Guest Blogger

Whose "Equality"?

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 20, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: chris crain, Mitchell Halberstadt

Editor's Note: Mitchell Halberstadt is a 59-year-old writer, lifelong activist, and gadfly who sometimes makes Michael Petrelis and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore look (by comparison) like pillars of the community. He lives in Oakland, CA.

Chris Crain writes:

It's "patently irrational to argue that DOMA doesn't discriminate against gay Americans because we, too, can enter into 'traditional marriages.' It's unfathomable that lawyers for a president who is the product of an interracial marriage would use an argument that was rejected some four decades ago in Loving v. Virginia."

Chris,

You've implicitly answered your own rhetorical assertion: no child is the product of a homosexual union in the same sense that Barack Obama is the product of an interracial one.

Homosexual relationships don't create children, nor do they need to do so (nor do they need to be called "marriages") to be valid relationships. While heterosexual marriages don't always create children either, marriage as an institution exists as a corollary of the fact that children are created as a consequence of the consummation of heterosexual unions. That is why -- and it's the only reason why -- pairing or coupling is a specific "right" delineated as "marriage" and considered a unique sort of (specifically heterosexual) bond.

Let me clarify one point here: I'm an open and proud gay man, and my pride and my identity don't depend upon society approving of my "right" to shoe-horn myself into some incongruous simulacrum of "family" or any other social consequence or corollary of reproductive biology. I simply view myself as existing outside that matrix (except in the sense that the mother and father who created me loved me very much).

I don't need any further "rights" to consider myself an equal (and fully-valid) human being.

PS: I fully support civil unions regardless of the number or gender of those involved, and I also fully support the right to adopt children of all adults who (otherwise regardless of their interpersonal bonds) have the time, attention, resources and competence to sustain, nurture, and raise them. (Someone has to pick up after the breeders [and there are obviously many] who can't [or won't] pick up after themselves.) ;-)

For that matter, I entirely reject gender (distinct from biological sex, again a reproductive function) as an aspect of identity, and I thereby also reject the very notion of gender "transition" (except where it's explicitly a function of imagination or a surgical kludge attempting to compensate for neurological "mismatched wiring," a disability. But that's merely a whole other area for me to get myself in trouble with the prevailing conventional queer wisdom. ;-)

We should simply stop letting others and their terms define us, and cherish the value of our status as outsiders.


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"I don't need any further "rights" to consider myself an equal (and fully-valid) human being."

I totally agree Mitchell and I ain't writing this in a huff or as an attack - I KNOW I am an equal, valid human being, which makes me even more demanding of fair treatment under the law.

But don't forget that equality needs to be inclusive; rights need to BE AVAILABLE for those who need them, as well as for those who do not think they need them (yet), and even for those who may never need them. A person may not think they "need" any rights, but let's not forget about the many GLBTQ parents with children; these children depend on their parent's rights. A child should never be prevented from seeing his mother in the hospital just because his mother lacked civil rights. Worse scenarios than that happen regularly between parent and child.

If being an "outsider" feels right for you - go for it. No one shoe-horned you into your decision to live as you choose, just as no one shoe-horned me - we both choose how we want to live.

But do realize folks like myself avoid a lot of the social-isolation that SOME gay circles maintain and prefer to just live a life integrated into the local neighborhoods, businesses, schools, churches, etc., making friends first and learning of people's love-orientations later.

My biggest criticism of those who disagree with "which right is more important" (like marriage) is that they rarely consider the countless CHILDREN of LGBTQ parents who do not get to vote for any right. THEY deserve equality also.

bigolpoofter | June 20, 2009 5:19 PM

Oh, Mitchell...and Chris, for that matter!

The debate around marriage has been so adeptly formed around the terms "rights" and "equality" that we overlook the fact that what is deprived of same-sex couples by DOMA and various state-level acts are privileges confeered upon opposite-sex couples through civil marriage. Singletons are as deprived as same-sex couples when it comes to the privileges of tax-exempt inheritance, survivor's benefits under Social Security and other entitlements, the automatic assumption of medical decision-making authority, and so on; and civil unions do nothing to confer these privileges upon singletons. Arguing vociferously for the extension of these privileges to like consensual adult civil contracts, regardless of the sex and number equal or greater than two involved, provides no justice for those who live in singlehood.

I agree than I am equal to my opposite-sex married peers under the law. However, I have been stripped by DOMA and other laws of access to the privileges available to those peers through marriage. My partners and I deserve access to these privleges, just as do my single friends and neighbors.

It isn't for me an issue of feeling equal; that I feel. For me it is realistic. I have children by blood and adopted step children. If I end up in a situation where I am getting remarried and it happens to be a man that time around, I want him to be able to help care for my children if I am ill or incapacitated and for him to be able to act as a parent in legal capacity.
As for the outsider feeling great if that is for you. It isn't really for me, I am out and very involved in my community. I have a family and that family and that family has queer members and we should have the same rights and protections as anyone else has in their families. If my son decides to marry his boyfriend that should be no different from when my daughter decided to marry hers.
I am not saying that it is something that we must all do and all aspire to. But it is something that many of us want to do and to which we aspire and so we should not be forbidden this thing just because of who we are.
I live in a place where I can marry a woman or a man, but the federal agencies will only recognize one of those yet they have equal force under the state law.

Oh, but darling, not everyone is so touched by social resentment as to want in on the super cool club of "outsiders".

Some just settle for the boring conformity, and don't kid yourself about ever being a standard for what other queer people are/should settle for.

"Some just settle for the boring conformity, and don't kid yourself about ever being a standard for what other queer people are/should settle for."

I would ask the same of you...

I don't go making blog posts about what gay people are intended for naturally.

Fine, neither do I and I don't think the original post is all that special to begin with. My point is simply that many people are, in fact, fed up with the "boring conformists" like yourself setting the agenda for how queer people ought to think and behave. I think you can handle one blog post arguing against your line of reasoning--yours is still the one that tends to win out.

By the look of Pride parades and most LGBT blogs, I call BS.

Also, there are no "sides". One would think that everyone should choose what's best for him/her. But to make a post calling the other side deluded for following what they see as best for them (having a family, for example; for those non-privileged and non-white queers, our culture celebrates family-making) is such a petty thing to do.

Mitchell Halberstadt | June 23, 2009 4:19 PM

I was merely stating my view regarding "family," and race-baiting or attempting to call me out for "privilege" (in effect, attempting to silence me) is beyond petty. "Our culture celebrates family-making?" Clarence Thomas couldn't have said it better.

The argument that being a white male with a countercultural or radical cultural agenda involves seeking to enhance the privilege of people who are already supposedly privileged is a dangerous one.

This variety of attack has been used against queers in general and. for that matter, could be used to silence anyone posting on this site (for their "privilege," regardless of ethnicity, sexuality or gender) for merely happening to be an American citizen (thereby a member of one of the most privileged groups ever to walk the face of the earth). I'm old enough to remember when the Right used this same sort of attack to drive a wedge between working class people ("hardhats") and hippies ("spoiled brats") or liberals ("effete intellectual snobs").

"Privilege" is relative, and to whatever extent I may or may not be privileged, I would wish for everybody to be able to share my perspective, and I aim to work toward that end. So who's being petty?

Thanks, you bigolpufter. That's the most cogent thing I've seen written on this subject in a long time. Children have absolutely nothing to do with it. That's just a big smokescreen put out by the right-wingers to distract people for the real issue which is, as you said, government granted PRIVILEGES that only accrue to married couples. That's unequal treatment under the law and must be abolished.

I agree that we should avoid letting our status, rights, etc. affect our self-esteem. If we do that, we've already lost.

I did want to mention that the argument in the brief that Chris points to is actually one that responds quite well to arguments often made in favor of marriage that see it as a substitute for more substantive reform, like in health care: we already do have the right to get married for health care, so letting me marry men instead of women for health care doesn't really improve things much.

And, no I'm not referring to anyone in specific.

Chris Crane and I have debated face-to-face at times when he lived here in Atlanta. He is definitely for full equality, as long as he gets his before everybody else. He don't want us "trannies" to be equal in anything, and has written that more times then I can count. I'm not surprised that he would have a skewed view of same-sex marriage as well.

Crane and John Averois (sp) have the same opinion of keeping trans people out of ENDA. It's an attitude shared by some of the important gay men who are contributors on Bilerico. They write their feelings about this on their private blogs and even use the "trannie" as a derogatory term. But, they come here and hide it, and others turn a blind eye to their bigotry.

I am a believer of karma. Crane and others will get theirs. Some will say that Crane already got his but didn't learn from it. Oh, well.

Right, because getting beaten up is the karmic equivalent to disagreeing with your inclusion in legislation.

Some healthy moral fiber you're showing there, Monica!

I don't tolerate bigots or give them a pass simply because they are gay. Especially if they are gay. There is a difference between "disagreeing with your inclusion in legislation" and actively working toward that goal, and being down-right hateful about it. To me, they are no different then the religious right people who want to keep YOU from YOUR equality. Would you be nice to another gay man who actively opposes same-sex marriage? Their karma is coming, too.

I said karmic equivalent. Explain to me how being inconsiderate somehow justifies getting beaten up.

This is civilization. We don't take pleasure from the physical suppression of others, even if we dislike them.

Monica, I am personally interested in knowing who those people are. As a bi person who has been through similar things through the years where we are excluded by certain people who should know better I can appreciate your feelings. Thank you for pointing this detail about him out to the rest if us. Knowing that a person is divisive within the queer community is of great value and know which of them are very selective when and how they express it is certainly of great value.

"...59-year-old writer, lifelong activist, and gadfly who sometimes makes Michael Petrelis and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore look (by comparison) like pillars of the community."

Seriously? What was the need for this entirely needless and self-serving comment? Never mind the fact that Sycamore and Petrelis are two entirely different kinds of figures.

Of course, Mattilda's influence, known to anyone who's been involved in queer radical politics, doesn't require affirmation through such statements. I've never seen her write anything like this as a preface to her work.

Mitchell Halberstadt, on the other hand, clearly feels he has something to prove.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 21, 2009 11:04 PM

I think you have to "blame" the editor not the author. That is only if blame needs to be assigned.

My understanding is that a guest blogger's short bio is supplied by the blogger.

Yasmin's right - the guest blogger wrote it himself here and sent it in. The only change is that he called Sycamore "Matt" and I switched it to "Mattilda," since that's her name.

And you should know that, Robert; you wrote your own bio back when we ran guest posts from you!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 22, 2009 11:58 AM

Memory fails, but may I "umbly suggest" that you alter the intro from "editors note" to something more accurate? Where I came from you have to own something if you approve it.

"outsider"

Ok. I get it now. Some gays are comfortable with being outsiders and are jumping on the "We don't need gay marriage" bandwagon to be on the cutting edge of gay rights.

d00d...We've been "outsiders" since day one. It's time to jump down off those high horses and realize:

It's not about the G, L, B, OR T

It's about EQUALITY!

And we'll never achieve that by letting the gay naysayers of gay marriage and the right wing Christian Republican homophobic fear-mongering naysayers of gay marriage walk down the aisle hand in hand.

And we'll never achieve that by letting the gay naysayers of gay marriage and the right wing Christian Republican homophobic fear-mongering naysayers of gay marriage walk down the aisle hand in hand.

Yeah, and if you question US foreign policy in the ME you're a Nazi. Or if you favor universal health care you're pro-slavery. Michael Moore repeats al Qaeda rhetoric and anyone who favors affirmative action is as bad as the KKK.

Can we knock it off with the ridiculous rhetoric/guilt-by-association (not really even association, actually, more just "they both disagree with me on a single issue") and discuss ideas? I actually don't think that's possible, but it's a worthy goal.

Mitchell Halberstadt | June 23, 2009 4:45 PM

No need for a witch-hunt here on my account; i state my own views honestly (and equally tactfully) regardless of venue, and I'm entirely in favor of opposing hypocrisy (and if the accusation of hypocrisy applies to Chris Crain, so be it).

OTOH, I've never met a queer soul who couldn't be purged or silenced for maintaining one or another view or one or another aspect of identity that someone else among us (or some set of people) considers "divisive within the queer community." On those terms, as the old song goes, "Watch what you say, for the wheel's still in spin."

Mitchell Halberstadt | June 23, 2009 5:29 PM

Seriously? What was the need for this entirely needless and self-serving comment? Never mind the fact that Sycamore and Petrelis are two entirely different kinds of figures.
Of course, Mattilda's influence, known to anyone who's been involved in queer radical politics, doesn't require affirmation through such statements. I've never seen her write anything like this as a preface to her work.

I'm merely not as famous a gadfly as Sycamore or Petrelis (nor as cranky a one, for that matter as Larry Kramer -- all, admittedly, very different public figures), so I thought a little name-dropping could provide a couple of reference points so the nearsighted might understand just how far an "outsider" I sometimes feel I am. Meanwhile, I'm responsible for the bio, so I apologize for my name not (yet?) being a queer household word; at 59, I don't have much time left to change that. ;-)

As for Mattilda (whose influence is indeed a sort of "insider" status in these circles) I need only note that the promotional copy on the back cover of his/her most recent book compares her/him to Lou Reed (whose appearance, along with Patti Smith, I arranged for the 1977 NY Gay Pride rally, as a foil to Anita Bryant) and to Allen Ginsberg (whom I've always considered something of a role model). I knew Allen, and Mattilda's no Allen Ginsberg; Mattilda is Mattilda, and bravo for that!

As for the name, I must have been looking at the cover of Mattilda's previous book, where she/he uses the name "aka Matt." Nobody passes, indeed...

Okay, enough name-dropping; maybe next time I'll need no intro, if I should live so long.