E. Winter Tashlin

What Do You Make of Britain's New Marriage Ad?

Filed By E. Winter Tashlin | April 26, 2012 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Armed Services, Britain, Freedom to Marry, gay marriage, marriage equality, military, same-sex marriage, SSM

I'm honestly not sure how to feel about the new marriage equality ad to come out out of Great Britain.

My thoughts are after the break. See if you agree...

Perhaps the first and foremost thing that rubs me the wrong way is the use of the returning serviceman meeting his same-sex partner after a time apart trope. Granted, it's hard to argue against equal rights for someone who stares down the possibility of death in the service of your government, without sounding like a total ass. So I can easily see how this approach represented a useful shortcut in terms of effectiveness, but I'll admit to feeling some leeriness of the way the ad shackles equality and military service.

Don't get me wrong, I have great respect for people who serve in their national armed services, and consider myself a bit of an armchair military historian (my area of interest is WWII naval warfare). Military service and imagery can serve a valuable role in mainstreaming acceptance of minority populations, witness the inescapable comparison that can be made between the desegregation of the United States military as part of the fight for African American civil rights and the end of DADT in the context of LGBT rights.

That knowledge doesn't stop this ad from bugging me though.

Where does this ad leaves the rest of the British LGBT population? Less than 1% of all Brits serve in the reserve or active units of Her Majesty's Armed Forces. Portraying military service as a prerequisite to acceptance does little to connect with the average UK citizen. Likewise, the men used in the ad are as unthreatening to a Western vision of male identity as ever I've seen, although I do give the ad's creators points for not shying away from having them kiss. How does this portrayal of gay people impact the less heteronormative members of society? LGBT people who aren't white, attractive, young, and "heroes" deserve equal rights too. There's a feeling that the creators are trying to portray the least challenging image of same-sex attraction as humanly possible, and the result leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

However, the ad aims for, although I find it misses, an emotional level that I do think is vital to the fight for LGBT rights as a whole. It is easy to get caught up in laws, taxes, documents, and the very real injustice faced by our community, and lose sight of the overarching themes of love, commitment, and living an authentic life, that lie at the heart of our fight. LGBT citizens of the United Kingdom already have access to civil unions, serve openly in all branches of their military, and are protected from discrimination in housing and employment nationwide. It would not be too difficult for opponents of full equality to point to those facts and argue that the British LGBT community should be happy with what they have. But love, of others and ourselves, is a surprisingly persuasive force, and in the end I believe it is the only arrow we need in our quiver.

So in the end I find myself conflicted. I like what this ad is trying to say, but how they've said it completely misses the mark for me. Let me know what you think.

Note: While trans* people have yet to achieve equality in the United States Military, trans* people do serve in the UK armed services and are included in national anti-discrimination laws

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