t we embrace diversity in terms of difference rather than obsessively compare how similar or same our relationships are to others? Maybe then we can achieve true equality for all.
Sean tweets under tweets under @seanacmulcahy