Gwynn: “Gay Marriage” is an incorrect term
- Sep. 9, 2012
- 23 Comments
It’s not news that college students have a tendency to use language incorrectly, or improperly, or just kind of stupidly (that’s how half of all hashtags are invented). Particularly, there’s an inclination to use language that implies a meaning very different from what the speaker actually intends.
There are plenty examples of this that really irk the English major within me who sometimes just wants to take a red pen to the world: using irony as a synonym for coincidence, claiming a test is going to “literally” kill you when, if this was true, I’d be really concerned for the kind of classes you’re paying for, and the fact that 75 percent of all the people I know apparently missed first grade grammar as they still use “there” “their” and “they’re” interchangeably.
All these misuses of language are the equivalent of nails against a chalkboard for me—a chalkboard that murders all I hold dear in the world. Yet, the type of misuse of language that not only irks, but concerns me? A misuse I hear frequently on campus, even from the mouths of intelligent, sensitive, totally-paid-attention-in-first-grade people?
When people say “gay marriage” instead of “marriage equality.”
See, when someone says they’re “for gay marriage”, I get that they mean marriage equality. I get that they support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Questioning, or LGBTQ, community. I get they want people to be free to do what they want, legalize love, rainbows on wedding cakes—the whole progressive, beautiful shebang. I know they’re probably someone who either, one, cares about equality for humankind or two, thinks it’s none of their damn business who somebody wants to spend the rest of their life with. Either way, they’re on the right track.
But saying “gay marriage” rather than “marriage equality” excludes and erases the identities of a whole lot of people.
Maybe you’re asking yourself, “but whatever could be wrong with saying you’re ‘for gay marriage?’ What’s the difference between ‘marriage equality’ and ‘gay marriage’ anyway—they’re the same thing right?”
Except no. They’re not.
Say you have two women, both of who identify as lesbians. They meet each other, bond over KU basketball, “Doctor Who,” and their mutual adoration of pugs. They fall in love and decide to get married. I’m going to be optimistic for theirs’ and our theoretical future and say they are legally allowed to get married wherever they are. They both identify as gay. They could be said to have a “gay” marriage.
Now let’s take this same fictional couple and have everything about them and their relationship stay exactly the same except for one thing: one of them identifies as bisexual. Our bisexual lady in question is still in love with a lady. She still totally wants to marry this lady. She does marry this lady. These are two ladies, married, completely in love, and so freaking cute that sometimes people just stop and think, “what a cute gay couple–yay for gay marriage!”
The thing is, one of these ladies is not gay—she’s bi and her sexual orientation doesn’t alter depending on the gender identity of the person she happens to date, sleep with, love or marry. Maybe she’s okay with you calling her marriage gay. Maybe she’s not. It’s better not to presume because presuming usually means unintentional douchebag behavior, and act according to the latter.
Guess what you can say to communicate advocating for both these awesome fake couples’ access to equal rights?
If you said “I’m for marriage equality,” you probably aced first grade English, didn’t you?
“The term ‘gay Marriage’ makes identities beyond ‘gay’ invisible. ‘Marriage Equality’ acknowledges those various identities, but also would expand the political efficacy of the movement and include, for example, people who don’t have citizenship, trans individuals, bisexuals, polyamorous people, asexuals, and more,” Liam Lair said, a graduate student in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department.
There are plenty of people who are not legally able to access marriage in the United States who do not identify as gay. After all, there’s more to LGBTQ than the L and the G. The B and the T and the Q, and all those identities that aren’t even encompassed by a catchy little umbrella acronym? They still exist, and they’re still valid, and some of those people want to get married too.
You want to be for gay marriage? Sweet, me too. But please don’t ignore trans marriage, bisexual marriage, pansexual marriage, or any kind of marriage along the way.
Gwynn is a sophomore majoring in English and women, gender, and sexuality from Olathe. Follow her on twitter @AllidoisGwynn.