Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Shutting gay marriage down?

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | July 08, 2008 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: anti-marriage, assimilation, burn in hell, California, Christian fundamentalists, gay marriage, gay weddings, homophobic people, pragmatism, that's revolting!

The other day, I ran into a friend a block from my apartment and we had an interesting conversation about the book launch for That's Revolting!, which I thought was totally incredible because people were so engaged, and my friend said he was disturbed. Why disturbed? He said he wasn't sure about the strategy of shutting gay marriage down. Shutting gay marriage down? What on earth do you mean?

I think this happens a lot, where there's this reversal about who is doing the shutting down. There's no question in my mind that gay marriage proponents have systematically shut anti-marriage and anti-assimilationist queers out of the conversation. It's much easier for them to argue with Christian fundamentalists who think all gay people are gonna burn in hell. And it's a symbiotic relationship -- they fund each other's organizations. I mean the fear of the gays fills fundamentalist coffers and the fear of the Bible thumpers funnels money into marriage fundamentalist gay organizations.

What was so amazing about the launch is that no one was backing down, no one said why yes, gay marriage is a beginning -- I hate that shit, when every queer who opposes marriage feels obliged to say that it's okay for people to want marriage, it's just that we need a broader movement also. But the problem is that the marriage movement has replaced the broader movement!

I think it's contradictory when people say yes, but marriage is a beginning -- sure, it's a beginning, but it's the wrong beginning! There's this hesitancy for people to voice scathing critiques, and I think a lot of that has to do with this fear that my friend was talking about. That, somehow, if we articulate our opposition to marriage with all our passion and eloquence and glamor, then somehow we're shutting other people out of the conversation. When, in fact, other people are certainly free to respond with passion and eloquence and glamor.

Gay marriage proponents are the ones dominating media representations of what it means to be queer, I mean gay, I mean straight-gay. They are the ones ensuring that the conversation remains a ridiculous one between foaming-at-the-mouth homophobes and the gays who just want the homophobes to accept them on homophobe's terms -- we're just like you we're just like you we're just like you.

Oh -- so do you also think that all queers are gonna burn in Hell?

I just love that strategy -- convincing Christian fundamentalists to accept us on their terms and now the gay marriage proponents even wants to decide what people look like and how they dress and how they represent themselves at their own weddings. I mean really -- it's not enough to embrace the dominant institution of straight privilege like it's the holy grail, you gotta buy into the whole package! Soon they're gonna make the gay wives show up with their bruises covered by Dermablend, right?

Gay marriage is a dead end. Sure, if we want cultural erasure, bring it on! I believe in an oppositional culture that celebrates resistance, encourages defiance, and engages in complicated, critical conversations about accountability at all times. If that furthers the divide, bring it on! Wishy-washy pragmatism only helps the people with the most power -- in this case, um, that means the (Christian) fundamentalists.

Mattilda also blogs at nobodypasses.blogspot.com


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Ms. Jones | July 8, 2008 2:39 PM

I never understand why some find it so odd that someone wants to do something that they don't want to. Or think that they're so very different from other groups. Some straight people disdain marriage as much as you do. And likely for similar reasons.

Not married myself - and surely would prefer we were working on issues of economic justice and discrimination first - lord knows transpeople were screwed bigtime in the push for marriage.

But kinda feel about people getting married, "don't like marriage - don't get one".

Which a lot of (now most) straight people seem to be doing:

=====================
51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse

By SAM ROBERTS
Published: January 16, 2007
For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/16/us/16census.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
==============

Maybe it's not that we're starting to look more like them. And that lack of distance scares some who's identity is built on notions of opposition rather than their own authenticity and preferences.

Ms. Jones | July 8, 2008 2:42 PM

I never understand why some find it so odd that someone wants to do something that they don't want to. Or think that they're so very different from other groups. Some straight people disdain marriage as much as you do. And likely for similar reasons.

Not married myself - and surely would prefer we were working on issues of economic justice and discrimination first - lord knows transpeople were screwed bigtime in the push for marriage.

But kinda feel about people getting married, "don't like marriage - don't get one".

Which a lot of (now most) straight people seem to be doing:

=====================
51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse

By SAM ROBERTS
Published: January 16, 2007
For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/16/us/16census.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
==============

Maybe it's not that we're starting to look more like them. And that lack of distance scares some who's identity is built on notions of opposition rather than their own authenticity and preferences.

RIGHT ON!

I purchased That's Revolting about two weeks ago and it is the most enlightening and liberating anthology I've ever picked up.

I couldn't agree with you more about the gaysbians assimilating to white, upper-class, straight privilege.

We need a revolution right now. Isn't our right to choose our identity and express our identity without fear of persecution or death more important than the right to benefits that are only guaranteed when you enter into a relationship with another person?

I think so...

I completely agree, Mattilda! And I definitely think we should come back to this critique once we've secured marriage rights for EVERYONE!

Well, I'm married. I'm married because I want to be. I wanted to marry males in the past and couldn't and I am currently married to a woman. I like the fact that I live in a place where i can marry a person of whatever gender I wish. Not because it makes me look and more or less queer but simply because it is what I want to be able to do.
Some aspects of this argument back and forth present ideas of what is the right way to be queer. I think that the moment we decide what the right way to be queer is and we start telling others that they are not queer enough or that they have turned assimilationist is the moment that we ourselves have turned assimilationist because we are now doing what we once claimed to protest and we are now giving guidelines for the right way to be. Being willing to do that to others is the actual assimilation point.
I can't see calling myself a queer activist and giving guidelines on the right way to be queer and the right things that we should focus on. Seems to me that these two thought processes mutually conflict.

beergoggles | July 8, 2008 9:33 PM

I just love that strategy -- convincing Christian fundamentalists to accept us on their terms

Straw man argument.

It's about convincing the regular folks who aren't fundies for the most part. Sure it'll be great if we convince some fundies while we're at it, but they are for the most part our foil for trying to look more respectable than the crazy loonies talking in tongues.

I'm guessing you knew that, but don't let such inconveniences spoil a good bout of hysterics.

As for the anti-marriage, anti-assimilationists; their position has been the default for quite a long time. Guess what, no one is forcing you to marry someone or assimilate the moment marriage equality becomes reality. It's the same argument we ridicule fundies with - if you are against gay marriage, don't have one. Instead, you need to throw a tantrum that you've no longer the focus of attention. If you're anti-marriage, you don't have a horse in this race about equality and yet you just can't let go of that silly cross.

Ms. Jones, the problem for me is that gay marriage proponents are actually limiting the options for the rest of us.

Becca, thanks so much for saying hi, and for your amazing sweet compliments!

Nick, you mean housing and health care and food and self-determination, not marriage, right?

Rob, well I certainly agree that we shouldn't be deciding the right way to be queer -- in fact, I've said just the same thing many times myself -- and the problem of the gay marriage "movement" is that it does just that -- a prioritizes one way of living/loving -- the monogamous model of straight-friendly normalcy -- over all else.

Beergoggles, the problem with fundamentalists is not that they are against gay marriage, but that they're against gay people, queers, etc.

And personally, I'm not interested in "equality," a rubric for change that does nothing to -- well --- change. I'm interested in personal and political transformation. Didn't realize I was ever the center of attention, but thanks for the compliment :)

Matilda, I see that it is prioritizing one way over the others so much as that it is trying to give that way as a complete option for those who chose it.
When I said that I had a problem with those who are trying to tell others what is the right way to be queer I mean those on all sides of the issue. I get just as irritated with those who try to hide some of us who do not fit the mold that they have in mind. If someone wants to insist that to be a in a committed relationship one must be married, I'm headed right down their throat. In fact, if someone says that the only type of relationship of value is one that is committed and monogamous he or she will get my ire.
My personal way to value a relationship is how much happiness and satisfaction it brings to the people involved and not how it fits with some ideal that I have in mind as the perfect relationship.
I continue to support the equal access to marriage movement because it gives us more options, it gives my kids more options. I continue to support it even though some of the other people supporting it disappoint me when they try to present themselves as the model for our future.

Rob, this makes perfect sense:

"My personal way to value a relationship is how much happiness and satisfaction it brings to the people involved and not how it fits with some ideal that I have in mind as the perfect relationship."

Here we disagree:

"I continue to support the equal access to marriage movement because it gives us more options, it gives my kids more options. I continue to support it even though some of the other people supporting it disappoint me when they try to present themselves as the model for our future.

Model for our future, indeed -- a scary future!

Love --
mattilda


Oh, wait -- but did I forget to take on this notion that it's an "equal access to marriage movement????"

There again I would disagree -- it's a drive to provide access to marriage for certain people who want (and are able) to conform to a long-term, monogamous, heteronormative relationship in order for the state to sanction their carnal coupling and perhaps to provide some sort of access to straight privilege.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 9, 2008 2:20 AM

Hello Mattilda! I agree on the one hand it is great to be young free and without the role expectations and hypocrisies of marriage. In my over 30 years experience (at being childish) I would add that I would not and have never felt the need to publicly declare my relationship.

But I don't have kids!, and we were an incorporation.

There would need to be massive changes in all areas of family, inheritance, and other areas of law which have kept lawyers serving Gay people busy for years.

I cannot blame anyone who changes state of residence or country of residence because of the legal stranglehold the law profession has on "lawmaking."

I agree with you that I too am not interested in "equality" as the thought of being average scares the hell out of me. I come from a starting place in 1972 when we eschewed the falsehood of marriage completely. The institution should be in the ashcan. At the same time there are millions of people who are married, and stuck with it, and will outvote us to change it because they will believe the falsehood that they are losing something by eliminating the institution.

I guess, I am happy for those who feel they get value out of the designation, but "partner" is good enough for me and, I feel, superior for me. The legal importance is Kids, Kids and Kids plus all the usual rights of access and inheritance.

Hello Robert!

And certainly there is a stranglehold on "lawmaking" -- by not just the law profession but by those same hypocritical lawmakers, right?

And yes yes yes -- "the institution should be in the ashcan" -- most institutions, really...

Love --
mattilda

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 9, 2008 5:33 AM

Mattilda, this is why I also understand the desire of many to marry for the security of their families. If you have a six year old kid you may not be in the mood to wait on uncertainty that your "life partner" would have unquestioned custodianship of the child should the birth parent suddenly die. In a case like this one and others "marriage" provides protections despite the fact the institution is rooted in subordination of people.

You are always thought provoking.

Robert

Rob B~ I know that you're all about the full range of options, but when people who are coupled but not married in the US are punished with fewer rights that's not a full range of options. When people who are single have fewer rights (the biggest one being decreased access to health care), that's not a full range of options.

Even before the French came up with civil unions, unmarried couples still had rights to hospital visitation, keeping the apartment if one died, etc. Now that they made civil unions for all (no same-sex marriage), 7 times as many straight couples are getting civil unions instead of marriages because their options are increased.

The marriage movement has been based on getting marriage for same-sex couples from the start, often at the expense of other options (many firms in Massachusetts offered health care benefits to unmarried partners of GLB employees but don't anymore now that same-sex marriage is legal there... I wonder where CA DP's are left right now). I've heard quite a few gay and lesbian activists also get upset when domestic partnership registries are created that allow non-conjugal friends to register... not really all about the full range of options.

Alex. I am not saying that we should have preferential treatment for married couples under tax laws and for health care purposes. I believe that we should have equal access to marriage. But were the entire system for marriage and domestic partnership to be overhauled into an intelligent system I would support that as long as it provide access to everyone.
Here are a few practical examples: when I was a boy my uncle was partnered with a man for three decades but there was no way to make any type of formal relationship it caused come confusion and difficulties.
In my spiritual group we had a female couple who were raising two sons together each woman had a biological child. But without the ability at that time to make a legal arrangement they could not realistically and legally coparent. When one of them had an operation the hospital refused to give information to her partner because she was not family but they would give it to me because I was her clergy. I could sit with her in recovery and her partner couldn't.
I have three little students and they have an uncle who is very out and has been partnered with a man for many years but the little ones just weren't sure about how to introduce them or what made there relationship different from the marriage of their other uncle to a woman. It was just confusing and sending the message to these little kids that something was different or not quite right. But now the gentlemen are married and it clears things up for the kids.
I think that access to health care needs to be dealt with but not as a piece of the marriage debate but on its own merits as a vital socio-political issue.
Right now the legal institution that allows people to take care of one another and to co-parent is marriage and I think that access to a legal institution should be available to all. If one refuses to participate in that institution that is one thing but if one thinks that he or she should deny participation in that institution that is another thing entirely.
If I were partnered with a man but we couldn't be married and I died. My children would be placed by the state with my adoptive family. People who I would never want to raise my kids. My partner would have no ability to help raise kids that he may have helped raise so far. My adoptive family would be able to challenge my will and cut my partner out.
Yes I know the legal strategies to get around some of these things but they can be expensive and complicated.
But if I want to marry my partner why should anyone have the right to tell me that I can't. I don't care if that person is straight, gay, bi queer or whatever, he or she shouldn't be allowed to decide that for me. It isn't about any heteronormative assimilation, it is simply about being able to live my life the way I want to live it so long as I am hurting nobody. To me that is what this movement is about.

Mattilda, thanks for catching my typo!

The legal importance is Kids, Kids and Kids plus all the usual rights of access and inheritance.

That's my main reason for advocating for marriage, personally. I have a daughter to protect and I'll use any means necessary to do so. As it stands, if something happened to Jerame custody wouldn't go to me; it would go to her abusive, drug-addled mother. A marriage - and the attendant rights including inheritance and last wishes - would solve that problem though.

Rob, I don't think confusion is bad for kids -- requiring them to fit relationships into specific models is. And I didn't notice that anyone was telling you that you can't marry your partner. The problem with marriage as a solution to issues of access (housing, health care, citizenship, hospital visitation, etc.) is that it allows for only certain people to attain that access, creating more categories for exclusion rather than inclusion.

And, to both Bil and Rob, personally I get scared when people talk about parental rights as if this is the only issue for kids -- I think this is shortsighted. We need to be talking about personal autonomy for kids, so they can choose to get the hell away from abusive situations (including the wrong parents).

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 10, 2008 5:08 AM

Mattilda,

Honey, Lover Boy, Schweety Pie, Darlink~!

Kids are very savvy and know when they are in an abusive situation and will get out of it and in to a foster care situaton. If "autonomy" is too easily obtainable for a fourteen year old, who probably thinks they know everything anyway, they could very easily be available to be abused by others. Who would care for the autonomous fourteen year old who has decided that he or she does not want to go to school?

In some traditional societies (Portugal in 1989) hotel porters were frequently 14 and 15 year old boys who attended school for only a few hours a week. They got paid peanuts for wages, worked long hours and were still expected to live at home with mama. This was an option that the society allowed for children who were of the poor and would remain poor due to lack of education.

When I see American kids in the same age groups I see a majority of kids who seem to be crying out for structure and are capable of making massive errors of judgement. I would not care to see "autonomy" for minors. They would be getting "freedom" to be a victim.

"But the problem is that the marriage movement has replaced the broader movement!"

Amen to that, sister! How is it that you always manage to say what I am thinking in such fag-ulous terms?

I'd like to see all the money our community has spent on marriage in the last 2 decades go towards prevention and treatment services for HIV/AIDS, as well as more youth programming for the little queerlings out there who are so desperately in need of positive queer role models.

Robert, of course we need to change the larger culture as well, but personal autonomy for children is a crucial beginning.

Serena, well I certainly can't argue with that -- thanks for the sassy solidarity!

Being African-American and old enough to remember the racial integration struggles of about four decades ago, it is amazing how this issue is similar to a debate that was common among some at that time within the African-American (then Afro-American or Negro) community. "Integrate with THEM, i.e., whites?? What's so great about THEIR culture, THEIR institutions, the way they lead THEIR lives and the way THEY raise THEIR children that we want to assimilate into THEM??? In fact, in many ways, our (Afro-American or Negro) culture, institutions and morals are BETTER than THEIRS." And while the drive for integration moved forward, the phrase "integration without assimilation" often was heard as part of the discussion among African-Americans. But integration - or better stated as equal rights - as a rallying point did move forward (although one can debate its eventual triumph)because of the belief that all are 100 percent entitled to the right to pursue the same benefits, pipe dreams and follies as anyone else in our society. The LGBT community now is at a similar crossroad with marriage.