Mama mia, give the woman a break!

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Melting Rainbow @2x

The online trolling went into overdrive this morning with commentary on the (now too delicate) issue of same-sex marriage.

Vitriol and abuse have been targeted towards one individual in particular, Mia Freedman, the founder of the website Mamamia, who published an article on Tuesday calling on “straight and married” couples to stand in support of same-sex marriage.

While Freedman’s intentions appeared to be sweet enough at first, the fact she’d gone and posted a photo of her holding up her wedding ring and asking readers to “take a photo pointing to your wedding ring and post it with the hashtag #married4marriagequality” had queer activists and their allies up in arms.

Mia Freedman Mamamia @2x

Freedman’s article quickly became the top-trending topic, with critics lambasting the 45-year-old married mother of three for supposedly using the same-sex marriage debate to promote herself and her website.

The article and its author were branded “tone-deaf”, “clueless”, “vain”, and – here’s a new one – “white-feminist-centric”.

What started out as a message of positive intention that could well have turned many of Freedman’s readers’ on to a topical issue – and away from the usual ‘coping with motherhood’ talk – has instead turned into a war of words, laden with insults and name-calling, much of it coming from the LGBTI+ communities.

But here’s the thing. Those very communities would be just as infuriated if the broader media didn’t bring up the subject of same-sex marriage and instead kept it under the proverbial rug. Intelligent members of these communities could have turned a blind eye to Freedman’s faux pas and just got on with the job of promoting equality – positively. But, no, there wouldn’t be enough drama in that alone.

In my 20-plus years of working in queer journalism, from print to radio to internet, and as an actively proud gay man myself, I have come across a great lot of flag-bearers in the so-called ‘inclusive’ LGBTI+ community, and I must say the more letters that get added to an already laden acronym, the more divisive the community as a whole has become, its various ‘tribes’ bickering with one another, let alone with the outside straight community, rather than just getting along.

I believe things have gotten way too sensitive in the LGBTI+ camp, and insensitive in some respects.

I am out. I am proud. And I think I’ve done a damn good lot to help deconstruct notions of gender – constructs which I believe are the problem in the first place. But too often people confuse the terms ‘sex’, ‘sexuality’ and ‘gender’, and even I get labelled a ‘sexist’ from the occasional trans activist if I use the word ‘guys’ when addressing a group in an email. So for the sake of clarity, I’d like to break these terms down.

‘Sex’ relates to the genitals you are born with. You’re either male, female, or in very rare cases, intersexed. As for individuals who wish to change their genitalia surgically, all the more power to them; I’ll leave them to decide what ‘sex’ they’d ultimately like to be referred to.

‘Sexuality’ is what you practice sexually, and that can range from the individual who chooses to abstain, to the individual who practices it with the opposite sex, the same sex, or with someone that is intersexed (or variously, eg: ‘Bi-Plus’).

‘Gender’ – the most incorrectly used term in this trio of touchy subjects – relates to aesthetics and behaviour. Once upon a time, things were sadly extreme in gender representation and expectations. Boys were told they could only dress and behave a certain way, and grew into men locked into machismo stereotypes. Girls were told they could only dress and behave in opposite manner to boys, and were locked into traditional feminine stereotypes.

But gender is a construct and should always be approached as such. Personally, I’m with RuPaul when the artist says “We’re born… the rest is drag”. Because the rest of it really is drag, whether you’re male, female, intersexed or post-surgery, and no matter how ‘butch’ or ‘fem’ you’d care to come across.

I think if more members of the LGBTI+ communities dropped their attitudes towards and issues with gender, we’d all get along far better.

But getting back to poor Mia Freedman. Perhaps the problem isn’t that she’d posted a photo of her big, shiny wedding ring in the face of a community that is pushing seriously for equal rights. Perhaps the problem is that everything connected to that ring – all those traditional notions of femininity, which themselves help drive the wheels of materialism and capitalism – are still stuck in the mind of the reader/viewer/offended he/she/they. Maybe perceptions and attitudes need to change a little for the sake of clearer understanding?

A ring is just a ring, people. Give Mia a break. And work on what’s really missing here: not necessarily some marriage certificate, but an open mind, acceptance of varied, sensible opinions – and room for the occasional error in judgement. Oh, and the one thing we’ve all kind of lost track of here: love.

But then, dividing and ruling is probably what our government heads would like to see happening, as they procrastinate on the decision to let us vote on the issue of marriage equality. In the meantime, the wider that gap grows between straight communities and the various LGBTI+ groups, the less likely a general consensus on same-sex marriage will result in a resounding ‘yes’.

Now get over it and stop your bitching. I promise I’ll try to myself.  Antonino Tati