Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

I know you want to hear more of my anti-marriage thoughts...

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | May 28, 2008 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: anti-marriage, California State Supreme Court, gay marriage, marriage, queer, same-sex marriage

Though I am a queer person living in San Francisco, I will not be celebrating the California Supreme Court decision overturning the ban on same-sex marriage. Nor will I join those who say, "I would never choose to get married, but I think everyone should have the right." Sorry, honey -- marriage is depressing, period. That means gay marriage, too. And here's why.

The rest is over on AlterNet.


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marriage is a commitment to be a true friend and lover for a lifetime...it is a tall order. and yes, many cannot live up to that commitment, but that does not make the concept wrong.

there are many social injustices and problems that we all face in today's world. war, poverty, disease, famine...these are old problems that have never been solved. not that we should quit trying. but how is denying gay people equal rights going to have a positive impact on creating solutions? marriage equality is really just equality - not gay marriage.

you, and every member of the GLBT has the right to decide not to be married, as do our straight brothers and sisters. on the other hand, we are denied status as equal citizens. marriage equality goes a long way in correcting this inequity, both in a symbolic and practical sense. how can you argue against progress for social justice? it isn't enough? so argue for more jusice, not against the progress that is being made.

Whew! Thank goodness there are two Editor's Notes telling me where I can find a different opinion!

Oh, this old thing? I've had it for years!

But wait... where is the same Editor's Note on Greta Christina's article?

How will we find our way back to you, Mattilda?

Thank you for this, Mattilda.

Although we likely differ in our desire to work for the marriage rights of others that do believe in the "picket fence" ideal of family - I'm perfectly happy for others to have the option to participate in 1950s life - I agree about the LGbt lobby's desire to push queers into being "just like you straight people" is unfortunate. That said, the CA marriage decision did leave open the possibility for all state recognized unions to be called something else and thus, to be separated from traditional marriage and all its trappings. So long as the nomenclature is the same for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, the marriage decision is pretty clear that the wording can be something new and different.

This is what truly excites me about the decision - the possibilty that marriage could move away from being a state sponsored apparatus of control and normalization. I doubt it will go that way, particularly because so many in the LGbt community WANT to be part of the marriage institution, but stepping toward civil unions for all would certainly be progress to me.

Hi Mattilda! I've already told you that I agree with you about this. But can I just say that I LOVE that you're the fly in the ointment and that you're not letting this one go? Thanks for continuing to make a stink.

Mattilda--
While I understand that you have a strong ideological basis for your beliefs and that I am unlikely to change your mind, I feel that I must continue to speak up whenever anyone wants to deny my equality (or state that my equality is unimportant) due to their personal beliefs about how other people should live their lives or because of their stereotypes about me and my family. You know that denying gay and lesbian families that want to get married will do nothing to provide AIDS healthcare or education to anyone, nor will it help anyone fight drug problems or violence, and it certainly won't change immigration policy or end the war. Despite your implication to the contrary, allowing gay people to get married will not stop anyone from living in any grouping that they wish or having sex with whomever they desire. Not one right that any person has today will be taken away nor does anyone seriously believe that marriage equality is the culmination of the gay rights struggle (other than a few conservatives who are far outside the mainstream of the community).
As to the topic of assimilationism, I haven't read your book but I've always understood that term to refer to gay and lesbian people who want other gay and lesbian people to be like straight people or who feel that the community would face less discrimination if we acted more like straight people or downplayed our differences from them. If you feel that this has anything to do with marriage equality, then you've bought into the right's definitional argument that marriage inexorably is bound to heterosexuality. Most of the couples that I know that are planning on getting legally married are already married in every way but in how they are treated by the government, and have been committed to each other for many years. Just as I remind people on the right that no straight person will leave their straight marriage once gay couples can get married, no one who is in an alternative living/loving/lusting arrangement will leave that and pair off solely because gay couples who want to marry are no longer discriminated against. As a community, we can only achieve freedom when we support the rights of ALL of us to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, even those who are different than us or who we disagree with.

Yoav, I think you're missing the point. No one's relying on the hope that unequal rights for queers will somehow stop the war or result in universal health care.

But there is the very real observation that marriage advocacy has dominated the "gay agenda" over the past many years. I work with a state LGBT organization and have seen the very clear impact that relationship recognition for monogamous gays and lesbians takes up more staff time, volunteer time, and budget than all the other issues combined. We've managed to do some non-marriage stuff during this time, but it's obviously a lot less than what would have been accomplished if those resources weren't sucked up by marriage advocacy.

Additionally, the way in which marriage is advocated for is sometimes based upon an argument that further justifies the exclusion of other populations from marriage rights. You see, monogamous gays and lesbians aren't the only people not allowed to marry their partners. I often get frustrated with a marriage advocacy that only wants to get one more population marriage rights while proclaiming that the others also denied those rights are somehow undeserving.

I personally won't be fighting to deny rights to gays and lesbians, but I will loudly complain and proclaim that what we ought to be doing is getting marriage rights for ALL people. That includes the non-monogamous, siblings supporting each other, non-sexual friends/partners, and the unmarried in general.

AlterNet? Right on, Mattilda! How'd you end up with a gig at AlterNet? :) They pick up posts from us often, but this looks like you got to write it just for them.

I told myself that there was nothing left to say after three posts on the same topic from the same person in three days...(is there an editor here?)...but...

It is just swell that everyone thinks marriage is over promoted and divisive as a political topic and as a social institution it has baggage that is despicable at best and questionable at least.

Did any of you read the decision issued by the CA Supreme Court? I know it is a dorky thing and it's not an easy read and might even taint your fingers with the filmy residue of patriarchy...while you type away on your laptops, talk on your cell phones, listen to your i-pods, play the wii, etc etc (just some of the ways you participate in the system you eschew)...but the decision is an exciting validation - to me - of my right to expect full citizenship in the county I was born in and apparently will continue to live in until I die.

It has been determined that I have every reason to expect equal protection. I'm content with that. If you want to ignore the facts and focus instead on the philosophy, I am content with that too.

I appreciate Mattilda's ongoing rant (I'm good at that too), but I think this guys says it better with a bit more clarity and order: http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=5698

Jerindc, marriage is a system of property relations -- nothing more. What I'm saying is that everyone should have rights, not just married people.

Kevin, you're right that is spooky -- who are they trying to protect?

Moe, you're right that that is an interesting part of the decision -- the idea that the whole big thing could be called something else... and I like your invitation of "the possibilty that marriage could move away from being a state sponsored apparatus of control and normalization." But I think you're right that it doesn't seem to be moving in that direction...

Serena, the fly in the ointment! I love that image...

Yoav, the "marriage equality movement" supports the rights of some people at the cost of the rest. And yes, marriage is absolutely a dominant system of heterosexual oppression/privilege, no question about that!

And Tobi, thank you for that palpable example -- and all your analysis...

Bil, I'm a tricky girl -- or that's what they say...

Patrick, Tommi's article is great -- and I'm sure you'll be excited to hear that he has a piece in That's Revolting!, as well.

And thank you, Eric!

Causing quite the stir just in time to sell more books. Good luck with that.

I know Tommi is in your book. I own it.

In his piece Mecca speaks of class issues among the comfy gays in the Castro that are more willing to fuck the homeless boys in the neighborhood than they are interested in providing a shelter for them.

Selfishness is a human trait and homos aren't exempt from being self-centered, shallow, and extremely NIMBY minded. The "i've got mine, go get yours" philosophy of life is indefensible.

That's Revolting is an excellent collection of essays. Everyone should be smart enough to seek out and read diverse viewpoints - and everyone should also be exposed to history.

The equal protection guarantee in the 14th amendment of the US Constitution is also a fascinating concept with a hard fought history. It was written in the blood of slaves. It is worthy of recognition, support, and contemporary application. That is exactly what the CA Supreme Court did two weeks ago.

That is what should not be ignored in a conversation about marriage.

I told myself that there was nothing left to say after three posts on the same topic from the same person in three days...(is there an editor here?)...but...

There is! I'm back!

Oh, there were others while I was gone. But we don't sit around and tell contributors what they can post on or not....

Mattilda, neat article on AlterNet. It's interesting how many people focus on the rights associated with marriage but never question why they're associated with marriage.... Everyone interested in marriage as a legal/policy issue should read Nancy Polikoff's book.

Patrick, I'm not sure I see the connection between the 14th amendment and the California Supreme Court marriage decision, though I certainly agree everyone should be exposed to history...

Alex, welcome back!

Oh, and Here -- how did you know that I planned the California Supreme Court marriage decision just to sell books? I want a glimpse at your sources...

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | June 4, 2008 6:24 PM

All this is is the retro-queer version of one of Ann Coulter's rants -- minus the wit and well-informed intellect.

Hint: Minimum reading for astute commentary on a court decision of this magnitude and scope is the full decision, including the additional majority opinions and the minority ones as well, and the black letter and caselaw on which it is based. A thorough reading of the briefs is also advised along with the documents referenced in them. In addition, a foundational study of the relevant history, law, and sociology related but not covered in the above would't hurt.

Clearly, from the post's author's comments revealing pitifully gross ignorance on his part about some of the most important and potentially far-reaching aspects of the ruling, even the bare-bones part of this self-education has yet to take place.

If you care about our civil rights at all, this decision could not be more welcome what with the designation of gay people as a suspect class being the perhaps the biggest payoff of them all.

Marla,

Are you visiting every blog discussing the issue and insisting they do enough reading to practically get a law degree before they comment? Or is it only the people you disagree with who you hold to that standard.

Speaking of Coulter-esque rants, your comment is completely devoid of any real reasoning or criticism. All you've got here is a strawperson claim, the assumption those who disagree with you could only do so out of ignorance, a few ad hominem attacks, and to top it off, some mis-pronouning (which, someone as educated as you should be aware, is extremely derogatory).

Hint: Just because you don't understand an argument, doesn't mean it is an uninformed argument. Minimum reading for commenting on this post would be Mattilda's book: That's Revolting, several courses worth of queer studies, and all the canonical articles on anti-assimilation as applied to several different movements. {/sarcasm}

Marla R. Stevens | June 5, 2008 12:01 AM

No, Tobi, but I am posting that everywhere I've read where a post belies that its author has failed to at least have read the decision -- a decision which Mr. Chief Justice George so recognized the importance of that he took particular pains to write it as much absent of legal jargon and in as accessible to the every man reader as possible, making your claim that I'm being unreasonable about this as in "practically [needing to] get a law degree" quite inaccurate. That you were not aware of how accessibly written it is also exposes you as one who has not read the opinion, by the way.

I admit to not having read Mattilda's book but it's hardly comparable, as Mattilda rather clearly makes her points without need of such a reference. I'm not opposed to reading it, however, and have added it to my reading list for the future. It's a long list and I'm a slow but thorough reader, however, so I cannot guarantee any particular time of estimated completion but it is on the list.

As for the mis-pronouning, I offer a sincere mea culpa, not understanding that there was more than mere camp attached to the Mattilda moniker of the sort where either masculine or feminine pronoun use would be interchangeably appropriate. Anyone who knows me would know that I would never intentionally use an inappropriate or inaccurate pronoun -- particularly as a way of criticizing someone or their ideas -- and that my apology for this misunderstanding is sincere and abject. I meant absolutely no harm, slight, or offense -- that it was an honest but terrible gaff for which I humbly beg forgiveness from both Mattilda herself and anyone else who even tangentially was caused any discomfort whatsoever.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | June 5, 2008 1:38 AM

No, Tobi, but I am posting that everywhere I've read where a post belies that its author has failed to at least have read the decision -- a decision which Mr. Chief Justice George so recognized the importance of that he took particular pains to write it as much absent of legal jargon and in as accessible to the every man reader as possible, making your claim that I'm being unreasonable about this as in "practically [needing to] get a law degree" quite inaccurate. That you were not aware of how accessibly written it is also exposes you as one who has not read the opinion, by the way.

I admit to not having read Mattilda's book but it's hardly comparable, as Mattilda rather clearly makes her points without need of such a reference. I'm not opposed to reading it, however, and have added it to my reading list for the future. It's a long list and I'm a slow but thorough reader, however, so I cannot guarantee any particular time of estimated completion but it is on the list.

As for the mis-pronouning, I offer a sincere mea culpa, not understanding that there was more than mere camp attached to the Mattilda moniker of the sort where either masculine or feminine pronoun use would be interchangeably appropriate. Anyone who knows me would know that I would never intentionally use an inappropriate or inaccurate pronoun -- particularly as a way of criticizing someone or their ideas -- and that my apology for this misunderstanding is sincere and abject. I meant absolutely no harm, slight, or offense -- that it was an honest but terrible gaff for which I humbly beg forgiveness from both Mattilda herself and anyone else who even tangentially was caused any discomfort whatsoever.

Marla, as I'm sure you can tell, my opinions about (gay) marriage go way beyond this particular "legal" decision... as for camp, well it should never be "mere"...

But wait -- more thoughts on camp -- of course you're right that there are many places where it goes nowhere, oh the tragedy of missed connections! But I believe in camp as a satirical tool to undo, or at least expose, all the hierarchies around us...

I wasn't claiming that the opinion was inaccessible, just the "additional majority opinions and the minority ones as well, and the black letter and caselaw on which it is based. A thorough reading of the briefs is also advised along with the documents referenced in them." Not to mention the fact that Mattilda's article isn't a criticism of the opinion itself, but about not seeing marriage as a universal right being cause for celebration.

As for myself, I haven't read it, just excerpts and analysis. From what I have read, it seems that while it confirms marriage as a right for every (romantically involved, sexual, non-related, and coupled) person, it does nothing to provide the rights associated with marriage to those who will still be unable to get married due to legal prohibition, circumstance, or desire. I can still see the good in the decision, but from a personal perspective, it's annoying to hear celebration of "marriage for everyone" when I will still be prohibited from marrying my partner or from accessing relationship recognition rights without being married.

...it was an honest but terrible gaff ...

Upon reading that, my first thought was, I've had to deal with those before and can sympathize. Nothing is worse than a terrible gaff. Especially when it slips and bunches everything up and you can't get away to a bathroom to rearrange it. *wink*

Just a quick jump-in:

I've known Marla for almost 15 years now. She is one of the most conscientious about gender identity and pronouns. I remember one of the first times we chatted over e-mail and I blew off at the mouth about "crazy trannies" and how different they were and blah, blah, blah. It was all horrible. Marla took me to the woodshed and laid down the law on "This is why what you said makes no damn sense and you better shape up quick."

Shortly thereafter, I met Marti and really knew how crazy... Wait. *grins*

Seriously though, I have to admit that I struggle with Mattilda's gender pronouns. I find it almost impossible to refer to "him" as "her." When Alex and I talk on the phone and we're deep in a discussion and Mattilda comes up, I almost inevitably screw up and say "his" or "him" at least once and Alex corrects me. I've also had at least a dozen e-mails from confused readers too.

Perhaps that should be a post for you to do, Mattilda. Why the "I look like a guy, I have sex like a guy (not a lot of women cruise parks for pick ups), etc, but I prefer a female name." Other than the flamboyancy of dressing a little odd with bright colors and mismatched patterns, I've never really noticed anything really "feminine" about Mattilda other than the name. I'd really like you to explore this topic, Mattilda. I think a lot of our readers would really enjoy it.

Oh, bil pointed me to this thread. It's alive!

I will say that reducing the argument against marriage (I don't think Mattilda's position is just against same-sex marriage, but against all marriage) to what was written in that alternet article is a good way to respond to it. I was disappointed, actually, that the article was so short (I know, space concerns) because it didn't really get into any of the details or proofs or nuances of the argument, just like saying "The decision legalized gay marriage" would be a horrible reduction of the impact of that decision.

Just throwin' that in there. Of course, I'm someone who frequents blogs with 2K-word posts, so maybe I'm biased in favor of bloggy length.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | June 5, 2008 10:51 AM

Bil -- Thanks for the vote of confidence and for helping me understand the source of my confused error but you're probably being too generous. I literally hesitated over the pronoun when writing, not knowing which was the one I should use and, under that circumstance, I should've been more consciencious and either taken the pains to better research it or rewritten so as to avoid having to make the choice altogether.

I don't think people always need to pin themselves down about their gender -- that those among us with the spirit that can pull off one that is as ethereally unpinnable as Mattilda's appears to be are gifts to us all -- the classical fools in our midst who keep us unsettled, out of ruts in our thinking, and thus freer to imagine possible solutions to problems of myriad types and new ways of being that can enrich human experience beyond our imagination.

As queer people, we are all heirs to at least some of this -- no matter where we are individually on the gender diagraph -- and it is one of the reasons I am a queer supremacist.

Marla, this is beautiful:

"I don't think people always need to pin themselves down about their gender -- that those among us with the spirit that can pull off one that is as ethereally unpinnable as Mattilda's appears to be are gifts to us all -- the classical fools in our midst who keep us unsettled, out of ruts in our thinking, and thus freer to imagine possible solutions to problems of myriad types and new ways of being that can enrich human experience beyond our imagination."

Bil, I think I'll leave that as my response to your question, for now, but one never knows :)

I'm certainly not afraid of confusion...

And Alex, yes indeed it's an argument against marriage as a whole, you're right about that -- the piece in question is, of course, not my whole argument, as most will know -- it was written as an op-ed, with such space constraints (around 650 words max) in consideration (actually I tried to get it as short as possible, to give it a higher likelihood of getting into one of the corporate dailies, but it didn't quite make it there -- AlterNet was probably a better place for it, anyway) -- and also, it's written within the convention of op-eds, focused on opinion, not "proof."

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | June 17, 2008 3:18 AM

Mattilda --

Free gift, no strings attached...

-- Marla