Article Title:Normalisation and the Discontented
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:20th November 2006 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1486
Text:Can we describe ourselves as marginal anymore? And why are some of us so nostalgic about that past moment of our collective histories? I thought about this as I read two articles from Canadian lesbian sociologist Mariana Valverde, one about same-sex marriage, while the other dealt with homelessness. Given the collective success of LGBT movements across most of the western world, we've recently witnessed the rise of two new LGBT characters, the 'Respectable Same-Sex Couple' and the "Responsible Same-Sex Parent/Co-Parent." Akin to this, there's also the "Responsible Transgender Professional" within debates about trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws. Since that happened, we've witnessed proliferation of an abundance of sunlit same-sex marriage/civil union photographs, or LGBT-led family portraits. Valverde professes 'horror' at this development, but really, is it so surprising? And is she really all that displeased that on 25 October, the Globe and Mail reported that the Canadian Christian Right and its Conservative federal government allies disclosed that they'd called off their efforts to repeal Canada's same-sex marriage legislation? Not really, I suspect. In any case, this victory may well add to the list of Charter of Rights and Freedom case law precedents that remove the final remaining vestiges of spousal and family law discrimination from her country. We're not quite that lucky, and have to go through the process of lobbying Parliament for change, and then maintaining the pressure until it decides to act. However, we've been effective at that, leaving only adoption law reform on the legislative agenda at some point in the intermediate future. Compare that to the poor benighted United States. Although it was indeed a 'beautiful day' (U2) to see the evil Republican federal Congress routed several days ago, I was disappointed that same-sex marriage bans were passed in all but one state when it came to citizens initiated referenda. Arizona proved to be the exception, and it would be interesting to find out why. Look south, Mariana. Or in our case, look west. In most of Australia and the United States, relationship equality is still a wistful dream. If we encounter situations where women are finally entering the upper reaches of political and institutional power, or where LGBT relationships and families are recognised within law, then we have our own collective efforts over the last three decades to thank for it. "Normalisation" is a loaded word, and we've succeeded in redrawing the definition of what constitutes normal to include us within the scope of many public policies. (Granted, it's not perfect. The transgender community won definitive freedom from discrimination on the basis of employment and accomodation only a couple of months ago, while theoretically, gay men may still be prosecuted for bog sex with other men if they run afoul of conservative regional or district police. However, these examples are countered by our overall progress as a social movement over the last two decades since decriminalisation of male homosexuality in New Zealand.) However, we don't live in a utopia, and while we've prospered, other groups haven't been so fortunate in an age of slashed central government expenditure on social welfare, housing and substance abuse treatment over that same period. Because substance abuse and sometimes, co-existing mental illness, wreaks havoc with educational and employment prospects, as well as stable accomodation, homelessness has risen sharply within Canada, New Zealand and other western societies. They face openly discriminatory policies that evict them from public space and segregate them in poorly supervised boarding houses, or criminal justice sanctions if they're out on the street. When some of us wax nostalgic about 'marginality' and the deviant past, are we forgetting that such a past had brutal implications for those caught in medicated or electroshocked oblivion, gaybashed to death, or imprisoned for the 'crime' of loving another man? And are we in danger of ignoring the tragic costs of social exclusion for new 'deviant' or 'abnormal' groups within contemporary society? Recommended: Mariana Valverde: "A New Entity in the History of Sexuality: The Respectable Same-Sex Couple" Feminist Studies: 32:1: (Spring 2006): 155-162. Prashan Ramasinghe and Mariana Valverde: "Governing Homelessness Through Land-Use" Canadian Journal of Sociology: 31:3: (Summer 2006): 325-349. Caroline Galloway: "Critics Shelve Bid to Overturn Same-Sex Law" Globe and Mail: 25/10/06: US Midterm Election Information: (centre-right) Craig Young - 20th November 2006    
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