Equality for all? Or equality for none?

simone-de-beauvoirTwo days short of my first birthday a significant influence of my later life philosophy passed away. She wasn’t a relative, a famous actor or musician but a feminist and philosopher. I discovered Simone de Beauvoir whilst reading the English translation of Le Deuxième Sexe [The Second Sex] as part of my Feminist Philosophy Specialist Subject in my final year at Lancaster University.

I’d taken the course due to a personal interest in Feminism, for a time I was treasurer of FemSoc at university and loved meeting up with people to debate of equal rights, the rights of women and the rights of a fair society. Often asked, ‘how can a man be a feminist?’ and I wouldn’t struggle for an answer: how can I, a gay man, expect to be equal in our society (whether that be defined by the way I live in our western culture or as part of our global community), when women, who make up approximately half the human population, don’t? How could I expect to be treated with the same respect, the same rights and the same compassion as the ‘rest’ of society when my mother, my sister or my female friends were living as second class citizens: and worst of all, not always fully aware, or uncaring of this fact?

As I write this blog entry UK MPs vote for the “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill”. When I was younger I began to think about how I would like to grow up and being gay what that would mean for me. I thought about the possibilities of settling down and maybe then having a family. This wasn’t a goal or a target; I didn’t feel like I would need these things to be accepted, my personal views changed as a result of my Philosophy degree, and the realisation that I was against the foundations of marriage and what it is built upon. This was a good job as my boyfriend definitely does not want to get married and would probably rather run a cattery than have children, and he’s allergic to cats…

I’m not suggesting lgbt people should not have equal rights. They most definitely should, and do all in their will to demand such rights. But why are gay men and women so determined and hell-bent that the rights heterosexual have are more equal, because more people ‘benefit’ from them, or to put it another way: why can’t we see that sometimes we have it better off?

The concept of marriage pre-dates any form of recorded history, there are many scientific, biological and anthropological theories behind it but they all focus on the idea that man had to assure himself of the paternity of his children, the passing on of his own genes. As cultures grew and the human society evolved this developed into the practical arrangement of marriage that we see today, a contract or ceremony performed locking two people together. Of course to buck the trend the Ancient Greeks refrained from this idea and actually had a more casual arrangement between a man and a woman although the wife was still poorly regarding and expected to work in the house and raise children.

Ideas of divorce are as old as some of those of marriage itself. Men and women were expected to fulfil certain obligations, and if these were not met there were grounds to part the relationship. I fear it’s the thoughts of dissolving of a relationship that is driving modern day equality law more than the desire to prove two people are in a committed, loving relationship: this along with inheritance issues or legal entitlements in our modern society seem to be the drive and focus, are we really that greedy?

Civil Partnerships gave same sex couples the majority of the same legal rights as marriage, campaigners have argued that as a separate form of union it could be looked upon as less-valid. But why would you want something as ‘valid’ as an outdated and sexist contract, something based on the notion that a woman is property that can be bought or purchased?

I don’t want a contract to defend a right to my boyfriend’s earnings, a cut in his possessions or the inheritance when he passes, I don’t want to own my boyfriend. He is not my property. I am not ‘the other’ and nor is he. We are both equal in our relationship and we don’t need a legal document to prove this.

The only thing we want to share is love, and no law or contract can indefinitely secure that.

By the time I finished writing this the bill in the UK passed to committee. It’s a good day for lgbt rights, I can’t deny that, but can we now focus on some more important matters that affect our community, the past few months I feel like we’ve felt this is the final tick box and we’re done. We’re not. We’re still not living in an equal society and we need to address how we measure ourselves against our heterosexual citizens.

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