Same-sex marriage has been legal in England and Wales since 2013, and in Scotland since 2014, with the first ceremonies taking place in England in March 2014, three years ago now. And yet, the fact that two men or two women can enjoy all the legal benefits of marriage, as well as the trials and tribulations that come with the planning of any wedding, does not mean that the fight for LGBT+ rights is over in the UK. Instead, there seems to have been a stagnation in progress, particularly concerning the rights of trans and non-binary people.
This is especially significant for young people, like ourselves. We are, for the most part, not interested in getting married in the near future, although the idea of marrying into money is never more tempting than when deadlines are pressing and sleep is lacking. However, we are interested in avoiding being the victims of ignorant and intolerant abuse, improving education for young people, and working on the rates of homelessness among LGBT+ youth. Marriage, while it is now an option for our futures, has never been our main objective, because we know that at a basic level, other rights are more important.
Barely any children educated in the UK will receive a comprehensive sex education which covers the possibility that they might engage in anything other than heterosexual sex and relationships in the future. This is especially relevant at the moment, since a recent attempt to amend the Children and Social Work Bill with the aim to make sex and relationships education (SRE) more inclusive was blocked by the Conservative MPs on the panel. The argument was that the proposed amendment would not offer adequate protection for faith schools that oppose homosexuality; evidently, the MPs forgot that children can be born into faiths that can hardly be considered gay-friendly. SRE is not for the benefit of the educators, but for those who are being educated. Incomprehensive sex education leads to exactly the incomprehension and ignorance that fosters unaccepting attitudes and creates bullies.
Bullies aren’t limited to playgrounds. Stonewall reports that one in six lesbian, gay, or bisexual people have been the victims of hate crimes in the last three years, while the statistics relating to trans people increase that figure to just over one in three. These statistics are, while evidently still a problem, nowhere near as concerning as the fact that two out of five LGBT+ students have either attempted or considered attempting suicide. These statistics show plainly the issues such as elevated suicide and self-harm rates that can affect the lives and mental health of so many young people, and, suddenly, gay marriage begins to seem like an incredibly small consolation prize.
According to the Albert Kennedy Trust, young people who identify as LGBT+ make up a quarter of the population of homeless youth. Of these, 69% identified family rejection as the main reason why they had been forced to become homeless. No one should be homeless, particularly not vulnerable young people who have been rejected by their family for something as simple as how they identify. It is difficult to suggest how we might remedy the issue of homelessness among LGBT+ youth, in the murky midst of the many different causes of homelessness in general, but it is much clearer to realise that gay marriage is not a solution.
Marriage is not the end of the matter for LGBT+ people; it never has been, and it never will be. There is no honeymoon period for gay rights. The three-year-itch is here, and it’s time to scratch it.