Taking politics personally

I’ve been thinking about sexuality a lot this week.

Gay parenting and partnership rights

One of this week’s hot political topics was about unmarried cohabiting couples (regardless of sexual orientation) being allowed to adopt. This is centred around some legislation passed through the Commons and then blocked in the House of Lords. The argument against it states that marriage is the fundamental of society and children should be raised in a loving, stable family home, with a mother and a father. There have been lots of statistics thrown about regarding how many cohabiting couples split up, and lots of thinly veiled homophobia. I find the arguments are often slightly incoherent. For example:

  1. If marriage is such a natural and good thing, how can be it so threatened by other lifestyles? Why does it need so much state support?
  2. Many heterosexual couples cohabit before marrying to see if their relationship will work. When they discover it doesn’t work, of course they separate – the ability to do that is why they didn’t marry. Equally, other couples live together with no long term expectation to stay together. And they add to the statistics. But what makes us think these are the people who would be adopting?
  3. It’s not easy to adopt a child, so surely unstable relationships will be revealed during the vetting process.
  4. Why is it acceptable for a single gay person to adopt a child, but not a couple? Is it better for the child to see a series of partners, rather than a single loving and committed relationship? Or, if the ‘single’ person is in a relationship with someone who helps to raise the child, is it really fair that there is no legal tie to protect that second parenting relationship should something happen to the adopting parent?
  5. What makes people think that single sex couples have no friends of the opposite sex, and no awareness of the value of positive role models of both sexes?
  6. If marriage is so important, and children should only be raised in a marital home, but these people don’t have a problem with gay relationships, why not allow gay marriage?

This last point got me thinking again about partnership rights and this time I got angry. I used to think that the lack of recognition for same sex partnerships was an injustice to put alongside all the other things that are unjust in the world: all terrible and all things we should try to change. Now, however, I’m beginning to take it personally. It now makes me angry that the law completely fails to recognise my relationship as in any way equal to a heterosexual one. We pay our taxes, contribute to society and support capitalism but should one of us fall ill, we’d better hope we kept on good relations with both families, because we’ll have no rights at all. If we were a heterosexual unmarried couple, we’d have all sorts of ‘common law’ rights by now. If one of us dies, absolutely nothing recognises our relationship. I can write a Will but my partner had better be prepared for the death duties and other legal hassles not faced by married couples or even unmarried cohabiting heterosexual couples. It’s discrimination, pure and simple.

Stonewall has some interesting things to say about this, especially around partnership rights. And the BBC has several message boards and ‘talking points’ about it. My favourite is this:

"I’ve started carrying my own adoption card. It says ‘In the event of my death I do not want my children adopted by raving bigots like Lady O’Cathain’."
Cate, UK

Brighton

I went to Brighton this weekend to see some good friends and celebrate a birthday. I had a great time, but came away with the same conflicting ideas about Brighton that I’ve held since I lived there. On the one hand, it’s fantastic. It has liberatingly visible gay inhabitants, integrated into the community and not tucked away in ghettos. People get on with their lives and it’s just not a big deal. I still think it’s the place I’m most likely to end up. On the other hand, the conformity to fashion and appearance is almost overwhelming. The large student and clubbing population has a large impact on this, but so does the gay scene, with its emphasis on style over substance. My sister tells me that she has been dismissed out of hand in Brighton for wearing the wrong sort of trousers, and I can readily believe her. The town still has a feel of somewhere with something to prove, and a population trying hard to conform to the idea of individualistic Brighton – a very strange combination.

Lesbian TV

Part two of Tipping the Velvet hit the screens on Wednesday. The infamous dildo made its appearance but viewing figures were down because the football was on. I still think this series is great, and much needed on British TV. Maybe it’s the lesbian equivalent of Queer as Folk. Tomorrow, though, a rather odd sounding programme is due to start. It’s called Wild West, is based in Cornwall and stars Dawn French. Apparently, the premise is that two women failed to find any decent men and ended up together in a very odd (fictional) village "where witchcraft and wife-swapping are more a way of life than cream teas and Cornish pasties". I’m reserving judgement until I see it, but I’m a little dubious about that idea of a lesbian relationship.

Straight men and their lesbian fantasies

And finally, a quick word about straight men and lesbian fantasies. It seems to me that a scary number of straight men still get turned on by the idea of two women together and think it has something to do with them. I don’t know who to blame as the offenders are many and varied. Channel 5’s soft porn, Channel 4’s ‘documentaries’, Tipping the Velvet (and especially its trailers), all those sexist lads’ magazines, The Sun, the sexist society we still live in… Regardless, I have one thing to say: GET OVER IT!