Inspiration for this post comes from mixedmuppet, a “religious lesbian social worker” with a lot to say and a lovely way of saying it.
Any suggestions for G? Again, I’ll take the first one and go with it.
In the UK, yesterday was the day of the 2015 General Election. 66.10% of people voted. That means that 34% of potential voters didn’t. I used to be passionate about compulsory voting: at least go and spoil a ballot! People have died for your right to vote and for your right to keep it a secret. So exercise it. In many other places, people are desperate to vote and can’t… so make sure your vote is counted. But more recently I’ve been thinking, who am I to tell someone to go and spoil a ballot if they genuinely aren’t even remotely interested in politics? Do spoiled ballots really tell us anything and if they did, is that a reason for voting to be compulsory? I’m not sure. If we have the freedom to vote, conversely we have the freedom not to vote. Freedom is measured by the things we are allowed to do, not by whether we do them or not. In the UK, we are free to practice whatever religion we like. That doesn’t mean we have to do it! It’s more a matter of recognising your privilege- if you have the freedom to vote or not vote, acknowledge that that is your prerogative and respect it, irrespective of whether you use it or not.
Aside from the freedom to vote, freedom means so many things to me. In the UK, I am fortunate enough that being a lesbian is not illegal. I have the freedom to love whomever I want, however publicly I choose to do so. I have read so many articles in which people say that because our “sisters of colour” don’t have the choice to hide or not-disclose their skin colour, we should be vocal about our sexuality because we have the privilege of being able to share or not share that, and should exercise our right to do so. I think that’s rubbish. We are lucky enough to live in a society where being LGBTQI+ is accepted (at least legally- the day-to-day ins and outs of life are always trickier). We have the privilege of being able to express our sexuality should we so choose… and we have the freedom not to. There are hundreds of reasons a person might not want to “come out”: religion, career, family pressures, fear, or the feeling that it’s nobody else’s business. So yes, it’s horrible for people to face discrimination for things that they can’t hide: race, some disabilities, even an accent. But that doesn’t mean that our right to come out about something we could conceivably hide is something that we have to exercise. Like our freedom to vote (or not) it is something that we need to respect, but it is our right to choose whether or not to exercise our freedom.
Finally, there are the things that people don’t have the right to do, that impact upon my personal freedoms. People do not have the right to incite racial or homophobic hatred. That doesn’t mean that those hatreds don’t exist on a quieter level, but nobody has the right to go on TV and tell somebody else that my life is worth less than theirs. Therefore I have the freedom to go about my daily life without the fear that a person can completely legally harm me due to my race, religion or sexuality. That doesn’t mean, of course, that an attack can’t happen. But in some places such an attack would be legal or even encouraged, and another person’s right to violence becomes dangerous to my freedom to walk the streets. Like everything else, this relative freedom makes me believe that I live in a privileged position and I need to treat my freedom with the respect it truly deserves.