• Rainbow pinata cake (China Squirrel)Source: China Squirrel
Once we get over this mania for “acceptance", we can return to building on the activism of a previous age, and not try to simply ask for room in wider society, but demand, as we once did, that society knock down some of its freaking walls, writes Helen Razer.
By
Helen Razer

16 Aug 2016 - 2:02 PM  UPDATED 16 Aug 2016 - 2:02 PM

In feel-good rainbow news recently to hand, the Tasmanian Upper House voted for the right of same-sex couples to marry. This move is constitutionally pointless, as it doesn’t permit any Australian same-sex couple to have their union endorsed. But, if you’re a fan of wedded bliss, the moment is encouraging. It’s an indication that even conservative politicians are running out of ways to say, “Ew. No.”

In short, we know that same-sex marriage is on the way. And, while I’m personally no fan of the me-too activism that asks a society that has long rejected queer people to give it a cuddle, I say: thank the gods of decent conversation. Once they pass the jolly thing, we can, perhaps, fix our queer attention to something more interesting and useful.

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(And. Hey. If you’re new to this whole LGBT rights thing and you think any dismissal of marriage is homophobic, settle, Petal. Some of us just dislike the need for queer to be seen as “acceptable”. Some of us think that the very idea of “acceptable” sex is what started homophobia in the first place. And, some of us remember that in 2008, the Labor government passed a big suite of laws that gave same-sex, and opposite-sex, unmarried couples precisely the same legal rights as married ones. So don’t come over all “They have it better in Alabama” with me. Alabama is (a) a sh*t place and (b) a sh*t place where, whether same or opposite-sex, a couple MUST be married to enjoy the same rights that domestic partners of any variety do in Australia. Marriage in the US is not a “choice”, it’s something one is obliged to do for insurance purposes. “Choice”, my fluffy rainbow arse.)

Anyhoo, my revulsion for a movement to whom the idea of “normal” relationships is central notwithstanding, let’s just PLEASE pass this thing so the Marriage Equality people finally unsubscribe me from their email list. More than my personal distaste for nice, shiny YouTube couples whose representations of monogamous love make those in even the worst Hollywood romance seem realistic, perhaps queer activism can change post-marriage equality.

I am hopeful that we can have our rainbow cake and eat it, too. Which is to say, once we get over this mania for “acceptance", we can return to building on the activism of a previous age, and not try to simply ask for room in wider society, but demand, as we once did, that society knock down some of its freaking walls.

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Over the past seven or so years, a small number of dreary homosexual voices, and a larger number of very tedious straight ones, have dominated Australian LGBT activism. This marriage and “acceptance” stuff has drained all the energy out of a movement formerly concerned with matters including homelessness, economic disadvantage (a real problem for older queer people and all transpeople) and funding for frontline HIV/AIDS services. The current LGBT reasoning goes: if everyone comes to accept us, then all our problems will be fixed!

It is my sincere hope that we will come to know, when, say, five thousand gold rings have been officially exchanged, that Changing People’s Attitudes has never, not once, really changed the way that people experience material life.

To help us understand this, it is instructive to look at Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton—a woman always careful to pronounce the letters of “LGBT” in the right order. Clinton has recently made a big deal of “acceptance” of black US citizens and has convinced many that she super-duper cares. What she prefers not to talk about is her declared support for the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which led to the present mass imprisonment of black citizens for minor crimes. Or, her declared support for the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, which hollowed out the US welfare system and punished people—black people—who couldn’t find work. Her active involvement in the promotion and the formation of these Acts has directly led to life being measurably worse for black US citizens.

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So, you know, it is just AWESOME that Clinton “accepts” black people. That she has legislated against their very existence seems not to matter to many of her supporters.

Look. I am quite aware that talking about US Acts is about as interesting as Dan Savage’s YouTube Channel. And, I get that this view that “acceptance” is not acceptable to me is not what GetUp! tells you. But, FFS, people. Could you possibly think, even for a minute, that the apparent “acceptance” of people is not only no guarantee of a tolerable life for LGBT people, or any other minority, but that going on and on about “acceptance” actually masks the fact of inequality.

It is not the work of government to change our minds and promote “acceptance”. And, that’s not only my moral belief, but a fact. Government can’t make us better and more accepting people by changing a few cosmetic laws—and, again, a change to the Marriage Act is going to be pure window dressing.

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Government can make us better only by regulating the material conditions in which we all live. And the LGBT movement is not currently interested in this boring kind of betterment—things like health, education or housing have been all but forgotten in the mad rush to the altar.

So, pass the damn thing. Have the acceptable “acceptance” orgy and thank the dominant culture very much for giving you accreditation. Then, if you care to look at the lives of many LGBT people which have not changed through propaganda, perhaps you can do something a little less acceptable with your time.