Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Like a horse and carriage...

Like many people I never thought I wanted to get married.

And then one day I did.

And now I am. And I bloody love it. I don't know that it's possible to describe in what way it is different to not being married. I know that today wouldn't really pan out any differently for Mrs G and myself if we weren't married. It's one of those undefinable things. I love my wife and I love being married to her.

I recently saw someone online arguing that they were against the idea of same-sex marriage because they felt it would belittle what marriage meant in some way. I don't know in what way because I simply can't begin to get my head around it at all. I cannot imagine a way in which the love I have for my wife - and, more pertinently, the love I have for our marriage - could be affected by other people getting married.

As an argument it puts me in mind of the way shallow teenagers sometimes talk about music. Y'know... they love a particular band. They say a particular song is their favourite song. And then the band becomes huge. And everyone likes their song. And the shallow teenager decides they don't like the song anymore.

The chord structure hasn't changed. The lyrics are the same. The melody is the same. All the ingredients of a song that your brain reacts to are the same. But what the shallow teenager really liked was feeling special. Feeling part of a small and select group.

That's what straight people objecting to gay marriage remind me of. Sulky teenagers, grunting and shrugging that marriage won't be special if we let everyone do it. As I said before, I can't imagine a way in which that could make my marriage less special. I really can't.

As I was at a computer when that thought drifted through my mind, I tweeted it. I don't think it's a particularly challenging thought. If anything I thought it was so obvious it didn't really need saying. But having put it into 140 characters I pressed send all the same.
I got a few pats on the back, a couple of people called me a poof and that was pretty much as I was expecting. But a few people also got in touch to tell me they simply couldn't understand what I was saying. I think some of these people were thinking, "But a band is less cool when everyone else likes them... so what's that got to do with gay marriage?" But I don't know for sure. Still, when 5 or 6 people had expressed their confusion, I decided that maybe 140 characters wasn't the best medium for that particular thought and so laid it out - not unlike the start of this blogpost - using twitlonger. Problem solved. No room for confusion.

Or maybe not. Here, someone calling themselves Funky_Dung chipped in with an argument that I'm still trying to unravel. Here's some of the to and fro...(Where more than 1 tweet was sent, I've photoshopped them together to make it an easier read) Now there were probably enough warning signs there already that this wasn't going to be a sensible discussion. The whole "serious views about the core of human society" is a clue. But I didn't take it all in and was actually concerned that someone thought I was being prejudiced with my silly, wanting the same rule of law for all. So I replied.

No insults. Just an explanation of what I think. But Funky had me bang to rights!
Which is interesting. (Or not. Feel free to stop reading any time you like, I appreciate this isn't for everyone.) If I read this right, Funky D is a gay person who is opposed to gay marriage and he thinks it is prejudiced of me to say I think straight people who are opposed to it remind me of a shallow teenagers' shifting musical allegiance.

For the record, I think gay people who are opposed to equal rights for same-sex marriage are silly too. But of course it would have been nonsensical to include them in that first tweet because they don't remind me of the shallow teenagers for an obvious reason. I don't think it's possible for a gay person to be against gay marriage because it would make their straight marriage less special. Something I tried to explain to my new friend, Funky:But he wasn't finished.
Of course, I think it's important for men and women to enjoy stable relationships too. Not necessarily for evolutionary reasons... but they're nice and important and stuff. But we're back to square one for me... I don't understand how a same-sex couple being happily married would make a male-female couple any less stable. I just don't. And stating that male-female relationships are important doesn't explain why someone thinks same-sex marriage shouldn't be allowed. Or, as I put it at the time:And this is where I start to find this kind of discussion frustrating. Because to me this conversation is civil and has an obvious route to take. To keep it civil and flowing all Funky has to do is explain the detrimental effects that he believes same-sex marriage would have. But instead of explaining in what way same-sex marriage would be detrimental... he just repeats that it would be:

Hmmm. When did he say it? Am I the only person who inferred it here? I mean, I thought that was an argument for straight marriage and against gay marriage and it seemed to hinge on the importance of stability for straight relationships and silly old me put two and two together and assumed he was saying that marriage helped to provide that desired stability. If he wasn't, I have absolutely no idea what point he was making.

And it went on in this vein for ages. With Funky restating that my initial tweet was anti-straight because it only belittled straight people and also that I was anti-gay because I have insisted that he must agree with me because he's gay (I didn't). And every time I asked him to explain in what way gay marriage would be detrimental to society his argument seemed to boil down to, "because it would be detrimental to society." And when I asked him to explain why he thought I was being anti-this or anti-that his argument seemed to be, that I should just know.

Here are some highlights:
How many times did I ask him to explain his point of view? To give me an example? (Answer: at least 4. How many times did he do so? None that I'm aware of.)

Of course, I have to imagine them because he refuses to explain what any of them are. What divides in particular is he addressing? What kind of wedge will be driven into them? What damage to society will be done? He won't explain and instead just urges me to imagine something that I simply cannot imagine. I've tried to imagine something of that ilk. I've genuinely failed.

And finally, my favourite tweet of the lot...

For the record. My beard is ginger. My hair isn't.

This all happened yesterday. Today two people have tried to tell me that Funky is right. But I've cut those exchanges shorter because, well, because they were entering the same circular it's-not-fair-to-allow-same-sex-marriage-because-some-people-think-it's-not-fair-to-allow-it-and-who's-going-to-think-about-them? logic. (You can read one of them on Storify here.)

So... please don't pile in on twitter and send any angry tweets their way. I'm not trying to raise a mob. But I am interested in the debate. And I feel frustrated when people refuse to properly engage in one.

To be clear, I don't think it's got anything to do with religion. (And nor does Funky). If a particular faith wants to be against same-sex marriage then that's up to them. But my marriage has nothing to do with God and I don't think the State should have either. There's no point in allowing for marriages that are not informed by faith if you're going to restrict access to them based on faith.

Someone also said, "a civil partnership is exactly the same legally so why is anyone bothered about whether it's called a marriage or a civil partnership?"

Well exactly. Why is anyone bothered by it being called a marriage? Isn't that where we started?

My apologies if this is somehow too painfully right on for you to read. Normal service will no doubt be resumed shortly.


kimmy said...

I loved reading this, could read what you write all day, some people are just so beyond frustrating, There is a woman who works on our local council who it totally obsessed with high vis yello jackets and wants to make everyone wear them all the time!!!! I know its a totally dif subjet but she reminded me of the tweeter cuz even when you explain to her that, a, its broad day light, b its a very quiet car park and c we are all adults she still claims we need to wear one for reasons she knows and we should "just know" without actually having to tell us!!!!

Ed said...

Did anyone else read this and imagine Dave on stage delivering this. I loved the "ginger" insult too! If I can't make him see...well...it's just down to his ginger hair! Which is lovely by the way. Wherever it may be!

Steven said...

I hate people who say "you don't understand" when they actually mean "but you're not agreeing with me".

Mike Peatman said...

loved it. Thanks for posting it all - must have taken ages!

Rachel said...

Completely befuddled by he argument too - from a ginger straight girl, married to a non-ginger straight man, by a humanist ceremony and civil service to make it legal, neither of us follow any religion. I'm with you Dave, I got married for me, not anyone else or society and other people getting married, or civilly partnered, aren't going to affect me either.

Jen said...

You have the patience of a saint! I would have blocked after his second tweet and the #prejudice.
I find it too frustrating when people want to prove you wrong but don't engage with any questions or points made. His 'ginger' comment was genius though.

emily b said...

I became more and more confused but I've met people who fight against homophobia fight against same-sex marriage because the definition is man and woman, none of it makes sense. Or the argument, well the majority ate against it so majority wins, I've yet to hear an argument against same-sex marriage that makes sense

Kirst said...

Sometimes I dye my hair ginger (although I prefer to call it red) but right now it is blonde. Perhaps this is why I agree with Dave. Same sex marriage affects the same sex people who do it, not anyone else.

Squander Two said...

Hi, Dave.

A good summary of the sensible rational and non-hateful argument against gay marriage is here:
I think you'll find it interesting.

In case you're wondering, I support same-sex marriage, but not in this blase "of course it can't possibly have a down side" way that is so popular: I am sure it will have detrimental effects on society as well as good ones, but think, on balance, it should be introduced.

It pisses me off no end that most of the people arguing against it are tongue-dragging imbeciles of the variety you appear to have run into, as I love a good argument and they don't provide one.

KeithN said...

Can I argue against Ginger to Ginger marriages? I'm a Ginger man and have no desire to marry a Ginger woman. Two Gingers married to each other would undermine the stability of society and erm, something to do with evolution, whatever Funkydung said.

Vicky H said...

As an openly ginger member of our good society, I am appalled that someone could possibly indicate that my lack of understanding on contentious issues is due to my colouring (although it would explain a lot and excuse me from all future faux pas and allow me to say what the hell I like and put it down to the ginger in me - woo hoo!)Kidding, obviously!

Hey Dave, I noticed you wrote this rather lengthy blog at about 2 in the afternoon. Where can I get a job like that?

Anonymous said...

I propose (no pun intended) that we just ban all marriage. We need to make it fair to everyone.

JasonW said...

I very much fear you've been very successfully trolled here.

Dave Gorman said...

@JasonW Oh, I'm under no illusion that he wasn't being a troll. And did say so as I blocked him. I'm also under no illusion that he sincerely believes what he's saying. He's just not able to actually explain why. He wasn't saying things he didn't believe in order to wind me up... he believes every word of it. As do his two friends who chimed in today. And who I blocked promptly because I didn't want to feed more trolls.

MikeH said...

Mr Dung's photo is the front cover of the album Atom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd and Funky Dung is a section of the title track. Personally, I like Pink Floyd and consider myself fairly normal but this could be a case of too much bad acid. Atom Heart Mother is pretty good but probably one of their weaker albums. However I can enjoy listening to Wish You Were Here for example without in any way being upset by Mr Dung's obvious attachment to Atom Heart Mother - although the fact that I prefer WYWH to the more popular Dark Side of the Moon does potentially make me a sulky teenager too. Where am I going with this ? Don't know really.

Mike said...

Dave, This guy is a troll; the plague of the internet. He's not interested in your actual point of view but only provoking a response and wasting your time.

Dave Gorman said...

@Mike: in this case I think you're wrong. I know what a troll is. I don't think he is one per se. I think the effect is the same - which is why I blocked him. But I think he is interested in my point of view and he does believe that he is expressing his. He just does it badly. The end result = trolling. But strictly speaking, I don't think he's trying to be.

If you read the other exchange - linked to in the blog - it's similar (but much shorter) and equally heartfelt on the other person's side.

Dave Gorman said...

@Squander Two: I though the piece was interesting... but that it amounted to a more articulate version of the same argument.

Instead of saying bad-things-will-happen-and-I'm-not-going-to-tell-you-what-they-are it says bad-things-might-concievably-happen-and-I'm-sure-we-can-all-imagine-what-they-are.

It posits a marginal-marriage-candidate who might choose not to get married for reasons we can only imagine and suggests that if this happens, the institution of marriage will be weaker.

I don't agree. It suggests the maths is simply the-more-people-who-get-married-the-better-it-is-for-all-of-us-and-the-better-it-is-for-the-institution-of-marriage.

I disagree. I think bad marriages are bad. And good marriages are good. The goal is not to encourage as many marriages as possible, but to encourage those who will benefit from it to do so and those who won't to not do so.

Marriage isn't a magic potion. It just feels like one when it's good.

Rjs said...

You do get into lots of arguments these days don't you?

Mark said...

I hope that Funky is a red head, because you know what Tim Minchin says...

Anonymous said...

Huh. Nope. Don't think I understood that.

Here in Sweden same sex marriages have been legal for a few years now, and we're still waiting for that downfall of Western civilization as we know it. *shrug*

Kirst said...

I used to go out with a bloke who said that gingers should only marry other gingers so as to minimise the spread of ginger in the gene pool. Perhaps we could use that argument with FunkyDung - if gay people only marry other gay people, it will minimise the spread of teh gay in the gene pool. Or something.

Lydia said...

the best piece of advice I read for those who oppose same-sex marriage:

'If you are in opposition to same-sex marriage, we strongly advise that you don't marry anyone of the same sex as yourself'.

Kind of sums up your logic in a nutshell (and apologies for lack of attribution!)...