An admission: I sometimes find the more radical demands by militant members of exotic sub-categories of ‘LGBT’ a bit irritating. Men who dress as women insisting that we all pretend they’re not men, for example – even if they’re not quite as wearisome as the Democratic Party’s Emily Lau. Mostly, though, we’re all pretty laid back about sexual orientation these days, probably accepting that, like left-handedness, such variations are part of mother nature’s mysterious way. Still, the first time I heard demands for gay marriage, maybe some 15-20 years ago, I couldn’t help thinking: they must be kidding. The concept was, to use an overworked phrase, counter-intuitive.
An unexpectedly big protest against gay marriage and adoption took place in France over the weekend. UK Conservative Party proposals to back full gay marriage have run into a similar sort of reaction from members and activists and outsiders. The ‘anti’ movement in the US is more religiously inspired, but I would guess there are feelings of unease among secular and otherwise moderate people there too. Some of the French protestors manage to present a philosophical objection on grounds of logic or semantics; why do we or the law have separate words for man/father and woman/mother? Among the more empirical-minded Anglos, it is perhaps a gut version of the same feeling: people should be free to be gay and have civil unions and all that, but not to twist everyone else’s reality to their own minority wishes.
That said, opinion surveys suggest that younger people find it easier to get their heads around same-sex marital and family institutions, and the political trend seems fairly steady in that direction. My own acceptance of same-sex marriage/parenthood is more of a shrug. Marriage can be plot to make women sacrifice their aspirations in order to enable a man have both a successful career and wonderful offspring. Or it can be a scam whereby a guy has to start again from scratch after a woman legally takes his kids, home and savings from him. You want to run such risks? Be my guest, whoever you are, with whoever you want. Also, I know of one same-sex couple in Hong Kong bringing up kids in a massively superior environment than that offered by the Mainland orphanage they came from, and there must be many such examples.
Most of all, however, I really can’t stand the sort of people who oppose gay marriage on religious/moral grounds. Which brings us to Hong Kong’s rally yesterday – not against gay marriage, not against gay equality of any sort, but against a public consultation on gay equality.
It was a crowd of fundamentalist Christians, including the inevitable Society for Truth and Light. Anticipating that even in Hong Kong’s oh-so-conservative, we-are-Chinese society, the tide of time is turning against them, the Christians are eschewing homophobia in favour of the language of liberty and pluralism. Even the demonstration was called a prayer concert for ‘inclusive love’. And the pastor interviewed on RTHK Radio 3 claimed that it was all about protecting freedom of speech. (He made this claim twice, and the interviewer incredibly failed to follow it up, which makes me wonder whether RTHK is among the government departments that have been infiltrated by the fundamentalists.)
Anything these fundamentalists oppose is probably worth supporting. The word is that Chief Executive CY Leung will broach the possibility of a public consultation on equal rights for sexual minorities in his policy address on Wednesday. Such an exercise is a well-established way to sink a proposal, but it would be fascinating to see how the civil servants would rig this one – through leading questions and spurious concerns about a lack of consensus – without making Hong Kong look idiotic. And this is a subject overseas media would pick up on. Chances are that with housing, air pollution and poverty on the administration’s plate, not even a consultation will happen. Which is a pity, if only to see the Biblical literalists getting worked up.