I don’t normally write about political matters on this blog. It would seem mostly off-topic. But the current issue of “gay marriage” is regrettably still current, and it is oddly relevant to how I run my school. The Finnish government recently acted to prevent full marriage equality. This is one of the very few times I have been ashamed of my adopted country.
It has been long accepted in society at large that it is unfair, and now illegal, to discriminate against people on the grounds of their sex, and their sexuality. It is also profoundly irrational to do so. Let’s take a classic example: combat troops. It is true that in tribal societies, sending men off to war does little to affect the birthrate and therefore long-term survival of the tribe; sending women off to war is dramatically more damaging. But we don’t have a lack of women, and the baby-gestators we do have are mostly not working anywhere near capacity. So that argument is invalid. Likewise the strength issue. Guns don’t take much strength to use. So while it is perfectly reasonable to have strength and fitness requirements for military service, there is no reason to automatically disqualify a person because they have ovaries. I have trained with many women who were way fitter and stronger than me, not to mention more skilled. My first fencing coach at school was a woman. I got pasted in sparring in karate by women. As a martial artist, I am well aware that the shape of your pelvis, the tendency of your joints to dislocate, and the presence or absence of dangling delicate targets are all relevant, but not critical, data. Your willingness to strike is far more of a determining factor.
The only context in which it is reasonable to discriminate against a person on the grounds of their sex is if you are thinking of having sex with them. For a straight chap to find out that the rather attractive woman you’ve been chatting up has the wrong plumbing after all can be a deal-breaker. Fair enough. But in law, in class, in training? Hell no.
So, it is an abomination to me that the state could even contemplate preventing two consenting adults from signing a legal contract on the grounds of the sex of one or other of the contracting parties. It is wilfully stupid, irrational, unkind, and unnecessary. Nobody is harmed in any measurable way by allowing these marriages to go ahead. The objections are based only on the disgust that some people feel for homosexuality and homosexual practices (whatever they may be. Try google. Though be warned, there’s some seriously disgusting hetero stuff out there). Sanctity of marriage? Bullshit, while divorce is so rampant, and spousal abuse so common. The historical and religious arguments also fail; gay marriage was relatively common a thousand years ago! [Update: several kind souls have written in to point out that the studies this is based on are not terribly reliable. They are correct. So really I ought to cut this bit, not least as it is irrelevant; priests are ordained, not elected, so while the lawmakers’ religious beliefs of course affect their lawmaking, the church itself cannot have a direct voice in a democracy. So the doctrine of any church is basically irrelevant to this discussion. Note, I am not arguing that (for example) the Catholic church should suddenly start marrying same sex couples. Just that in law, the sex of the celebrants ought to be irrelevant. But I’m leaving it in because I find it interesting.] Besides, gender is not as clear-cut as has been previously thought. I know of several of my students who do not identify as their birth sex, and at least one who prefers not to be identified by their sex at all. Fair play to them, I say; and while I sometimes forget to refer to someone with female-shaped hips as “he”, I perfectly respect their right to identify as they choose.
I am a racist, sexist, homophobe. Sad but true. I took the Harvard Implicit Association Test, and sure enough I do have relatively mild latent racist, sexist, and homophobic tendencies. These are irrational, undesirable and unfortunate. I suspect I have picked them up during my childhood; boys’ boarding schools are notoriously homophobic places, and there were no girls and very few non-white kids. But I know about these biases, so they are less likely to influence my actual behaviour, as I can take them into account. You are not responsible for your feelings: they are by definition irrational. But you are utterly responsible for your actions, no matter what feelings drive them. You may have similar biases. Take the test and find out!
The law, like martial arts training, should be based on reason, experience, and the greater good. There is no reason to deny gay people marriage if they want it. The experience of places that do allow it shows no negative consequences to it. And it re-enfranchises a pretty large chunk of the population. The only downside I can see is that it will disgust some pretty disgusting people. Which is actually not such a downside, really.
Treat people according to what they do, and what they say. In relations between people, contractual, social, in training, or otherwise, the only relevant issue is how you treat each other. Kindness matters. Trust matters. Love matters. The content of a person’s genome, or jeans, does not.