Why this queer isn’t celebrating

I’ll admit it: I couldn’t help but get a bit happy when I heard that California was legalizing same-sex marriage. And today, when I heard about the first couples in line to enjoy their new rights, couples like Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin who got married again after their 2004 marriage was declared invalid, my heart was kinda warmed. After all, politics aside, it’s beautiful to see people celebrate and commemorate their love, out in the open, and with a long-awaited sense of equality and societal recognition. It’s hard for me not to get a little bit sentimental and proud in the most rainbow-flag-waving sense of the word.

But it didn’t take long for that warmth to turn chill and that pride to shrivel up completely when I read this article from the LA Times:

The gay and lesbian couples who packed a Hollywood auditorium last week had come seeking information about California’s new marriage policies. But they also got some unsolicited advice.

Be aware.

Images from gay weddings, said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, could be used by opponents in a campaign designed to convince California voters that gays and lesbians should not have the right to marry. Those getting married, she cautioned, should never lose sight of what they might be supplying the other side.

Sitting close to his husband-to-be in the audience, hairstylist Kendall Hamilton nodded and said he knew just what she meant. No “guys showing up in gowns,” he said.

The article goes on to discuss how “proponents of same-sex marriage are now taking care to emphasize mainstream unions.”

Many of the … early weddings around the state were also of long-term couples who could have been selected by central casting to appear both nonthreatening and mainstream.

And as the SF Gate reports, even the gay-marriage-themed window displays are being engineered to be as normative as possible:

In window one: two men on a wedding cake, one in a $6,000 Brioni tuxedo, the other in a $4,000 Belvest tux.

In window two: two women, one in a black Roberto Cavalli skirt tuxedo ($3,655) and the other in a $1,900 Catherine Regehr white dress.

“Describe them as straightforward,” [San Francisco clothier Wilkes] Bashford said. “I definitely did not want them to be camp.”

That’s right, folks: no camp here. No gender non-conformity, either. And definitely no guys in gowns.

Why? Because the marriage equality movement is largely predicated on the notion that us queers are just like “everyone else,” meaning mostly white, mostly middle-class or up, gender conforming monogamists. You know, the non-threatening queers. The rest of us should apparently find a nice closet to go hide in for a while, lest we threaten the rights that are apparently meant for the more upstanding, respectable members of the LGsomeotherlessimportantletters community.

“One of the things about the gay and lesbian community is we’re known for our outrageousness, our flamboyance,” said West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, who is president of the board of directors of Equality California, an organization pushing for gay marriage. “But we’re under this incredible political pressure not to have those portrayals” right now.

Because that’s the way to push for equality – by privileging individuals and couples and relationships that are the most tame, the most palatable, the most marketable while shunning those who stray a bit too much from Middle America’s ideas of propriety. Has it ever occurred to these so-called movement leaders to say, “You know what? It doesn’t matter what the people are wearing, or how they define their gender, or whether they’re picket fence aspirants or not. We all deserve the same rights by virtue of being human beings.” Nah, because that would be too hard. Not only would all the nice, normal gays and lesbians need to wait around until the government and the rest of American society decided that the freaks were human, too, but those same nice, normal gays and lesbians might have to confront their own prejudice and acknowledge their own privilege. Gasp!

Of course, this is all par for the course when dealing with marriage equality, which has never been and can never be about true equality and justice for all people who fall within the LGBT spectrum. That’s because legal marriage is about sanctioning and rewarding certain kinds of relationships while disqualifying and demeaning others. And while I don’t begrudge Lyon and Martin or any of the other couples who have found relief and joy in finally being able to marry legally, I do begrudge a movement that has devoted so much time and attention and resources to a cause that does not serve the most crucial needs of the vast majority of queers and that further marginalizes the most marginalized and vulnerable members of the LGBT community, if you can call it a community.

Recently someone I know posted an excellent synopsis of why the California ruling is not a source of unbridled and uncomplicated joy for all queers. I’ve been meaning to repost this for a while, but with the marriages beginning today and the media circus surrounding them. It’s an op-ed written and signed by Toby Beauchamp, Steven Blevins, Abigail Boggs, Cynthia Degnan, Benjamin D’Harlingue, Cathy Hannabach, Christopher Jee, Tristan Josephson, Liz Montegary, and Kara Thompson. Thanks to them for writing it and for crystalizing the problems so well.

Not all LGBT people are happy about the same-sex marriage ruling. While we recognize that the California Supreme Court decision positively and importantly affects some queer lives, marriage alone cannot solve the problems plaguing queer communities. In fact, the ruling further marginalizes relationships and families that don’t conform to a lifelong, monogamous two-partner structure. We are concerned that most media stories about the ruling have erased queer voices that are critical of extending rights only to a privileged few.

Most U.S. households are not modeled on the nuclear family, meaning many families and relationships still do not receive the rights and benefits afforded married couples. Blended and extended families; single parents; close friends, siblings, or senior citizens serving as primary caregivers to each other – all are common examples of family structures denied rights extended through marriage. While legal marriage benefits some, this ruling does not grant full equality for all LGBT people.

We are also concerned with the state’s use of marriage as a coercive tool. For example, the current U.S. welfare program provides economic incentives to promote marriage, in some cases offering extra benefits to single mothers who marry their child’s biological father, even if this relationship isn’t desired or beneficial. Welfare benefits that limit parenting and relationship choices demonstrate that for many people – regardless of sexual orientation – marriage is not the key to social justice. While some LGBT people celebrate state-recognized relationships, many of us are wary of increased state control over our sexual lives.

For a chilling example of the state’s regulation of bodies, sexualities and supposed deviance, consider the May 14th sentencing of an HIV-positive man in Dallas, Texas to 35 years in prison for spitting on a police officer. Despite long-standing reports from the CDC that saliva does not transmit HIV, the defendant’s saliva was ruled a deadly weapon, meaning he must serve half of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

Consider also the current committee appointments for revising the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). The DSM lists diagnostic criteria for mental disorders, including Gender Identity Disorder (homosexuality was removed in 1974). Dr. Kenneth Zucker is chairing the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group, despite advocating that queer and trans people (especially youth) can be “cured” through reparative therapy. That many LGBT people are unaware of these recent abuses by state institutions reveals that the same-sex marriage struggle overshadows some of the most damaging actions against queer and trans communities.

We support the personal and spiritual meaning that marriage has for many, but question whether fighting for marriage as a state-run institution is the best strategy for queer liberation more broadly. We urge the networks formed through the same-sex marriage struggle to continue working in the service of all marginalized communities. Following the work of projects like Queers for Economic Justice and beyondmarriage.org, and scholars and activists such as Lisa Duggan, Richard Kim and Nancy Polikoff, we advocate the following: Instead of linking state benefits like healthcare, housing and welfare to marital privilege, they should be detached from marriage and available to all, regardless of marital or citizenship status. Rather than furthering the norm of two partners acting as a single economic childrearing unit, we argue for a movement that embraces multiple meanings of family, and recognizes that marriage and domestic partnership are not always optimal or desired choices. Finally, we believe we can better serve marginalized communities by fighting against all state regulation of sexual and gender choices, identities and expressions.

(cross-posted at AngryBrownButch)

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85 Responses

  1. demolitionwoman
    demolitionwoman June 17, 2008 at 12:01 am |

    Excellent post. I can’t help but be reminded (fittingly enough, given the recent press surrounding Lyon and Martin) of pre-Stonewall history vs. post-Stonewall history. On the one hand, the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society were all about normalizing gay people – holding signs to say “we’re just like you”. It’s a strategy that makes sense in many ways. If you can successfully “other” a group of people, it’s easier to justify their oppression. But once you start to see the common humanity, how they’re a person like you’re a person, it becomes harder and harder to justify. So I get it.

    And at the same time, I’m very much rooted in Stonewall/post-Stonewall queer identity/theory/politics. Which (to my understanding) is much more about demanding one’s rights rather than begging for them, demanding respect. Which is about glorying and reveling in our differences, our uniqueness, our diversities.

    I’m grossly oversimplifying here, but…I can understand the impulse of the “we’re just like everybody else”. The problem, as you so aptly point out, is that we’re not all just like everybody else and the “everybody else” standard is very much white, gender-conforming and middle/upper class.

  2. Holly
    Holly June 17, 2008 at 12:02 am |

    Hear hear.

    The last line you didn’t quote is important too, I have to say.

    “Describe them as straightforward,” Bashford said. “I definitely did not want them to be camp.”

    Definitely not camp, and not cheap either.

    I always get a little teary-eyed when I see photos of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin together. But the struggle for marriage equality has never just been about the celebration and recognition of touching life-long love. It’s also been about class and status equality with mainstream America, about working towards being yet another “family next door.” And only a certain slice of the gay community is eligible for those political gains — even though it’s worth noting that there are a lot of other people who could benefit from the legal rights even if their marriages are kept far away from the TV cameras.

    Some people will argue that this is all fine in the name of incrementalism (and “oh yeah, we’ll come back for the rest of you later!”) but still: why does this kind of thing so often look like trying to cram, slice, and dice queers into a shoebox of “normality” instead of expanding the shoebox itself? We have far too long a history in this country of marginalized groups — race, religion, sexuality, and more — struggling to squeeze themselves into normality, and succeeding only when it also involves othering those who can’t or won’t fit in. It’s a history we have to overcome and a trend we have to fight.

  3. Cecily
    Cecily June 17, 2008 at 12:16 am |

    Thank you so much for this. It really cuts to the heart of it.

    Seen a certain way, this prioritization within the LGBTQ movement starts to look depressingly like the problems we’ve been discussing with “mainstream” feminism meaning “feminism for white middle-class ladies.” I think it’s been pretty well demonstrated that when white middle-class ladies reach corner offices and town halls, they don’t turn around and go, “Hey, right, I have to help the rest of the gender now! Let’s change capitalism and government from within, so as to bring about justice for women of all colors, classes, et cetera!” While one can hope that the very focused opposition of homo- and trans-bigotry has forged more cohesiveness into the LGBTQ movement, the precedent doesn’t give one much confidence.

  4. shah8
    shah8 June 17, 2008 at 12:25 am |

    It would really, really, help

    if more people can be shown a bit of history…

    especially the bit about dominant states having a nasty habit of encouraging nuclear families above everything else.

    It’s a means of isolating people from accessible structural support that would enable them to disintermediate governments from crucial functions (or prevent governments from violating privacy at will). Of course the elite gets to network and have unions like the AMA, insidery clubs, and aknowledged clans like the Kennedies.

    It also allows for the formation of rigid heirarchies–women to men, blacks to white, poor and wealthy.

    So there is always a utility for pushing this kind of thing…two people, against the world…when it doesn’t have to be that way. Bust out of the closet, people! Anita Blake style if you wanna! ?:~)

  5. idyllicmollusk
    idyllicmollusk June 17, 2008 at 12:38 am |

    Jack- Big ups, Holla Holla!

    Incisive commentary. Timely, much-needed, nuanced.

    Thank you.

  6. PhysioProf
    PhysioProf June 17, 2008 at 1:46 am |

    This is what I commented over on the “Love is” thread:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if insane right-wing theocratic douchecornets would just leave normal people the fuck alone? I heard one of these fucking assholes spouting off on the radio this morning about the “complementarity of one man and one woman” and a bunch of other dumb-fuck bronze age mythological bullshit. JUST LEAVE US ALONE, YOU SICK SAD DELUSIONAL FUCKING WACKOS!

    By normal, I meant, “people who don’t want to be forced through the coercive power of the state into living their lives in some particular arbitrary way”.

  7. Solitary
    Solitary June 17, 2008 at 1:49 am |

    Sad to say, there are some things that are never going to be ‘mainstream’. How many people involved in BDSM can be open about their lifestyle? How many trans people can simply walk down the street, forget about safely or enjoying stuff like protection under the law? How ’bout people who identify as polyamorous? Heck, I’m bi/asexual and people give me fish eyes when I mention either part.

    I was flipping through the pics and yeah, I admit I got a bit teary, as well. I’m a softie, lol, but it occured to me that most of those folks were pretty darn photogenetic…that’s when I came across the reference to the entire thing be choreographed for the cameras. It doesn’t take away from the impact of the day, but it does reveal exactly how far the queer movement as to go yet.

  8. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne June 17, 2008 at 2:15 am |

    Because that’s the way to push for equality – by privileging individuals and couples and relationships that are the most tame, the most palatable, the most marketable while shunning those who stray a bit too much from Middle America’s ideas of propriety.

    It’s tough because, frankly, that’s always how minority groups have gotten ahead in America. My Italian immigrant grandfather was forbidden to speak Italian in the house because they were “Americans” now and had to speak English. My aunts were not allowed to get their ears pierced because they would look “ethnic,” ie like recent immigrants. One of the big things that pushed gay rights forward in the 1980s and “normalized” gay men was the AIDS epidemic and the stories that came out about devoted partners who were barred from hospital rooms by the “real” family of the patient.

    That’s not to say that there’s no other path possible, but it does require forging that path from nothing with no cultural backup, and that’s not easy for most people to do.

  9. Adele
    Adele June 17, 2008 at 2:52 am |

    @demolition woman:

    Though we’re ultimately on the same page, I think it’s important to remember that the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis were originally off-shoots of the Communist Party, and that they did include important contributions from people who were bisexual and/or gender-variant and/or people of color, and that those contributions have been systematically erased from history. Like a lot of movements, they were co-opted and taken over by white middle class assimilationists, and therein lies the conflict.

    Later, a gay politic defined itself in opposition to a homophile politic, and even later still, a queer politic defined itself in opposition to what was coming to be known as “gay rights” (i.e., this marriage hoopla.) And so the cycle continues. When will we learn from history and get it right?

  10. professor what if
    professor what if June 17, 2008 at 3:14 am |

    Great post. I especially love your “LGsomeotherlessimportantletters community” phrase. Absofuckingbrilliant!

  11. Miss Nomered
    Miss Nomered June 17, 2008 at 7:10 am |

    Thank you for writing this! I’m a queer femme dating a, shall we say, gender-nonconforming guy, and he has a non-monogamous relationship with his other partner. It drives me absolutely insane to know that it’s us we’re talking about when people talk about the “bad queers”. Like, I just want to say to these people (the nice white gays, as I call them), “This is my LIFE here that you’ve just taken a big dump on.” I don’t like having to appeal to a corrupt society just to ensure my basic rights.

  12. Nellie
    Nellie June 17, 2008 at 8:25 am |

    Thanks for writing this. I cringe everytime I hear a queer/feminist activist blindly and uncritically support state regulated marriage. This story works so well to demonstrates the regulatory effects of marriage; advantaging and normalizing some at the expense of stigmating and disadvantaging others.

  13. Terra
    Terra June 17, 2008 at 8:25 am |

    I disagree personally.

    Its better to celebrate victories even if you don’t personally benefit from them rather than try and tear them down.

    You can’t expect other people to fight for your rights before their own.

  14. Holly
    Holly June 17, 2008 at 8:35 am |

    How do you know the people who wrote that op-ed, or Jack herself, are part of some jealous group that doesn’t benefit? You’re assuming that there are two separate groups here (“yours” and “theirs”?) and it’s not necessarily that simple. There are lots of people who could potentially get married, who may want to get married and may have longed to have equal rights in this regard, who nevertheless agree strongly with the sentiments expressed above.

  15. Ariel Silvera
    Ariel Silvera June 17, 2008 at 9:05 am |

    Great article, Jack!

    I agree wholeheartedly. I do have a problem with the fact that it seems to me, white middle-class people are always first in line to get treated as human beings. Not that they don’t deserve it of course, but it just seems… well, it’s easy. I’m sorry, but it is.

    Here’s where my mother would chime in and say “you see, YOU SEE? IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT CLASS” and I just nod along to her Marxist self.

    A lot of us are not normative, in fact I’d say most of us. I rarely ever meet queers who are as mainstream as these couples are.

    And Holly, you’re totally dead on, I didn’t know there was a term for it such as ‘incrementalism’. Back in the day, when my mother was in the Communist party in South America, the attitude was “we’ll do the revolution and then we’ll get to dealing with women’s problems”. And it just, well, it doesn’t work like that.

  16. PhysioProf
    PhysioProf June 17, 2008 at 9:16 am |

    There are lots of people who could potentially get married, who may want to get married and may have longed to have equal rights in this regard, who nevertheless agree strongly with the sentiments expressed above.

    I am married and I agree with what Jack wrote.

    I would like to see us disentangle legally sanctioned economic relationships involving real and personal property, children, healthcare decisions, and estate succession from demented religious sky fairy bullshit.

    This would also immediately obviate all that “next people will be marrying their dogs” wackaloonery.

  17. Emily
    Emily June 17, 2008 at 9:30 am |

    Thanks so much for this post, Jack. I have a professional conference upcoming in Anaheim, and the GLBT roundtable will be celebrating the Supreme Court decision with a big flouncy cake at our annual social. Like you, I enjoy celebratory expressions of love, but have a pretty rigorous critique of the marriage fight, much of which you articulate so nicely here. My suggestion that we temper the rah-rah-marriage aspect of our social and/or at least make space for alternative views was met with pretty uniform derision, and a very ‘quit raining on the parade’ response, all of which made me feel totally excluded from mainstream GLBT community/politics stuff. Which is funny because… i’m really very mainstream! I thought! Anyway, i ended up feeling pretty lonely out there, so thanks for posting this.

    A friend recently suggested celebrating openly and in public other supreme court decisions, perhaps with some public sodomy to honor Lawrence v. Texas. (A decision that, of course, is full of compromises/problems/its own special brand of glbt racism, but that’s a blog post for another day…)

  18. links for 2008-06-17 « don’t ya wish your girlfriend was smart like me?

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  19. Daomadan
    Daomadan June 17, 2008 at 9:59 am |

    “LGsomeotherlessimportantletters community” . You…nail…head. Exactly!

    My straight friends can get married in period gowns with frou frou wigs but don’t let the queers camp it up! Keep it “normal”!

    In other words, excellent post.

  20. little light
    little light June 17, 2008 at 10:01 am |

    Its better to celebrate victories even if you don’t personally benefit from them rather than try and tear them down.

    You can’t expect other people to fight for your rights before their own.

    I’m one of those people who will benefit from legal same-sex marriage. I’m in a long-term, serious, monogamous relationship of the sort that US-style marriage is made for, short of our genders. I am overjoyed about this ruling, and gushy and sentimental. And you know what?
    I’m also one of those people that this mainstreaming of the queer movement leaves behind and marginalizes, as a brown trans person without a pile of money. And I expected just this sort of choreographing.

    It’s not so simple. And it’s not about asking other people to put your rights before their own–it’s about asking them to stop pushng you down in order to get theirs. The “freaks” and monsters among us have been part of of the movement from the beginning, and other portions of that movement have continually cut us out and stabbed us in the back to get theirs, like someone shoving someone to the ground to try and get out of a burning building a little faster. And yeah, their needs are their needs, but there’s nothing wrong with suggesting that we all might benefit a little more were all of us trying to work together and not step on the most vulnerable of us on the way to the top. Especially when, like organizations like the HRC, we’re still asking those vulnerable people for donations of money and time and energy before cutting the ropeladder off behind.
    Doesn’t hurt to leave that ladder there after you’ve climbed it, you know? Doesn’t cost you anything.

    Jack–and Holly in comments–these are vital words, and people need to hear this. I’m teary-eyed with joy over this news myself, but I don’t have any illusions about it. Thank you.

  21. Mercurial Georgia
    Mercurial Georgia June 17, 2008 at 10:20 am |

    Dear Lorri L Jean

    Let’s see, what would Captain Kirk say? Oh yes, double-dumbass on you.

    Get the fuck out.

  22. hypatia
    hypatia June 17, 2008 at 10:20 am |

    I would like to see us disentangle legally sanctioned economic relationships involving real and personal property, children, healthcare decisions, and estate succession from demented religious sky fairy bullshit.

    Whole-heartedly agree with this.

    I have quite honestly always seen this as the larger problem of marriage equality in the first place. There has been a continued fight for the “normative” and the best way to receive the normal treatment is to act “normal”. The only way all members of the LGBT community are going to get their human rights to become legal rights is if we separate “marriage” from “legal partnerships.”

    This would probably also speed up approval of same-sex partnerships legislation throughout the states as well. There is a very large group of people who think same-sex marriage is alright as long as they don’t actually call it marriage. Which seems asinine to me but… I think it would be better to fight for the actually legal rights that matter when your partner is sick then worrying about the specific title of “marriage.”

  23. Sweet Machine
    Sweet Machine June 17, 2008 at 10:36 am |

    Thank you so much for this post. I am a queer person who’s currently in a long-term opposite-sex relationship, and people seem to be stunned when I talk about how marriage is an oppressive model. Why would queers want to emulate a ceremony and legal fiction that is a leftover from the most literalized form of patriarchy?

    I’m delighted for the joy of the people marrying in California, and I am thrilled that the state has taken steps to make a basic right available to more of its citizens. It’s beautiful to see the love and community on display there. But that joy doesn’t preclude my severe doubts about the efficacy of marriage as an institution.

    Again, thanks for this post–I know I’m going to be referring to it often.

  24. Leslie M-B
    Leslie M-B June 17, 2008 at 10:48 am |

    I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m thrilled that the privileges I have been accorded as a straight woman married to a straight man have, in my home state, become rights accorded to all couples. That said, the young scholars (Beauchamp et. al.)–all of whom are, I believe, in the graduate cultural studies or English departments at UC Davis (just plugging my own grad program, thanks!)–have a point, or rather many points.

    Part of me wants to join these scholars and say, “Yes! Storm the ramparts!” but the other, more cynical (and maybe grounded?) part of me is thinking “baby steps, baby steps.” Yes, the state hasn’t done enough to affirm the civil rights of queer people, but its inclination as a state is to regulate things (even if it should instead be protecting freedoms). I’m happy, therefore, with this latest ruling–and I hope it can be only the first tentative step toward broader rights and freedoms for all people.

  25. PhysioProf
    PhysioProf June 17, 2008 at 11:03 am |

    I would like to see us disentangle legally sanctioned economic relationships involving real and personal property, children, healthcare decisions, and estate succession from demented religious sky fairy bullshit.

    Just to be clear, I would like to see this disentanglement occur for everyone in society, and have religious ceremonies of any kind be given absolutely no legal weight whatsoever.

    Of course, wackaloon religious assholes would fight this tooth and nail, thus proving what fucking liars they are when they say that it’s all about “maintaining sanctity” of their relgious conception of marriage. What it’s really about is imposing their demented bronze-age mythology on everyone as a means of social domination.

  26. Butch Fatale
    Butch Fatale June 17, 2008 at 11:25 am |

    My partner and I were planning a wedding in CA before this ruling, and I am simultaneously nauseated about all of the ways in which our relationship will be seen as questionable regardless of legal status, and thrilled at the idea of being able to get legit, at least in a couple of states. Which doesn’t mean that I think civil marriage is an awesome institution, my anarcho-socialist heart won’t let me. But if there is a tool to protect my partnership and the children we plan to have, I feel I have to take it.

    That said, everytime the wackos here try to put a marriage amendment on the IL ballot, I want to propose a bill requiring fertility testing and sworn affidavits of intention procreate as conditions for issuing marriage licenses. It’s not the hate, it’s the hypocricy, you know?

  27. DAS
    DAS June 17, 2008 at 11:32 am |

    No guys in gowns? Uh-oh. I’m straight and I got married in a white wedding gown.

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  29. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes June 17, 2008 at 11:35 am |

    I can see this from both sides.

    In theory, yes – everyone should be able to marry if they choose, no restrictions on “looking respectable” or “safe” or “mainstream”.

    But I can’t help recalling some mention of a constitutional amendment in California that would ban same-sex marriage, that’s up for a vote in November. It would be rather a shame if this euphoria lasted only 5 months, wouldn’t it? So I can quite understand why it would be not just a “keep our heads down, guys, maybe they won’t notice us” and more a “let’s show our best face and get people on our side”. Then, if the amendment is rejected, that’s when everything is in the clear. I don’t think this has to be painted as a “LGsomeotherlessimportantletters” situation – there’s a clear timetable here.

    It’s deeply frustrating when people can’t be allowed to be themselves, and have to be turned away from hard-won rights like this. It’s enraging that people are so narrow-minded and that they have power over others, to make those others fear in this way. It’s not great that this kind of publicity-minded approach has to be taken, but I think in the circumstances, it’s better to get past that stumbling-block of the California voters in November.

  30. Butch Fatale
    Butch Fatale June 17, 2008 at 12:01 pm |

    So I can quite understand why it would be not just a “keep our heads down, guys, maybe they won’t notice us” and more a “let’s show our best face and get people on our side”. Then, if the amendment is rejected, that’s when everything is in the clear. I don’t think this has to be painted as a “LGsomeotherlessimportantletters” situation – there’s a clear timetable here.

    How is it, if certain folks are the “best face” of a community, that those who are not that “best face” are not marginalized? If the recognition of some is later on this timetable, how is that not an indication of importance? I’m also not sure where the keeping our/their heads down and hoping not to be noticed comes in — did someone suggest that in this thread and I missed it?

  31. okelle
    okelle June 17, 2008 at 12:03 pm |

    Thank you for saying it.

  32. denelian
    denelian June 17, 2008 at 12:10 pm |

    while i am jumping for joy – yay! more people can do what they want!!!

    i see all the points about how this is leaving those who are even more “other” behind.

    i totally get it. my future husband is black… and, if SOME rethugs have their way, that marriage won’t be legal either.

    i, for ME, want to move away from a state-identified marriage. let people form corporations that are they equivilent of families… write contracts and such. then, so long as everyone involved is of legal age, it doesn’t MATTER. it SHOULDN’T matter…

    i wrote a huuuuuuuuge paper on the ills that came with regulating marriage, and how it is a violation of the 1st on two counts – it prohibits the free and legal expression of religion (like polywhatever, or those churches that encourage gay marriage, etc) and AT THE SAME TIME imposes a strict, Judeo-Christian version of marriage – not the ONLY type of marriage in the world, or even in the Bible!!!

    sorry for the babbly. i get the stitches out of my hip from surgery #1 soon today and i am nervous…

  33. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos June 17, 2008 at 12:25 pm |

    SnowdropExplodes: The problem is that there is always going to be a vote around the corner, some political battle up for grabs. The whole hoopla over the first San Francisco marriage licenses started a full year before the election. And the shitstorm over a gender-inclusive ENDA was well before the election cycle kicked into full swing. And the whole rationale behind that was that including protection for gender non-conformists would scare the straights on election day. The bottom line is the convenient time when all queers can assert their rights is always put off into the future.

    I’m continually reminded of the words of MLK who wrote that well-meaning moderates who would set a timetable on civil rights frustrated him more than the KKK. Meanwhile, the prejudice faced by queers is killing in many ways, from the horrifying deaths of Lawrence King to the epidemics of suicide, drug abuse and eating disorders.

    I’m working on a piece in progress (note, may change dramatically over the next week) looking at Alan Ginsburg’s Howl as an early expression of radical queer politics. Its radicalness comes not just from throwing examples of deviance at the reader, but from the bold declaration that its outcasts are holy and worthy of human empathy.

    DEAF FEMINIST PUNK!!! June 17, 2008 at 12:34 pm |

    man, fuck that. and i thought the LGBTQ community was all about gender equity and acceptance for ALL??????????????????????????

  35. earlgreyrooibos
    earlgreyrooibos June 17, 2008 at 1:09 pm |

    In window one: two men on a wedding cake, one in a $6,000 Brioni tuxedo, the other in a $4,000 Belvest tux.

    In window two: two women, one in a black Roberto Cavalli skirt tuxedo ($3,655) and the other in a $1,900 Catherine Regehr white dress.

    I hate the wedding industry soooooo much.

    Still, you’d think they’d have been lobbying for gay marriage for years. More income for them!

  36. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe June 17, 2008 at 1:35 pm |

    I understand the concerns of those who fear that gay marriage will be used as a club against the Democrats in November.

    But you know what? Sometimes doing the right thing means taking some political lumps. You just have to suck it up and take them (and swing back).

  37. shah8
    shah8 June 17, 2008 at 1:41 pm |

    PhysioProf, your post was sorta what I was talking about with history. Marriage would be a tad *better* if we went back to the Bronze Age. Certainly a heckuva lot more female friendly and friendly to the actual people getting married.

    Marriage as it is thought of now, is a product of the Iron Age, and of the various totalitarian/almost totalitarian states engaged in total warfare–Assyria, Rome, Qin…states like those because it was easier to *find*, *draft*, and *use* the common people who are in nuclear type arraignmnets. It is also easier to keep a person atomized in such a relationship and prevent assemblies without spies knowing about it.

    Now, that having been said, guys…have you really thought about how a government is going to handle the various official documents and functions? With taxes in mind, the government has minor conniptions over hispanic matrilinal y patrilinial last names. I don’t think tax people and forms would have a huge problems with even completely unusual sexual arraignments, since it has had experience with tons of really wierd familys, blended, adoptions, etc, etc…

    But what about other government functions? What about the various legalities that revolve around privacy, like hospital visits? What about rights towards children for those of you with multiple partners, or some other unusual arraignment? I mean…marriage, as much as anyone else is concerned, is primarily concerned with what happens once it is dissolved, through death or dislike. Man…I think it would be fun to try and work this out from a government perspective as well as envisioning a society that is overty accepting of multiple partnership types.

  38. Radfem
    Radfem June 17, 2008 at 1:43 pm |

    Thank you for your article. I think that like all communities, they mirror structural and systemic problems in society.

    There’s racism and sexism and classism in the gay and lesbian communities in my area and even in issues that impact gays, lesbians and transgenders of color like police brutality, they always pick White middle-class or affluent men and women in the gay and lesbian community to be the spokesperson or representative even if they have no clue what they’re talking about. Even though there’s issues that gays and lesbians have in common because of homophobia and transgenders because of transphobia but then there’s issues that tie gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queers and transgenders of color with heterosexual men and women of color and with ableism and classism too. That’s where some good coalition building has taken place with Incite! and other organizations which address police brutality and other violence towards these communities.

    Forget the transgendered community locally, as they are treated as if they are invisble especially if they’re not White or middle-class.

    But I can’t help recalling some mention of a constitutional amendment in California that would ban same-sex marriage, that’s up for a vote in November. It would be rather a shame if this euphoria lasted only 5 months, wouldn’t it? So I can quite understand why it would be not just a “keep our heads down, guys, maybe they won’t notice us” and more a “let’s show our best face and get people on our side”.

    Yeah, definitely seen this. I was at the county admin. headquarters this morning and some friends were handing out cake and flowers to same sex couples which was a wonderful thing, very celebratory and guardedly hopeful and you have the feeling that yeah, it’s five months between the judicial ruling and the Marriage Protection Act initiative this November. I can understand on some level the push towards normative presentation especially in the media. Don’t think I agree with it, but I think I can understand it.

  39. shah8
    shah8 June 17, 2008 at 2:45 pm |

    Actually, can I get a link to a page of what precisely are the legal and social rights that are desired for an inclusive grouping of alternative sexuality?

    I’m curious now…

  40. maatnofret
    maatnofret June 17, 2008 at 3:02 pm |

    “I definitely did not want them to be camp.”

    …which leaves out the KISS theme wedding, the Star Trek weddings (I remember one where the groom was a Klingon Elvis impersonator. Good times.), the LOTR weddings, goth weddings, and the Renfest weddings too numerous to mention.

    Apparently, having a wedding that isn’t completely milquetoast and boring is an emblem of straight privilege. Sigh.

  41. Dia14
    Dia14 June 17, 2008 at 3:13 pm |

    Keep your pants on, Jack. Sure it sucks that anyone would be telling LGBT people to “tone it down” for the public eye, and I hate the “cleansing” of our public imagery as much as the next queer. But the fact is that most of the couples getting married now really are as boring and as mainstream as most straight couples lining up at the town clerk’s office on any given day. I was in Provincetown registering to get married on May 17th, 2004, the very first day same-sex marriage became legal there, and all of the media trucks that lined up to get a glimpse of the “freaks” were sadly disappointed. Truth is, we were just a bunch of mostly middle-aged people who had been together for 5+ years, many of us with children in tow. And really: even if you’re out there in the clubs, you’re not necessarily going to wear your chaps or bustier to the clerk’s office anymore than you’re likely to wear either item to your local drugstore. So let’s chill on the chest beating.

  42. NancyP
    NancyP June 17, 2008 at 3:18 pm |


    Just because a same-gender couple wants to marry doesn’t mean that they don’t want to see universal health coverage. It isn’t an either/or proposition.

  43. NancyP
    NancyP June 17, 2008 at 3:24 pm |

    Also, why should LGBT couples buy into the ridiculous expense of straight-style marriage? Get the certificate. Throw a party. Skip the obsessing over the perfect outfits and flowers and…., and just have fun and be good hosts.

  44. Daomadan
    Daomadan June 17, 2008 at 3:25 pm |

    Just a random thing that’s been bothering me about some of the marriage coverage is the bisexual erasure. This also happened when Robyn Ochs got married in Massachusetts.

    Lindasusan Ulrich and Emily Drennen were profiled about their marriage and wrongly called lesbians when in fact they are both bisexual women:

  45. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl June 17, 2008 at 3:35 pm |

    shah8: Are you serious? This is 2008 and you’re saying you don’t know what rights are denied gays/lesbians/queers/trans? Seriously?


  46. shah8
    shah8 June 17, 2008 at 5:27 pm |

    Well, I’m not sure if I know or not. This isn’t a topic that I’m hugely familiar with outside of having gay friends, and having gay friends that you talk about with doesn’t qualify you as a gay expert any more than having a black friend makes you an expert on black people. I have an idea of what rights queers don’t have, but I want a more concrete understanding.

  47. Dia14
    Dia14 June 17, 2008 at 6:13 pm |

    No need for shame, shah8. According to a recent post by Pam Spaulding, “a recent survey conducted at Hunter College found that most gays and lesbians don’t know what their rights are either.”

    Spaulding’s post is a good place to start.

  48. annaham
    annaham June 17, 2008 at 6:16 pm |

    Great post, Jack. As a young, happily partnered feminist who has a lot of problems with the institution of marriage, I must extend a hearty “right on” to all you’ve said here, even though my privilege is probably showing.

    I am proud to say that I know a few of the individuals who were involved in writing the op-ed quoted in full at the end of your post!

  49. Dia14
    Dia14 June 17, 2008 at 6:20 pm |

    There is no unified “gay movement,” Jack–just a whole bunch of people whose only common factor is that they all know something about homophobia (pace Butler). And I don’t see a whole hell of a lot of the folks beating their chests about all of the resources that marriage advocates “waste” offering viable alternatives–or even understanding the many privileges that marriage extends to all queers, regardless of their gender expression, race, income, etc.

    Of course marriage isn’t the end all and be all. Of course it shouldn’t be the distribution center for privileges. Of course everyone should have access to universal health care, inheritance rights, hospital visitation, etc.

    But, per my girl Nancy P, “Just because a same-gender couple wants to marry doesn’t mean that they don’t want to see universal health coverage. It isn’t an either/or proposition.”

    Y’all start a viable movement for universal health coverage, I’ll march in its march and send it a check. But the whining about how the “movement” is so mainstream, and you’re oh-so-alienated because you’re so radical, is neither hip, progressive, new, interesting, or useful.

  50. RoRo
    RoRo June 17, 2008 at 7:00 pm |

    Hi Jack — Thanks for this post; it’s given me a lot to think about.

    Before I do all that thinking, though, I don’t think I necessarily agree with all you’re saying. I think the whitewashing of the public face of gay marriage is awful, but I don’t know that it matches the reality of what is happening. I haven’t seen the new CA marriage licence, but from what the ruling said, and what has been written in the papers about it, the license asks for “Party A” and “Party B”, with no mention of gender whatsoever. I believe then, that anyone, of any gender/sex/orientation/presentation/etc can now get married here to anyone they want.

    Granted, I live in the gay-as-in-happy bubble of the Castro in SF, and while the entire city is pretty notorious for gentrification, it is also extremely diverse in ethnicity and lifestyle. Trans people of all races barely get a nod, and interracial relationships of any sort are extremely commonplace. At least in my neighborhood, people are pretty stoked about this, and from the view here, it looks like there are plenty of blushing male brides in gowns, whether they’re making it onto the front pages or not.

    For those on the why-would-queers-want-to-marry-anyway kick, I’m not buying it. It just sounds way too much like “Why would a pretty little thing like you want to (work/go to college/go into politics)?” Why in the world does it matter to you what they want to do? A lot of gay couples do want a picket fence, and do want to throw a huge wedding, and don’t necessarily appreciate the fact that their relationship is a political issue to you or to the bigotted folks telling them they’re going to hell.

  51. Nellie
    Nellie June 17, 2008 at 7:24 pm |

    Dia14, critcism in response to many LGBT oranization’s efforts to make marriage the prime issue in queer activism isn’t an attempt to be “hip” or more-radical-than-thou. Opposition to making marriage equality the defining cause of queer activism comes from recognition that marriage will continue to be inacessible as a means from which to derive benefits for many queers, regardless of whether or not “same-sex marriage” is legalized.
    State sanctioned marriage has traditionally (and continues to) function as a model against which other types of relationships are judged. The existence of the necessarily 2-partner, monogamous, long-term standard legitmatied by the state simultaneously illegitmates and disadvanages any family that does not fit that model. Likewise, marriage has traditionally (and continues to be) less accessible to people of color and particularly immigrants whom are deemed “illegal’ by the state, due to the white supremacist ideologies tied up in the practice of Western marriage.
    Queer activists whom oppose working for marriage equality instead choose to focus their activism on more inclusive efforts to end oppression like promoting universal healthcare, immigrants rights, anti-racist work etc.

  52. links for 2008-06-18 | Flamingo House Happenings

    […] Feministe » Why this queer isn’t celebrating Of course, this is all par for the course when dealing with marriage equality, which has never been and can never be about true equality and justice for all people who fall within the LGBT spectrum. That’s because legal marriage is about sanctioning and (tags: glbt marriage equality relationships righton) […]

  53. Happy Gay Marriage Day! « zinepersephone

    […] of the happy and the buoyant.  This piece by Jack at Feministe is spot on.  Because we’re celebrating a fucking travesty of […]

  54. Isabel
    Isabel June 17, 2008 at 11:33 pm |

    Here’s where my mother would chime in and say “you see, YOU SEE? IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT CLASS” and I just nod along to her Marxist self.

    OMG, Ariel Silvera: YOUR MOTHER TOO???

    On a serious note: really good post, Jack. Weirdly, even though I have my own misgivings about the institution of marriage, and although I (very very cautiously as an outsider, since I’m straight) have recently also begun to see problems with the whole “gays are juuust like us!” thing, I hadn’t thought to put them together like this, to my own embarrassment now. Thank you for reposting that op-ed.

  55. Still Life with Wyliekat » In which I speak about being gay - something I know nothing about.

    […] What I am surprised by is this post at Feministe. […]

  56. Nick Kiddle
    Nick Kiddle June 18, 2008 at 10:42 am |

    I don’t even see what the point is of asking the “bad queers” to keep their heads down. It’s not as if the antis will be frustrated by the absence of really camp gay weddings to point to: they’ll just pump out the rhetoric anyway.

  57. Persia
    Persia June 18, 2008 at 11:00 am |

    Which doesn’t mean that I think civil marriage is an awesome institution, my anarcho-socialist heart won’t let me. But if there is a tool to protect my partnership and the children we plan to have, I feel I have to take it.

    It’s a struggle– which fight should be first? What’s the biggest ‘bang for the buck’ in a world with limited energy and resources?

    I also think there’s an argument to be made that gay marriage contributes to the ‘normalization’ of gays in a good way– that once you’re used to Jack and Tim down the road, the less mainstream aspects of queer culture seem less frightening. I don’t know if that’s right argument, but I think the more visible gay couples we have, the less likely young Billy is to have the shit kicked out of him just for being queer, and I think that’s absolutely a good thing. I don’t know if that means we should be focusing on the marriage fight first– but that’s my thought.

    (I’m glad you shared your feelings on this, Jack. I suspect I’ll be thinking about what you said for a while.)

  58. season of the bitch » Rules, choices, and marriage equality.

    […] on California’s gay marriages. Bitch, Ph.D. and Feministe also weigh in, with pictures. And Jack at Feministe notes that even with marriage equality, certain things are shoved in the […]

  59. anthro.pophago.us » del.icio.us links for 2008.06.18

    […] Why this queer isn’t celebrating "no camp here. No gender non-conformity, either…Why?…the marriage equality movement is largely predicated on the notion that us queers are just like “everyone else,” meaning mostly white, mostly middle-class or up, gender conforming monogamists." […]

  60. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos June 18, 2008 at 3:00 pm |

    Nick Kiddie: That’s true, it doesn’t matter how many thousand nice normal-looking men and women you get in your march, the cameras will always zoom in and pick out the queen in the feather boa or the proud dyke on the Harley. And there is an interesting phenomenon that I’ve found happens which is that queers can’t win the image contest for trying. Gay men are seen as feminine, hypermasculine, or vainly metrosexual regardless of their actual behavior.

  61. Gay Marriage Day « Pure Product of America

    […] They’ve been together for over fifty years. Longer than my parents’ marriage lasted, and longer than most relationships will last. They deserve that respect. The picture above is from their first marriage back in 2004. The first gay couples to marry were carefully selected from central casting, with the understanding that there’d be no camp, no men in dresses, nothing crazy to end up in the public eye. This leaves some gays or lesbians infuriated. […]

  62. woland
    woland June 18, 2008 at 9:33 pm |

    I completely agree that we shouldn’t privilege monogamous couplehood over other relationships, but I have to take exception to this:

    Because the marriage equality movement is largely predicated on the notion that us queers are just like “everyone else,” meaning mostly white, mostly middle-class or up, gender conforming monogamists.

    This may be true of some branches of the movement, but some of the most important rights attached to marriage have to do with immigration status, poverty, and disability. My spouse is an immigrant (and once got an order to leave the country from immigration Canada), and being able to get married was a big deal for getting her status straightened out. And since we both have chronic health problems and have had low incomes for most of the time we’ve been together, sharing health benefits and having decision-making status clear is really important to us.

    It sucks that the most “telegenic” plaintiffs are always chosen for test cases – there are a lot of reasons for that, all of which piss me off – but that doesn’t mean that white upper-middle-class monogamous types are the only ones who benefit from marriage.

  63. southpaw
    southpaw June 18, 2008 at 9:46 pm |

    I don’t understand why the flaws in the movement or the PR campaign are particularly important. The law in California now says that everyone should have equal rights with respect to marriage.

    If you want to have the campiest wedding ever and send the photo album and the video to every Republican voter in the country, you can. You could have even before this decision–it just wouldn’t have had legally binding effect. The difference arising from this decision is that the clerk at the courthouse will duly record your wedding as a marriage, and you and your partner will have all the rights and privileges in law that any married couple has.

    That’s all Justices of Supreme Court or the law can really do. They can’t change the culture of free people by fiat; that end will come more slowly and incompletely and with lots of people working at cross-purposes. The law is no longer bolstering the right in their kulturkampf; the law is neutral now in California. And that’s something everyone can be happy about. Freedom rings.

  64. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos June 19, 2008 at 12:42 am |


    Part of the problem is that once again, we are being asked to put on a nice media-friendly face, as if that has ever been a simple matter of buying a suit at Sears.

    The basic fact of the matter is that for some of us, it’s not an act. I was called out as a sissy in elementary school, and called out as a faggot more than a decade before I realized that I really wasn’t heterosexual. And I’ve rarely intentionally crossed the line into flaming and flamboyance. But fuck if I don’t get called out as a “fucking faggot” in jeans and a t-shirt.

    So yeah, same-sex marriage is a big deal. But, Lawrence King was killed in the same state because he was a feminine gay teen. His killer’s defense is that Lawrence King’s behavior was so feminine, and so gay, that it made the school a hostile environment.

    We need to be a community that is openly accepting of gender expression, and advocates for open acceptance of gender expression. Lives are at stake behind this.

  65. southpaw
    southpaw June 19, 2008 at 1:03 am |

    But part of the problem is that all those legal rights and privileges shouldn’t be predicated on marriage.

    I hear you. I don’t think the government should be in the marriage business at all; let’s have a flexible domestic partnership (or something) without all the religious baggage. But, to my mind, that’s the beauty of the California decision. The Justices say: You don’t have to have gay marriage, but if you don’t, then according to our constitution you can’t have marriage at all. So we end up–right away–with a marriage-based system that’s better than what came before, and, to the extent that marriage-based doesn’t work out, the Supreme Court’s reasoning paves the way for a truly egalitarian and secular solution in the future. (And I think we’ll find that the decision also frees up resources within the LGBT community to pursue the more congenial goals you’re writing about.)

  66. A poem, for the queers in California « Supergirl Saves the World

    […] started this poem a few days ago.  This blog post helped me clarify what else it needed.  But now I think it’s too all over the place. Tell me […]

  67. Thanks, Tila! at AngryBrownButch
    Thanks, Tila! at AngryBrownButch June 19, 2008 at 5:05 pm |

    […] little levity for you: while the debate about whether marriage equality is something to unequivocally celebrate continues, at least one thing has been cleared up. We now know who to thank for the victory in […]

  68. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla June 19, 2008 at 10:21 pm |

    Haven’t had time to read the entire comment thread, so I might be repeating something someone else said. But, thank, *thank*, THANK you, Jack, for saying this, it brings tears to my eyes, b/c I have felt so long that it seems like the white upper-class assimilationist gay/lesbian community has been driving this as the most freakin’ important issue, thus leaving behind 90% or more of the queer community, and also, as you mentioned, many, many groups of people who are non-queer but still ouside the heteronormative ideal (polyamorous, siblings, elderly folks caring for each other, etc).

    I am getting so *sick* of the mainstream LG press pounding this issue over and over, while ignoring or paying lip service to the issues of the *vast* majority of trans people. The ENDA fight drove home for me that mainstream LG orgs don’t give a fuck about most queer people. I am getting *sick* of being afraid to discuss the fact that SSM doesn’t help me, a trans woman, get medical treatment, or keep a job or a roof over my head, for fear that a gazillion people, especially well-off white gay men and not a few straight allies, are going to pile on me — including on this blog — for daring to state that lots of people would like to just be able to *survive* and keep their jobs and not be murdered, and how dare I stand in the way of their glorious marriages, and their right to suck up to heteronormative (and racist and classist, dare I say) power structures?

    Sorry for the long rant, but I’m just really angry about this.

  69. Oh, I’m Just Thrilled by SSM in CA « Galling Galla

    […] I can’t say it better than Jack does. […]

  70. Karen
    Karen June 23, 2008 at 3:56 am |

    Right on!! It’s certainly true that most acceptance of diversity (concerning sexuality, race, ethnicity, or whatever) is predicated on the assumption that they’re really just like us.

    As for:

    Blended and extended families; single parents; close friends, siblings, or senior citizens serving as primary caregivers to each other

    would it be too radical to include single people as if their lives were as valid and deserving of the same respect as anyone else’s?

  71. Noli Irritare Leones » Blog Archive » “for the most part monogamous, but for maybe a casual three-way”: on monogamy and non-monogamy

    […] or worse, marriage will change the GLBT community, in just the ways Jonathan Rauch approves, and Jack at Feministe fears. If you can be accepted yourself, will you continue to be quite as eager to defend those choices […]

  72. Censoring Joy « What Sorts of People

    […] the rest of the story, and some interesting discussion see the whole shebang here. Posted in Discrimination, Feminism, Gay marriage, Human relationships, Identity politics, LGBT […]

  73. Sheryl
    Sheryl June 27, 2008 at 3:38 pm |

    This is an excellent post, which confronts some of my own prejudices. I am not a typical reader in that I have some cognitive dissonance about gay relationships.

    In watching the coverage of same sex marriages, I have thought, “If this is the face of gay marriage, it’s very sweet.” In other words, these are the “right kind” of gays, and it has passified my feelings a lot.

    I’m sure that kind of comment will deeply offend you and your readers, since I’m sure you will think appeasing people is at best moot, and nauseating at worst. I’m sorry; I’m trying to be open, and work through my thoughts honestly.

    In any case, I absolutely agree that any and all benefits, financial or otherwise should be awarded to everyone. Whatever our sexual orientation, we should all get the same tax breaks. In fact, since marriage is a religious institution (again I’m sorry, those words probably make your skin crawl) it really shouldn’t be endorsed by the state at all.

    I enjoy your writing, thanks.

  74. Ellie
    Ellie June 29, 2008 at 4:54 am |

    Marriage is not something I want for myself, but I don’t want to deny others the choice. I do want the same rights as common law/married straight couples (like the tax breaks…).

  75. Nossie
    Nossie July 2, 2008 at 2:56 am |

    Reading the article and comments only makes me realise how unwilling most people are to making a commitment for fear of offense or losing an option. Everybody seems intent on having their cake and eating it. “I’m against marriage, but I respect people’s choices and I would even marry myself if I could because it would benefit me.” Hearing people who consider themselves radicals and queers – you know who you are – jumping on the marriage bandwagon instead of rejecting any association turns this into a short-circuiting stance. You are either against marriage or for it and I find it very difficult to understand the point of criticising the institution theoretically only to support it practically. Hypocrisy is still in the dictionary, looking stronger and brighter with every passing day.

    I can only say I am going through one of my typical (non-?post-?trans-?) identity crises again. Homosexual I never was, gay is all about complacency and queer has been co-opted. I now use queer purely as an umbrella word. I guess somebody’s going to have to start reclaiming fag, because when queers start yacking about getting married the word is no longer meaningful.

    There is a difference between not wanting to marry and refusing the institution altogether. But if you are against the institution of marriage YOU HAVE TO deny the choice for everybody else! It’s like saying you are against partisan politics and voting for Obama because “the country is in need”.

    I’m constantly reminded of Ellen when she talked about Lawrence King on her show and how she said “you know I am not a political person” and then goes on and on about how awful the death is and ends her speech asking viewers to vote consciously for anti-homophobic candidates in the elections. First, they’re all homophobic. Second, you cannot say you are not political and then ask somebody else to vote. Don’t you intend to vote yourself? Do you want people to do the dirty work for you? Third, this IS a political issue indeed! Lawrence got killed for political reasons.

    This is what happens when your entire political vocabulary is a mess! (And all of our political vocabulary is a mess right now because it’s been rendered useless…) This is what allows us to define ourselves as anarcho-syndicalists while saying we want to get married at the same time! (Those tax breaks are mighty convenient…)

    Being pushed into a corner is what I’m used to. It only forces me to be more creative. Since I can no longer identify with queer and its “we don’t want to offend anybody even though we think it’s the wrong choice and we might even do it ourselves eventually” I’m looking for a word I can adopt and politics I can call my own. Anybody has some to spare?

  76. Faith Cheltenham
    Faith Cheltenham July 6, 2008 at 6:36 pm |

    Thanks for this, have ya’ll seen this?

    Every bisexual activist I know is quite up in arms over the words Lesbian and Gay. We’ve got a lot to fight, but two words really rile folks up, “Lesbian and Gay”. With one marriage battle, it could effectively erase an entire category of people. I do not want to be a Lesbian and I do not want to be Straight, I AM Bisexual. My marriage will be bisexual by nature as there’ll be at least one bi in it.

  77. Nossie
    Nossie July 6, 2008 at 9:38 pm |


    You are right. I should just use my own name as self-definition and make my own vocabulary. In other words, realise that any form of collective politics is useless and that as long as I disagree with anybody else I will be tagged as Superior.

    Thank you for letting me know once again I stand alone and have nothing in common with anybody else.

  78. Rickie
    Rickie August 4, 2008 at 7:05 pm |

    You know, I totally think that we queers should not get married until EVERYBODY’S concerns are addressed. In fact, I’m not going for my driver’s license until undocumented people can have driver’s licenses. I’m also not voting until I am absolutely confident that all votes are counted. I don’t think we should fight for abortion rights either, not when women in China have forced abortions. As a matter of fact, I refuse to celebrate any victory until ALL the problems of the world are solved. Oh, and anyone who paints her nails is a bad feminist.

    But then on second thought, I think maybe I’m gonna celebrate a step in the right direction, thank those who DO support my marriage, and continue fighting for anyone who is still excluded. Including you racists who think marriage is a white middle class thing.

    I think some of us have lost track of what we used to stand for. Whatever happened to respecting other people’s choices and this novel concept of live and let live?

    Just for the record, I’m a genderqueer, and my partner and I will both be wearing suits.

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