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I’m going to put it out there: I’m not a fan of weddings, not in the slightest, in fact the older I get the more I don’t look forward to them, and despite being a gay man I don’t cry when the couple finally gets to snog and then walks down the aisle with grins the size of tuna fish.  Whilst I’m always (well, almost always) happy for the couple involved, and won’t hesitate to knock off their booze and food at the lavish receptions, and maybe, just maybe, if I’m sufficiently stonkered, I might dance with a grandma to some bad 80s tune, it’s rare that I’ll get into the true celebratory spirit.  It could be that I’m jealous of the couple who’s just tied the knot, or I have a problem with all the attention they’re getting (why can’t I have just a bit of that?), or it might be that I’m wearing a suit that no longer fits.  Yes, it could be these things.  But it’s not, not entirely.

The first reason I’m not a fan of the whole wedding caper is the insistence of couples continuing to use the words husband and wife.  According to my beloved Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (a perfect resource when researching things about marriage), husband is derived from the Old English ‘husbonda’, from the Old Norse ‘husbondi’, which combines ‘hus’, meaning ‘house’, and ‘bondi’, ‘one who has a household’ (clearly not the famous Australian beach).  So a husband is a man in his capacity as head of the household.  Is this what women really want when they declare in front of a couple of hundred people that they take said bloke to be their ‘husband’ – please rule over me for all eternity?

The origins of wife are not as easy to trace, though it’s believed to be from the Old English ‘wif’, meaning woman.  The original meaning may have been ‘the veiled one’.  Make of that what you will, but again is that what men really want when they declare in front of a couple of hundred people that they take said lady to be their ‘wife’ – I’m going to keep you away from the gaze of the public for all eternity.  Mmm, perhaps that’s exactly what they want.  But the lack of thinking and challenge around these words and their meanings – meanings overt, subtle and subliminal – is what gets me all hot under the collar at weddings.  (I must admit that although I use it all the time the word ‘partner’ can often seem so vacuously PC to be vomit-worthy, but at least its meaning is inclusive.)

The second and probably main reason that weddings really get my goat (one day I should look up the meaning of that phrase, ‘get my goat’), is the fact that Australia’s former government, lead by the cunningly conservative John Howard, who always looked like the uncle everyone has though everyone hates, except lots of people actually liked John Howard, which distressed me and many others senseless, amended the Marriage Act to include a definition of marriage as being ‘a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.  It’s worth noting that the Opposition at the time, the Australian Labor Party, backed this amendment.

I don’t want to get lost in the politics, but it is a bitter pill to swallow when my long-term partner (there’s that word) and I dutifully take our seats at yet another marriage ceremony to be informed yet again that, despite thirteen years in duration, our relationship doesn’t count, that it isn’t valued, that it’s second-class, that there’s no place for it in contemporary Australian society.  So I put this challenge out there: if you’re about to get married and you think the Marriage Act in your country sucks the big one, then be a revolutionary: just before you tie the knot pause proceedings and turn to your family and friends and say something along the lines of this: “We love each other and want to commit to each other in front of you all and the law, but we want all those who love each other to have the opportunity to commit in front of their family and friends and the law, so we make this stand right here, right now, that we believe the Marriage Act discriminates and find this unacceptable – we look forward to this situation changing sooner rather than later”.

Or just quote Gwen Stafani’s ‘Hollaback Girl’: ‘Let me hear you say this shit is bananas/B-A-N-A-N-A-S’.

How good that would be.  I might actually cry at a wedding.

Here are two life-snippets from the last few weeks or so that have been worrying me senseless.

Life-Snippet Number One: just before Christmas and keen to buy a new sun-hat – I’m at an age when these things matter – I walk into a surf/street-clothing store in the very guts of this modern and supposedly progressive city I live in (it’s not yet 100 years old, and it’s the only state or territory that voted for a republic in the 1999 referendum).  As I scan the shelves and racks for what I’m looking for I watch as two women walk into the store.  They’re middle-aged and might have dyed blonde hair.  They walk up to the shop assistant, a youngish man, and say they’re looking for a Christmas gift for their thirteen-year-old nephew – a kind of cool school bag, they request.  The shop assistant dutifully takes them to a display of bags hanging on the wall.  He points one out.  One of the women, who has a very broad Australian accent, says, ‘Oh not that!  We don’t want him to look gay!’ She isn’t joking.  ‘Yeah,’ says her friend, ‘we don’t want him to look GAY!’  The shop assistant, obviously taken aback but still keen for a sale, returns the bag to the display and then suggests another that might be suitable.  ‘Nah,’ says the first woman, ‘that looks gay as well’.  Again the shop assistant looks bemused, at best.  I walk out, hatless.

Canberra's not anywhere near the beach but it's the thought that counts.

Life-Snippet Number Two: on the Wednesday night just gone I visit my mechanic to pick up my car, a shitty little Barina thing that I don’t use that much because I like getting around on my pushbike (more on this in a forthcoming post).  My mechanic has his workshop in the Chinatown district just down from where I live, an inner-suburb that’s filled with students, public housing, and groovy young families that also get around on bikes, or in Subaru stationwagons, or environmentally-sensitive hybrids.  As my bill is being tallied up, I turn around and look out the workshop window.  Two women walk past: one is tall, the other shorter; the shorter woman has short dyed-red hair.  There is nothing particularly unusual about these women, except they’re holding hands, actually it’s more like they’re holding fingers, the way people who are very comfortable with themselves and their surroundings can often do.  Walking behind the women is another couple, an older man and woman; they’d be in their late sixties or early seventies.  The older man taps the woman – his wife, I assume – on the arm and points out the women ahead by doffing his head in their direct.  As if it’s the freakiest thing he’s ever seen.  I have no reason to think that the older couple is about to abuse the women – they look friendly enough.  But why is the sight of two women holdings hands remarkable, notable, even worthy of any comment whatsoever, even on this blog?  I return to the mechanic’s counter and settle my bill.

So what’s it all about?  Were the women on the hunt for a sports bag for their nephew truly worried that a particular design would have an impact on their young nephew’s sexuality?  Or were they already worried about their nephew’s sexuality – was he displaying signs of ‘sensitivitiy’?  Or were they just bogan women who themselves had the sensitivity of a punch-drunk moron?  And what of the old couple following the lesbian couple who were daring to hold hands in public?  In effect, were they saying to each other, ‘Look at those freaky lezzo women?’  or ‘Why do they have to do that in public and shove our faces in it?’  Do either of these stories give a hint to what modern love – or sexuality, which are so closely related they’re almost the same thing – is all about in 2010, now that the infamous naughties are finished?

Based on the two stories presented above, my conclusion is that despite all the societal advances since the Second World War, we’ve not really pushed the whole issue of sexual diversity, expression and freedom that much forward at all.

The poll below is a start, but comment however you see fit…

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