Friday, October 29, 2010

The Equality of Being Unremarkable

The true measure of when gays will have achieved equality is when being gay is viewed as entirely unremarkable. And when that's the case, the fact that a person is gay will be seen less and less to be the dominant (or only) salient characteristic of their personality.

So by this metric I am thoroughly heartened by stories like this one, from Melbourne. (For American readers, the Liberal Party is actually the name of the Conservatives in Australia) :
WHEN Tom McFeely first announced he wanted to stand as a Liberal Party candidate at this year's state election, there were some people in the gay community who unkindly branded him a traitor.
Oh, I bet there were. Nobody gets scorned like identity group minorities who depart from the mainstream thinking within their group. Just ask Clarence Thomas.
After all, they argued, Mr McFeely is an openly gay man from a working class family in Scotland and also happens to run one of the best-known gay venues in town - the Peel Hotel in Collingwood. Why on earth would he want to represent the conservative side of politics?
In other words, their criticisms amounted to, "But... but... you're gay? How dare you?"
For Mr McFeely, it's a no-brainer. First and foremost, he points out, he is a businessman who believes in Liberal values like free enterprise. His upbringing and sexuality are irrelevant.
 Amen to that! Anybody who believes in free enterprise, gay or straight, is welcome in my Liberal Party. 
''I'm not standing as a gay candidate, the same way people wouldn't stand as a heterosexual candidate,'' says the well-known local publican, who has been preselected to stand for the Liberals in the state seat of Richmond.
 Very well put! I love it - they keep wanting to make him the "Gay Liberal Candidate", but instead he just keeps responding "No, I'm just the Liberal Candidate. Gay has nothing to do with it."

So what issues does he want to run on?
Mr McFeely says that while he might not be your typical Liberal candidate, the issues he is campaigning on are much the same: community safety, business rights, less red tape, better public transport, less road congestion. 
Sounds pretty good to me (personally I'd replace 'better public transport' with 'abolish public transport', but then again I'm not running for election in Melbourne). What about more sensitive issues like gay marriage (you knew they'd never let him  get away without answering that one, even though this is a State election, and marriage is set by Federal law in Australia through the Marriage Act of 1961) 
On the issue of same-sex marriage, though, he is less convinced. Despite being in a civil union with his partner of 18 years, he does not accept the term ''marriage'' because of its religious overtones.
''But what I do support is government recognition of all relationships,'' he says. ''It's easy to say: I'm all for gay marriage. But in practical terms, what does that mean?''

A focus on practical aspects of partnerships, along with a desire for some legal recognition, but not interested in the more controversial label of 'marriage'? He just keeps getting better and better. By contrast, the seat of Richmond stands a reasonable chance of electing a member of the Greens Party, the lunatic leftist fringe of Australian politics (sadly becoming less and less fringe every day).   

But here's the headline that really made me smile, discussing the same story in the Melbourne Leader:

"Liberal Candidate Wants Roads Fixed"

Spot on. In fact, nowhere in the article is his sexuality even mentioned.  He's not being elected to Parliament  to have gay sex on your behalf. He's being elected to implement policy, so let's talk about that. 

While I doubt I have many (/any) Victorian readers, if any of you should be casting a ballot in the State election for the seat of Richmond, I would you to vote for Mr Tom McFeely.

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