Monday, 12 March 2012

Why we should all be in favour of gay marriage

It seems to me that the arguments surrounding same-sex marriage have become skewed, both by the press and by those participating in the public debate. Church leaders (of various denominations) have portrayed the change as a fundamental alteration to society while the gay community and those in favour of same-sex marriage have accused the Church of harbouring institutionalised homophobia and, worse still, reverting back to old imputations of paedophilia to discount an argument that represents the view of a large number of people.
I think it’s cowardly of the gay community (which, to save time, I use also to refer to heterosexuals who support same-sex marriage) to cower behind these accusations. The fight for same-sex marriage is a moral one, and one that I believe can be won in the context of a simple, calm and civilised political and theological debate. Responding to legitimate, if, as I believe, unwarranted, concerns about the change that would occur with belligerent accusation is unnecessary. This is an argument that needs to be won fairly with heart and mind.
Nor do I believe the renewal of laicism in the gay community is necessary. The Church, as with all institutions of faith, does have a role to play in the life of society. It both leads and represents the moral lives and opinions of millions of people in this country and it is not unacceptable for their leaders to make clear their position on this issue, and for a public debate to ensue. That is what is meant to happen in a free society where social issues can be discussed without fear of punishment for your views. Refusing to accept an opinion simply because it comes from a person of faith is as bad as a person of faith refusing to accept your’s because you aren’t. The way our nation’s democracy works is that debate should happen, and the majority opinion wins out. Again, I truly believe that majority opinion lies on the side of those in favour of equal marriage and not those opposing it, and many opinion polls conducted recently seem to reinforce that view.
Church leaders are reliant on an old argument against same-sex marriage. They continue to call it a redefinition of traditional marriage and to say that it would destabilise the foundation of our society, which, they argue, has been until now based upon the “nuclear family” unit. They espouse the view that marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman to procreate and live romantically for the betterment of each other and for the praise of God. Whether one views the purpose of life to be in the praise of God or not, this view of marriage as the traditional home of family life is one that held by a large number of people in this country and around the world.
Gay marriage does redefine marriage, but only if you agree with their original definition. I would argue that marriage is simply a union of two people in love, and occurs after each person vows to love the other for the rest of their lives. This definition of marriage also applies to civil partnerships, already permitted in the UK and acknowledged by the various churches in the nation as an accepted part of our national life. Civil partnerships are, to all extent and purpose, civil marriages.
So what’s in a name? Many people of faith argue that since gay people have the right to form a legal union and share the same protections that married couples have that the importance of the name of ‘marriage’ is negated. I think this is untrue - marriage is viewed as a far more important and significant step in one’s life, and conforms to a more traditional approach to morality and commitment than civil partnerships. For many years now, society has drawn a distinction between civil marriages and religious marriages and I see no reason why the legal approach to this issue should be shrouded by religious sentiment when it has not been for more than fifty years. 
For many gay people, being allowed to publicly declare their love and make a vow of commitment and dedication to one another is an important step in their lives, and one that is cherished. Almost all who have civil partnerships refer to them themselves as “married”. Yet the law, for the moment, still refuses to accept that they are, even though they share all the same rights and privileges, save for the very name “marriage”. For gay Christians, many believe that not only does God not condemn their actions, but He actively encourages and celebrates in their love. Indeed, they believe that God brought about that love, and it is just as right for them to declare it and find the same solace in it that heterosexual couples do. I believe that society is made stronger by families, but I refuse to accept that the “nuclear family” merely includes heterosexual couples. Two gay people coming together and forming a union strengthens society just as much, and the Church should encourage the commitment and love that mirrors Christ’s own with his Church. As anyone who has been married or attended a marriage in a church could tell you, the priest always reminds those getting married that marriage is a symbol of the love that, they believe, Christ has for each person. Nothing in a gay relationship negates this truth.
Nor does a gay relationship mean that you cannot bring up children in a safe, secure and beneficial environment which harbours learning, growth and success. Indeed, as the first generation of children brought up by gay parents begin to find their way in the world, many attest that the love and care they find from their parents is a source of support and strength, when some children from heterosexual couples find the opposite. Of course every situation is different, and no two sets of parents are the same, gay or straight, but it seems ridiculous to argue that gay parents cannot provide the same love and care that heterosexual parents can simply because of their sexuality, or because there is only one sex of parent. Too long has society been populated by people who were brought up outside of the “nuclear family” model who have gone on to lead prosperous, successful and happy lives for this to be a valid argument any longer. Children do not require the “nuclear family”. They require love, attention and support - all of which can be provided in abundant quantities by gay parents.
Marriage is a privilege and a blessing. Whether you believe it is a blessing from God or not is entirely a personal choice, but it is something that many people find enriches their lives incomparably. To deny gay people this happiness, simply for protection of a name, seems cruel and unjust. To me, it also seems un-Christian. Marriage is no more defined as exclusively between women and men than it is defined as being for life. Divorce is an accepted fact of our society, and one that many people believe to be an unhappy but very necessary option available to all people. An end to the distinction between one loving, committed relationship and another must happen if we can truly claim to be a free and liberal society. Often it is only when we have personal experience of a situation that our opinions change, and so as more members of society feel comfortable to come out to their families and friends, maybe the general opinion will move even more in favour of gay marriage than it is already. 
It is not illogical or unjustified to argue that simply because members of the gay community want gay marriage that they should be allowed it. Marriage is not the gift of the church, nor even the state. It is regulated because it is an important institution, but at its core it is a simple declaration of love between two people who wish to form a stronger, safer and more trusting union. As such, the state must not stand in the way of two people’s desire to marry one another, regardless of their sex. 
I support entirely the government’s plans to allow gay marriage, and to permit (though not force) churches to perform gay marriage services should they wish. I urge you to show your support of this cause too by signing the petition at http://www.c4em.org.uk.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye, so long, and thank you 2011.

Can it be this time again already? Forgive the ever so indulgent review of one's year that I'm about to write. I did it last year and I fear I shall next. It's quite cathartic to think about the bad and the good of the experience of life, I find...

At the end of last year I felt sad and angry by a number of things. In truth, and though I made some close friends doing it, my year in Norwich left me rather unfulfilled and directionless, and I am very glad to have left in July. Though I spent half of this year there too, once I was past the hump of Christmas, the first six months of 2011 flew by. Thank GOD!

My summer was fantastic. Almost too good. I've set myself a benchmark which I doubt I'll be able to meet never mind surpass this coming year. Who knows? I haven't planned my summer at all yet so maybe I'll find a spare load of cash and go somewhere amazing!! But yes...back to this year. I spent a fattening, drunken, cultural, sunny and just wonderfully luxurious month-and-a-bit in the extraordinary city of Florence. It was a place with which I fell in love and I don't think I'll ever find somewhere so full of treasures and delights. And for an Oxonian to say that says something. The fact that I went with my best friend Eleanor made it all the more fabulous!

I did get some awful news during the holiday which slightly spoilt it for me at the end, and I don't think I'll ever understand quite how the mosquitos managed to enter my bedroom after I all but hermetically sealed it EVERY NIGHT, but I loved the whole experience of it and couldn't be more grateful to my family who made it possible for me to go.

The rest of summer was boring and dull, but in September I went up to York to start working at the Minster in the choir and then in October I started my degree at the university. And I'm ever so happy to report that I couldn't be enjoying either more. I was received so warmly by everyone in both communities and have never felt so at home so quickly within a place and within a family of people.

Family is the word, actually. I feel so welcomed by so many people there. I couldn't be happier about going there and feel so privileged to have met some wonderful friends - a few of whom I know, or at least hope with all my heart, I shall never lose from my life.

2011 has been wonderful for me, I think. You'll see how I skirted over all of it that I didn't particularly enjoy and I think that's a testament to how I shall remember it. In my mind's eye, 2011 shall be a momentous and happy year on which to look back. I can only hope that 2012 lives up to all the potential that it holds to me and so many people. Knowing that I have my amazing friends and family with which to experience it makes me think it probably will do.

I simply cannot wait.

I hope you all have a very happy new year!!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Do cupcakes make me insane?: My best first last date ever.

I went out a few weeks ago with this hot, funny Mediterranean guy. We'd met on twitter and after a few flirtatious DMs, the odd tweet here or there, a phone call (in which - and he still doesn't know this (until now) - I was butt naked going around watering plants in my house) and we'd arranged a date for the following weekend, before a party I was going to in the evening.

I dilly-dallied around with choosing a venue (why do I always do this? I know enough places by now to be able to say immediately "Let's go here" but I never do...) and eventually we settled on lunch in a restaurant in Soho that a friend recommended. I thought, if he's crazy, I can make it last an hour and never see each other again, if he's not then I have the whole afternoon to have fun.

When he arrived, I knew it was going to take considerably longer than an hour...

He literally stole the room. The waiters (I think all bar one were homos too) visibly pumped their over-tight crisp white shirts as he walked in looking truly, breathtakingly good looking. And we actually hit it off. Like, *really* hit off. We didn't order food for an hour. Not kidding. The waiters were bemused at our complete lack of concern for any kind of consumption of food. Of course, it was a date with ME so obviously there was wine there within minutes. Duh.

We laughed, we talked about exes (am I the only person for whom this has always happened on a first date, regardless of how forbidden it is in all dating rulebooks?), we talked about jobs/uni, we did everything you have to. But I found myself actually really liking him. He was suave, bubbly and funny. His smile lit up the room. He knew how good he looked, didn't care that everyone was jealous and I for one was incredibly glad it was me he was sitting opposite.

After our nearly four hour lunch, we went off shopping at a Paperchase - another good sign that we both enjoy a bit of over-priced stationery - for me to purchase a card for the party I was going to later, and him to get a couple of things he wanted. We pottered around, joked at some of the things they had on sale, and then wandered back up to the Hummingbird where we had cupcakes and squashed into a little corner where there wasn't really enough room, but neither of us cared that much.

All in all, it was a pretty magical afternoon. Certainly exceeded all expectations and in my limited experience of first dates, ranked very highly. He walked me back to where I was staying and as we parted ways I wish, I *wish*, I'd been ballsy enough to give him more than the slightly limp hug that he received.

I finished the day with the biggest smile on my face, and couldn't not tell the people I was with about the amazing guy I'd met.

We had date #2 arranged but he was forced to work late at the last minute and cancelled. Since I was already in London for it, I went to something else and said it was fine. Which it was. I knew he was going away a couple of days later for a week, so I just told myself to stay put and wait till he's back and then get to know him more and see if he really is someone I could actually date, after nearly a year and a half not doing so.

Unfortunately, it all sort of fell apart. There was someone else interested in him, and so I acted like a COMPLETE prick and spoiled everything. Which is just how it goes. We never went on the second date. It's a shame because he was lovely and even though my friends have, in their well-trained way, been extolling my virtues and saying what he's missing out on, in my head I know that it was entirely my fault that he got freaked out by me. It was completely justifiable. I got it into my head that I didn't stand a chance against this other guy and so acted out without ever giving the Mediterranean the chance to say he actually did quite want to see me again.

He's going out with someone new now and I'm happy for him. And jealous of the other guy.

But c'est la vie. New city. New place. New job. New term. I'm sure there's lots of new stuff to look forward to.

And by stuff, I mean boys obviously...

Twenty Thousand Leagues

Do I believe in leagues?

I used to, certainly. So many times have I seen a guy I liked, stopped breathing, run across a road to hide behind a car and hoped that my impending death from oxygen deprivation would happen before he saw me (inevitably it didn’t…). I remember when I was 12/13ish speaking to a boy a few years older than me whom I ADORED and literally freaking out, running away, crying and not leaving the bathroom for 3 hours.

As an emotional cutter, it was only logical that when it came time for boyfriends and sex and all that jazz I would immediately fancy the most attractive boys IN THE WORLD. I recently let out a picture of one of my exes and had 15 replies from twitter gays asking for his number/name/cock pics. He was (is) (was – he’s dead to me) hot. Jaw-dropping. But he was also a prick, who cheated on me.

It’s only recently that I’ve begun to understand how scarring both of my ex-boyfriends’, who I went out with for 8 and 10 months respectively, and who were both really quite spectacularly attractive, cheating on me actually was. I’ve spent nearly 18 months now convinced that every time I pick up my phone to text or ring someone I like, my interest in them is completely futile or absolutely unreciprocated.

I forgot that anyone might actually like me, because I forgot to like myself.

But then every so often I’m surprised. I’ll get a flirty message from a guy whom I like, or heaven forbid actually go on a date with someone who is “attractive”. I went out with a guy recently who was so my type – young, beautiful, funny (amAzing smile). He turned out to be a bit of a prick and I’m glad to have avoided him, but the principle sticks.

My problem now isn’t looks. I think I’ve reached a point where I know that some people like how I look. And if someone can’t see past the blemishes and tummy then they’re not worth my time. But I’ve recently taken to fancying boys who are incredible accomplished and talented, which means I don’t really appear on their radar. I have skills and talent, but in a fairly niche area. And, annoyingly, I very rarely fancy musicians.

I wish I were more of a slut. At least going home and shagging someone a few nights a week maintains a self-esteem. But I’m not – I’ve tried that. I just can’t do it without at least investing some kind of future in something. Even if on the strict understanding of being just ‘friends with benefits’.

Who knows. Maybe in the future I’ll have to put up with someone who loves me, even if I don’t always feel the same way? Or resign myself to forever fancying men who don’t fancy me? For the moment, I’m just going to continue picking up my phone, sending that text and seeing who bothers to say “yes”.