Friday, July 29, 2011

Marriage – a (gay) renovator’s delight

“Gentrification” is now an unfashionable word – the 1970s collective noun for “property renovation leading to capital gain” has long since been usurped by renovation-as-individual-triumph. But (for once) I’m not waxing nostalgic here: gentrification must always cause its own death, and has a maximum life-span of one generation. Thus, in inner-city 1970s Melbourne, for example, predominantly Anglo gay men, and a bit later predominantly Anglo baby boomers (of all remaining genders and sexualties), bought property cheaply from predominantly non-Anglo owners, whose notional capital losses in selling too cheaply, too early, never seem to be factored in to the usual account of gentrification – where everyone’s a winner.

And of course, there is one other big loser group from gentrification – those born too late to partake of it. Not surprisingly then, the current cohort of aspirational young gay men (aka GenY) have embarked on a collective-renovation mission quite different from the real-estate obsession of their boomer parents – to gentrify the currently dowdy, at an all-time-low, thing called marriage.

Angela Shanahan thus quite misses Tracy Bartram’s point: "Personally, I've had two husbands and three marriages, and marriage for me has lost its lustre. But I don't see why the GLBTI community should be excluded from marrying just because it's 'always been that way' ... And let's face it: nobody does 'wedding' better than a gay or lesbian couple!", says Bartram. “Gosh, what a great argument for gay marriage”, Shanahan concludes (same URL) thereby showing all the prescience of my paternal grandparents, who sold in inner-city Richmond c.1973, and then paid a lot more than their sale proceeds for a new house-and-land package on the suburban fringe. Hint to Angela (and Frank Furedi): don’t mistake the gay-marriage lobby’s visible contempt for marriage, such as you own it (“unrenovated since 1890!”) as illogical (or merely “elitist”, like a façade without the whole-box-and-dice accompanying capitalist interior). A decent capital gain can only be made, of course, when the old generation sells too cheaply – and the new generation’s purchasers have every interest in pointing out the flaws of the asset on the sale block.

Personally, I have no taste for either sort of gentrification. Alas, I simply feel too much for the losers, like Angela Shanahan. I couldn’t possibly ever sleep at night if I knew that my own fabulous gay marriage had gained from, or devalued her own plain heterosexual one. Albeit, I know that I’m in a conscientious minority here.

There is also a way out for Angela Shanahan: take up Tim Wilson’s rather daring idea of double gentrification of marriage. His idea: leave civil marriage to the gays, and the straights can circle the wagons around their notion of marriage by renovating religious marriage, presumably so that it is at least as European appliance-y as gay (civil) marriage. Oh what a race this would be! But are you really up for it, Angela Shanahan?

It does not disturb me.|
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