Who are we?

With the advent of time (or, of having time to do stuff, or nothing, or sleep), I have been able to think. Actually, properly think. As a self-professed nerd and overthinker, this has been rather enjoyable. Most of said thinking has been of the random, non-illuminating sort (probably a good thing), but last night, unable to sleep due to this surprising heat wave we seem to be having, the ramblings of my mind hit upon a rather interesting topic: which of your defining attributes are actually your personality and which just happen to be there?

Let me explain. I started this romp through my synapses by being very happy about the successful passage of the gay marriage bill in the House of Lords, which means that same-sex weddings will probably start taking place from the beginning of next year. What a boon for us socially-progressive types, and what a way for the Lords to prove themselves to actually inhabit the twenty-first century! Anyway, I started wondering why I care quite so much. Ignoring my position as an equality-espousing liberal who therefore naturally supports such measures, the bill does not affect me at all.

Apart from the fact that, in an abstract way, it does. Gay marriage is part of a wider fight, and at two in the morning I suddenly realised what the end-goal actually is: to stop it mattering if you are not straight, or not a man, or not white, or not able-bodied, or not any of the things which, in our society, it is apparently necessary to be in order to just be able to get on with it. The status quo, clearly, is not ok.

As someone who is not able-bodied (nor, indeed, am I a man, but we shall ignore this complication for the purposes of keeping this post from becoming an incomprehensible rant), I have become a ‘disabled person’. Am I though? I mean, strictly speaking I am – having cerebral palsy is pretty conclusive evidence. But I take issue with the phrasing; my existence as a person has somehow become secondary to the fact that I have CP. CP does not define me, my love of my friends and family, my politics obsession and my sense of humour say infinitely more about who I am than my jerky legs. The only reason I spend such an inordinate amount of time thinking about disability is because society makes it impossible not to. My equality campaign, despite having a myriad of small but important goals, is really about making disability irrelevant to living one’s life. 

The same is true of same-sex marriage; being gay seems to me to be secondary to wanting to make a formal commitment to someone you love. The legalisation of same-sex marriage recognises this, turning ‘gay people’ into ‘people who are also gay’. In the battle to be allowed to choose how we are defined, that is a huge victory.

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