Alex Blaze

Well, of course we can't let the riff-raff get married, it would ruin it for the rest of us!

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 25, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics, The Movement
Tags: assimilation, California, image, marriage, same-sex marriage, San Francisco

I mean, that's pretty much all I'm hearing from this (via Feministe):

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 persuade 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 to the other side.

We all know what that means. In fact, it's a whole lot more explicit, after the jump.

I held off on posting this for a week because it just didn't seem right to criticize marriage advocates on their big week in California. Then again, it doesn't seem right for them to criticize LGBT people who are getting married on their big wedding days.

What's going around is the same ridiculous argument that gets used against same-sex marriage generally - Your marriage is going to hurt my marriage - being used all over again to marginalize queers who might do crazy things like cross-dress or act kinda flamboyant. (Remember, it's gay marriage, not transgender marriage or queer marriage or genderqueer marriage, so please don't spoil their party.)

One person makes it clear who is and who isn't welcome:

"One of the things that have hurt the gay effort in California is the exhibitionism in San Francisco," which doesn't always play well elsewhere, said political analyst Tony Quinn.

During the campaign for Proposition 22, the successful 2000 initiative that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, Quinn said many Californians were appalled by images of groups like the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of gay male activists who dressed up like nuns.

With the initiative looming, proponents of same-sex marriage now are taking care to emphasize mainstream unions.

That's right, Tony Quinn! That explains why the state with the most in-your-face flamboyance and take-it-to-the-streets camp is one of the only two that allows same-sex marriage!

Oh, wait, actually, uh, reality completely contradicts what Quinn said. But who cares? Jeez, some people might think that he is one of them!

Either way, why would the Sisters show up to a wedding unless they were invited? And who's he to criticize someone else's invite list?

Keeping celebrations tame may be tough, he said. "It's a micro-manager's nightmare. There's no way to control everything. All we can do is remind people that it is really important."

That's pretty much saying it all right there - it's about control and managing the way other people express their love. It's an extension of a larger battle over who's a part of this movement and who isn't, and they're drawing the lines around themselves.

It's the same as the ENDA battle: who's going to hold back the good queers by speaking up and out?

The funny thing is that straight people are fine with outrageous weddings - that's why they invented Las Vegas. And no matter how gay people get married - overall, the pictures coming out of California last week were pretty traditional - there will always be some homophobes who manage to hate us.

Up in San Francisco, they're being more explicit about the rules:

When then-rookie Mayor Newsom defied state law and set off a national storm by sanctioning same-sex weddings at City Hall four years ago, his chief PR master at the time, Peter Ragone, laid down some do's and don'ts for how the story was to be staged for the media.

Make it about the people, not politics, Ragone emphasized. Make the weddings as normal-looking as possible. And whenever Newsom went in front of the cameras, Ragone made sure there was a U.S. flag in the background.

Just like four years ago, the story line Newsom and gay activists are pitching this time is about fairness and "couples next door."

Some of the do's and don'ts this time out include:

-- No stunts. "This is about people, not press conferences," Newsom said. "We want voters to see real people who have real commitments, not activists and politicians."

-- No mass weddings. One consultant in the fight told us, "The only people who do mass weddings in our culture are Moonies - and they don't exactly have high poll numbers with the public."

Because if they don't love the American flag, they shouldn't be allowed to get married. If their beliefs about marriage make them want to have a group (or double!) wedding, they should just stay home. Marriage is for some, not all.

The funny thing about the above quotation is that they say it's about "real commitments," not "activists and politicians." And yet, these warnings to appear non-threatening are from a bunch of activists and politicians and they're trying to infuse people's weddings with activism and politics.

I'm not saying that there's anything that's "not political," what I am saying is that their whole focus is on authenticity and "real Americans"... and the only way to be a "real American" is to fake it.

We have a few contibutors here at TBP who talk about how marriage is a grotesque assimilationist project, and usually the response is an overwhelming "You can make marriage into whatever you want it to be! It's about love, and gays and lesbians can love, so there's nothing assimilationist about it!"

Well, it's shit like this that makes some people in the community feel excluded by the drive to marriage. Then again, that's the whole point.

Honestly, any institution that asks me and my possible partner to be a coupla straight-actin' chill dudes who just wanna have a few brewskies with the guys and get married isn't asking me to bring my whole self into it. And asking people to hide parts of themselves at their own weddings is just fear and closetedness.

And we're not going to win this thing by sitting in a corner of our closets scared shitless that Americans are going to find out what we're like.


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Well, you could knock me over with a feather!

And...

Make it about the people, not politics, Ragone emphasized. Make the weddings as normal-looking as possible. And whenever Newsom went in front of the cameras, Ragone made sure there was a U.S. flag in the background.

... there you go, Monica!

I like the anger in this post. At least that is energizing.

This constant chipping away at our identities is awful. The closet can't just be finally empty, can it? There always has to be something shameful hidden away from the world, some part of our identities or communities that's just "not nice" or "inappropriate." If it's a choice between not getting married, and having the privilege bestowed upon me by a doubting heterosexual majority with the caveat that if I'm not on my best behavior they will take it away from me, f'k marriage.

But maybe, when I get older and have kids and health insurance to worry about, I might have to change my mind.

Just a minor observation: We have yet to see whether it is the state that allows same-sex marriages. That conclusion can only be formed after the vote on the amendment, as these current developments were caused by courts, not the Californian people.

The hypocrisy is duly noted, though. Hippy, anti-military displays; hedonistic, frivolous heterosexual parties ala spring break? Yea. Its homosexual equivalent? Nay.

What it boils down to, though, is strategy. It may appear odious, but I'll happily ride it out until we're no longer at the mercy of the American public (when we achieve legal parity on all LGBT-pertinent issues). Women had to do it, African Americans had to do it. Irish and Jewish Americans had to assimilate to receive fair legal treatment. It's just how you achieve things. After legal parity is achieved, what do you see? Minorities go right back to individualize their culture. African American urban culture, celebration of Celtic culture, emergence of "chick flicks" (programs created for and by women) soon bounced right back into vigor after they achieved major victories through playing the "we're the same as you" strategy.

And we're not going to win this thing by sitting in a corner of our closets scared shitless that Americans are going to find out what we're like.

Most energizing, makes me proud, thanks Alex!

Way to argue the strawman, dear ;).

And I'm curious what you're referring to when you say what "we're like". What are we like? It's been ages since I've become involved with the gay community, and I still have no fucking idea what "we're like".

What we're like? Incredibly diverse.

Well, that's rather descriptive. I'm missing the part where that follows a different path from the "we're the same as straight people" narrative, though. Surprisingly enough, the straight community is also fairly diverse.

...Nah, I don't like that answer, Blaze; I can't be a queer rebel, railing against the heteronormative establishment if I am to follow that basis =(.

Surprisingly enough, the straight community is also fairly diverse.

Wow. That's like half the point of this post.

All Americans, gay and straight, are diverse, but the gay ones are being told to hide their diversity or leave the more colorful members of their demographic at home.

I'm sorry I can't help you be a better queer rebel railing against the heteronormative establishment. Maybe Bil can?

I'm glad half of your post agrees with my observation of how unnecessary it is to say that we'll show people what "we're like". If only Leslie got up to speed on that.

As for what we're being told to do: I highly doubt that it's something to be furious about. Knowing what "we're like", as it has been pointed out here, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to assume what the eventual behavior that's consistent with our community's history will be: Give them the finger.

Oh, and please do bring Bil. He's been a tad stagnant. Perhaps it's time to crack the whip over his recent post count.

All effective work which includes putting a public face on complex issues also includes being aware of that public face.

The San Francisco PR person, to his credit, was talking only about the events which would be brought to the center of the stage. He wasn't talking about denying access to anyone or policing peoples' behavior. And, he emphasized being real over playing up faux celebrity status.

Yeah, we must cautiously avoid creating new standards for political correctness and call folks when they try to force conformity.

The personal version of this, for me, is that coming out to folks in potentially hostile circumstances has worked out best when I connected with people about our similarities.

It wasn't that I tried to conform exactly to what I thought others needed from me. I was as expressive and creative as I wanted to be at work, church, and in my neighborhood, contrary to many of the guys I knew; I let my hair grow, contrary to gay and corporate norms.

But, in being the first gay person, or part of the first same-sex couple, that some of my friends and acquaintances had met, it was OK with me to be mindful of where they were coming from.

For many of the American people, last week was a first meeting of married gay folks. At minimum, it's unfamiliar territory, despite Canada and MA.

I will fight for full access by all lgbtq folks to marriage. At the same time, I'm OK with the fact that the pictures of my boyfriend and me getting married on center stage last week could have been more distracting than helpful. (He's 32 years older than me.)

All of the suggestions from PR wonks wouldn't have stopped us from participating, if we had wanted to, last week. But, I'm glad that PR folks understood the value of putting Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were there on center stage.

But, Bose, I don't see what's wrong with your 32 year age difference (wow, only 20 here)! It's awesome! Let's celebrate!

Of course anyone else can still get married, they just have to get in through the back door. But it seems like this whole thing is coming from a place of shame.

The PR guy might have said that the campiness is bad for the movement, but I fundamentally think he's wrong. I was raised in Indiana and was living there about a year ago. Very little open expression of craziness and camp. Indianapolis Pride was pretty tame, and that's only a recent occurrence at all.

California, on the other hand, is known for having the craziest Prides in the country. Women on leashes, naked men in the street, whatever.

Why did one get the marriage and not the other?

I'm not saying it's 100% proof of cause and effect, not at all. But it does go against what the PR guy said (with no evidence), and, to me, it makes sense - if people are forced to deal with us and whatever stereotypes they have of us, they're more likely to see us as human.

I'm all with you about meeting people at their level, but I think we're underestimating straight people's levels here.

Was is a PR choice to put Del and Phyllis first? I would think it'd be more of a question of community heritage....

LOL, Lucrece, my apologies, I was moved by Alex' enthusiasm for rebellion, but too damn tired to do anything but cheer him on.

I thought we liked parades. :wink

Was is a PR choice to put Del and Phyllis first? I would think it'd be more of a question of community heritage....

And what is being part of the community heritage but the result of a good PR effort?

Bluntly put, I think you're full of it on this one, Alex. I think it's hyper-sensitive. When you know that millions of people will be watching your every move for a couple of days and you're about to have to face a referendum of those same people, you want to put your best foot forward. Using PR techniques and tips isn't going to hurt anything.

They didn't stop anyone from getting married. They didn't try to "control" anything - and, in fact, said they couldn't and weren't trying to. They were giving good advice.

You don't invite your parents over to meet the new bf/gf at the exact time you know the two of you will be having wild monkey sex. And you sure as hell don't invite them in to watch. You save that for after they've left and gone home.

California's referendum has national implications. I want them doing everything they can to ensure the amendment's defeat. If that means asking some of our more outrageous members to avoid the press when saying their vows, so be it. No one has to invite television cameras to their wedding. As much as some of us want to be JLo, they aren't.

And Lucrese? I've been slacking? Where the hell have you been in the comments section? I don't think you have much room to talk! *grins*

I'm a commenter. I get the privilege of being able to be a hypocrite~

Besides, I've been doing REAL HARD WORK. Debating/trolling with gay Republicans is not what I would list under the definition of slacking ;p.

P.S. Oooh, Jerame, what have you being doing to Bil? He's feisty; I think I like it! =D

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 26, 2008 1:57 AM

Bil, you were needed. All I could think about is that Californians also voted for a liberal republican governator, but it is too much to expect that the vast areas of California outside of San Fran and LA will easily accept Gay marriage.

Decorum is called for...Meanwhile I have decided to go straight. Being Gay is becoming too normal to be interesting. Nah! *grin*

Hey Alex...

Of course I celebrate what's developing (it's early, but joyful and hopeful, for us) between me and my sweetie, and you and yours. It's not a shame thing.

There's a reason that the anti-gay marriage folks don't put wedding photos of Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall front-and-center in their campaigns. That marriage -- one man, one woman -- was technically within the boundaries of what they're still trying to "protect" today. But, if that marriage was still intact today, having those two crazy kids visibly supporting the "traditional" marriage folks would be more distracting than helpful to the cause.

(To be clear here, I never accepted the tabloid hype which presumed that a meaningful relationship was impossible between Smith and Marshall. They are real people to me.)

I'm really glad that the images I saw represented diversity within the community. Couples who had waited a couple years or half-century, people who didn't all look like they were trying to conform to hetero-normative gender roles, folks who were unabashed about showing affection.

Without censoring anyone, though, the recurring theme of the images, to me, was the way each couple cherished the institution of marriage. I can't help but think a little thoughtfulness and research by the PR gurus contributed to that perception.

You know, Bil, when you start a comment telling someone they're full of shit, it's unlikely they'll read the rest.

Bose~

That marriage -- one man, one woman -- was technically within the boundaries of what they're still trying to "protect" today. But, if that marriage was still intact today, having those two crazy kids visibly supporting the "traditional" marriage folks would be more distracting than helpful to the cause.

Yeah, and they're losing. I know it doesn't seem like that at every turn, but they are because people know about the Anna Nicoles, etc. They weren't able to effectively hide them. Like Cathy Renna said in her post yesterday about this same topic, "People are ignorant, not stupid."

They did do a good job of including Asian and latino people, I agree.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 26, 2008 8:32 AM

There there Alex, honey sweetie pie, sip some French Roast and remember we all love you! Many of us prefer the company of an older interesting person to a younger "tauter" person who can only talk about their hair. You are one of those folks, so am I, and as crazy as Anna was at the end of her life the possibility of a mature guide could have meant everything to her. It is a pity he did not live to 110 so that he could have done her more good.

If you really want to pursue this what is the age gap between McCain and his wife? Fifty years or so?
OK twenty, but she looks better rested. LOL

The past weekend, we attended the wedding of some close friends. The attendees included friends from the transsexual community, from the gay bar where one works, from family, from friends at other jobs where they work / have worked, from the crossdressers' group.... A vast mix of straight and queer. The maid of honour was a drag queen decked out in a fabulous scarlet dress and hair sprayed a foot up off her head. The groom's sister stepped in for one of the groomsmen who couldn't attend. The big, burly bouncer from the bar was crying more than anyone. It was one of the most incredible displays of... not merely "tolerance," say "co-existence?" that I'd ever seen. Not in-your-face, just open and free and accepted.

If proper activism doesn't want to have to see that kind of display and to hide it in the closet, it's their loss.