Five Facts Why Marriage Matters

#2. Marriage is visible.

One often ignored facet of the fight for equality occurs in the prison system. In violent jails with little protection already, incarcerated LGBT individuals are at increased risk for abuse from other prisoners and even prison workers. Given the increased likelihood of LGBT youth to become homeless or substance abusers (largely in part due to being kicked out of their homes and subjected to increased hostility from society), the risk facing incarcerated LGBT individuals is a problem that needs to be spoken about.

Furthermore, transgender individuals are routinely placed in prisons of the wrong sex–increasing the risks even more–and many LGBT individuals are placed in solitary confinement “for their own protection,” regardless of the psychological harms it can cause.

Unfortunately, most people have never been in prison, so the rights of prisoners–especially LGBT prisoners–are the farthest things from their minds.

After all, no one sees it. It’s invisible.

Marriage, on the other hand, is something that’s very visible. People wear engagement rings and wedding rings, pictures of ceremonies are shared far and wide on social media, and even the legal benefits of marriage can be easily seen: visitation rights at hospitals, joint filing of taxes, and the list goes on (I hesitate to include adoption and raising a family, since even legally married LGBT couples continue to face obstacles to starting a family in some states). Not to mention, it’s hard to talk about life without talking about the important relationships in our lives–even simply sharing with friends and family what we did over the weekend is likely to include references to our significant others.

Now an important distinction is necessary here: I’m not saying marriage rights are more important than prisoner rights because they’re more visible. On the contrary, I think prisoner rights in many places are vastly more important, but in terms of cultural awareness and influence, marriage is more likely to be seen relative to prisoner rights. I’ll elaborate on why this matters a little further, but the important thing here is that marriage is visible, not that it’s more important than less-visible issues.

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4 thoughts on “Five Facts Why Marriage Matters

  1. Marriage rights may be easier to get but I personally think that focusing an equal amount of effort on trans rights is just as -if not more important- than marriage equality. Equal marriage rights have been in place in Canada since 2005; nine years later and there has been little to no progress in transgender people’s rights. So no, advancing marriage equality will not benefit the trans community in terms of human rights (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage#Canada). It’s LGBT, not LGB.

    One of the biggest issues is that it is very very difficult -and in some cases impossible- for transgender people to get the proper medical care, get a job without being discriminated against, being able to report a hate crime, not be murdered just for existing, etc. These are basic human needs that are not currently being met by the law,; yes marriage is important, but when people are literally begging for money online because they can’t get or maintain a job because of discrimination, it becomes a lot more obvious which is top priority.

    A very problematic part of helping the general public understand transgender people is that we are much fewer than the gay & bisexual community; and there are even fewer allies of trans people. Quite a few of us transition and then go stealth, resulting in less of us who are visibly trans/out as transgender. We are almost invisible to the mainstream besides bad television tropes and as objects to be laughed at.

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts; I sincerely appreciate them, and they help me to learn. My assumption that same-sex marriage rights will increase visibility for the LGBT community may be weakest in regards to transgender rights, as you’ve pointed out the lack of correlation of progress in Canada, but I still don’t believe we should spend any less time speaking about marriage equality. However, I agree completely that we need to speak a lot more about transgender rights, and if we can reach the same levels of attention and awareness that marriage currently has, that would be wonderful.

      The key, I believe, is realizing that we don’t need to speak about one thing less to speak about another thing more. There are enough people fighting for equality that we can raise all our voices to be heard without sacrificing any one part of the community in the false belief it will always benefit the whole. There are people now who aren’t saying very much, who can say more, and there are people who aren’t saying anything; they surely need to speak up.

      When it comes to political activism, I think we’re afforded a great blessing by the times we live in. Without outing ourselves to the public–even our immediate peers–we’re able to write to our legislatures, give them phone calls, and through social media, increase awareness of issues without risking our personal privacy. Compared to other social movements of the past–such as the fight for black equality throughout the twentieth century–people who tried to gain their rights were publicized and victimized, in an effort to suppress their voice. With today’s technology, this is no longer a threat. We need to hone this privilege past generations has given us and use it to fight for the rights we deserve.

      In the Unites States, transgender rights are at least in a very small part synonymous with marriage rights: given the restrictions on changing birth certificates, some transgender individuals are barred from the right to marry, and marriage equality would remove this obstacle. Ultimately, it is an inadequate solution, but at least in the meanwhile, it can and will help people to create better lives for themselves–and that, I believe, is just as important.

      Since 2010, we also have the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to add hate crimes protection for LGB and T people in the United States. We also have current legislation in the works (held up by opponents in the House) that would alleviate employment discrimination for the entire LGBT community. These efforts, however, are constrained to the United States, and many other countries are not at the same place in regards to these issues.

      My hope for this post was twofold: first to dissuade people from abandoning the fight for marriage equality, and second to encourage people to begin advocating for other rights the LGBT community must acquire to be truly equal citizens. My experience speaks from the perspective of those in the United States, but this argument goes for all people, no matter where in the world they are. And as I said, speaking more about other issues does not mean speaking less about marriage. I believe we have the power–collectively and individually–to speak to each of these issues, and so win the equality that’s rightfully ours.

      Once again, thank you for commenting. It means very much to me.

      • Well said, I very much agree with you in all aspects. Thanks for the info about the legislature, I don’t know too much about American laws and now I know a bit more. Follow me if you want, I am slowly pumping out more trans related articles, albeit I will be writing some on philosophy and religion at some distant point in the future. :)

      • Thanks for replying again! ^__^ I’ll certainly follow you–I do want to be more aware of trans issues, of course, but I also enjoy philosophy and religion!

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