Christine, Wondering

Random Musings of a Human Becoming

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Countdown to a (Same-Sex) Wedding #3

2 Weeks to Go

Erm, well. I meant to make that a weekly thing, and then 4 weeks mysteriously evaporated. I really don't know where the time goes. Where it concerns time remaining at my current school, I'm satisfied that "away" is where it is going. The wedding, on the other hand, is racing up unimaginably fast!

Today I want to talk briefly about homophobia.

I have to be honest, I've rarely encountered vitriolic homophobia directed at me as an individual. The only incident I can think of is when a random man messaged me on facebook with one of those "I saw your profile and would love to get to know you better" spams. I - being a bit bored and reckless that day - replied indicating my reason for being disinterested. I got a very vile flame in return from this person, the contents of which I won't repeat. Suffice to say, it was not nice, but it didn't offend me because the source was already a figure of fun to my mind (as is anyone who sends similar messages to strangers).

I do see a lot of homophobia not directed at me personally. Read any comment thread on any article relating to LGBTI anything and you'll see it in plenty.

That kind of homophobia is easy to identify, and while addressing it comes up against the brick wall of insecurity, stupidity and intractability, it's at least an honest reaction. Idiots that rant about "poofters" - spare me! - or tiresomely bible-thump are at least being straight with everyone (excuse the pun).

The sort of homophobia I find truly offensive and difficult to deal with is that coming from people who are in denial about their own feelings and beliefs. The ones who start sentences with "I have lots of gay friends, but..." or "I'm not homophobic, but..." or even "I'm in favour of gay marriage, but..." and finish the sentence with a statement about the necessity of restricting gay rights in some particular area.

Sorry, but no.

If you believe that a person's sexual choices should in any way restrict their rights as a person or a citizen you are, to some degree, homophobic.

Now, I know people don't want to hear this, because the people at whom it is aimed are often nice, sensible, generally thoughtful people who would never in a million years class themselves with the "burn all the fags" brigade. And neither would I - different kettles of fish entirely. But still, uncategorically, afraid of the changes that full LGBTI equality would bring. And if you're afraid of full LGBTI equality, you're homophobic.

I've lately been sad to see this kind of homophobia coming out in a truly unexpected place: namely, the Society for Creative Anachronism, the worldwide medieval re-enactment group of which I am a member. Some people whom I previously/otherwise liked and respected have shown a homophobic side I did not expect to see, and I've found this revelation so distressing that I've left my membership fee unpaid this year and have dropped out of active society life for the time being. I've felt hurt and angry that people I looked up to or thought well of have let me down.

The issue revolves around the way in which the society selects its Kings and Princes, and their consort Queens and Princesses. This is done through 'heavy' fighting - full-speed, full-armour fighting with padded rattan swords as weapons. It's hard, fast and potentially dangerous, and while there are many female fighters, species dimorphism ensures that it's extremely rare for women to win fights at all, let alone hotly contested Crown and Coronet tourneys. It's happened literally a handful of times in the history of the society. The winner is almost invariably a male fighter, and he becomes King / Prince, with his wife/girlfriend/willing female friend as Queen / Princess. All entrants in these tourneys must be fighting for someone who will be their co-ruler - it's a requirement of entry that you are 'inspired' by someone.

Currently, SCA Society Law states that you can only be inspired by someone of the opposite gender. No exceptions. This law has been problematic for some time, and there is an ex-SCA group in the UK who split off from us over precisely this issue. Lately the problem of 'inspirational equality' has become a raging thorn in the side of the SCA both in Europe and worldwide.

This has opened the door to some seriously regrettable views being aired by people who should otherwise know MUCH better. Their objections don't stand up to criticism, and they all boil down to the same thing: 'gays are fine but I don't want them parading around in full view on my Kingdom's throne'.

The first and most easily dealt with argument is, "it's not period". Well, homosexuality was very much period, folks. And as for same-sex co-rulers, there are plenty of documented same-sex co-rulerships. While these people were often parent-child pairs or sibling pairs, some were unrelated joint rulers, and unless we have a time machine we can't say for certain what they were doing behind the scenes. I've never seen heterosexual crown couples snogging on the throne, so if having two men or two women up there really worries you then pretend they're cousins and be done with it.

Besides... we have female fighters. We have black rulers with white subjects. Almost all of us wear garb made from machine-woven commercial fabrics (some of which are even synthetic *gasp*). Machine stitching won't get you thrown out, nor will drinking cola from your charity store 70s glass goblet. We drive to site, and no one will tell you off for using a torch to make sure you don't fall in the moat after dark. Our royalty keeps court on flat-packable wooden thrones in everything from fields to ruins to 1970s scout halls. No one moans that their pastry was made from machine-ground flour, or cooked in an electric oven. We're the Society for Creative Anachronism, not the Society for Constrictive Absolutism. Same-sex rulers are far less anachronistic than swords wrapped with frickin' duct tape.

The second that usually comes out is "if we have two men or two women on the throne then the opposite sex will have no one to look up to/be encouraged to emulate.". This argument particularly pisses me off. The rulers of any particular SCA group are only up there because (almost always) the guy won a fight. Sure, that's a feat, but it's no more than that either. The pair might both be outstanding SCA practitioners, authentic to a tee, involved on every level and skilled in multiple crafts; or they might be a fighting-is-all-I-do guy and his I-only-own-one-piece-of-garb other half. The point is that, no matter how skilled or unskilled they may be, they are only up there because of one skill practised by one half of the couple. King / Prince is a meritocratic role only in the arena of fighting; and Queen / Princess is not meritocratic at all, merely luck/being the right person for the best fighter at the time.

If you're looking for a role model to emulate or someone to look up to and think "if I work really hard that could be me", the Crown is the wrong place to look (unless you're a male heavy fighter, in which case, carry on). The people on the throne, no matter how good they are at whatever multitude of skills they employ, didn't get there by virtue of the majority of them. If you're not part of a couple where the guy is a highly skilled heavy fighter, then being on the throne is completely out of your reach. So the argument that people need sexual dimorphism on the throne to inspire them to new heights of creativity and authenticity is bollocks. Our truly meritocratic awards - the peerages and other orders - are the place to look for role models. The rulers are figureheads to provide pomp and circumstance at events, not the best players we have to offer. I see no reason why two women or two men couldn't provide the pomp to all and sundry.

(The above also opens up another rather tricky arena, that of sexual equality in the SCA; that women are all but barred from participating in the meritocratic selection of rulers, due to their relative strength, is another thorn in the SCA's side. And the arguments against other forms of selection are equally specious. *sigh*).

At the end of the day, what people are really saying is "I want to see traditional marriage reflected on the throne because that's The Way It Was and when I play I'm trying to get AWAY from the modern world and all its trappings, not have it shoved in my face here too." (this is a paraphrase of an actual statement by an SCA member on the Facebook page). If you regard gay visibility as less desirable / uncomfortably modern, then no doubt about it, you're homophobic. If you'd make a rule for same-sex coupled players that you wouldn't make for black players or disabled players, you're homophobic.

Like the gay marriage debate in real life, none of the genuine arguments against Inspirational Equality stand up. The opposition to both  is based on peoples' fear, ignorance, distaste or religious beliefs. Frankly, in this or any other day and age... that's not good enough. It's time to take homophobia out of the SCA statutes, for good.


I'm sad you feel you have to step back due to a few idiots- to be honest, it's a lot less of an issue here than in the US (unsurprisingly, especially the Southern US).

I personally think where the system really falls apart is in its requirements being based on person gender, not persona gender- it's entirely reasonable (in the unlikely event that a female fighter with a male person won crown fighting for a male consort) that we might have two 'men' on the thrones. The fact that one is, in real life, a woman, isn't really relevant to the concept, is it?

I'd also like to point out that I belong to an equally under-represented group as the system currently stands- there have been _no_ King Consorts who have not themselves been Heavy Fighters!

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