Yasmin Nair

Proof: The Gay Marriage Movement Is Draining Resources from Queer Activism

Filed By Yasmin Nair | July 14, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Amy Sueyoshi, API, Charlie Howard Memorial Library, Funding for Gay Marriage, gay marriage, Maine, marriage equality, queer activism, Resources, Ryan Conrad, Yasmin Nair

As anyone who's been reading my posts on gay marriage knows by now, I've been critical of the "movement" for taking away much-needed resources and energy from far more important queer issues. I'll discuss that issue in greater detail in a longer post, but for now here are links to two pieces that provide the kind of numbers and details many of us have suspected from the start. Note that this is not framed as a journalistic exposé, but as the affirmation of a hypothesis I've been mulling over for a while.

Links and excerpts after the jump.

Here's a letter from Ryan Conrad to the Portland Phoenix, titled "Dump Gay Marriage and Regroup." Some of you might remember Conrad from the photograph which accompanied my article in No More Potlucks: He's the one in the wedding dress. Conrad is also a queer radical activist, most notably with the Naughty North, and he recently organised the "Future of the Past" exhibition and panel discussion at the Maine College of Art. Full disclosure: he's a friend and colleague of mine, and I was among those who gave him feedback on this letter.

He writes:

The gay-marriage campaign has been sucking up resources like a massive sponge, corralling us to give up our last dollar and free time, leaving little sustenance for other queer groups doing critical work in our communities.

Conrad points out that the "Maine Speak Out Project and the Charlie Howard Memorial Library close their doors in Portland while the few remaining LGBT youth advocacy groups across the state scrounge just to keep their doors open." Meanwhile, the "marriage equality" folks are still going strong, collecting millions for their cause.

Read the entire letter here.

Historian Amy Sueyoshi, writing for the National Sexuality Resource Center, is equally blunt:

The marriage movement's single-minded determination for "equality for all" has forgotten that many more queers suffer at the hands of more urgent inequalities. These inequalities may seem "special interest" or not relevant for a "larger" community, but this could be nothing further from the truth.


You can read her piece here.

(h/t Nancy Polikoff, who points to Sueyoshi's piece on her blog)

It includes a brief account of the Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community (APIQWTC) being refused support by a national gay rights organisation that will only work with groups on "marriage equality."

Both Conrad and Sueyoshi are especially concerned about funding for queer youth projects, queer archives, and HIV/AIDS organisations being diverted towards gay marriage to the extent that such work is either suspended or completely disbanded. No doubt, some will say: "If you want support or money, find your own." But anyone who has been anywhere near the non-profit industrial complex or the world of social services knows that getting support for any project means that you have to constantly reassure potential supporters/donors that the "community" really does want/need your work. And getting support for a queer project that doesn't primarily advance gay marriage or gay coupledom is increasingly difficult these days, given that the major "players" are the ones with access to the corridors of power, and who dictate the gay and lesbian agenda to politicians and the media.

I encourage you to read these pieces for more details. And please let me know if you hear of similar instances of the gay marriage movement sucking away resources from vital queer activism.

During my own activism and reporting, I've come across other such instances but not everyone will go on the record or name names. That's understandable, given the precarious state of funding these days and the political and economic clout of the major gay and lesbian organisations which claim to speak on our behalf. It's time for those of us who are not hitched to the marriage wagon to start speaking out more clearly and loudly about the economic, political, and emotional costs of investing so many resources in a movement designed only to further the interests of a few or comfort the many who are deluded enough to think that gay marriage alone will substantially alter their lives for the better.

It's become common in some circles to insist that gay marriage is the rising tide that will lift all other boats and help all other queer causes. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we are to use any seafaring metaphors, it might be best to describe gay marriage as the Titanic, about to hit an iceberg and take everyone down with her.


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Yasmin, I usually choose not to comment on your posts because, well, it's precisely the gripe-a-thon that typically ensues in your posts' comment threads that turns me off to them in the first place. This time, for whatever reason, I'm moved to comment. (Perhaps because there isn't already a deluge of comments to make me sigh...)

I often agree with you on the merits when you talk about marriage, the movement, and resources, but your delivery is just as much what's standing in the way of addressing these inequities as the organizations pushing money mostly or exclusively to marriage work. On the one hand, you decry a community or movement that isn't equitably distributing resources; on the other, you reduce supporters of marriage equality to a two-dimensional enemy with one perspective and one mind when it comes to tactics and vision.

Since you do so often write and comment on the marriage fight and its effects on queers, it's safe to assume, right, that you really do care about the inequities you see and want to fix them? So are you targeting people who already agree with you, in which case your delivery is spot on to gin up your friends, or are you targeting people like me, who support marriage equality, will likely want to get married one day, but who are also concerned about where queer money is going, what issues are front-and-center, how the marriage argument can consume other family forms, etc.? Cause if you're at all concerned about building bridges (and a counter force to the prevailing way marriage equality work is done) then you're definitely not making me (and I would imagine others with views similar to mine) feel welcome at your table to start those conversations.

Respectfully,

About the 2-dimensional portrayal, I would say that there are progressive folks who support same-sex marriage who either have or are willing to consider the issue as they would other issues and legislation. And then there are those like Love Honor Cherish in California who write stuff like this:

  • Kids. At any given time, more than 1.5 million children in California are of high school age - that is, between 15 and 17 years old. Of those 150,000 are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. If Prop 8 is repealed in 2010, a generation of teenagers, and their straight peers, will spend their high school years knowing they can marry someday. If we wait until 2012, they will spend those years knowing that they can't.
  • Parents. About 1 million children in California are being raised by LGBT parents. Repealing Prop 8 in 2010 instead of 2012 will give these children a chance to have two more years of the stability that comes with marriage, while they're still children. If we wait, they'll never recover those lost years.
  • Seniors. There are about 4.5 million Californians over 65 years old. Of these, 450,000 are gay or lesbian. In any two-year period, more than 13,000 of those people will die. Thus, if Prop 8 is repealed in 2010, there will be 13,000 more elderly gays and lesbians who will have lived to see their right to marry affirmed by a vote of the people. If we wait until 2012, these men and women will never experience that affirmation.
  • Relatives and Friends. Another 1.5 million Californians over 65 have a relative or close friend who is gay or lesbian. Between 2010 and 2012, more than 45,000 of these Californians will die. By waiting until 2012 to repeal Prop 8, we will forever deprive these elderly Californians of the chance to go to their friend's or relative's wedding.

Yikes!

I'm just going to get this in here early and say that there is a history of nasty comments on Yasmin's posts, and I'll be around and monitoring, which I really don't want to have to do but many people have shown that they can't discuss these issues. If someone crosses the line, don't respond in kind to save face. Just email me (contact form up at the top of the page).

Please keep the discussion focused on substance.

Dustin,

This post is about how the gay marriage movement is sucking resources from queer activism. As you're no doubt aware, that conversation has not begun in the queer community, not in an open and forthright way. My hope is that people will start to talk more candidly about the issue, and start naming names. We need to talk more explicitly about the resources that are being funnelled towards the "cause" of gay marriage. And we need to stop funding it to the extent that we are funding it right now.

The post is not meant to address anyone's complex feelings about being a, perhaps, unwilling part of a movement that has proven to be myopic and one-sided in its unrelenting claim that "marriage equality" is the best option for everyone. I think whatever issues people might have with that ought to be addressed to those who defined gay marriage as "the" agenda in the first place. I fully understand that many who signed on to the marriage movement are now beginning to regret it, given where it has gone and threatens to go.

But a great many of us never signed on in the first place, and still think marriage is the wrong goal.

There needs to be a much more honest conversation about how and why there are differences around marriage in the queer community, and these kinds of economic effects need to be framed and discussed accordingly.

I appreciate the response. I'll just add that though I support marriage equality, I, too, never signed onto any movement plan or strategy writ large. (I've signed onto lots of state orgs' action alert lists, but no official movement sign-on letter.)

My overarching point, which maybe I didn't articulate clearly on my first pass, was that the way you often discuss the issue (talking about marriage equality and its supporters as a Titanic that will sink us all, etc.) makes it seem like you have as much disdain for supporters of marriage equality (the idea) as you do for the way most of the marriage equality movement is currently run. If that's the case, fine, but that doesn't put you in a particularly good place to facilitate constructive dialogue on the issue.

But maybe your goal isn't to facilitate dialogue between people who share some (but not all) common goals, just to light some fuses. In that case, clearly you're doing well. And if you assume that I and other supporters of marriage equality don't often engage others in critical dialogue about the marriage fight's negative effects, then you're overlooking and oversimplifying the playing field a lot.

And with that I'll sign off from this post. As with Alex, I hope others will be civil and constructive. Lord knows we need more building than razing in this movement as of late.

Kevin Erickson | July 15, 2009 12:32 PM

Dustin is right on. So far Yasmin has accused gay marriage of ruining gay sex, and leading to the defunding of queer youth groups. I full expect to hear her argue that the "gay marriage movement" is also responsible for global warming, tooth decay, and that parking ticket i got last week.

You might have a point, Yasmin, about the narrow way resources are being allocated, but it's lost in the condescension and smug self-satisfaction.

Although I support marriage equality, I do agree that it is often given too much credence as a "holy grail" in the LGBT world. I've said it before, but Canada serves as an example of this also, in that same-sex marriage and survivor benefits were won around the same time, and then the community just kind of closed up and went home. We still have lacks of services for queer youth, segments of the population without legal protections (the only place trans folk are explicitly protected is in the Northwest Territories!), struggling HIV and community organizations and things like health issues (i.e. Canada still bans LGBT blood/organ donors) that are essentially forgotten.

Unfortunately, it's largely a case of self-interest. The people who are in a position to donate significant amounts of money are not interested in legislation that helps the marginalized, as they don't see themselves at risk.

And from what I've seen, that's how this will mostly play out.

Mercedes,

Re: "and then the community just kind of closed up and went home." Sadly, that's exactly what I've heard from my friends in Canada. As I understand, it's been impossible to get the marriage supporters back to the support/funding table to work on exactly the issues you mention.

I'm being idealistic here, but I'm hoping that naming the game for what it is will start some kind of scrutiny of where and why we throw our support behind specific causes. I'm already hearing rumblings about the proposed move to put GM back on the ballot in California in 2010 (and Alex Blaze has just written about that). Nancy Polikoff has also written about Love Makes a Family disbanding in CT after gm became a reality. So, everything in the U.S also points to the reality that we'll be left worse off once gay marriage comes to pass, given, on top of everything else, the economic crisis.

Three states, MA, NH and NY, have proven that when the rich gay activists get what they want, they turn their backs on the remaining issues facing the more marginalized populations. They fought like dogs to get marriage rights in Massachusetts, and yet trans people are still not covered in employment. Few gay people want to help, and most of them are not well-off.

New Hampshire passed the law to allow same-sex marriage the very same day they dropped a bill to protect their trans people. That day, I got a horrible E-mail from HRC fawning all over the people in NH for the wonderful thing they accomplished, but said nothing about the trans bill being dropped. Someone should have kicked the SOB in the "you-know-whats," for his arrogance.

New York, they fought for 30 years to get employment coverage for sexual orientation, but resisted adding gender identity and expression. Silvia Rivera was told on her death bed by Matt Foreman that we would be added, but if I'm not mistaken, she died before Matt's words became lies. And, as soon as SONDA got passed, the gay community moved onto marriage and may soon get it, at the expense of more transgender lives.

So, to me, I don't think Yasmin is being harsh enough in her opposition to the same-sex marriage movement. Personally, I think that same-sex marriage has raped the community. I can use stronger words, but this should get some angry enough.

They fought like dogs to get marriage rights in Massachusetts, and yet trans people are still not covered in employment.

MassEquality has been one of the strongest groups advocating for the transgender rights bill.

Nevertheless, transgender people are already covered in Mass. by an MCAD decision backed up by an SJC case. I agree the bill is an important symbolic statement, but it won't affect anything as we are already covered.

Then, how come my trans friends are fighting heavily for the bill to protect them and they are still getting discriminated on the job? You mean to tell me that gay and lesbian people are covered and don't have to go to court if they are discriminated against, but trans people have to somehow come up with the money and time to fight their discrimination in court and this is acceptable?

In all the civil rights issues, laws have been enacted to totally assure a person a chance of not being discriminated against in all but a few cases. But, once a trans person wins one court case, this translates to some gay and lesbians that we don't have to have a law for "those people" because they can go to court to fight it. I consider that form of thinking as another way gay and lesbians can act out their bigotry and sugar coat it as them being supportive. Mass Equality has no interest in helping the trans community. Never has.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 14, 2009 8:14 PM

Most of the "marriage equality activists" were nowhere to be found before this issue became the end-all-and-be-all of the LGBT community. So it won't surprise me at all if they disappear after they "win" the right to marry, as happened in Canada.

As usual, Yasmin, great post!

JohnVisser | July 14, 2009 6:05 PM

Yasmin:

Your posts are draining resources from Queer Activism. How, exactly, is marriage not a queer activist goal? I'm a queer activist and marriage rights is one of my goals.

Advancement on any LGBT issue is advancement on all.

You've been beating this dead horse for so long now that the carcass has since rotted away and you are left standing there with a stick flailing it in the air at nothing.

When I see a post by you, I already know what it is going to say - as do most others, I will venture to say. Please STFU. Or go work for Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher.


Honestly, if the best response to an intellectual argument you can make is "shut up" and "you're as bad as these other people," then obviously you don't know how to defend your position.

Stick to substance people.

JohnVisser | July 15, 2009 12:11 PM

Alex, the point of my comment is that this issue has been discussed so much that there really isn't much left to say. The marriage folks aren't going to change their focus. I doubt little if anything will change from Yasmin's continual posts on the subject. Quite frankly, I do not come to Bilerico much anymore as it has become more of a downer than anything else.

Implying that I am unintellectual doesn't change anything either.

No, the point of your comment was telling someone to "Please STFU. Or go work for Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher." That's borderline TOS because it's a personal attack that does nothing to advance the conversation.

I'm sorry people here depress you, and I don't think that's anyone's intent, but we can't have all this lashing out anymore on the site.

Yasmin,

With Ryan Conrad's post, I see pointed opinion, but a lack of substantiated data. The two assessments cited reflect research conducted in Maine--in 2007 and 2009, respectively--which do not necessarily speak to priorities at a national-level. I'd like some more information about both the Maine Speak Out Project and the Charlie Howard Memorial Library closings, before assuming what caused this. The connection is correlational. While the mentioning of EqualityMaine's $2 million budget for gay marriage is staggering, we need to compare that to the rest of the budget spending for perspective.
---
Amy Sueyoshi writes:

"Last year Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community (APIQWTC), an all-volunteer run organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, approached one national queer rights organization for sponsorship for their annual fundraiser. The organization declined. They refused to support any groups not actively working toward marriage equality."

This is interesting, for sure, though one organization's decision does not mean gay marriage is taking a "unilateral precedence." Further, to what organization does she refer?
---
I appreciate your attention to "far more important queer issues," really. I'm glad you're inviting others to comment on the marriage "sucking away resources." Let's get some more evidence.

I doubt, though, no matter the "seafaring metaphors" or "dump" rhetoric, if marriage is going away. I imagine a re-distribution of funding toward additional pressing issues is in order. As well, donors must become/remain proactive in realizing and advancing "equality for all."

Thanks for taking on this issue.

Thanks, Leo.

I think part of the larger problem is precisely that the funding and support of queer activist projects is so tenuous and so bound up in the incestuous non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) that it becomes problematic for a small, volunteer-driven organisation to actually name names. This is why I made it clear that this was not written as a journalistic exposé but, essentially, as an invitation for us to start talking about this issue more explicitly. I still invite people to talk more openly about such instances, but I'm not naive enough to think that people are going to or should risk their jobs or their groups, in this economy, to do so.

The bigger picture here is not that A = B, which is to say that the $2 million for marriage funding = the taking away of $X from a queer activist project. But it is to attest what many of us on the ground already know: the large gay orgs habitually refuse to fund/support anything that's not related to gay marriage AND, as both Conrad and Sueyoshi prove so ably, there's a dearth of funding for queer activist projects but a disproportionate amount of financial support for gay marriage. That's the bigger picture we need to keep in mind. And, as Merecedes's comment below indicates (and as affirmed by my Canadian brethren), we're already seeing the consequences of this lopsided "struggle" in Canada.

I also think that part of the problem may well lie in the overinvestment in the NPIC to fund queer causes, but that's another post and another discussion altogether.

I second what Dustin Kight wrote above. The only thing I saw proved was that Ryan Conrad and Amy Sueyoshi share a much greater talent for persuading people than Yasmin Nair.

Not that I agree with them, but I'm under no pressure to because both were writing opinion pieces, not detached, objective analyses. I don't mean to dismiss their opinions based on that, and I agree that marriage sucks up more resources than it should, but Nair should have considered the nature of her source material when she chose a headline advertising "proof" that same-sex marriage is draining resources from the GLBT movement. I find it ironic that Nair would display such shoddy journalism while calling herself a "reporter." This might sound like a petty, ad hominem attack, but it reveals a pattern in her thinking, namely that she's so intent on invalidating anyone who doesn't agree with her that she'll hold up anything she can find as "proof" that she's right and the rest of us are wrong.

Unfortunately, Sueyoshi and Conrad fall into the same type of thinking that Nair does, that people who support same-sex marriage only care about same-sex marriage and don't give a hoot about things like HIV/AIDS and hate crimes. Both of them also seek to conflate issues partially but not specifically related to the GLBT community -- like health care and immigration -- with queer activism, much as Nair does. These issues are important, for sure, but criticizing the GLBT rights movement for not dropping marriage and focusing on them is a bit like the ASPCA criticizing the HRC for not working against animal cruelty because some gays have cats.

The biggest mistake that all three of them make is failing to recognize the nature of the marriage issue and the religious right's part in it. It's not just about making same-sex marriage legal, but about keeping it from being banned. The religious right isn't pushing same-sex marriage bans and repeals -- often with little or no provocation from the GLBT community -- out of some misguided effort to "protect marriage," but as a step toward achieving its ultimate goal of forcing us back into the closet or at least relegating us to permanent second-class citizenship. Working to make life better for all members of our community -- including those who are racial minorities, immigrants, HIV/AIDS patients, homeless teens and so forth -- is important, but so is fighting off the people who make a living creating a lot of these problems in the first place and keeping them from gaining an inch toward the evil goals they have for our community. Every one of those constitutional amendments is designed to remind us that we're still hated, and our status as full citizens of this country is at the whim of the unwashed masses. Banning same-sex marriage nationwide -- which is still a possibility -- would open the floodgates for a lot of other, nastier legislation that could easily be passed with the aid of an effective PR campaign.

That's a big reason why I find Nair's tendency to dismiss things like Prop. 8 as frivolous distractions so disturbing. If she doesn't want to marry or donate to same-sex marriage groups and wants to work for social justice causes, then she's more than welcome to and I won't attempt to dissuade her, but it's naive to think that Prop. 8 and the People's Veto in Maine are only about same-sex marriage.

I found this comment left on Sueyoshi's article, and I thought it made a good point:

"Good points, but I'd argue that we didn't pick same sex marriage as the forefront issue. It seems it was thrust upon us by the Right. This issue got where it is not because we were putting marriage equality initiatives forward in state legislatures and the ballot boxes, but because the Right started putting anti-equality measures forward. We could either sit back and focus on the issues mentioned above and get clobbered, or we could try to fight them. It's my impression if we had just let the Right roll over us without any opposition, we'd be much worse off today. And the overall conversation about equality has given us years of constant media conversation and opportunities to talk with people about all the problems that anti LGBT discrimination brings. Immigration reform that includes LGBT partners has been proposed, and the HIV travel ban has been dropped. In the long term, the fight for same sex marriage is a tide that raises all boats."

Alaric,

Saying that the Right forced us to take up gay marriage only proves, again, how politically vacuous the gay marriage movement has been. Why spend so much time letting the Right define us?

Let me just say that UAFA (which advocates for gay partners in immigration) is not a progressive idea. I suggest you start with this post by me to see where I stand on the issue:

http://tinyurl.com/q96une

And the HIV travel ban has been an issue worked on by groups like Gay Men's Health Crisis since 1987, from its inception (Immigration Equality, which now attaches itself to the lifting of the ban, has only been around since 1994. The truth is that such things don't happen overnight and getting it lifted has meant the blood and sweat of a lot of queer activists who have been working relentlessly on the issue for a very long time. As for the bit about gay marriage as a tide rasing all boats, please take a look at the last sentence of my post:

"If we are to use any seafaring metaphors, it might be best to describe gay marriage as the Titanic, about to hit an iceberg and take everyone down with her."

Saying that the Right forced us to take up gay marriage only proves, again, how politically vacuous the gay marriage movement has been. Why spend so much time letting the Right define us?

Honestly, what's your point? You didn't even bother responding to most of my arguments, and you started by pulling out this complete whopper of a red herring.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | July 15, 2009 11:17 AM

It's certainly true that Gay Men's Health Crisis played a role, from early on, in dismantling the HIV ban. But Senator John Kerry (among others) would disagree with your (mis)characterization of Immigration Equality's importance in the effort, as evidenced by the Senator's recent remarks, which can be found here on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPRGCEScWwA

Steve,

Since you are the new Director of Communications for Immigration Equality, I'm very glad you responded.

I wrote:
"And the HIV travel ban has been an issue worked on by groups like Gay Men's Health Crisis since 1987, from its inception (Immigration Equality, which now attaches itself to the lifting of the ban, has only been around since 1994."

So, please let me know exactly how I've mischaracterised IE's importance in this work. Does IE not attach itself to the ban? Has it not been around only since 1994?

As for John Kerry's remark: He made it at the Safe Haven awards. The Safe Haven award is described thusly on your own website: "Immigration Equality's Safe Haven Awards honor outstanding LGBT immigrants and their champions, and celebrate Immigration Equality's work to end immigration discrimination."

http://www.immigrationequality.org/rsvp2007.php

Readers should know all the pertinent facts. Kerry received an award from IE, and mentioned IE's work on immigration. It's only natural that someone receiving an award from an org should credit that org's work. That doesn't mean that the award is undeserved, but surely a little bit of transparency about the award is due to the reader, yes? And even Kerry mentions IE as one of the orgs. ("because of groups like...").

Even if there were not this connection between the award and Kerry, why would I ever believe that a politician naming an organisation as a primary factor in political work actually meant that such was indeed the case? I'm by no means an insider in DC circles, but even I know better than to take such statements at face value.

I have no libidinal attachment/connection to GMHC, but I have been faintly puzzled about the way in which the HIV ban has, over the last many months, increasingly been portrayed as *primarily* an IE endeavour. I notice that one of the videos about the ban even has someone from GMHC talking about IE's work.

This is, of course, a topic for an entirely different post, but it would be interesting to note how, when, and why that shift in organising may have occurred. We should definitely talk about that more offline. In the meantime, a little more transparency please.

I agree. Gay Marriage is taking away resources from other queer activism. So, let's blame homophobia and not people fighting for equality. End of story. Wouldn't it be great to win one national victory before we call it a day?

Wouldn't it be great to win one national victory before we call it a day?


The GLBT community has a better chance of passing hate crimes and ENDA at the federal level NOW than they do getting any marriage equality legislation through a recalcitrant Congress.

I am with a local queer anti-oppression organization in Chicago, GenderJUST, that does NOT work on gay marriage and we have TWICE been refused funding openly on the grounds that we're not working on gay marriage - and I'm fairly confident that several other denials had this as their basis.

GenderJUST is an organization that addresses issues like school safety from a racial, economic, and gender justice perspective - so that, instead of focusing on kicking "bullies" out of schools, we propose more just and transformative models of creating safe and affirming education. Furthermore, we work to hold LGBTQA communities accountable around race, class, gender, age, size, etc. As you can imagine, our work is not too attractive to the LGBT philanthropic community!

The two denials I mentioned above SPECIFICALLY cited gay marriage as a basis for their denial. I'd like more than anything to name those foundations by name, but until there is some plan in place to hold the LGBT philanthropic community accountable around this, it would be incredibly foolish to do so.

This is rooted in the way that the non profit industrial complex operates, as Yasmin points out. The NPIC, by nature and by definition, exists to make the world safer for capitalism. Why would someone who profits from economic oppression and, by extension, from racism and transphobia, give resources to an organization that struggles against such oppression? We need to find alternative ways to support real anti-oppression organizing because the NPIC isn't cutting it!

And I’ll add that fighting to expand hate crimes legislation is just as bad, if not worse, than fighting for gay marriage! The LGBT “movement” keeps talking about equality but never mentions justice or liberation for all those who are oppressed. Its clear that all the mainstream LGBT advocacy orgs (HRC, NCLR, Lambda, all the state “Equality” groups, etc) are fighting for an equal right to oppress the working class of all sexual and gender persuasions. I want nothing to do with that!

I'm sorry to hear that your organization got turned down for funding because it doesn't focus on marriage, but naming the two philanthropies that turned down your funding in this comment thread would be a first step toward holding them accountable. After that, you can go to other philanthropies and ask them for grants. There are organizations that have nothing to do with marriage that seem able to secure funding.

Second, the lack of focus by gay rights groups on larger issues of social inequity is not because of some conspiracy to oppress the poor by evil gay white men, but because of the general balkanization of the left that has been taking place over the last 20 or so years. Among the GLBT movement in particular, this is partially attributable to the fact that not all the community's members are of a liberal or progressive political persuasion.

I know it's hard to care about same-sex marriage when you're more concerned with survival, but the problem is that some people here, including Nair and most of her supporters, refuse to see same-sex marriage as even a facet of GLBT rights and instead embrace as their goal a fantastical utopian America of open borders, free health care for all and endless fucking. It sounds like a nice idea, don't get me wrong, but it's completely unrealistic.

Again, you keep missing it.....

I think this is a good example of the blindness and inability of same-sex marriage supporters to hear a broader analysis. NO ONE is against their interest in getting married. The LGBT movement is funded by wealthy and middle class white gay people - that's not a conspiracy, it's factual and uncomfortable true. Where do you think money magically appeared to fight Prop 8? I think we close down REAL political conversation when "survival " is trivialized as a mere concerned. Survival is an utmost importance. Same-sex marriage is more than a facet of the LGBT field - at the moment it is the only construction of equality and justice that can be manufactured by the mainstream movement. I think their intentions are fine but deeply flawed.

Our critiques about the same-sex marriage agenda is not rooted in a "endless -fucking"??? Again, this highlights the need of the same-sex marriage advocacy community to hold itself as filled with moral authority - just like their right-wing counterparts.

Asking to expand the LGBT advocacy to be more inclusive is not the same as asking LGBT advocates to abandon their work. I doubt that this issue will be given up. Marriage is at the epicenter of mainstream white LGBT movement, so I don't think there is breathing space to really connect issues of employment, immigration, democratic participation, education, etc....and that underlines the sadness of this narrow argument.

niv, Go back and read Yasmin's articles on this subject, if you haven't already. She shows an unmistakable pattern of invalidating and dismissing anybody who supports same-sex marriage. She's not asking people to think about and work on issues other than same-sex marriage, but asking them to "dump" it completely because she, personally, isn't inclined toward marriage in general and has idealized of how GLBT people should be.

She makes assumptions about why people don't agree with her instead of actually making an effort to understand and show some empathy for their point of view. When challenged, she glosses over people's arguments and attacks them personally or responds with any number of logical fallacies.

Take a look at her response to my long post above, which is a pretty good example of her strategy. I made several arguments, followed by a comment from Amy Sueyoshi's article that I thought made a good point. Instead of addressing my arguments, Yasmin threw out a red herring argument and then responded to the comment at the end, which wasn't even mine.

Alaric,

I think Niv below has ably responded to your comment, so the only thing I'll add is with reference to your "naming the two philanthropies that turned down your funding in this comment thread would be a first step toward holding them accountable. After that, you can go to other philanthropies and ask them for grants. There are organizations that have nothing to do with marriage that seem able to secure funding."

I don't think there's anyone here with any experience in the non-profit sector, for or against the emphasis on GM, who could possibly see this as a realistic view of how the NPIC works. The NPIC is a very small and incestuous world, and naming donors is risky business. Also, please keep in mind that grassroots orgs aren't generally asking philanthropies for money - funding organizations are precisely that, they fund projects, they don't provide charity. The distinction ought to be made clear.

I'll admit I don't have a lot of experience working with non-profits, so I'll take your word for it.

On the other hand, take a look at this part of Sam's post: "GenderJUST is an organization that addresses issues like school safety from a racial, economic, and gender justice perspective - so that, instead of focusing on kicking "bullies" out of schools, we propose more just and transformative models of creating safe and affirming education. Furthermore, we work to hold LGBTQA communities accountable around race, class, gender, age, size, etc."

I'm not knocking on GenderJUST's mission or questioning whether the NPIC is the incestuous group you say it is, but that description of GenderJUST sounds pretty broad and not very focused to me. On the other hand, a lot of philanthropies like to donate to very specific causes, like saving the Amazon rainforests, inner-city music programs and so forth. I have no way of knowing what philanthropies turned down GenderJUST, but it seems the group has plenty of other options, such as philanthropies focused on education, racism, social justice, etc.

I said I don't have a lot of experience working for non-profits, but I do have some, and I'm pretty sure there are philanthropies out there that would be willing to donate to a group like GenderJUST. Just because a couple of philanthropies turned GenderJUST down because it didn't work on same-sex marriage, that doesn't mean all of them would.

Alaric,

Again, just to be clear: No one here is asking for charity. Asking for donor funds from a funding organization is often a long and rigorous process, and it requires any group to submit lots of paperwork, go through site visits, undergo interviews etc. The description that Sam provides of GenderJUST (a group of which I'm also a member, btw) is a brief one meant to let *you* know what the group does; it's not what would appear on an application form and the process is a lot more complex than simply filling out one form.

Also, please keep in mind that my post is raising larger, systemic questions about the kind of activism that's getting shut down because of the focus on gay marriage. Focusing endlessly on one group, GJ in this case, fails to take into account the larger issues here. And the fact that we already have a few examples of groups specifically being denied support because they don't work exclusively on gay marriage should be cause for concern. This isn't about GJ. This is about GJ as the symptom of the larger issue.

Your earlier point about the fracturing of the left and the fact that the gay "community" is not monolithically progressive is more pertinent:
"Among the GLBT movement in particular, this is partially attributable to the fact that not all the community's members are of a liberal or progressive political persuasion."

Exactly. And gay marriage is a conservative cause, and it shores up conservative ideologies and economic systems. And yet, much of the support for gay marriage derives from the false idea that it is a progressive/liberal/left cause. That's partly what we're trying to get at here: the kind of work that's actually critical of conservative ideologies is exactly the kind of work that's getting silenced or shut down altogether. And that, in the long run, is the devastating and long-term effect of gay marriage.

In the end, this isn't just about funding - it's about where our political energy gets diverted and how it gets used up in the "fight" for gay marriage. As a friend of mine who works with queer street youth and against the prison industrial complex put it to me: "All these thousands of people rally for gay marriage downtown. Where are they when we try to organise on behalf of people who are unjustly imprisoned, or when youth see their funding cut?"

Canada's example, where the gay marriage folks have long since left the table, is pertinent here. And we see signs of the same with CT's Love Makes a Family.

All of which is to say: Let's stop getting so hung up on Gender JUST's example and continue looking at the bigger picture here.

Yasmin, I'm not challenging the idea that same-sex marriage uses up too many resources and that there are other issues facing the GLBT community that trump same-sex marriage for many people. I actually agree with you on that.

My main beef with your posts is the idea that we should "dump" same-sex marriage "now," and that the concerns of those of us who are working for it are simply frivolous. Frankly, I think that's what has been bothering most of your detractors, and that's what keeps you from having an effect on them.

Yasmin, I LOVE the way your blogs incite so much rage and anger from supporters of gay marriage - and then they accuse YOU of personally attacking people and of bad logic! This is a great study in the way that people argue when they have nothing substantive to say!

I'll also add that I posted the above info as an example to back up Yasmin's point - I'm not looking for advice on ways that we can secure funding within the context of the NPIC. You'll notice that I concluded by saying that we need to find new ways to support real anti-oppression organizing OUTSIDE of the NPIC paradigm.

I’m not surprised that Alaric is choosing to focus solely on the example I provided and not on the larger picture – its just that inability to see problems as systemic that leads one to support GM, Hate Crimes Legislation, and other reactionary causes.

You’re the best Yasmin! I’m jealous of all the anger directed towards you – maybe one day I’ll be an effective enough activist to piss people off the way you do! ;)

I agree with Yasmin.

The realities are that "same-sex marriage" is the highest priority for mainstream LGBT organizations. Yes, it is sucking up the air time and resources. Unfortunately, it's also a boring ass issue. Seriously B-O-R-I-N-G. I think it's so lame that we (the gays) have tried desperately to imbue marriage as a hyper-symbol of "freedom", "equality" and "civil rights". The thinking about this creation was to win public support. Marriage is about a license and property exchange, that's really it. Marriage is not about freedom. I don't think the general public thinks of its marriages as creations or "freedom" "equality" and "civil rights". I know people think its a panacea of justice - but it's really a wedding party and papers.

Please don't get me wrong - I really believe that whoever wants to get married, should get married - but nonetheless it feels like the only operating framework to discuss LGBT issues is through the limited whole of marriage.

My bigger political discomfort is the fact the "Gay is the NEW Right". (LOL) When you look at the agenda items of mainstream LGBT organizations it ironically mirrors attitudes and ideals of white conservative groups - i.e. marriage promotion, national military/war, harsher criminal justice laws, etc. As a black man, I will spare my racial analysis of the LGBT movement and who it also mirrors the racial make-up on the white conservative movement - i.e. white leadership with people of color outreach and the new found angst with Obama!


As someone who works in the human rights/social justice field - I am frequently asked about gay oppression exclusively through a lens of "marriage", while other dominating social issues like economic justice, health care, racial justice, the environment, the Supreme Court, etc are seen as more mature social justice issues. This makes it difficult to build political, social and important solidarity with other progressive organizations. That are not exclusively homophobic per se, but find it hard to embrace marriage and access to the military as a social justice issue.

I think Yasmin is asking us to make more space at the gay advocacy table to lift up a deeper, richer and nuanced analysis on social justice issues that do not center gay issues as one wedded to a marriage debate.

It's become common in some circles to insist that gay marriage is the rising tide that will lift all other boats and help all other queer causes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a resident of Massachusetts, this statement is simply incorrect. Marriage has changed everything here.

Vince in LA | July 15, 2009 12:11 AM

Is anyone else tired of the use of the word "queer" to describe "our" community?
I, for one, don't even want to read the arguments of a queer activist, because I find the term offensive. I am not QUEER. I am a GAY man.
I guarantee that if we ever promoted gay marriage or same-sex marriage as "queer marriage," it would never pass.
I wouldn't donate to the cause, I wouldn't put signs on my lawn, and I wouldn't talk to my straight friends about it. I'd be too embarrassed. We might as well run around calling ourselves "sexual deviants!"
And, yes, I know, we are now the "LGBTQ" community. But that implies that Qs are NOT Ls or Gs. So, who are they?
I support gay marriage because it's the right thing to do. The courts ruled on it, and it was so. And then some ignorant people voted to change the state constitution and take that right away.
If more states approve gay marriage, maybe the federal government will finally grant recognition (hello, IRS?) to gay marriages, and we'll all (gays and queers alike) be one step closer to being treated as equals.

"Sexual deviants?" And you find the term "queer" offensive?

I think that says it all.

If marriage is what it takes to get "equality," perhaps we ought to reconsider what the term means and why we hold on to it. I, for one, think that something as simple as health care for all might be a greater measure of "equality."

""Sexual deviants?" And you find the term "queer" offensive?"

Yasmin, judging by how blatantly you took that quote of Vince's out of context, either a) you don't know how to read; b) you don't bother reading people's comments unless they agree with you; or c) you're being deliberate dishonest.

So which is it?

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 15, 2009 1:17 PM

Vince, your question, "is anyone else tired of the use of the word 'queer' to describe 'our' community?"

Like, where have you been? "Our community" has just been having that disagreement for the past 30 or so years, and yes, making the same tired arguments you just made here.

And Alaric, just exactly how did Yasmin take the quote out of context?

Brynn, she's implying that Vince is advocating that we call ourselves that. That's taking his quote out of context because that's not what he said at all.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 15, 2009 5:39 PM

Alaric, no she's not advocating that. Honestly, I don't see how you can get that interpretation from what she wrote.

For Pete's sake, Brynn, read Vince's post, then Yasmin's response. Here, since you apparently put so little effort to read people's posts that you even stated that said Yasmin "advocated" that point in my post, I'll reproduce the quotations here:

Vince wrote:
I, for one, don't even want to read the arguments of a queer activist, because I find the term offensive. I am not QUEER. I am a GAY man.
I guarantee that if we ever promoted gay marriage or same-sex marriage as "queer marriage," it would never pass.
I wouldn't donate to the cause, I wouldn't put signs on my lawn, and I wouldn't talk to my straight friends about it. I'd be too embarrassed. We might as well run around calling ourselves "sexual deviants!"

Now, Brynn, note the context in which Vince wrote "sexual deviants." He obviously meant it in a sarcastic sense.

Nevertheless, Yasmin wrote in response:

"Sexual deviants?" And you find the term "queer" offensive? I think that says it all.

You see? She is implying that Vince says we should use the term "sexual deviants." This means that she didn't bother reading his post, lacked the reading comprehension skills to understand the sarcasm or deliberately sought to put words in Vince's mouth.

Is anyone else tired of the use of the word "queer" to describe "our" community? I, for one, don't even want to read the arguments of a queer activist, because I find the term offensive. I am not QUEER. I am a GAY man.

I find it very telling that the people who have the most invested in the gay marriage cause are the same ones who can't realize that not everybody in the community is just like them. Not everyone in our community identifies as a gay man. Heck, not everybody in our community even identifies as strictly "gay". My priorities aren't the same as your priorities. That doesn't mean I think you shouldn't be able to get married, but the community isn't monolithic, and yours isn't the only voice we should be listening to when setting community priorities.

Hey, we're all fairly intelligent adults and presumably make informed choices about which causes we support with our money. All of us get bombarded every day with fundraising appeals and have to pick and choose. One could argue it's a waste to support any LGBT "special interest" campaign when there are bigger problems facing the nation, like global warming, the health care mess, endless war, etc. But I think most of us select the few we care about the most, and have some personal connection with. Personally, about 90 percent of my gay-related donations go to local organizations, where I can see results up close. Nationally, I prefer Lambda Legal and ACLU because their court work involves many different issues, including marriage, workplace equality and transgender rights. I also like the Trevor Project because gay adolescents are more vulnerable than us adults. As a retiree, I wish some advocacy group would zero in on Social Security's bias against gay people, which robs us of billions in benefits, but the age-denial syndrome still persists in the LGBT world. So I support marriage equality with modest donations as a back-door path to eventual SS equality.

Very good post, Tom. You make an excellent point: We're all adults, and we make our own decisions about which causes to support.

As I've said before, I've donated more to groups like the Trevor Project and the Ali Forney Center (a homeless shelter for GLBT teens here in New York) than I have to marriage groups. Granted, it's not much because I don't have a ton of money to donate, but I would generally prioritize groups like those over the state "Equality" groups.

Just to be clear: this is not a post encouraging people to give to non-marriage focused groups or causes. Focusing only on our individual donations gets us away from a larger systemic critique. If anything, there's a larger critique here of the NPIC in general.

Just to be clear: this is not a post encouraging people to give to non-marriage focused groups or causes.

Then what has your point been all along, Yasmin?

From what I gather, you think we should "dump" same-sex marriage because you think the interests of those of us who support it are meaningless and selfish compared to what you view as bigger issues, and that bans on same-sex marriage don't matter because if everyone had totally free health care, marriage status wouldn't be needed.

The only things I've been able to conclude from your various posts -- including this one -- are that you have the type of simplistic worldview typical of people on both the far left and the far right; you make no effort to understand or validate people who don't agree with you; and you have a tendency to be intellectually dishonest when challenged.

I'm just wondering why people are surprised that sectors of the population each fund their own interests. It's not as if this is the only case.

Black/Latino HIV/AIDS/Planned Parenthood groups are starved in resources as well, and a large portion of these populations don't care to contribute given how they got their legal equalities and don't care to support what doesn't affect them. Same for women's rights movements. Lesbians are left out in the cold concerning their particular issues with the patriarchy.

What I'm asking is: Why do you think these people should be strong-armed into supporting causes they don't care for? Convinced, perhaps. But somehow implying that marriage equality is an elitist movement? I don't know what you're on. You must be in very peculiar, insular social circles to think that an overwhelming majority of gay people don't take this cause as their rallying cry.

If funds are being funneled into marriage equality, it's because those behind the funds intend such funds specifically for whatever causes they care to donate for. And last time I checked, people are free to spend their money on whatever they damn well please.

I completely disagree.

As a gay man who lives in Iowa and is planning to be married, our marriage is absolutely about freedom, equality and civil rights. And more than that it is about "normalizing" our relationships to a largely homo-naive public.

Much of the money raised in Iowa has been for a very well organized and extremely efficient organization, and much of the money has come from the heterosexual, gay-supportive community, not a bunch of rich, fat, old gay queens, as has been implied.

Although our wedding event is not intended to be political, it will be regardless of our intent.

If gay marriage were not so important, why would those who oppose it be spending such tremendous amounts of money. They know that this rising tide will lift all LGBT boats.

"The only things I've been able to conclude from your various posts -- including this one -- are that you have the type of simplistic worldview typical of people on both the far left and the far right; you make no effort to understand or validate people who don't agree with you; and you have a tendency to be intellectually dishonest when challenged."

And how have YOU proven yourself any better at listening to opinions that differ from your own?? Yours is such an easy claim to make, and so typical of people priding themselves in their "moderate" points-of-view--just villainize all radical perspectives as you argue for the sanity of your own mainstream, balanced position. If you can label Yasmin an extremist psycho and align her with the religious right, then it becomes that much easier to put forth your own agenda as a sensible middle ground. I would argue that THAT's intellectually dishonest too.

Fred, be serious.

I've read Yasmin's arguments and addressed them. By contrast, she typically invalidates the arguments of people who don't agree with her, deliberately taking people's quotes out of context or simply ignoring or dismissing them when she can't come up with an effective rebuke.

I don't reflexively aim for the middle of the road; I believe in evaluating arguments and ideas based on their individual merits and the facts and logic used to support them. I already said I agree with the idea that same-sex marriage uses too many resources.

The problem is with Yasmin's argument that we should just "dump" gay marriage; she gives no fair acknowledgment to the concerns of people who don't agree with her and instead justifies her belief by proposing a radical, utopian vision for society that is, quite simply, unrealistic.

An idea doesn't deserve to be dismissed just because it's radical, of course, but being radical doesn't automatically make it valid, either.

I actually used to be pretty far to the left in my political views, but one of the major sticking points for me -- and one of the reasons why I abandoned that worldview -- was the widespread and incorrigible tendency for people to think that the supposed nobility of their ideas trumps any requirement for facts, logic and fairness.

Thanks, Fred. You put things really well.

While I'm here, I'd like to take a moment and echo Alex's caution at the top. I'm happy to engage with anyone on the actual issues, but I don't feel beholden to commenters who take this occasion to make personal attacks or try to deduce emotions that I may or may not have. If you have an argument about the issues I've laid out, go ahead. But please bear in mind that making comments like "I don't know what you're on," telling me to "STFU," or endlessly going on about one single point, which distracts or gets away from bigger issues, is not going to encourage me or, I suspect, anyone else, to engage further with said commenters.

Do keep in mind that these are blogs. They are meant to incite conversation, and that conversation can't go on if you keep harping on one single point just to prove that you can "win" an argument. Or if you keep hurling mud to evade the responsibility of actually arguing your point.

There are people who disagree with me, and they've made their points without resorting to insinuations about my character and without running around in circles. I strongly encourage others to follow their example.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 15, 2009 1:10 PM

Yasmin, the arguments on this issue are beginning to remind me of disagreements between religious folks and agnostics/atheists. It almost feels like it comes down to either you have faith, or you don't. And by that, I don't mean literally. But the differences in world-view seem about as insurmountable. Alaric, Vince, Dustin, and others who make their arguments are not starting from a multifaceted, coalition-building, in-it-for-the-long-haul, social-justice and civil rights-for-ALL perspective. Which is, I believe, exactly your criticism of the ME movement. (With which, as you know, I totally agree.) But because they don't share such a world-view, they can't even comprehend the points you're trying to make. To them, it all boils down to this one issue; and the fact that you disagree with them on it, in their minds, means you're basically trying to thwart them and therefore are allied with the enemy.

I greatly respect your stamina to continue trying to convince them. But ultimately, it will require a fundamental change in world-view on their parts before they can even HEAR your arguments.

Brynn,

You're a breath of fresh air! Not just because we agree, but because your analysis of the rhetorical battles is spot on. Yes, I agree - those who (now) claim to want us to engage with us "are not starting from a multifaceted, coalition-building, in-it-for-the-long-haul, social-justice and civil rights-for-ALL perspective" in the first place. Which is why I find the posturing on the lines of "Why can't you help us build alliances that include marriage," which comes NOW, after the monocular vision is proving to be faulty, so richly...ironic and interesting.

Brynn, I don't know how many times I have to repeat this: My main beef with Yasmin's posts is the argument that we should abandon same-sex marriage altogether and basically let the religious right trample on us while we work for healthcare reform and a multitude of other issues that she, being of her particular political persuasion, deems to be of greater importance.

I'm sorry, but all the healthcare reform and social justice in the world aren't going to change the fact that the constitutions of 30 states declare us to be second-class citizens. They also won't change the fact that each of these amendments is a jumping-off point for the religious right to further reverse the gains the GLBT community has made or limit the gains we're able to make.

It's incredibly asinine to think these things don't matter or to come up with inane red herrings such as "Why spend so much time letting the Right define us?"

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 15, 2009 2:39 PM

Alaric, I have never once seen Yasmin argue that we should "abandon same-sex marriage altogether and basically let the religious right trample on us while we work for healthcare reform and a multitude of other issues."

Can you provide a quote?

The fact you keep repeating that assertion only proves my point that you--and others making your argument--are not hearing her.

Moreover, I don't have a fraction of her patience to continue engaging with people who repeatedly illustrate that they're not listening. So unless you can provide a bona fide quote to prove your repeated assertion, don't expect me to engage with you again on this thread.

[i]Alaric, I have never once seen Yasmin argue that we should "abandon same-sex marriage altogether and basically let the religious right trample on us while we work for healthcare reform and a multitude of other issues."

Can you provide a quote?[/i]

Sure thing, Brynn.

She wrote a post titled "Dump gay marriage now," thus advocating abandonment of same-sex marriage. Some time before that, she wrote one titled "Prop. 8 is a distraction" and wrote in a comment to me, "Why spend so much time letting the Right define us?" both of which indicate that she's fairly apathetic with regard to the threat that the religious right poses to the GLBT community.

So yes, Brynn, she says we should abandon same-sex marriage altogether and let the religious right trample on us.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 15, 2009 6:03 PM

So, you expect me to believe your interpretation of a post, based on the title of a post? You've already numerous times proven yourself incapable of parsing complex text or understanding nuance; and prone to project your own preconceived notions onto everything Yasmin has written.

First, a title does not a post make.

Second, advocating that we focus our energy and resources on issues other than gay marriage, or in addition to gay marriage, does not, by any stretch of the imagination, equate to a conclusion that Yasmin is "apathetic with regard to the threat that the religious right poses to the GLBT community."

Language actually does convey meaning that is at least somewhat independent of your blind allegiance to certain predetermined conclusions and ideas. And under those independent meanings, there is absolutely no way you can twist Yasmin's words to mean that she wants to "let the religious right trample on us."

Brynn,

As usual, you hit the nail on the head. And Alaric, now that Brynn has decisively and clearly cut you off at the pass, let me also just step in before you continue with the "she said, yes, yes she did say" line of comments that you've engaged in so far.

Okay. Brynn and I both think you're twisting words out of context. You think not. Fine. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I'm a lying so-so and that I say everything you claim I do. Fine. What's your argument? What's your response to the issues I've laid out? So far, you've picked on words and phrases to imply a flaw in my argumentation *style*, but have provided no actually substantive arguments to disprove me. You've even agreed that the GM movement is in fact using up resources. To quote you: "I'm not challenging the idea that same-sex marriage uses up too many resources and that there are other issues facing the GLBT community that trump same-sex marriage for many people. I actually agree with you on that."

Okay, then. You agree with the thrust of my post. Thank you.

Now, let's move on, shall we? If you have something new and different to say, please do say it. Otherwise, echoing Brynn, I'm not engaging with you either.

Well gee, Brynn, does "dump marriage now" mean something different from the way I'm interpreting it? And does writing off Prop. 8 as a mere "distraction" suggest that Yasmin DOES understand its symbolic value to the religious right on the national level and its potential legal implications and why it's important to fight these amendments? Does an inane and nonsensical comment like "Why spend so much time letting the Right define us?" suggest she understands what a threat the religious right still is? Or did the headlines have no relation to the posts, which, mind you, I read and found consistent with the headlines?

This has become truly priceless. It's funny how Yasmin's contrarian posts attract this gang of yes-men to flock to her side, breathlessly defending every single thing she says and completely overlooking the massive gaps in her logic, her shaky factual support and her unfair treatment of people who don't agree. Yasmin then responds by gushing and treating anyone who agrees with her like an oasis of genius in a Sahara of stupidity.

You see, I used to entertain a radical left worldview not unlike yours. I no longer do, for a variety of reasons, but one of those reasons is this type of arrogant, back-patting behavior. You seem to think that because of the perceived nobility of your beliefs, you're exempt from the requirement to support them with facts, logic and fairness. As I said already, this is a strong tendency among the far left. You don't hold certain beliefs because they make sense, but because they validate your deep-seated bitterness, they're radical, they feel good and they let you "stick it to the man."

Proof? An unnamed organization did not fund a specific request. That's not proof, that's an assertion and a strawman one at that. This is worthy of a Conservapedia article.

What's sad here is that the argument about equal marriage, a fundamental argument that gay people should have the same rights to a civic institution, is reduced to name calling and unfounded arguments that somehow supporting equal marriage means that one is against universal access to health care, is for discrimination against transpeople, and let's not forget the Helen Lovejoy cry, "What about the children?"

For people like my spouse and I, marriage is an important issue and we will continue to work and fund the effort to secure our right to it. No apologies offered.

The attempt to define us as outside or against the overall gay movement, including health issues, teen support, ENDA and even though I hold my nose on it DADT repeal, is as offensive as Maggie Gallagher and others having the nerve to blame us for their failing institutions.

Kevin, since you entered the conversation at this point and may not have seen earlier comments, let me just reiterate what Alex said at the top and in that, hopefully, also provide some guidelines for others:

"Honestly, if the best response to an intellectual argument you can make is [...]"you're as bad as these other people," [like Maggie Gallagher] then obviously you don't know how to defend your position."

I've also addressed the issue of why people are reluctant to name organisations, and invite you to read the earlier comments about that. And I have no idea why you think this has been "been reduced to name calling and unfounded arguments that somehow supporting equal marriage means that one is against universal access to health care, is for discrimination against transpeople, and let's not forget the Helen Lovejoy cry, "What about the children?"" Really? Where? And why assume that everyone thinks gay marriage is "a fundamental argument that gay people should have the same rights to a civic institution"?

Again, to echo Alex, stick to the substance, people. And, given that there has been a fairly vigorous and often, despite the occasional rants, meaningful dialogue, may I also encourage people to first check to see if your concerns have already been addressed in previous comments. I give Alex and Bil and other contributors and projectors credit for creating an online space that's among the more thoughtful and engaged ones on the web. Do let's keep it that way and do let's use the comments section as a resource before firing off comments.

First of all, Yasmin, the Titanic metaphor is simply not aprapos this situation. Marriage is not the Titanic. Marriage is the Lusitania of the LGBT community, about to be torpedoed by our own obsession with it.

Same sex marriage has become both the milepost and barometer of LGBT rights; a dangerous role to assign to it since it's popularity amongst the nation at large has repeatedly proven to be less than we wishfully believe it to be.

Further, ourrepated failures to continue activism beyond marriage rights is detrimental to a majority of the community.

Honestly, I am tired of "marriage this and marriage that"

Lets win some fundamental victories that the entire LGBT community can enjoy, shall we?

Maura,

The Lusitania, yes, the Lusitania, brilliant!

Which raises the question: Are the 18 minutes up yet?

Thanks, I needed that :-)

Your argument that the gay marriage movement is sapping resources from other issues is premised on the assumption that those resources would be directed to those other issues were it not for the gay marriage movement. That's a questionable assumption in general, and largely dependent on which issues (and organizations) you consider.

I would surmise that much of the money flowing to marriage equality organizations, and marriage equality units of existing organizations, is "new" money -- money that was not previously directed at LGBT issues at all. People and foundations inspired to give by the successes, high profile and pure drama of the marriage battle. (I'm not making an argument one way or another about whether those are good reasons to fund particular causes; just that they ARE the reasons particular causes get funded.)

To the extent that money is being redistributed from other causes/organizations, it's doubtful that they are the social justice causes and organizations that you generally champion. Funders didn't abandon poor people and people of color to fund marriage equality; these particular funders never cared about poor people and people of color to begin with. As Lucrece suggested upstream a bit, this is nothing new, and in no way limited to the so-called LGBT "community." People with money give to causes that affect their own personal interests first, and causes that will make them look good second (because they are successful, high profile, popular, etc.). That's how philanthropy works.

This is not some conspiracy to be captured in loaded phrases like "NPIC," but rather an economic reality of life in a capitalist system. Investments are made into organizations and causes that will yield a return; in the for-profit world, that's money, and in the non-profit world, that's other benefits (self-interest, standing in the community, etc.).

You repeatedly rail against this as if it's shocking (it's not), or as if it's likely to change if you just rail loudly enough, or as if LGBTs should somehow work differently. I think both of those hopes or expectations are unfounded. Capitalism is not going away any time soon, no matter how astute the analysis of its failings. (That's not meant to be an endorsement of the way things are, just an observation.)

And, more importantly for the current conversation, there is truly no reason to believe that LGBTs, as a group, care any more about classism and racism than other people. The only trait that LGBs share is that we like, at least some of the time, to have intimate relations with people of the same sex. The only thing that links some LGBs with Ts is that different perspective on gender and gender expression thing. Beyond these commonalities and the discrimination against us based on those traits, there's really no reason to believe we share any common world view at all. We are not a "community" in any traditional sense of the word.
We're people who make common cause when it suits us and go on about our daily lives when it does not.

Please, stop beating your head against the wall. Capitalism is not going to change, and white middle class LGBTs are not going to wake up some day and suddenly give a fuck about poor people or people of color.

Given those constants, I urge pragmatism. Rather than complain about the money that's going to gay marriage, find other sources of money to fund the causes you care about. They are in fact out there, waiting for you to make the compelling case for why investing in your causes/organizations are in their interests. It's a lot of work to find them, and then to make the case, but honestly, I'm not sure how else you get the results you desire. Certainly complaining that money that would never have gone to those causes in the first place is now being invested in marriage equality advocacy is not going to help those causes at all.

Diane,

I agree with many of your points, particularly:

"Funders didn't abandon poor people and people of color to fund marriage equality; these particular funders never cared about poor people and people of color to begin with."

and

"white middle class LGBTs are not going to wake up some day and suddenly give a fuck about poor people or people of color."

Both excellent points. And several of your surmises about how this "new" funding for gay marriage might have emerged seem worth pursuing further. There's lots to mull over here.

But: While I agree with you, broadly, about the way capitalism works, that doesn't mean that the resistance to it should cease.

I think you raise a point that bears further teasing out, whether or not "those resources would be directed to those other issues were it not for the gay marriage movement. That's a questionable assumption in general, and largely dependent on which issues (and organizations) you consider." I think you're right there, and that, again, is to mull over. But there's still a case to be made that in specific instances, money does get refunnelled. Furthermore, in this particular economy where resources are tight, the overinvestment in GM is proving detrimental to other queer causes in the field of philanthropy. The effect may not be immediately visible as a causal one, but the cultural and political effects of having GM construed as the only cause worth supporting need to be examined.

At the same time, this also raises the issue of the extreme dependence on the NPIC, which Sam has alluded to - and which is very much a part of the capitalist system, not separate from it. Even if most of its denizens choose to believe otherwise. And here I'm referring to the widespread mythology that the NPIC can somehow be a corrective to capitalist forms of funding - when the fact is that it has, in fact, entirely capitulated to them. For more, I'd refer you and others to the slightly patchy but useful anthology, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, which you may be familiar with.

But as for "Find other sources of money to fund the causes you care about. They are in fact out there, waiting for you to make the compelling case for why investing in your causes/organizations are in their interests." There, I think you're being unrealistic, given what I know about funding sources drying up or being frozen, at least in Chicago. Furthermore, this blog post isn't meant as a plea for help in looking for NPIC funding, but as a call to people to consider the very real harm being done by the over-emphasis on GM in a large sense as well.

The funding bit is just one part of it. As Sam of Gender JUST for one has made clear, a lot of radical queer activists have and are doggedly pursuing other channels. This kind of exposure of the current process may well be what's needed for us all to get out of the NPIC in general.

I'm not sure what exactly you're referring to when you suggest that most of the denizens of the NCIP believe it's a corrective to the capitalist system, rather than a part of it, but I suspect it's something I paint in a different light: the persistent refusal of many (most?) small non-profits to invest adequately in their fundraising efforts. And this, of course is related to your relative pessimism about finding alternative sources of income (and my relative optimism).

Clearly, some traditional sources are cutting back. But there are a lot of untapped new sources, both on the individual and institutional level. What it takes to identify and tap those sources is an enormous amount of work on researching prospects, creating and presenting a compelling case, and stewardship. These are very different tasks that those necessary to continue getting grants from the same institutional and government sources. Rather than grant-writing, it involves marketing. It's not about begging for money, but about attracting investors. And it requires investment in a fundraising infrastructure within the organization.

Those are things that many cause-oriented nonprofit managers feel very uncomfortable doing. This is what I think you're referring to when you suggest that some think they're outside the capitalist system, although I'm putting a different spin on that same phenomenon. From my perspective, it's a reluctance of many nonprofit folks to realize that their organizations need to "make money" in much the same way small businesses do. It feels dirty to them, it distracts them from "the cause," it takes limited resources away from the mission, etc. etc. That attitude - I don't want any part of the capitalist system - is what undermines a number of small organizations, because it limits their creativity and investment in fundraising. And I've seen countless organizations cut back services, lay off employees and even fold up completely in the face of an economic downturn or a slowdown in funding, rather than seek out new sources. It's very sad and short-sighted.

Criticism of the "NCIP" is somewhat beside the point, in my view. Of course "the revolution will not be funded" -- what ever made you think otherwise? But significant other advocacy and services WILL be funded, and that other stuff is necessary. It comes back to the perennial dilemma in anti-poverty work: yes, of course the underlying problem is systemic, and the system needs to be brought down, but in the meantime, people need to be fed, clothed, housed and cared for. (Or to translate to this debate, yes, of course marriage as a civil institution is questionable at best, dangerously conservative at worst, and needs to be destroyed or radically rethought; but in the meantime, people want access to the system of rights and obligations it creates, because they're central to full citizenship for a vast swath of people.)
So the dilemma is: how many resources go to systemic reform (or revolution) and how many go to serve the immediate day-to-day needs? Does systemic reform distract from the immediate, or does the the focus on the immediate needs only create a safety valve that enables the corrupt system to continue?

Finally, I want to question again your point that in a tight economy, the investment in marriage equality is pulling resources from other queer causes. We seem to agree that that's not necessarily the case as between organizations, because that money would never have gone to those other organizations in the first place. But within existing organizations, I think it's actually having a positive effect on other causes. The main existing legal organizations -- GLAD, NCLR, Lambda and the ACLU -- have no doubt received an influx of new money thanks to the successes and visibility of the marriage equality movement. Much of that money is reinvested in that same issue, but some is reallocated to other issues those organizations have either always been working on, or have been able to start working on thanks to the new resources. GLAD is a case in point -- I don't have personal knowledge of their funding, but I have certainly seen the organization grow in profile and in staffing since Goodridge. While their marriage work gets the spotlight much of the time, they are in fact also working on a range of other cases and issues (as they always have), and that work is made possible in part by the influx of cash from the marriage work. Would they have had the resources, credibility and high profile necessary to start their transgender rights project if they hadn't won and then fundraised around marriage rights? I'm not so sure.

The other organizations I mentioned are in similar positions -- their gay marriage work gets all the media attention, but they are continuing to work on a range of queer legal issues. To focus on organizations like CT's Love Makes a Family -- a small org created with a limited mission, which has now been realized -- seems to miss that point.

FWIW, I know that HRC, Lambda and ACLU, and maybe other multi-purpose advocacy groups as well, regularly poll their donors to get feedback on program priorities. Whether that's just a marketing ploy or the managers actually pay attention to the surveys, I can't say.

Thanks, Tom, that's actually useful information to keep in mind.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 16, 2009 8:20 AM

As long as the fight for SSM or any other part of our agenda is run top down, HRC style, by Democratic (sic) front groups pretending to be leaders of the LGBT communities it's doomed to repeated failure.

Similarly, any organization - left, right, center or simply confused - that can’t fund and sustain it’s own political work and depends on hand outs from the rich or from Democratic (sic) Party front groups is doomed to failure and ultimately to political subservience to right centrist politics.

Political independence is everything. Independent fundraising, however tiresome, is the key to independence. Nothing is free and those hand outs come with a price.

As we’ve seen.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 16, 2009 8:22 AM

Fundamentally, and whatever it's professed motive, opposition to the defense of same sex marriage rights provides aid and comfort to the enemy by furnishing political cover for the increasingly open bigotry of Democrat DOMA supporters like Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Diane,

My point about the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC) is that most people inside it believe, wrongly, that it's a corrective to capitalism. And it's not. I don't have any illusions about that system being able to change or alter capitalism - it's too much a part of it. I think we're both critical of it for different reasons. Let me be clear: I'm sceptical about the Revolution being funded (that's the name of a book, not my ideology), or even that it should be funded. That being said, pointing out the disproportionate ways in which gay marriage gets funded/supported is a necessary first step in showing the material consequences of this mistaken emphasis.

As for your point about gay marriage having somehow helped organisations like ACLU and NCLR - that's a variation of the "gay marriage is a rising tide that lifts all boats" argument. It gets away from the fundamental problem - that gay marriage itself is neither a progressive nor a desirable cause. The problem is that these groups are being given money to advance gay marriage, an inherently conservative cause that, in the long run, is going to be detrimental to a range of social justice issues, the kind that affect the very constituents these groups are set up to protect. Just one example: Gay marriage fundamentally argues that it's okay to institutionalise the idea that marital status/coupledom is what should determine access to benefits like health care. That simply reinforces the kind of social and economic inequality that's a far bigger problem than whether or not people can marry.

Any organisation that's given money for gay marriage is also going to have its feet held to the fire if it doesn't embed that particular mission in ALL of its work. It would be naive to think that a groups is going to be told, in essence, and this is obviously not an exact quote but a broad paraphrase of what is said "Ah, yes, here's tons of money to help gay marriage and yes, of course, feel free to do work on anything else, like systemic critiques of the inequality produced by a world where marriage is the only way to get basic benefits." That's simply not going to happen. I know from my own experience and that of others that donors/funders have no problem being quite blunt and ruthless about preventing projects that they see as antithetical to their missions or ideology/that of the groups they fund. That's the reality of funding. Let's not pretend that all this money is somehow going to swirl around unfettered and unchecked - people don't give money without strings attached.

But more importantly, even if, somehow, an organisation were able to work on something not linked directly to gay marriage, how does it make sense for it to simultaneously perpetuate the systemic inequality that gay marriage brings about? That, in the end, may well be the problem at the heart of all of this - the solutions we seek only reinforce the systemic inequalities we claim to want to dismantle.

In addition, the idea that gay marriage, which reinforces economic inequality and creates a class of people more privileged than the rest who don't marry (in the U.S context) should somehow be the cause that might help other queer issues is an elitist one. There's a whiff of noblesse oblige in your analysis which leads to a state where the haves (the marrieds/those supporting marriage) will take care of the have-nots (the unmarrieds) if the latter will just wait their turn. It also ignores the fact that queer groups that don't focus on marriage but try to address issues like poverty without positing GM as the solution to the same are faced with a dramatic shortfall in their funding. Again, that's the reality on the ground.

As for Love Makes a Family: On the one hand, yes, the group began with a limited mission and had a right to disband once that was realised. On the other hand, the group's disbanding also indicates the myopia of a community that actually thinks that gay marriage has solved every other queer problem. I have no doubt that queers in CT face a range of issues that are entirely disconnected from marriage - and I think it's interesting that LMAF should decide that all the cultural, political, and economic capital it had accrued no longer needed to be put to use. I point to that group as an example of the death of imagination in the gay community.

As I see it, we share certain ideas about the way the NPIC works in relation to capitalism. I don't think we differ all that much on what counts as social justice, but we may differ about the way to get to it.

I think our main difference is that I would argue that it's important and possible to both seek rights within a corrupt system while critiquing the system itself, while I think you would argue that those two strategies are antithetical to one another. On the marriage issue itself, I believe that the move toward gay marriage is in fact undermining civil marriage "as we know it," (unlike those on the right, I think that's a good thing, of course). The kinds of discussions that are being had in the close-to-the-mainstream about the role of government in supporting couples and families were unthinkable ten years ago. That's a fascinating and hopeful development.

And, at the same time, gay marriage can bring important rights under the existing system to those who need them, in particular poor families who cannot afford to see a lawyer to draw wills, health care proxies, advance directives, etc. etc. For me, gay marriage in the short term is very much a social justice issue -- it's poor people who need a quick and cheap way to establish all those rights and obligations, and access to a relatively orderly way to divide property and kids in the case of a break up. They're the ones who are screwed the most by the lack of access to marriage (and I say this as someone who spent nearly a decade as family lawyer for poor people).

I think our main difference is that I would argue that it's important and possible to both seek rights within a corrupt system while critiquing the system itself, while you would argue that those two strategies are antithetical to one another. On the marriage issue itself, I believe that the move toward gay marriage is in fact undermining civil marriage "as we know it," (unlike those on the right, I think that's a good thing, of course). The kinds of discussions that are being had in the close-to-the-mainstream about the role of government in supporting couples and families were unthinkable ten years ago. That's a fascinating and hopeful development.

And, at the same time, gay marriage can bring important rights under the existing system to those who need them, in particular poor families who cannot afford to see a lawyer to draw wills, health care proxies, advance directives, etc. etc. For me, gay marriage in the short term is very much a social justice issue -- it's poor people who need a quick and cheap way to establish all those rights and obligations, and access to a relatively orderly way to divide property and kids in the case of a break up. They're the ones who are screwed the most by the lack of access to marriage (and I say this as someone who spent nearly a decade as family lawyer for poor people).

Anthony in Nashville | July 16, 2009 12:01 PM

Yasmin always writes thought provoking posts.

I believe gay marriage has consumed energy and resources away from other LGBT issues. But instead of debating whether that is good or bad, I think we should be asking why marriage is the issue that motivates LGBTs and not hate crimes, racial justice, employment protections, gay youth, etc.

I believe marriage is much more personal to people, and that is why they are willing to spend money and time fighting for it. Gay folks on the margins tend to be the ones affected by the issues I feel deserve more attention. But many people don't really care about them.

Time and finances are limited, everyone has to decide what it important to them. For middle class and rich gays, they've made their opinion clear. What are those of us who don't feel marriage is the most important issue going to do to make progress on our issues?

Thanks, Anthony.

And Diane,

I'd agree with you on our differences. I also agree that the discussions families and couples are an excellent development, but I don't think these are new discussions. They seem intensified over the last decade because of gay marriage, but they have always been going on - hence the drastic revisions to the notion of what counts as a "family" or the questioning of whether couples deserve special benefits or not, or even whether a "couple" needs to be married or even romantically attached to count.

Gay marriage has in fact turned that discussion into a much more conservatively aligned one by shifting the emphasis back onto more conventional structures. As the historian John D'Emilio put it in "The Marriage Fight Is Setting Us Back:" "Had we tried to devise a strategy that took advantage of the force of historical trends, we would, as a movement, have been pushing to further de-center and de-institutionalize marriage." And, "Since the early 1960’s, the lives of many, many heterosexuals have become much more like the imagined lives of homosexuals." But gay marriage now argues for the primacy of the couple over all else.

http://tinyurl.com/a54oot

As to the issue of poor people, gay marriage may be, as you point out, a short-term solution. But it's hardly a long-term solution and, for the reasons I laid out before, gay marriage only significantly increases the conditions of inequality. A lot of the measures you refer to wouldn't need lawyers if we had a system that ensure a fair way for people to address their needs. With the issue of hospital visitation rights, for instance, Nancy Polikoff, whose book serves as a primer in terms of legal alternatives, gives the example of a simple national database/registry that hospitals can be hooked into to solve the problem. And this has already been put into effect in, I want to say, Colorado (I don't have the book in front of me, and the outlying area is a mess). So, while lawyers like you are often a good thing, we don't always need them.

About the issue of poor people - they're always being held up as an example of an undifferentiated mass of people who would unquestioningly accept gay marriage as a need. Or it's assumed that marriage is some kind of salve for poverty. But first of all, when two poor people marry without health care, for instance, that's two people without health care - the burden increases with marriage, it does not decrease. Again, the systemic issues with the enormous poverty and inequality in this, the world's most industrialised nation, are not being addressed here.

The "poor people need gay marriage" argument also assumes that the poor want it and have no critique of the institution. It's widely assumed that the critique of marriage is a bourgeois luxury, while the poor clamour for the cake the rest of "us" throw out. The fact that "the poor" and working classes have always had a critique of the very institutions, like marriage, that have oppressed the poor, especially women, appears to have escaped notice. And I say this as someone who has been poor for over a decade.