Writing for PinkNews.co.uk, Matthew Davies, a young college student in rural Hampshire explains how he previously felt unable to tell his friends to support equal marriage – until now.
Like so many people, I support marriage equality. I followed @C4EM on Twitter and filled in the government’s consultation on equal marriage. Whilst aware that my moves were small and seemingly ineffectual, I hoped my small voice would raise awareness of the cause, adding to the chorus of people, both gay and straight, that ask only to live in a fairer world.
However, as any good mother teaches a child, ‘I want doesn’t get.’ Despite my enthusiastic re-tweeting, I was no Martin Luther King when it came to politics. I’d always felt too awkward to tell people that they should support equal marriage. It seemed so obvious to me that there could be no valid or reasonable argument against it. Every argument I have ever heard against ‘gays’ having the same marriage rights as a straight person seemingly has its roots in irrational homophobia. Believing all my friends to be of sound and rational judgment I didn’t feel the need to get on my soapbox in this instance. I assumed there was no need.
Sadly, my optimistic outlook was, well, too optimistic.
When I came out about a year ago, I was (needlessly) concerned about the reception my coming out would receive, although my friends accepted me within in a blink of an eye. In fact, my friendships blossomed as people appeared to appreciate my new found openness and honesty. However, there was one friend who was different. He was one of the last people I came out to. Our platonic relationship was of an outrageously high level, and I was scared; scared blind of damaging our fantastic friendship. When he found out (sadly not directly through me) he was absolutely fine with it. They, all my friends, were all “for the gays”. This was great!
At the same time, the issue of gay marriage has been building momentum. The press and government have devoted significant column inches and “consultation” time to the issue, and as a result public consciousness has risen meteorically. Encouragingly, debates seem to focus around how to implement equal marriage, as the Conservative Party attempts to appeal to the centre, but it is certainly clear that many opponents remain.
People such as an Archbishop using the slippery-slope fallacy to suggesting it would lead to ménage a trois involving animals, and the dancing ex-MP “poster girl” of the “Coalition for [Heterosexual – only] Marriage” citing Christian beliefs are but two such examples. Countless others, including many of a non-religious stock, have jumped on the band-wagon of progress-phobia.
I never expected any of my forward-thinking educated friends to oppose to my right to get married. The friend-I-told-you-about earlier and I had no interest in discussing politics, preferring the joking application of mindless “Inbetweeners” style banter. But once we allowed politics to spill into our conversation, I found that he opposed gay marriage. He did not oppose it because he is a nasty person, or small minded, or religious, or anything like that. It was what he believed at the time. And, when I found out, my shy 17-year-old nature almost kicked in, I was going to say “okay” and walk away. I thought about it hard, I did not want to cause a rift in our platonic relationship.
All my, re-tweeting had meaning behind it though. I was trying to show the sensible arguments for equal marriage to as wide an audience as possible. Saying “okay” to him betrayed my true feelings. If I saw no reason to question his opinion, I was conceding that my love was undeserving of recognition by the cultural institution of marriage. Love is Love, whatever one’s gender. I feel strongly on the matter. Strongly enough to finally get up on my soapbox in front of a friend and argue in support of same sex marriage.
Putting aside my awkwardness and questioned him, indeed I pestered him relentlessly, asking to justify everything he said. Every answer he gave me I deconstructed with, what felt like George Orwell-esque genius. (Okay, I am not that quick, but I managed to articulate the majority of my reasoning for my feeling on this issue.) He would argue “civil partnerships were enough, and that is not a homophobic thing to say”, I would point out “considering gay people not worthy of identical treatment to heterosexuals was by-definition: homophobic”. Every time he came up with a new agreement I would deconstruct it to show where I saw flaws. I was having my first political debate! with all our feeling know we agreed to disagree; who was I to be intolerant of his view when I in some ways expecting those who personally do not support same sex marriage to be put aside their opinion for my liberties and just not (themselves) get “gay married”.
This continued for a few months. One day I opened Facebook, his message read:
“STAUNCHLY DEFENDING GAY MARRIAGE ON FACEBOOK. BE PROUD, YOUR ARGUMENTS FROM A LITTLE WHILE AGO HAVE … CONVINCED ME. Vive La Revolution.”
I read it; pumped my fist, beamed with joy and surged with adrenaline. I was buzzing; shocked at my ability to change an opinion. He is involved in politics; he is now changing minds, drumming up support for equal marriage. My arguing had worked! I’m proud of what my friend’s now doing.
This true story is to highlight a point; we can and should all discuss important issues with people. It is a good thing to do. All it takes is initial courage to stand up for your beliefs or question something which sounds wrong to you. He told me I changed his mind because he thought about it over time. This was taken as a huge complement by me, it implied my arguments, therefore support for equal marriage, had logical arguments behind them. The feeling that you have made a difference is great: I hope you too give it a go.
Matthew Davies is a 17-year-old sixth form student from rural Hampshire, England.