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Category: gay marriage (page 1 of 2)

The Tories’ New Section 28

by Mark Simpson (Guardian CIF, 25 March 2010)

Whatever happened to the Tory party of the 1980s that refused to use taxpayers’ money to prop up failing industries making things people didn’t want? That told us sternly, usually in a helmet of hair-lacquer, “the market must decide”?

It turns out the Tories aren’t so laissez-faire if the market makes a decision they don’t approve of – particularly when punters turn their backs on one of their most cherished institutions. With fewer people getting married now than at any time since records began in 1862, the Tories – who despite what they say about free markets, always seem to know best how people should live their lives – have decided to effectively take this failed enterprise into public ownership.

This weekend a former Tory MP from the 1980s, who considers himself culturally progressive, came out in support of David Cameron’s promised tax breaks for married couples. “From this day forward, reward married couples” announced Matthew Parris in the Times. He failed, however, to explain why married couples should be “rewarded” – as well as given wedding presents. But then DavidCameron hasn’t explained that one either.

But the article’s standfirst succinctly summarised both Parris’ and the Tory position, and made it clear why an explanation isn’t necessary: “Everyone except a sour minority knows that marriage is good for society”. Marriage is good for society because it is a “good thing” in and of itself – as such it doesn’t need to be demonstrated, even at a time when marriage is less popular than ever. Marriage is, for most Tories, an article of faith. And anyone who disagrees with this position or even questions it is obviously sour or leftwing, which amounts to much the same thing.

What made Parris’ support of this tax on unmarried people (for that is of course what it translates into) novel was his interesting claim to speak on behalf of the vast majority of gay people: “an astonishingly conservative section of society”, commending their “traditionalism”, warning the (presumed heterosexual and conservative) reader who begs to differ they’ve been paying too much attention to a “sour slim minority”, and asserting gays’ overwhelming endorsement of the proposed subsidy for married couples. Parris even went a step further than Cameron and called for civil partnerships to be excluded from the “reward” – perhaps because being famously gay himself, Parris can’t be easily accused of homophobia.

Now, maybe I’m just a sour lefty minority homo of exactly the kind that Parris warns you against, but at least I know better than to presume to speak on gay men’s behalf – especially when it comes to counting yourself out of tax breaks. But since Parris has raised the matter of sexuality, I feel obliged, like the bad fairy at the wedding, to point out where this policy is coming from: essentially the same bit of the Nasty Party that brought you Section 28 in the 1980s, with its jihad on “pretended family relationships”, though it is now much more closeted.

Section 28, you may remember, is the same anti-gay law that the main champion of the Tory marriage subsidy, the Catholic convert Iain Duncan Smith, wanted to reinstate in 2002 when he was Tory leader. This piece of legislation grew directly out of Tory and tabloid fears that marriage was being undermined by acceptance of homosexuality. Section 28 was essentially a nannyish backlash against the scandalous notion that schools might tell young people they have choices about who and how they were going to love.

Now that “pretended family relationships” – straight and gay and everything in between – are probably in the majority and Section 28 is a discredited, embarrassing memory, Holy Family Tories such as IDS have to adopt a different, “nicer” approach – one that seems more carrot than stick, more utilitarian and less homophobic. But don’t doubt for a minute that one of the biggest attractions of what we should probably call “Section 29” for the IDS tendency is that tax breaks for married/decent people is a satisfying way of sticking it to unmarried/indecent people.

Tories, particular the older ones who make up the majority of the party’s aging membership and who give IDS his power base, have never really reconciled themselves to the massive cultural changes that happened post-1960s – and which were much accelerated by their market and consumer reforms in the 1980s. For all her “Victorian values”, Broken Britain was broken in large part by Thatcher. I doubt that Cameron believes for a minute that his Terry and June subsidy will turn back the clock and make marriage or Austin Allegros fashionable again, and he probably doesn’t really want to anyway, but it’s nice that he’s figured out a way to buy off the IDS tendency that so distrusts him and what they see as his cultural liberalism – with taxpayers’ money.

I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Parris though. It can’t have been easy being a gay Tory MP in the 1980s – at least if you had, as I’m sure he has, a conscience. But it seems that all his futile attempts to convince his Cro-Magnon colleagues back then that most gays are natural Tories and worshippers of the Holy Family despite their penchant for buggery has taken its toll. He now believes his own rhetoric.

Let Hetero Couples Get Civilly Partnered

Mark Simpson argues in today’s London Times that heterosexuals should be allowed to have civil partnerships

Not in Front of the Goyim: Gays and Not-So-Open Relationships

Interesting piece by Scott James in today’s New York Times:

New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.

That consent is key. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, “but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”

The study also found open gay couples just as happy in their relationships as pairs in sexually exclusive unions, Dr. Hoff said. A different study, published in 1985, concluded that open gay relationships actually lasted longer.

However the reporter discovered a wall of silence surrounding the subject:

None of this is news in the gay community, but few will speak publicly about it. Of the dozen people in open relationships contacted for this column, no one would agree to use his or her full name, citing privacy concerns. They also worried that discussing the subject could undermine the legal fight for same-sex marriage.

Or perhaps they worry they might be shouted down and called ‘sluts’ by the gay blogs.

Given the very real fear of being osctracised and shamed for talking in front of the goyim about how gay relationships actually are, instead of the Disney-esque way that gay marriage zealots would like to portray them, it seems a reasonable assumption that the 50% figure is an underreporting.  Probably most gay male relationships in the Bay Area are open.  As I’ve said before, in public, in front of the goyim, in my experience probably most gay male relationships are open.  (I’ll admit I was surprised by the article’s claims about lesbian relationships — but then, I have rather less experience of them…).

Of course, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s half or most, or even a large minority, the point, as Scott James acknowledges, is that this is definitely not an attribute of the vast majority of hetero relationships.  Many may have their ‘infidelities’, but very, very few have open relationships.  For most the concept is a contradiction in terms.  Especially if married.  The author makes much of how the openess of gay relationships can help reform the failing institution of marriage, but personally I suspect he fails to understand what marriage actually is, and the proprietary, exclusive nature of it.  In reality, gay marriage may just  succeed in making gay relationships less open and more hypocritical.

Too often the movement for gay marriage is censorious and shame-based, about presenting homosexuality as a neutered heterosexuality, about claiming over and over again that gay relationships are ‘just like’ straight ones and anyone who says different is a bigot and ‘homophobe’ —  externalised or internalised.

There’s also another dimension to the reluctance of gay couples to talk about their open relationships… openly, one that has less to do with worrying about what the gays will say, and more to do with what the world will think: It may cost them their new-found respectability.  This after all is the point of ‘gay marriage’ for some, particularly those of the Sullivanite tendency: to prove to the world they’re not like those promiscuous, hedonistic, slut gays. Even and especially if they are still getting rogered by them regularly via Manhunt.

Then again, open relationships can be hard work.  And discussing them in public allows people like me to pass unhelpful comment.  Here’s ‘Chris’ and ‘James” rules for their open relationship:

complete disclosure, honesty about all encounters, advance approval of partners, and no sex with strangers — they must both know the other men first. “We check in with each other on this an awful lot,” said James, 37.

Obviously how they conduct their relationship is their business — and good luck to them — but I can’t help wondering if in this instance monogamy wouldn’t be much less trouble.

Gay Marriage On The Rocks: Ain’t No Surprise

The wheels appear to have come off the gay marriage bus in the US and no one seems to know how to put them back on.  Not even the lesbians.

And that’s not according to meddlin’ Limey Uncle Tom ‘slut’ me (as I was dubbed by the Voice of Gay America) but according to the gay-marriage-supporting  New York Times in a piece last week titled ‘Amidst Small Wins, Advocates Lose Marquee Battles’:

…the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York failed by a surprisingly wide margin on Wednesday. In New Jersey, Democrats have declined to schedule the bill for a vote, believing that the support is no longer there. Voters in Maine last month repealed a state law allowing same-sex marriage despite advocates’ advantage in money and volunteers.

And on the other reliably liberal coast, California advocates of gay marriage announced this week that they would not try in the next elections to reverse the ban on gay marriage that voters approved in 2008; they did not believe they could succeed.

Gay marriage doesn’t appear to be something that even liberal ‘bi-coastal’ America has much of a stomach for, let alone the God-fearing ‘flyover’ States that of course make up most of the US.  So how earth did the US gay rights movement turn down this gay marriage cul-de-sac, apparently without a reverse gear? 

Even supporters of gay marriage say that all the optimism got ahead of the reality.

“I think there was some overreading of the political marketplace for gay marriage,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster. “It’s not so much that something changed. There was a misreading of where the public was at.”

You don’t say.  Perhaps though it was not so much an ‘overreading’ or ‘misreading’ but rather more a case of complete illiteracy.  I mean, who would have guessed that screaming ‘BIGOT!!’ at beauty queens for believing, like most Americans, including President Obama, that marriage is between a man and a woman wasn’t going to be a terribly persuasive strategy? Whoever would have imagined that trying to blame black voters for California’s re-banning of gay marriage last year at the same time as trying to hijack their history of civil rights struggle and proclaim gays as ‘the new blacks’ wouldn’t play so well?  

And who could have possibly conceived that self-righteously denouncing civil unions, a much more politically achievable – and in my Limey Uncle Tom slut opinion also much more appropriate and modern – institution for giving same-sex couples legal protection as ‘riding at the back of the bus!’, and instead going pell-mell after gay marriage and respectability would have turned out to be such a tactical and strategic blunder? 

Empowered by judicial decisions affirming a constitutional right to gay marriage, beginning in Massachusetts in 2003, advocates argued to move away from a strategy that had focused on more incremental change.

“The gamble has not paid off,” Mr. Garin said.  “We leapfrogged from civil unions to marriage, primarily as a result of judicial decisions that were followed in some cases by legislative action. But the reality is that the judicial decisions were substantially ahead of public opinion, and still are.”

And, it might be added going pell-mell after gay marriage also helped George Bush get re-elected in 2004. Which as we know was such a wonderful outcome for everyone, gay or straight.

Mr Garin may be more clear-headed on this issue than many gay marriage advocates, but the expression ‘ahead of public opinion’ sounds to me like more ‘overreading’.  Maybe most Americans don’t accept that a relationship between two men — and after all, it is this double-penised aspect, not two wombs together, that the straight public think about — is ‘just the same’ as a relationship between a man and a woman, not because they’re backwards, or ignorant, or prejudiced, but because, if you’re not blinded by liberal platitudes, it clearly isn’t. 

And please, can someone over there point out, if only just to be really annoying, that the assimilation of the radically new phenomenon on modern gay relationships to the moribund institution of marriage with its reproductive role-playing, religious flavouring, and history of treating women as chattel does not exactly represent ‘progress’?

Fortunately, there’s one American homo left who isn’t Gore Vidal doing exactly this — though not of course in the NYT.  The novelist Bruce Benderson, interviewed by Christopher Stoddard in the latest issue of East Village Boys about his new book Pacific Agony makes some salient points about male sexuality which the Andrea Sullivanized American gays don’t want to hear:

Bruce Benderson: I have a kind of old-fashioned idea about what a homosexual is, and I think it’s somebody who is made to live outside the social norm. And the reason he was made to live outside the social norm is because one of the main functions of the structure of a social norm is to perpetuate the species, but I don’t think that’s a natural thing for male homosexuals. Not just homosexuals, but men in general are naturally too promiscuous. It’s their relationship with women that makes them more stable so that they can channel it into building a family. These gay couples are going around saying, “Oh, we’re just like you straight couples, really! We just happen to be two men.” I don’t believe that. I think they’re different.

Christopher Stoddard: Okay, so you think that gay men are essentially subject to “vice”?

BB: If you want to make that moral judgment… Suppose a bomb dropped and there were only 100 women and 1 man left. Well, theoretically, that man could repopulate the species by impregnating 100 women a year. Now, take 100 men and 1 woman after the bomb drops; we could only make 1 baby a year, okay? To perpetuate the species, men have been programmed by evolution to be promiscuous. Marriage is the social taming of a man’s sexual energies by a woman, which is necessary to build a social structure. Because a man is made to screw more than one person, there’s nobody to stop him if he’s with just another man.

CS: You sound like the proverbial Repulican who believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

BB: I think that marriage should be illegal! Just like pledging to God should be illegal. Marriage is a sacrament that has absolutely nothing to do with the State, and it should have no legal status whatsoever. A domestic partnership should be recognized by the State, and it should hinge on things like wills, joint tax filing, inheritance, things like that. And any two people should be able to do it. A marriage is just this left-over sacrament that somehow wiggled its way into legal status.

CS: You don’t believe that two men can be devoted to each other in a monogamous way and not cheat because of these carnal needs?

BB: Correct. I believe two men can be totally devoted to each other, but it probably won’t be in the same way that a man and a woman can be totally devoted to each other. I know several gay male couples who’ve been together a long time and go to the baths together, or they both go to one of those, you know, orgy places.

CS: I think I know who you mean. {chuckles}

BB: Yet they’re totally close, and they totally trust each other, and it’s a wonderful pairing.

Be careful, Bruce!  You can’t just go around talking the truth about gay men in public!  Not if you want to be taken seriously, that is.

Respectability is the New Closet

Walk-in-closets-18By Mark Simpson (shorter version originally appeared on Guardian CIF, June 2009)

‘The more things a man is ashamed of’, wrote George Bernard Shaw, ‘the more respectable he is.’ Gays must now be terribly respectable since, forty years on from the Stonewall riots started by drag queens, hustlers and homeless youths high on drugs – outsiders with nothing to lose – gays have moved up in the world, become middle-aged and promptly found plenty of things to be ashamed of.

Like all arrivistes, and like Shaw’s most famous creation Eliza Doolittle, they’re particularly ashamed of their past.

Stonewall itself was recently ‘upgraded’ to ‘Stonewall 2.0′ – the name given the current wave of gay marriage activism. Which is a bit like updating ‘Querelle’ into ‘Little House on the Prairie’. Meanwhile, gays are now so ashamed of their dead heroes they dig them up and assassinate them all over again. The gay-adored, gay scripted, gay directed film ‘Milk’ was so popular precisely because it bumped off the actual historical Harvey Milk and his shamefully shameless sex-life, unloading a revolver of revisionism into his chicken-hawk head, replacing him with a serially-monogamous imposter who used to be cute and married to Madonna.

‘Milk’ also replaced the promiscuous, bathhouse-happy 1970s San Francisco that Milk eagerly embraced – and shagged silly – with something much more real-estate agent. Scripted by a gay Mormon, San Francisco looks less like 70s answer to Sodom and Gomorrah than a gayted community for Gap wearing gay couples. No wonder Lance Black mentioned marriage and God more than once in an Oscar acceptance speech that had more uplift than even his decorous hairdo.

In the Twenty First century, respectability is fast shaping up to be the New Closet. Or The Closet 2.0, if you like annoying software references. And the custodians of the New Closet are not paddy-wagons and queer-bashers, but gays themselves, itching to conform to standards of hypocrisy more and more straight people are abandoning. As a result, we can look forwards to many more outings such as that of Sam Adams, mayor of Portland, Oregon, once dubbed ‘The New Harvey Milk’, who repeatedly denied rumours of an affair with a teenager, denouncing them as scurrilous lies playing to base stereotypes of predatory homosexuals, but was recently forced to admit that, erm, they weren’t scurrilous after all. Or in fact, lies.

In their headlong pursuit of respectability – and let’s not pretend that marriage privileges are not at least as much about respectability as about equality – most gays that aren’t ‘cult’ writers like Bruce Benderson or Michael Warner seem to have forgotten that gay sex isn’t terribly respectable, and that it never will be no matter how much you talk up gay domesticity. Unless you plan on making medical history with a successful womb transplant, gay male sex is always going to be improper, inappropriate, non-procreative sex-for-sex’s sake rather than the Pope’s, Uncle Sam’s or Mothercare’s. And that is, if you’re honest, probably part of the reason why you enjoy it.

Even the word ‘gay’, now invested with so much golf-club decorum by social-climbing sodomites, doesn’t have a very decorous history. Despite the complaints of retired colonels about homos hijacking their favourite word, gay’s original meaning of ‘joyful’ and ‘carefree’ was pretty much an antonym for respectable. Which may be why in the 17th Century a ‘gay woman’ was a prostitute, a ‘gay man’ a womanizer, and a ‘gay house’ a brothel. In the early 20th Century, even before it commonly became associated with homosexuality, ‘gay’ meant ‘single’ and ‘unattached’ – ‘straight’ meant ‘married’ and ‘respectable’. In the Twenty First Century those meanings have of course been reversed.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that gays turned out to be like everyone else – given the chance, they’ve grabbed any propriety they can lay their hands on and with it their chance to look down on others (‘Miss California those topless photos are a scandal and an outrage! Hand your crown back immediately, you hussy!‘). After all, like the sandal-wearing Shaw, I’m looking down loftily on those who want to be respectable. But really, as a Stonewall drag queen might have put it looking around the gay world today, smell her!

Ironically – or e-ronically – it’s the unlimited, anonymous sluttiness of the net that helps sustain the New Closet. Now gay men can move to the suburbs with their partner, present a front of monogamous chastity to the world, but also have discreet sex outside their relationship without having to access the urban gay scene, or even cruise draughty parks and rest stops. For quite a few gay men Manhunt and Gaydar take on the role prostitution played with the Victorian gentlemen of Shaw’s era: a disreputable institution they strongly disapprove of that makes their own respectability possible. (I know I’m not supposed to talk about this in public, but oops, I just have.)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the nice middle-aged lady on the Clapham Omnibus needs to know what I got up to last night – but on the other hand, I don’t want to have to pretend to be the nice middle-aged lady on the Clapham Omnibus.

Respectability is not to be sneered at, though. It can change history. It’s probably just a matter of time before the date of Stonewall is itself revised to 1968 or 1970. After all, 1969 plays far too easily into straight prejudices about gays being obsessed with perverse sex….