Growing up in a country New South Wales town where I knew no other gay people, it would have been helpful to know that we did in fact exist, and our government was happy to recognise us as equal citizens. Instead, that government was busy actively excluding us from existing institutions that it previously hadn’t – as with Howard’s 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act.
It’s important, then, to make sure we’re mindful of everyone when we talk about marriage equality. Which is why I have problems with the term ‘same sex marriage’. ‘Sex’ has generally been used to refer to someone’s biological make-up: their chromosomes, genitals, hormones. Your ‘gender’ is not purely determined by biological factors, but is much more socially determined. ‘Same sex’ tends to erase the idea that your gender is anything more than your genitals, because it appears to apply the idea that a lesbian or gay couple is a couple where both people (always) have the same biological traits.
If we want true marriage equality, it’s important to recognise that erasing the differences between sex and gender erases the experiences of transgender people, whose biological sex is often different from their gender. A lesbian couple, for example, may have two vaginas, two penises, or one of each. Ultimately, the biological sex of the people in the couple matters to no-one other than those people.
While the proposed changes to marriage legislation would not discriminate against couples such as this (the changes generally say ‘irrespective of sex’ making it as irrelevant as it should be), the term is still quite erasing of people who have spent their lives trying to convince those around them that a penis does not maketh a man.
I like the term ‘marriage equality’, because that’s what we’re fighting for: equality. It’s not just a fight for lesbian or gay couples to be able to marry, but a fight for their relationships to be recognised as legitimate, and as equivalent, as heterosexual relationships.
And just so we’re clear, sex with my lady partners isn’t the same; it’s actually pretty different, every time. Boom.