Same sex marriage and heterosexism in the UK

Later today, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will have its crucial second reading. This legislation would give same sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.

I’ve written before about why I find same sex marriage to be an inherently conservative demand, and I suspect this bill will ultimately go through precisely because of this. It doesn’t make any structural changes to the existing social order, rewards gay couples for behaving in a way which society deems palatable, and manages to appear progressive. It’s a win all round for the powerful.

Despite this, antediluvian bigotry still exists: up to 180 Tories may vote against the bill later today. There’s no good reason for doing this, given the benefits the Tories can reap from bringing in same-sex marriage. It’s just plain homophobia, dressed up in concern about the meaning of marriage and other such nonsense. This tripe from Philip “porn throne” Blond and Roger “cockend” Scruton exemplifies some of the best intellectual argument against same sex marriage from the right, and it’s just circular rubbish, because it’s not a rational position. It’s also telling that the party has decided to make the vote on this bill a free vote: this way they can have it both ways. They can appeal to the bigots while still appearing to be the heroes of gay rights. It’s a smart move, politically. The whole thing has been expertly stage-managed.

I will be watching the debate with interest, though. Despite the stage management, this bigotry is still very real, and I would like to get the measure of exactly who it is so set in archaic prejudice that they cannot even vote through this piss-weak bit of legislation. Every single one of the fuckers who votes against this is nothing more than a common-or-garden bigot, worthy only of contempt and a shower of glitter.

When the bill passes, though, it is not a sign that heterosexism is dead in the UK, and that we can dance until we expire in an ecstasy of celebration. Far from it. This symbolic piece of legislation is merely cheap wallpaper pasted onto rubble of a house that had fell down years ago. Heterosexism is alive and well in the UK, we’d just rather not think about its victims.

Take, for instance, this story from yesterday. The UK Border Agency demands proof of sexual orientation from asylum seekers fleeing persecution for being gay. Because of this, asylum seekers are feeling like they have to film themselves having sex to prove that they are gay. And if they’re unable to prove it, they are sent right back off to face violence and persecution. In fact, there’s actually no evidence to suggest that even the sex tapes are considered adequate proof of sexual orientation, and it’s entirely possible that these people, too, were sent away. This system, by the way, is seen as an improvement on how it was three years ago, where gay asylum seekers were sent off and told to “behave with discretion”.

The entire thing is inhumane, and absolutely steeped in heterosexism. The assumption that there’s an objective proof that you’re not “normal”. The probing, invasive ways of trying to find out what it is that makes these people different. The idea that there’s a way of being “properly” gay in the first place. The implications for those sent back, after having been submitted to a “gay test”. It’s humiliating, degrading, and I’m finding it hard to articulate exactly how disgusted I am by the fact that this is still ongoing. I find myself wondering if they’ve thought at all about this policy, and I don’t know if it’s better or worse if they have.

Yet because this heterosexism intersects with racism and the violence of the state, we’re not hearing a peep about it from the mainstream charities who ostensibly campaign for gay rights. It’s just a lot easier for privileged people to give a shit about other privileged people getting married than it is to think about intersecting oppressions.

Stories like this are far from uncommon, but they don’t happen to the nice, presentable face of the movement, so it’s easy to forget how utterly broken the whole stinking heteroheap of society is. Scratch the surface, and oppression is still rife. All the gay weddings in the world aren’t going to fix that.

So you’ll forgive me for not having the champagne on ice, ready for when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill gets a little closer to being passed later today. It just reminds me of how much further we have to go before we’re free.


I learned the word “heteroheap” here, and I recommend you watch this deliciously queer extravaganza as a perfect antidote to my general parade-pissing today.

14 thoughts on “Same sex marriage and heterosexism in the UK”

  1. Re: UKBA. It’s worth putting into context that UKBA demands outrageous proof for all forms of persecution, whether related to religion, ethnicity, gender, etc. The whole logic of the asylum system is that people need to pass a test and the UKBA is designed to maximise the number of people who fail those tests. You’re right that for sexual orientation this provides a space in which to display all kinds of heterosexism, and it brings specific problems you mention. But it’s also simply not possible for the asylum system to treat people with dignity. As you say, this is supposed to be improvement from the previous policy. Perhaps it is. But better policies or attitudes towards sexual orientation within the Home Office can only make a limited difference.

    1. Oh absolutely. As I said, it’s an intersection of a lot of things, but heterosexism and racism are certainly among those, and this appalling treatment constitutes both (on top of this general societal attitude that survivors shouldn’t be believed)

  2. I’ve tried reading Scruton and Philip Blond’s piece (not that I actually hold him in high esteem, but based on your recommendation) and it essentially amounts to this – I have a particular (conjugal) conception of marriage, and I think the state should ensure it’s a universal one. He draws out some of the logical conclusions of a less conjugal based union, but merely alerts us to them to scaremonger (which didn’t work on me…) rather than form proper arguments against them. To propagate your beliefs in the public sphere on how people should behave is perfectly acceptable, even if they are wrong and won’t achieve a great uptake, but to demand that the state enforce them, particularly when they are wrong and aren’t achieving a great uptake (as they acknowledge!), is pernicious. And isn’t he being the radical, modernist one when he tries to paint marriage as a duty to the state or society, when traditionally it would only ever be to a god or immediate clan? The same argument is relevant with the religious, rather than merely traditionalist, opponents – you don’t believe gay marriage is right, but then you also don’t believe that atheism or following alternate faiths is right (fundamentally), but who among them would advocate a state exclusion of these? Very few.

  3. I broadly agree with your point that same sex marriage is an essentially conservative step, hence the (partial Tory support) and won’t eradicate the ongoing problems.

    I think you’re being harsh on some gay campaigners though re asylum seekers. Stonewall are doing are a fair amount of campaigning about this, have done so in the past, and the Stonewall lecture next week will be based around how awful these policies are. It’s likely not to gain the same traction because there are plenty of folk who hate asylum seekers whatever their sexuality. But it’s not being ignored and there’s some people doing some really good work on trying to make this more public, including those same groups who campaigned for same sex marriage.

    1. Stonewalled are doing such a good job of making this public that there’s no mention of it on their website (I looked), no publicity campaigns.. shall I go on?

      1. The Guardian report refers to the barrister speaking at a lecture this week about this issue. It’s the annual Stonewall lecture, so it’s possible that without them, it wouldn’t be publicised at all.

        1. “It’s possible”.

          Seriously. Look at Stonewall’s publicity materials. Look at how they campaign. This issue is but an afterthought to them, if anything at all.

          1. My point was that without this lecture, which they are behind, would this be getting any news coverage at all?

            I’m not saying there campaigning is as strong as it could be, I was just pointing out that they’re doing something (you said no mainstream group was). They also have a section on their website about it, were responsible for a key report on this a couple of years ago and do campaigning work.

            I’m not trying to be a Stonewall fanboy here and don’t like their stance on other areas, but I know people who work in this field and rate them on this.I don’t think not liking their stance on other areas is reason enough to dismiss completely the actual steps they are taking in this area. Particularly given no one else seems to be doing much.

            1. You look like a Stonewall fanboy. Maybe stop looking to the mainstream for liberation and talk to some actually oppressed folk and ally with their struggles.

            2. Sorry, all I wanted to do was point out an error in your original blog. You said they did nothing – I pointed out that the news article you linked to actually referred to a lecture they organised,which was helping to publicise this issue.

              And please don’t lecture me about allying with oppressed people. I have friends who work with asylum seekers, I have done so in the past, and none of them place hating on the mainstream more important than actually trying to get something changed.

            3. And yet you’re still here masturbating into the irrelevant crisp packet of Stonewall. Do you work for them, or are you just white and privileged?

  4. Yep. I believe that marriage (ie. the religious institution that is essentially an exchange of property between men ) is outdated and pointless. A civil declaration of partnership for those who require a “next step” would be more appropriate for this fucking millennium.

    I’m gay, I’ve lived with my partner for eight years. There’s nothing that could make her more dedicated and committed to me. Oh wait! There is! Proper recognition and compensation for the fucking solid hard graft of caring for someone who’s bedbound. Someone like me. As that does not exist, she’s forced to do two jobs. One to keep the roof over our heads, and caring for me day and night.

    Same sex marriage would be a 21st century upgrade. to a mediaeval institution. Recognition of the poverty, drudgery and isolation that is being, or caring for a severely disabled person? Seems like a fantastical far off future.

    In this house we might as well be back in Thatcher’s 1984.

    Marriage? Ha! Give some dignity and hope back to the underclasses first. Stop trying to legislate uterine habitation, empower PWD and POC to be on equal footing with their privileged counterparts. Allow LGB and trans people to just BE, without having to act like the perfect Tory (or just white, moneyed and middle-class) image of “normality”, while groveling and placating the cisstraight majorities with constant gratitude for their “tolerance”

    Until. then? I couldn’t give a shit about whether a bunch of CofE and Tory shitlords think my relationship is valid. I’ve got bigger things on my plate, what with being a crippled, poverty-stricken, mentally ill, socialist northern monkey who relies heavily on the very institutions the coalition are smashing to pieces.

    It tears at the fabric of my being to say this, but at least Thatcher managed to do one vaguely good thing in office, with mortgage reforms. Cameron would be laughed off as hyperbolic and lazily stereotypical if he was a fictional Tory pm.

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