Feb 15, 2013
Any future changes to the Marriage Act must ensure it is gender-neutral so the law can reflect the fact that our biological sex doesn’t determine our personality, our relationship roles nor who we are attracted to, writes Ben Cooper.
There are many arguments that have been articulated in favour of marriage equality, such as equal rights for LGBTI people and marriage strengthens relationships to name a few; but there’s one argument that for too long has been ignored in this debate, with that argument being that we need marriage equality because our society and its citizens need a gender-neutral Marriage Act. There are many reasons why we need a gender-neutral Marriage Act. Trans and Intersex communities in particular benefit from this reform, and women benefit from a Marriage Act free of sexism. But the main reason being is because our society needs a culture shift and the law to celebrate sexual, gender and social equality.
A perfect example of why this change is necessary is the story of a guy named Shaun (not his real name). Shaun was someone who I met in a youth choir and he was one of the most talented tenors in the choir. He was fairly butch in his appearance, enjoyed playing cricket and was a fairly gentle natured person with a bright future. Shaun like every man fitted some male stereotypes but like every person there were many aspects of his personality and gender expression that simply didn’t fit gender stereotypes. Shaun was someone who was bullied because of his gender and personality expression and on a daily basis he endured homophobic slurs and was consistently de-gendered by many of his peers. In essence he was denied social acknowledgement of his gender identity by the way others treated him. Shaun, who to the best of knowledge was and is heterosexual, was even once accused of being gay and bashed by a group of guys after they saw a poster advertising an upcoming musical that featured a picture of him in costume.
At age 15, after enduring such disturbing discrimination for several years, Shaun started to hang out with an extremely hyper-gendered group of guys and within weeks he quit the choir and began to drift away from many of his friends. Shaun began to go to house parties and raves with his mates and the morning after one of these parties I ran into him and I saw he had a black eye. I asked him how he got it and he told me that he and his mates were causing a ruckus and when the host of the party asked them to leave, they laid into him and a brawl erupted. I then briefly continued the conversation by asking him about a mutual friend of ours from choir and if he had caught up with her recently. This girl was for years one of his closest friends and he responded by saying, “Nah I don’t have time for skanks that don’t put out.” I was stunned and finished the conversation and kept walking. I remember being quite shocked at how much he had changed as a person. The relatively gentle country boy who loved singing and cricket, and who had plenty of healthy friendships with men and women had become a deeply insecure, drug addicted bully, who had lost all respect for not only himself but for women and any male who in his eyes wasn’t a real man. The only thing that Shaun really cared about nowadays was fitting in with the boys, having as much sex as possible and getting off his face whenever he could. The guy who endured so much oppression was now running around causing trouble and oppressing others.