Alex Blaze

What do we point at? Something! When do we point at it? Now!

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 27, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: bisexual, gay rights movement, Kip Williams, lesbian, lgbgt rights movement, LGBT, March on Washington, National Equality March, organizing, transgender

I expressed some concerns earlier about how the National Equality March doesn't really see to be able to form much of a unified message when it comes to what they're demanding. I assumed that their bumper sticker slogan "full equality now" really referred to a list of legislation (DADT, DOMA, ENDA, etc.) and that you just had to be in the know to understand their message. Well, the BAR is reporting that they chose their message for tax reasons:

According to the Internal Revenue Service, a 501(c)3 organization can't attempt to "influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities ..."

But among other things, the Equality Across America Web site calls for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military, and support of the proposed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

"The Equality Across America Web site points at some particular legislative issues, but that is not the agenda or the demand of the march," said Williams.

He said participants won't be marching for marriage equality, DADT repeal, or ENDA.

"We are marching for full federal equality in all matters governed by civil law," said Williams.

Great stuff. So "full federal equality" isn't shorthand for a list of legislation. It's exactly what it sounds like: the demand of people who were surprised, either by Prop 8's passage or the fact that voting Obama didn't solve everything, that people actually don't really like the gays all that much, and now you know they mean business because they expressing their displeasure (cue dramatic music).

Personally, I don't care much about DADT, ENDA, and other LGBT legislation on the basis of its ability to create "equality." They're pieces of legislation that will improve people's lives, but they won't make us equal in any meaningful sense of the word. And really, I have little interest in us declaring ourselves "equal" when all that'll mean is that we've brought all the other forms of inequality that exist in America into our own community.

The list of legislation the marchers want (or don't want, or want but don't demand, or don't want, don't demand, but "point at," or whatever) worsens this for me; the assumption is, as it always is in the gay rights movement, that we all pretty much want the same things, and we shouldn't even have to say what those things are since there's no way anyone who's gay would disagree with them. The aversion to discussion is only amplified by the fact that the typical response from a march organizer to any criticism is usually "you're stupid and/or against equality" and the typical response from someone going to the march is "you don't have hope and are just negative," forgetting the fact that the complete inability of the gay rights movement to accept internal criticism is one of the reasons we are where we are in the first place.

But I digress. I was emailing a friend a little last week, and came to the realization that the center of my problems with "full equality now" is the fact that it's not about full equality at all. It doesn't include economic equality or making sure everyone in the community has access to health care or a decent job or decent housing or can walk down the street without being harassed by the cops or can kiss someone of the same gender without feeling like they'll be beat up or can have access to needed medical procedures. It is, first and foremost, about the sheer insult that accompanies any form of discrimination.

Equality for equality's sake sounds a lot like something my mother used to say: "Mierda veo, mierda quiero." It's a very folksy Argentine expression that means "I see shit, I want shit." And how dare anyone deny us shit!

At least when I thought it was a substitute for a list of legislation no one was allowed to debate because if you question gay orthodox thought then you're as bad as the Religious Right (we really need a gay Godwin's Law about that argument) it wasn't so bad: repealing DADT and DOMA and passing an inclusive ENDA and domestic partnership benefits for civil servants are good ideas and very much needed legislation. But, if the BAR's report is correct, then they'll be straight-up marching to the tune of their resentment over the fact that they don't have everything straight people have. I know that's not what the people who are going are signing up for, so maybe the BAR's article is inaccurate.

Either way, I guess this dispels the notion that the march is about marriage, or, a newer one that I've heard, that no one on Bilerico is allowed to criticize the march now that Bil endorsed it (ha ha). The show is obviously going on, and, much like the world of underground French trip hop, it's not going to die without me. I wouldn't be able to go anyway because I have a job starting the week before and because I live a bit too far away. But I can't go so far as to wish people success, mainly because I have yet to see a definition for "success."

At least there'll be plenty of opportunities to donate to HRC!


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Kevin Erickson | August 28, 2009 12:28 AM

excellent post alex

Alex, I've been reading an interesting book titled "Ministry and the American Legal System," by Richard B. Couser, published by Fortress Press in 1993. Couser is an attorney, and writes from the Protestant religious-right viewpoint. He's all about the relationship between American churches and the law.

The author does an in-depth discussion about the tax code, and lays it out what churches may and may not do in the way of political advocacy. Going by his own analysis and description, much of what many churches do today -- whether it was their endorsement of candidates during the recent Presidential election, or their legislative activism on Prop 8 -- is illegal. It is a direct violation of their tax-exempt status. Most of them should be prosecuted and punished. But it never happens.

And then we wonder why the religious right have such an attitude of entitlement about everything they do. The American people need to start pressuring this administration to crack down.

I'm about to do a post about what this guy has to say about marriage. It's very illuminating, and picks up on the thread of what I said in my last post on the subject, about how we could take a stronger legal position in the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage.

For anyone who wants to read it, my most recent post on that subject is "One More Time -- Marriage is Not a Church-Based Tradition"
http://www.bilerico.com/2009/08/one_more_timemarriage_is_not_a_church-based_tradit.php

I have little interest in us declaring ourselves "equal" when all that'll mean is that we've brought all the other forms of inequality that exist in America into our own community.

So instead of focusing on the legislation you don't care about, why not struggle to make all citizens equal - including those outside of our own small community?

I feel like I agree with your feelings Alex, but I'm having trouble following you--and that's just it, I feel. Those of us still holding out on The March feel pulled in many different directions by so many different forces. It would probably be emotionally easier to just break down and support the march, and just say "Well, we CAN'T do everything, and its NOT going to be perfect, so I'm going to push all that other stuff out of my mind and just be positive." A sort of "How I stopped worrying and learned to love the march" conclusion.

And I do want the march to be a success. I just can't help but feel very torn--and its that same conflict I'm reading loud and clear in Alex's post here.

My soul feels a little like silly putty right now, and its difficult to articulate ALL the ways I'm being pulled.

No real solution or conclusion there. And I think that's the problem. Maybe I will just break down and throw my total support behind it just to feel better.