Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gay and lesbian marriage in fiction and reality

This post is in honour of those rallying in Australia today for marriage equality.

One of the places where gay marriage is discussed openly is in fiction. The worries, loneliness, stress and distance felt by some gays and lesbians for the lack of being able to marry is often expressed as a plot device or character development issue. It seems quite handy just for the purposes of writing gay fiction and in particular gay romance and because of this the issue often comes across in a manner more light hearted than intended.

In fiction we can easily accept that two people who love each other will want to confirm that love officially, have it recognised by those they care for and society in general as well as have the ability to say and prove that the relationship is one for life. I say easily but for some unwilling readers or watchers these points are still irritants because the audience member just can't accept such relationships in the first place. In which case the entire story is rejected. But then, that's easy to do too as the story is just a story.

Mostly. For good and for bad, depending on your perspective, these stories reflect reality and reality can't be rejected quite so easily just because of religious beliefs, political motives or fear. It is the rejection of people's rights to express their love through marriage for economic, political and religious reasons, not to mention personal reactions, that is the issue for those rallying today. And I have to say that their cause is a just one. It is just because those motivations for fictional marriage are those that appear in reality. Enough that there are adoptions rather than marriages, there are informal and unofficial ceremonies, there are small and hidden tokens of love exchanged which often take the form of a ring and there are couples left with simple promises.

It might seem to those married that marriage is just that, an adoption into a family, an exchange of rings and promises and a ceremony that is both exhausting and exhilarating. When broken down into the most obvious experiences it all seems like it doesn't matter either way. So why do gay and lesbian marriage rights matter? Well, in fiction it is all about the emotions and the desire to connect permanently. In reality though, the desire becomes one skewed more towards public recognition and legal rights. But that doesn't mean that in reality there isn't a deep desire to have the ceremony be official and the adoption not be of a son or daughter but of a husband or wife. There is and always will be as long as gay marriage rights aren't recognised.

So in fiction the romance can be safely concluded with a trip to a state accepting gay marriage, an exchange of rings and promises to love one another forever and/or a possible formal adoption into the family (depending on the country of origin for the characters as this isn't always allowed either). When you read or watch such developments, usually written rosily, you are left with the glowing feeling that everything is perfect for the pair and you can move on to the next story with a little happiness in your heart. The same as reading any other happily ever after romance story.

In reality such conclusions don't exist for anyone. But there is a brief moment for those who are marrying officially where there's a feeling that they have achieved that happily ever after. It is all a lie really but a feeling that only comes along rarely in life. It would be nice if everyone could experience it. It would also be nice if families could happily expand by a wife or husband. What's wrong with having a man marry another man into the family or a woman marry another woman in? A man or woman being married in happens all the time in the families of heterosexual couples, it just so happens that a man will bring in a woman or a woman bring in a man. One new person is added to the family anyway. The only real difference is that so far there isn't likely to be any child to come along as well (not to say that never happens). But in a world overpopulated I don't see this to be such a bad thing either and as long as the couple is happy with such a life then who's to be so flustered by it.

Those who are seem to be those concerned with souls, money and rewriting laws. To me, souls don't really exist but they are a nice construct for balancing out our perspective. Still, they're a construct. There are many of you who probably disagree with me (whether or not you agree with gay marriage or not as these are two separate issues most of the time) but even if you do I wonder how you could say that love is detrimental to the soul/mind/heart in this case. Homosexuality isn't a sexual offence to me and as long as those who are active fall within the same restrictions as heterosexual relationships, such as you must be over a certain age (varies per country) and it must be consensual, then there shouldn't be a problem. To argue about damnation of the soul is to blast hot air and be actively prejudiced without reasonable cause.

Money is a different matter. I can see the importance of setting up a financial system properly. Such things take time and often involve the law to a great degree. And the legal system moves even slower again. But to me, both should change so that there is a legal recognition of equal marriage rights that flows into a financial recognition. The financial recognition between a single person and a married person isn't all that different anyway, unless you're a dependant or are with someone who is dependant. Joint bank accounts etc can be drawn up in either circumstance and same goes for joint names on bills. It is at tax time that the biggest difference occurs and that's what frightens people I guess. They're afraid that they'll suddenly become poor due to an increase in dependants. But there aren't as likely to be as many dependants formed through allowing gay and lesbian marriage equality as you're expecting. There aren't likely to be as many children unless you allow them adoption rights too (some countries/states have this already and some don't). Not a bad idea for those children dying of starvation all round the world due to an inability of their parents to scrounge up enough food. Also not a bad idea for countries pushing for a population increase when the population doesn't really want to. Giving tax breaks to encourage new births while refusing to help out suffering children who already exist is more than a little wrong. A little balance please.

Now, I should say that I'm not the best for giving an in detail argument on finances and legal issues as they are of only general interest to me. Those who've been passionate enough about these to have made a career of them are the ones to speak. The interesting thing here is that there are likely to be many gay and lesbian legal and financial workers out there as well as sympathisers in the same professions. This is interesting as just like the religious, there isn't a clear divide. It isn't a fight between gay and lesbians and the legal and financial workers. It isn't a fight between believers and gay and lesbians. Its far more complex as these circles overlap, and not in a small way. Really, its only the extremists that are kicking up a major fuss but unfortunately extremists are also everywhere so the fight rages on.

That's reality for you. There is never a clear ending to a battle, never a happily ever after that's permanent. When one issue seems to be solved it always leaks into another. Marriage equality will leak into adoption equality and taxation equality and so on. But it seems that the best way forward for this is to accept marriage equality and adoption equality and taxation equality. There are strict guidelines for them all anyway so anyone cheating the system, likely to harm a child or is harming a child will have to face the consequences. Just like always. As to families of two fathers or two mothers, they already exist and they're are already books on teaching kids acceptance of these circumstances on the shelves of your bookstore. What's wrong with giving a few more children a nice home to live in? Are you quite reasonable and logical in your viewpoint? Have you cast aside your preconceptions to think about the issue clearly? Ultimately, what would Spock say is logical?

For now, the world of gay and lesbian romance holds most of that glowing happiness and sweet delusion of an ever after ending. Hopefully it won't be long before everyone can have a taste of romantic fiction on their wedding day. Hopefully there will be a dream of sticking together forever and having a loving family grow about them. Such emotions and delusions only help to set up a life close to romantic fiction, especially if you grasp hold of the dream and work to create it.

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