Our silver wedding anniversary

Twenty-five years ago today, this is what we were doing.

Malcolm and Deborah, 20 January 1990

A friend commented that unlike unlike most brides and grooms we both look as though we know exactly what we’re doing.

The consensus of the people in the photo is that we had no idea whatsoever what we were letting ourselves in for. Back then, we were both young corporate warriors, and we had not thought of changing our directions entirely as we did just a few years later. These days, we’re both academics, I’m deeply involved in politics, and we are parents to three wonderful girls whom we adore. We’re also still quite fond of each other.

But that’s by good fortune as much as hard work. A couple of years ago, I spoke at a big family celebration for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I chose my words very carefully, thinking about the nature of relationships. I pointed out that as always with a big crowd, there were people there who had been married for many years, people who had married and separated once or twice or more, people who had been involved in a succession of shorter terms relationships. Those relationships all worked for a time, and they were successful relationships. People achieved things within those relationships: careers and children and personal growth. And then sometimes, for whatever reason, relationships stopped working and the partners moved on. But they had still been successful relationships. We were there that day to celebrate one of those successful relationships, one that was still working well after 50 years. I know my parents worked hard at it, I know that there were significant ups and downs, and I suspect that times, they only stayed together through sheer bloody mindedness. For whatever reason it had happened, an enduring marriage was worth celebrating.

As my beloved husband and I are celebrating today. So far, we’re doing well. Or at least well enough, due to a mix of good luck and hard work and sheer bloody mindedness. I think that what makes the difference, for us, is that we’re each other’s best friends. We have good fun, talking, walking, sharing books, watching the same television shows and movies, being fascinated by science and history and politics, supporting each other’s projects, all together.

Here’s to the next twenty five years. And then the twenty five years after that. And then some more after that too.

(We did keep some secrets from each other before we got married. Notably, we only found out that we both really enjoy Star Trek *after* we’d said the vows.)

On Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand

Cross posted
I was a young student at university when Fran Wilde’s Homosexual Law Reform Bill was introduced to the House in 1985. Back then, over quarter of a century ago, it caused an uproar. And back then, as now, groups sprang up in support of the bill. I recall one group in particular: HUG, or Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays.

I was puzzled by HUG. Why did one need to assert one’s heterosexuality in order to support decriminalising consenting homosexual sex between men aged 16 or over? I thought that a person who was truly unafraid of gay men wouldn’t need to run up a banner to declare themselves straight.

I see the matter a little differently now. Perhaps it’s just the passage of time, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Perhaps it’s because I have come to realise just how malleable sexuality can be. Perhaps it’s because I have been happily ensconced in a monogamous relationship with a man for so long now that I am very secure in own identity as a straight woman. Perhaps it’s because New Zealand society as a whole is much more accepting of difference. To me, there is no great import to declaring my sexuality. It just is, and that’s all there is to it.

But of course, I am free to say that, without consequence, because my sexuality is accepted, and acknowledged, and even valorised by our society. What I see now is the great need for people like me, straight, accepted, acknowledged, valorised, to stand up and say that it is important to work to create the same possibilities for all people in our society. Not just say it quietly in the privacy of our homes, but OUT LOUD, in public. There are no consequences for me declaring my sexuality: there can be enormous consequences for the boy in Stratford, the woman in Hokitika, the lad in his first job labouring on a farm, the girl sitting in the pews every Sunday listening to homophobia because her parents make her go to church. We need to shout, as loud as we can, that there is a massive amount of support for gay and lesbian New Zealanders, to have exactly the same rights and privileges as New Zealanders who are straight. A huge number of people who are straight support marriage equality, and support people who are lesbian and gay, just because. And that’s all there is to it.

That’s why I’m part of Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s part of the shouting and clamouring and agitating for change.

In a perfect world, I’d be looking for really extensive change to our marriage laws, so that they worked for bisexual and polyamorous people too. But I’m not about to let the perfect defeat the good. While my longterm ideal is for people to be able to form households and homes and marriages in whatever configuration they like, with the support of the state, I will at least support and work for this particular change, that people who are gay or lesbian can enjoy the same rights as people who are straight. It’s a start.

If you’re on Facebook, you might like to like Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Keeping on talking about marriage equality

I almost can’t find anything to write about the Marriage Equality Bill which is now before New Zealand’s Parliament. Not because I don’t think it’s important! It’s a vital step in making sure that all New Zealanders have access to all services provided by the state, in this case, the recognition of the status of their relationships as valid. If the state is going to register marriages for some New Zealanders, then it shouldn’t be telling other New Zealanders that they’re not good enough to be married. To me, the arguments in favour of marriage equality are so obvious, and so well rehearsed, that it almost seems pointless to go through them again. And now that the Prime Minister has said that he will support the bill, it seems very likely that it will pass.

But over at The Hand Mirror, Luddite Journo makes a very powerful argument for keeping on speaking out and talking and writing and making a great clamouring for marriage equality.

Queer people will have to listen to homophobes telling us there is something wrong with loving someone of the same gender, that “homosexual relationships” are not normal. This will be painful and horrifying and dangerous for queer people in ways it will be difficult to describe to our straight friends. …

For that gay kid coming out in Te Awamutu, this debate will be terrifying. For that closeted bisexual public servant, this debate will be painful. For that lesbian who wants to leave the church and her husband with her children, this debate will be life-threatening. For all of us who don’t look like the gender norms we’re supposed to, this debate will be dangerous.

The bigots are out in force already, shouting their nasty words in the newspapers and on-line. We need to get the other stories out there, to take apart each horrid claim, to show the sheer absurdity of the anti marriage equality arguments.

So with that thought in mind, here’s a post I wrote a few years ago, in support of marriage equality: On marriage for lesbian and gay and other non-traditional couples.

Or you could take yourself over to Ideologically Impure, where the Queen of Thorns has a great series of posts:
Merv Duffy is wrong, dangerous, and unnecessary
Colin Craig: why is anyone listening to this dude, again?
“Those people” are a “problem” – gosh the Nats love their revealing language
Protect marriage! No, really

And across the Tasman, BlueBec has some great opinions: Strapping on the ranty pants – Marriage Equality edition (again)

And that reminds me of the one sad lack in the current campaign for marriage equality – it’s all about couples, and only couples. It would be good if it covered polyamory too. However, just as I supported civil unions even though I wished it went all the way to marriage equality, I will support this bill, of course, and then wait until we can take the next step.
Cross posted

Indignation or derision?

Last week I had an opinion piece in the Dom Post, in which I argued that if the state was going to be involved in the marriage game, then it ought to make marriage available to all its citizens – gay, lesbian, straight, trans*, threesomes, foursomes, whatever.

Gay, straight, bi – marriage should be for all

The state has no business in the marriage game. It does have a legitimate interest in noting who is in a committed relationship. As a society, we want to be able to tell which people happen to be sharing accommodation as mere flatmates, and which have amalgamated their interests for the foreseeable future.

We allocate rights and responsibilities on the basis of those amalgamations, such as welfare entitlements and tax credits, and obligations to support other people. But why should the state care about whether those committed relationship households are based on male/female couples, or same-sex couples, or trios, or whatever?

It is unfair the state gives a certain status (marriage) to some households but not others. Either the recognition ought to apply to all, or none. Anything else represents the state picking and choosing among citizens, saying some are more worthy than others. That ought to be anathema in an egalitarian society.

This week, Bob McCoskrie has an opinion piece in the Dom Post, in response to mine, arguing saying something along the lines that marriage is between a man and a woman and allowing anyone else to get married would lead to children getting married to goldfish. Or bestial unions.

Gay community cannot redefine marriage

I don’t know whether to splutter in indignation, or roll around the floor laughing in derision.

Marriage should be for everyone or no-one

I have an opinion piece in the Dom Post this morning.

Gay, straight, bi – marriage should be for all

As always, the subbing is not mine. And this time, the editors have taken one word out. Perhaps they thought that it was going too far to suggest that “quartets” should be able to get married. Or perhaps they just thought that the sentence read better without it.

Just not with you, Sunshine

Cross posted

We all know the meme: she was wearing a short skirt, or flirting with lot of men, or showing lots of cleavage, so clearly, she was just out for sex, and she was asking for it.

Well, yes. Plenty of women do wear short skirts, or flirt with lots of guys, or show lots of cleavage, because they would like to have sex.

But here’s the crunch.

Just because a woman is wearing a short skirt, or flirting, or showing lots of cleavage, and clearly very interested in having sex with someone, doesn’t mean that she wants to have sex WITH YOU.

You may be middleaged and balding, you may have bad breath, you may be drunk as a skunk, and these might all be good reasons in that short-skirted, flirty, cleavage showing woman’s mind for her not to want to have sex WITH YOU, even if she wants sex in general.

You might be a glorious amalgam of Brad Pitt, Chow Yun Fat, Alan Rickman, James McAvoy and Will Smith, and for whatever reason, she might decide that she is not interested in having sex WITH YOU.

Even if a woman is deeply interested in having sex with someone, that someone may not be you. Sex may be exactly what she wants, just not with you, Sunshine. You still have to get consent.

End of story. Because really, there is nothing else to be said.

Mutatis mutandis for women having sex with men, or men having sex with men, or women having sex with women. Active, positive consent matters, every single time.

It's just a game

My sisters-in-blogging have been talking about the treatment that has been dished out to Michael Clark and Lara Bingle by Sydney Morning Herald opinionator, Peter Roebuck.

For those in Australia and New Zealand who have managed to avert their eyes thus far, Michael Clarke is the vice-captain of the Australian cricket team (for our sisters in the United States, and Canada, and other places around the globe, this means that he’s close to beatification), and Lara Bingle is engaged to him. She has had a horrible time of late, mostly because a few years ago, an ex-boyfriend of hers took a photo of her as she was getting out of the shower, circulated it to all his mates, and then it was published in a magazine. Mindy at Hoyden about Town and Legal Eagle at Skeptic Lawyer have written about it.

A couple of days ago, Michael Clarke took leave from the Australian cricket team in order to come home to Sydney to be with Lara. It’s not yet clear exactly why he did so, and frankly, I don’t want to know – it’s his business. But, JaysusMaryJosephandallthesaints, has there ever been an outburst of criticism of him, and of her. The most spectacular piece of inanity (so far, excluding comments on news sites, of course) has come from Peter Roebuck, who lays all the blame with Bingle, though en route he manages to imply that Clarke must have a small… is not a real grownup man.

Jo Tamar at Wallaby provides a translation, Kim at News with Nipples notes the old-time misogyny that Roebuck trots out, and Katie Olsen at The Dawn Chorus discusses the diminishing of Lara Bingle.

I found the Roebuck column incredible. Clarke has a couple of choices: look after his fiance, who seems to be in desperate need, or play cricket. You know, one of these things is not like the other… One is a matter of our deepest connections to other people, and the other is, well, a game.

Peter Roebuck, repeat after me: Cricket is a game. Cricket is a game. Cricket is a game.

I know, I know. In sports-obsessed Australia, cricket is damn near close to being a religion. But that just shows how mistaken people are about the importance of cricket, or indeed, any other sport. It’s not life and death, it’s not of any great moment, it’s just a game. Even if you try an analytical turn, and point out that sport is the modern day version of bread and circuses, or opiate of the masses, the fact is that in the greater scheme of life, who wins this match or that match, who provides the best entertainment, who lines the pockets of the media moguls with the most shekels, matters not a whit. It’s just a bloody game. And when it comes to playing a game, or doing your best to support your partner in a very, very difficult time, then if you have to think about it for more than an instant, you are pathetic.

That’s not all… Roebuck witters on to say that all the great sportsmen have wonderful, supportive wives at home. That may well be the case. But given his thundering misogyny, I’m willing to bet that if one of these great sportsmen and his wife had decided to bring that marriage to an end, then suddenly, the man’s “special contribution” would be all that mattered, and the wife’s on-going support that enabled the career would count for nothing.