Equality: You can’t have one without the other

It’s been a great weekend for LGBT rights. The referendum in Ireland ended with such a resounding “YES” that groups in other countries are looking toward Dublin to see what they can learn. I’ve read articles in German papers saying “can Ireland, can we.”

Last night, after having watched a mediocre chick-flick called Barefoot, Alex demanded to see something “intelligent”, something “intellectual”. I found a documentary on Netflix, Honor Diaries, dealing with honor and women’s rights, particularly in muslim societies, but also hindu, sikh and christian. Nine women, nice activists, coming together to discuss how women’s rights can be improved upon. It was a sad hour, a horrible thing to watch, but I’m glad we did, because it reaffirmed my conviction that there is a tether between women’s rights and gay rights.

I've had to wander into women's rooms more than once to change my son. To some, it's still inconceivable that men change diapers...

I’ve had to wander into women’s rooms more than once to change my son. To some, it’s still inconceivable that men change diapers…

In a statement after the Irish referendum, some right-wing religious group in Australia claimed that Ireland had abandoned its children (it’s hatred’s last and final argument against equality) and that it would never happen in Australia. Children, procreation, have been used as the final “argument” against full equality. In the end, children are the straight line between women’s rights and LGBT rights. Allow me to explain.

Kids are, of course, the basis of any and all societies. If we don’t procreate, there will be no future for our societies. So far so good. For eons, in all human societies women were solely responsible for raising children. Even in our western societies, on all pictograms about e.g. changing rooms, there’s always a mother holding the baby, never a father. It’s, as they say “natural”… I’m not denying that women carry children, I’m not denying that women give birth. But that is really where the differences end. Once a child is born, the gender/sex of the parent becomes entirely inconsequential (no, while breastfeeding is great, it’s not essential for a child’s welfare, clean water, however, is!) When I say all this, I do not try to deny women’s importance, quite the contrary!

I understand that many women struggle to relinquish the ONLY part in society that has always been their domain and allow fathers/men to become more involved. However, I also know that it is the ultimate litmus test to equality in a society. In societies where women are oppressed, they may not even leave their house alone (e.g. Saudi Arabia, which is as bad as it gets), their fathers, husbands and later sons (!) being their legal guardians. Women raise their own oppressors! Women are being beaten, abused, raped, mutilated, and even killed in the most gruesome way for anything and everything that damages the family’s honor (real or perceived.) That’s what the documentary demonstrated quite graphically.

LGBT rights must be accompanied by women's rights!

LGBT rights must be accompanied by women’s rights!

But even in our western societies, where women at least on the surface are equal, children are still used as a tool to tie women to their traditional roles. Mom, dad & children is heralded as the holy grail of a society’s success, particularly from churches, and two gay men (who cannot procreate naturally) are the poster boys for society’s death. I wonder why? What makes a vagina better at raising a child? I wonder Or how does a penis make for a worse parent? I have no answer. The only, I kid you not, the only thing that I have been able to come up with is fat and hair. Women are traditionally slightly thicker, their skin is fatter than men’s and therefore, they feel ‘softer’ to the touch then men, and they have less body hair then men, again making a woman’s touch softer.

Otherwise, I have been  unable to see how men and women are different in their capability to raise children, unless of course you want women to raise their daughters to be weak, victims, rags to be dealt with as men please and for men to raise boys to be rapists and oppressors, to make sure that traditional gender roles are replicated one more generation. Is that what these people want? What’s so good about all that?

Yet in the fight for e.g. marriage equality, that is exactly what the message from the religious right, from conservatives, is: a child needs a mother and a father. Nobody questions why. And it’s usually men who are at the forefront of these “traditionalists”, from all the many clergy (always men) to politicians and lobbyists. And yes, there are a few women, as well. When I see a woman argue for a woman’s traditional role in raising children, I’m saddened. Not because I don’t acknowledge her capacity, but because of the limitations she puts on herself, and because of the limitations she puts on men. If a women were better at raising kids than men, there has to be something wrong with men, they are deficient in some way. I know that’s not what they believe. Instead they’ll explain how men are “bread winners” and yada yada yada, perpetuating once again, that indeed, women are only capable of looking after home and hearth. I’m totally with Madeleine Albright here: “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women!” And a woman who thinks, for a second, that women are predestined for this job, are already there.

Selfie taken at our local amusement park. According to his pre-school teacher, Sascha is a very "happy child" and "he's so bright"

Selfie taken at our local amusement park. According to his pre-school teacher, Sascha is a very “happy child” and “he’s so bright”. I guess we’re doing something right, even though we’re men…

We’ll always have children. We had children long before we started to get married, hundreds of thousands of years before we had states to register our marriages. Procreation isn’t going to stop happening if the 5-10% LGBT members of a society get to marry. Japan is “dying” not because they allow gays to get married (they don’t), but for economical reasons. The same is true for Italy, where birth rates are extremely low. On the other hand, Sweden, which has known marriage equality for years, birth rates are high. No, birth rates are about a society’s ability to provide education, about economical opportunities, a belief in a better future. On average, successful societies produce more children than they can raise (because every now and then, parents fail.) Adoptions and foster care are a way for a society to help such children, and LGBT families are great ways to channel such children, to give them a second chance.

LGBT rights depend upon women’s rights. We cannot have one without the other, and women’s right precede LGBT rights, which is why every LGBT rights activist I know also calls hirself a feminist. We understand that the only way we can achieve a loving, equal opportunity society is if men and women are treated equal, given equal opportunities in life. Yes, raising children is one of the greatest tasks in our societies, and we should be extremely grateful for women who’ve done this for eons. As a man, as a father, I am very lucky to be able to do this now. It is an amazing gift, and I know I do (body fat and hair aside) as great a job as any woman. I also know that women who are in the work force do as great a job as any man ever did.

Our capacity for love resides in our hearts, our capacity for intellectual greatness resides in our minds, vaginas and penises play no role. None, zilch! The sooner we all realize this, the sooner we’ll live in better societies, all of us.

On this Monday I congratulate Ireland for a truly historic decision, and I hope that the rest of the world will follow, sooner rather than later, because then I’ll know that all humans, men and women, have equal opportunities…

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Have a good week! It’s almost June…

Hans

PS: Don’t forget to have a look at my shop. You can preorder my upcoming novel Willem of the Tafel with a 10% discount (code is: willempreorder.) Only three more days to release, only two more days to get it at a discounted price. We already see great reviews come in. 😉

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