WHAT MAKES the debate over same-sex marriage around the world really interesting is the power of empathy, when ordinary people who are not LGBT begin to see it from our point of view.
Spare six minutes to hear this man say why he began to get what it’s like to be judged second-rate for who you are and who you love. Expect to be moved.
I didn’t expect to be moved so much, but the love of this man for his brother, the empathy he expresses and the challenge to other ‘straight’ people to be allies is powerful.
We were fortunate, as the first couple to register our civil partnership in a place of worship in the UK, to experience overwhelming support and affirmation from family and friends. However, in the publicity our service generated we heard our share of dissent, from a Daily Mail misrepresentation (now edited following my complaints, though the readers’ comment remain) of an interview we gave to the Liverpool Echo (which was good, though I was having a bad hair day!), to a conservative Catholic blog which claims to Protect The Pope – although I am sure the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics is well able to defend himself.
At first I was distressed by the negativity, then I realised that they weren’t there, they don’t know the sincerity of our hearts, how long we wrestled with our consciences, and how much reflection we put into researching and writing our own service – more than most couples considering marriage, I would guess. When they are prepared to listen to our story, then I’ll be prepared to listen to them in return. Then we may agree to disagree, but at least it will be based on mutual respect, not a self-proclaimed right to judge our lives and love without knowing a thing about us.
Watching this video reminded me that there was an older member of our extended family who asked us not to invite her, and for us not to discuss our civil partnership and blessing with her again. She was keen to ensure that this did not harm our relationship with her though. My partner, who is related to her by blood, has done all he can to keep in touch with her. I confess, I have not made the effort to see her since, as I felt unable to visit her as a couple if she cannot accept that we are. She is not of the Facebook generation, and she is an ‘in-law’ now. I can’t ‘defriend’ her, and she says she doesn’t want to lose my partner from her life. Some might say I am being tough on someone from another time who struggles to accept how society has changed. Perhaps I am. But having reached a place in life where I no longer feel I have to hide, I’d rather not put myself in a place where I feel uncomfortable and unwelcome just to make someone else feel better. So we have an uneasy truce.
Maybe I need to make the first move. And maybe, like the brother in this video, when she gets to know us as we really are, she will find it in her heart to become an ally too.
After I shared this blog post on Facebook, I received the following message from my nephew, who is about ten years younger than me:
‘That latest blog post was very moving, I sometimes wish I was your brother, I have always felt like your little brother rather than you are my uncle. And I always have looked up to you and I always will, love you both.’
I am the youngest of my family and he is my oldest of the next generation, so he is more like my ‘kid’ brother than a nephew. But it’s not often in my family that we really tell one another how we feel, so that makes his reply extra special.