I tried my best to ignore Proposition 8, I mean to ignore all the attention around marriage, even as I received a voicemail message featuring a recording of Barack Obama, a message from Barack Obama himself, another announcement coordinated by various gay elected officials, and then was that really Bill Clinton? All urged me, or someone like me, to vote No on 8. $40 million can get you a lot of attention, but I do think it's now as important as ever to question what exactly all this money pouring into pro-marriage coffers is doing. One thing we can say for sure: it didn't achieve the desired result in this particular electoral battle.
If we take a look at the failed No on 8 campaign, we can see the usual "we're just like you" charade, and it seems to me that this whole gay marriage effort already cedes the battlefield to the homophobes. Accept us on your terms, without making any structural changes except for a copyedit in marriage documents, that's how this argument goes. We want to spend just as much on bridal gowns and tuxedos, diamonds and bachelor parties and showers and honeymoons, we're ready for the white picket fence and the 2.5 children and the gas-guzzling SUV, we can wave the stars-and-stripes just as feverishly as any other pro-war patriots.
In fact, we are so much like you that we are ready to arrest homeless queers for getting in the way of happy hour, to oppose queer youth shelters for interfering with property values, and to endlessly cleanse our gentrifying neighborhoods of undesirables like trans women, sex workers, people of color, disabled people, the elderly, people with AIDS and anyone else who might terrorize the great white American dream. No, we are not men lingering in toilets or alleys for a taste of cock, we are not women teasing with whips or turning tricks on the corner, we are not furious gender deviants or ferocious sexual perverts, we're just like you -- we tuck the children in at night and we wage war inside the home where no one else can see.
And guess what? I know it sounds awfully strange, but somehow this argument doesn't exactly challenge structural homophobia. In fact, it furthers the violence by declaring that anyone who doesn't want marriage and all of its centuries of baggage is not worthy of "equal rights" like food or shelter or health care or the rights now procured through citizenship -- never mind sexual splendor or gender self-determination, remember we just want platinum wedding rings and participatory patriarchy, our space in the kitchen or battering the TV during Super Bowl season. What I'm saying is that all the money and attention and energy going into the fight for gay marriage may be doing just as much to perpetuate homophobia as any religious bigots.
Sure, the messages might be slightly different. Right-wing homophobes say we all deserve to burn in hell, God hates gays, sodomy is evil, and so on. Meanwhile, gay marriage proponents systematically wipe out any representations of queerness other than the straight-friendly, job-holding, America-loving, monogamous, middle-class coupled partnership.
Furthermore, with this single-issue struggle, everything else, including anti-gay, anti-queer, and anti-trans violence gets swept under the beige carpet. Gay marriage proponents appropriate civil rights discourse while saying "it's the blacks that voted against us." They promote religious tyranny (marriage is the answer), while pointing the blame at religious bigots ("it's the Mormons").
Unfortunately, with all the protests emerging nationwide, no one is asking what on earth happened to that $40 million? Instead, it seems that marriage proponents are anxious to funnel millions and millions more into dead-end "LGBT" institutions? Are we going to continue protesting on the terms of the right-wingers, with signs like "God Supports Gay Marriage?" Could anything be worse?
(Mattilda also blogs at nobodypasses.blogspot.com, and she's on tour now for her new novel, So Many Ways to Sleep Badly.)