So i’m assuming many of you will have come across the Coalition for Equal Marriage and their newly released video, for those who have not seen it, find it below!
Now I think its important to stress that equal marriage is an issue of equality that has been fought for by members of the LGBTQ community. It is also one that has had a right-wing backlash and caused anti-LGBTQ groups to desperately send out the word that ‘gay marriage’ must be stopped. The calls by prominent Catholic and Church of England figures, along with recent efforts to encourge children in catholic schools to sign a petition against gay marraige has created a political landscape to the demand for gay marriage, that has powerful and wealthy religious institutions and political forces set against us.It is with that consideration that I stress my utmost solidarity in fighting against these reactionary and devastating ideas.
However, I have some serious criticisms of this video and the way in which they have decided to portray LGBT and Queer people, and also take issue with the way in which LGBTQ liberation has been ‘whitewashed’ in order to appear “acceptable”.
One of the problematic elements to this film is that its director, Mike Buonaiuto, decides to portray a gay couple reunited after one of them has served time in the army – it’s a lovely storybook affair, the camera pans across the families waiting for their loved ones waving union jacks, and our gay soldier sees his partner running to a nice lovely long… hug.
Buonaiuto is referencing the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the US army last year, which was a victory in challenging legislative discrimination in the army. It was another issue that made headlines, people petitioned and protested, and finally won. The director, Mike Buonaiuto comments in Pink News: “the film looks to tackle the opposition head on, arguing if all, regardless of sexuality have the right to serve in the British military”, however he continues “[they are] risking their lives for our national security”. This comment is part of a worrying trend in sexual and gender activism, presenting “status quo” images of LGBT and Queer people that fit into current or acceptable political rhetoric – “we support our boys, we love our country too!” Activists in equality movements have often been tied to anti-war/anti-imperialist causes, so why show an explicit and quite nationalistic support of the army in a video about gay marriage?
The idea of taking a more “acceptable” political line plays out again in one of the worst aspects of this video – its completely sexist attitude toward gay marriage. We are shown one representation of LGBT/Queer people, that of two white (MAB) men, who are young, good looking, and well turned out. After the romantic embrace we are shown two captions at the end ‘all men can be heroes’ and ‘all men can be husbands’… i’m sorry, but, when was sexual and gender liberation about men being heroes and husbands? It seems again like a useless and reactionary addition to the video.
The creators completely ignore same-gender relationships between women, or other gender identities within our community. Again it is the acceptable and well known tv trope of affluent young gay men ‘fitting in’, and it’s boring. It is one our essential demands about gender that we find roads to rid ourselves of archaic notions of “heroic men and gentle women”, and challenge the gendered hegemony that pervades our capitalist media – this video fundamentally sells out on those principles in order to win another battle.
The tactic of pandering to the status quo is really poor politics. Can we really resign ourselves to chasing promises of single reforms when our oppression is part of every part of our lives, not just our relationships? It raises the question of how we relate to each other – it may be easy for the white, middle class, professional gay man to assimilate, but for the working class, black, queer mother, assimilation is impossible. Our demands for sexual and gender liberation may include marriage reform, but are much more radical that this video shows them to be – they are also intrinsically tied for to demands for jobs, pay and pensions and the demands for black and disabled liberation.
If we want to push positive representations of gender and sexual liberation into the public arena, then this video serves as a critical warning – if we do not show our diversity and solidarity with one another, than we will fail to get the support from each other that we so desperately need – we will fail to encapsulate the demands from the grassroots. Solidarity with each other under oppression is key to articulating what we need to change, so our demands are more than a few reforms here and there, but a reshaping of our attitudes toward sexuality and gender entirely.
Just a few thoughts and feelings, feel free to respond with any other perspectives, agreements/disagreements on here or on Facebook!