I have always had pretty strong feels about the gay marriage issue, ever since I was in high school and they have changed pretty drastically over the years. Back in the days of my high school GSA, it seemed incredibly simple – totally black and white. I thought “of course gay marriage should be legal! That would end homophobia and gay and lesbian folks would be totally equal.” I was so passionate about the issue and I used to get angry at my passively homophobic dad for not understanding why it mattered so much to me. Fast forward to a couple of years later, before I came out as Queer, when I first heard the argument against gay marriage from a radical lesbian’s point of view. She argued against marriage in general as a patriarchal institution and against gay marriage as an assimilationist tactic that would do nothing more than work homosexuality into the status quo. This drove me to do some more research and get to know the issue from a perspective I hadn’t really considered before – the radical Queer perspective. Once I finally did come out, I had a more thorough understanding of the issue and a hundred reasons why it was not okay. As a genderqueer person, I felt (and still feel) that gay marriage is exclusionary – it is specifically for and about cis gay and lesbian folks and completely ignores the fact that the fight for gay marriage effects the trans* community. The gay marriage movement also fails to address any of the more vital issues within the Queer community, including but not limited to Queer teen homelessness, sexual assault, suicide and murder, employment and housing discrimination, AIDS, lack of access to proper medical care (especially for trans* folks), and much, much more. Compared to all of these issues, gay marriage is not at all worth fighting for. I mean, how do Queer folks have the time or energy to even think about such an unimportant thing in the face of all this? The answer? Privilege.
Gay marriage is about meeting the wants and needs of cis white gay men and cis white lesbians of the middle class who may not have had to deal with most of those greater problems, perhaps because they have the class privilege or the white privilege or the cis privilege which keeps them safe. After all, if you are Queer, it is safer to also be white and middle class. All of the issues listed above certainly effect white folks, but the suffering of Queer People of Color is hugely disproportionate, especially in the case of trans* folks and this is another thing that the gay marriage movement is happy to ignore. Gay marriage is just not even important; it is literally the very least that can be done and it can really only appease some of the Queer community while ignoring the rest. But all the same, it is getting done.
The other day, I was talking to my dad about a documentary I recently watched called Celluloid Closet. I brought it up to him because it talked about the coded gay characters in a bunch of his favorite movies and I wanted to know if he had ever caught that. Our conversation turned into a discussion of the changes in the general attitude toward homosexuality and my dad said something that made me think – when he was growing up, the general belief was that if you were gay, something was wrong with you because being gay was just simply not normal. He grew up with the idea that homosexuality was not just wrong or abnormal, but totally uncommon. Nowadays, he said, it seems clear that being gay is at least just as common as being straight. Being Queer is not so abnormal after all, and it is therefore ridiculous to consider it a problem. Of course, I know the trouble with this idea – it’s only okay if it’s “normal” kind of bullshit, but it was actually quite a leap for my dad to make. The point is, his attitude toward homosexuality changed drastically from when he was growing up just based on the fact that he was more aware of it being a thing. Not a “normal” thing, just a thing that is common, that people do as part of their identities and their lives and who they are. All this brought about because there is more representation of gay folks in the media and more push for gay marriage. I’m not saying he isn’t still homophobic and he certainly doesn’t know how to process gender identity, but his new awareness of gay identities has helped him accept Lucky’s and my respective Queer identities despite not really understanding much about that. I guess my point is that while the gay marriage fight leaves us behind, the fact is, at this point, it is inevitable and, despite the fact that it does very little (if anything) to change the existing conditions of folks who suffer every day from patriarchal oppression, it has at least had the effect of bringing awareness to the issues where there previously was none.
Don’t take this as me condoning gay marriage. If anything, I just want this stupid ass movement over with. It really is the very least that can be done and, quite honestly, it is one of the few things that can be achieved by going through the legal system (of course, I’ve never been one to care much for the legal system). The gay marriage fight is all but over now and I say let’s just please get it the fuck over with already so we can focus on bigger, better things, like getting ENDA through the House, creating shelters and protection for our homeless youth, spreading awareness about the disproportionate suffering of our QPOC brothers, sisters and others. Let’s lose this distraction and get to the real issues at hand.