Father Tony

Queer Maine - a very different anti-marriage postscript

Filed By Father Tony | November 18, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Gay health, gay marriage, Maine

When you have fifteen minutes to devote to this, I urge you to have a listen to this articulate anti-assimilationist queer as he constructs an excellent economic reframe of Maine and gives voice to a point of view that was almost entirely stifled during the we-must-have-marriage gay juggernaut in Maine.

Here is the delightful subtitle of his group blog, "Naughty North":

WE ARE COMMITTED TO CELEBRATING OUR QUEEREST SELVES WHILE RESISTING THE DEVASTATING VIOLENCE INHERENT IN THE CONSUMER DRIVEN ASSIMILATIONIST GAYSTREAM. WE WILL DEFEND OURSELVES AGAINST THE BRUTAL SILENCE OF ISOLATION THRU A DIVERSE AND DEDICATED NETWORK OF ACTION ORIENTED FRIENDS AND LOVERS. WE WILL NOT DENY OUR ANGER OR FAIL TO RECOGNIZE THE LINKS BETWEEN QUEER STRUGGLE AND CHALLENGING POWER. NAUGHTY NORTH IS A DEFIANT ORGASM IN THE FACE OF OPPRESSION: ALL ARE WELCOME TO GET OFF WITH US!

(I've often thought that our very own Bil Browning is kindred to this kind of queer whom I have often encountered in the back woods of Maine. Although, ever since he went over to the dark side, he'd be loathe to admit it.)


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A-frickin-men! Listening to that just made my day!

And yet, it made me angry. I'm not reposting it but I left a lengthy response to the post on the blog, itself.

I liked your response on his web-site.

A LGBT anti-military group ( how many is a group?) in Nashville anonymously took responsibility for the destruction of an expensive billboard showing a gay man in his marine uniform, when he was in the service. The billboard's message to the viewers was that he stood up for their freedom, now he wants his rights. THis was an effective message, especially in the South.

I do not see how LGBT persons aligning themselves with homophobes against LGBT persons who actually do something constructive, who organize, who raise funds for the campaign for all of our rights, is at all constructive. I hope that the cowardly vandals are found and prosecuted. There is a point where some of these nihilists in our community are out for their selfish joy of destruction of the efforts of others in the LGBT community, rather than willing to put in the years, maybe a lifetime or more, of work, and only slowly seeing results.

There have been writings lately about some of the generational divide within the LGBT community. THere are too many uninformed, misdirected younger LGBT persons who have not put in the years or the money on any issues, and who have now identified their own team as the enemy. Great way to win anything.

I understand the point of the anti-military crowd, but the delivery of the message has always angered me. Destruction is a sucky way to win people over. It needs to be discussion. Attacking puts people on the defensive. Human nature 101.

When Eric Alva visited U of I, the anti-military queer crowd ambushed him. I am a conscientious objector, and I agreed with their apprehension to the war, the way the military preys on poor people, and sucks money from education, but I--like everyone there--found myself incredibly turned OFF by their methods. A small group of about 5 people had positioned themselves to take control of all of the microphones for almost 30 minutes, forcing out anyone else who was not from their group who wanted to ask a question.

My question actually had initially been about his stance on the war, but by the time I got up to the mic after this group had staged their little action, I found myself scolding them and reaffirming Eric Alva (he had, after all, already answered my question--he's come out strongly against the war).

Anyone who would normally be receptive to their message--like myself for instance--was moved right into the 'disgusted' territory when a group of five or six people took over for a half an hour, relentlessly badgered a (surprisingly patient) disabled man, and staved off any rebuttals or alternative views.

This, my friend, is what we have to avoid. We have to be firm, we have to be persistent, but we have to recognize the humanity in our opponents, and treat them with respect, regardless of how ignorant or crazy they get.

What these kids did turned me off of all of their groups' activities for good. I have chosen to steer very very clear of them--as have most other queers it seems. After that fiasco, they find very little support for their antics.

There's a right way to package your message and a wrong way. Ripping a billboard down is definitely the wrong way. And OH SO CONFUSING to so many people who initially thought it was a message being sent to the queer community from OUTSIDE of the community.

The interviewer did 80% of the talking.

This guy obviously did not read the NY Times article a few weeks ago about how much more expensive life is for gays. If he did, he would see some of the reasons that marriage supporters favor marriage as an option. Heh, marriage is not a requirement for straights or LGBT persons.

He is personally not interested in marriage (now), so he wants money put into his personal programs. What's new?

The interviewer mentions that the large LGBT organizations are not democratic. She is wrong. I guess she does not realize that organizations only survive if people give them money. Evidently, the donors are in favor of the agenda.

This is a guy on the left who thinks that his way is the only way, and that anyone who wants anything but what he wants is wrong. When will LGBT persons accept that the community is large and diverse, and diverse people have diverse goals and priorities. Everyone should be able to pursue their goals without having LGBT join straight homophobes against us.

What is clear, is that he thinks that everyone else's money (whether from the Maine government or from private LGBT organizations) should go toward his goals. Why doesn't he organize and raise money for his goals, rather than organizing to tear down other elements of the LGBT community?

I know the speaker and I know that he understands how lack of access to state-sanctioned marriage can make many things more expensive for same-sex couples. However, queers who resist a focus on marriage contend that access to marriage does not solve economic/ financial/ healthcare/ safety problems for anyone who does not marry (a lot of people!). They contend that focusing only on marriage leaves behind many, many people and thus a focus on marriage is an inefficient use of resources.

There is no discussion of "personal programs" in the interview. The speaker does discuss programs in rural Maine which directly serve local queer populations and how these organizations are desperately in need of funding. This is not someone asking for a handout for himself. The is someone pointing out the fact that donating enormous amounts of money to same-sex marriage campaigns does not necessarily improve living situations/safety for elderly queers, queers youth, and low-income queers etc.. Helping these people is not just "his goal". Improving the living conditions of all queers should be the goal of all queers. The speaker is asking us to take a step back and assess how we can put our resources and efforts to their best use in working to help as many queer people as possible (not only those who may have the opportunity to marry). I know that he personally works very hard in his own community to advocate for and assist other queers locally and I think this is extremely noble.

This is a very emotional issue for all of us. However, I think it's really important that we attempt to understand how we can do the most with our money and energy. Questioning the current direction of the movement is a very healthy and helpful thing.

Re: "personal programs - I would hazard that I would be right to say that marriage equality is a program that you have a personal interest in. Should I then berate you for wanting money to go to your pet "personal program"? Of course not. So what's wrong with the speaker wanting money to go to programs that he's personally interested in?

Also, I hardly think that not thinking that throwing vast amounts of money that could be well spent elsewhere at marriage is a good idea while stating some of his reasons why he thinks that way constitutes tearing anybody down. Nobody is stopping you from dashing for your wedding cake just by offering criticism of marriage. Besides, how do you know that he's not doing activism for his goals as well? It's not like your acts of criticizing people who don't think that marriage is the holy grail of the community is keeping you from doing activism toward the goals you find important, are they?

This vote wasn't about 'marriage,' this was a vote for or against the closet, and America spoke: the closet won. People who voted Yes on one don't care if we partner up or not, they wanted to send us a message. They don't want to see us or hear about us or have to think about us. They don't want us to have what they have--whether or not we want it. Should marriage be our first priority right now? Absolutely not. But its idiotic for us to pretend like this was anything other than a big massive fuck you to the queers. That means you vehemently anti-marriage queers too. Don't think that they love you for some sick-twisted reason.

Endorsing a hateful action is a hateful action. Any queer that's excited, pleased or happy about what happened in Maine can go to hell. I'm not looking to get married tomorrow, either, sweetie, but I'm not going to pretend this wasn't about a bunch of people wishing I didn't exist.

To be fair, I really doubt that there are that many queers who are happy about Maine, even if they are critical of marriage itself. Like Yasmin points out, we're all well aware that Prop. 1 was a big "fuck you" to us by people who wish we didn't exist. We just think that there are better things we could be doing than pushing for marriage right now. Don't take our opposition to marriage as opposition to the interests of the queer community, because they aren't the same thing.

Thanks for posting this, Tony.

Also, people should check out the website being put together and referenced in the radio spot:

www.againstequality.org

I'd also like to point out that, contrary to Phil's comment above, no anti-marriage queer that I know has any delusions that we are loved by the homophobes. It's no coincidence that a lot of us anti-marriage queers are also working on resisting the prison industrial complex, and on tackling the difficult issues of violence within our communities - which we don't define as only "gay" or "lesbian." We do think that it's time to point out the inherent violence of the marriage system. Positioning us as deluded queers looking for crumbs from homophobes is such a cheap shot, it's almost laughable. Almost.

Could we all please commit ourselves to raising the level of discourse around marriage, without stooping to cheap and tawdry suppositions? Surely we can all disagree on marriage without insisting that those of us who have a different position on marriage than the pro-marriage crowd are simply looking for love from homophobes.

I strongly encourage people to listen to the radio spot - it's extremely articulate, extremely nuanced and thoroughly researched; both interviewer and interviewee clearly know their material. I think the numbers and analysis presented will surprise and even shock people.

I'm not against the plan to remove marriage as a top priority. It does unnecessarily drain money, resources and attention, and then once we win it, we spend so much trying to protect it. I'm pissed that there are some in the anti-marriage crowd who framed the homophobic vote in Maine as a victory. What happened in Maine, California and in my home state of Michigan weren't victories for anyone--they were votes of hate for our community. You can be against the marriage movement and not take a condescending tone when reacting on these hurtful and painful losses.

If we want to raise the discourse, we must do so without alienating huge swaths of the community who were emotionally involved in the fight in Maine and California. "Told ya so" is not exactly a valid way to raise that level of discourse. Its offensive and a huge turn-off.

Our main focus needs to be securing economic equity for all LGBT people. There is a bill in the House of Representatives right now that will seek to do some positive work to that ends. Attention gets pulled from ENDA every time we have to fight another marriage fight, and it would be nice if we could just FOCUS. BUT, LOSING on question one was not a positive way to move that focus. If anything, it discouraged and hurt many hardworking activists around the nation. Getting the wind knocked out of you does not exactly get you excited for the next battle.

In the days following Question One's passage I bit my tongue as a long string of snide 'told ya sos' flashed across my screen. I agree on many levels that marriage is the wrong fight to be fighting right now. But my stomach acid churned with every patronizing finger wag, completely dismissing the pain that thousands of families and millions of activists were feeling that day. It was gross.

Turning fellow activists into doofuses, ninnies or enemies is also not a very effective way to raise the discourse. But I'm sure that doesn't matter. Lots of uncompromising folks I encounter 'round here in the comments section are more interested in making more enemies than friends. Seems counterproductive to me when winning allies is what makes a movement, but what do I know?

Again, I repeat, people need to actually read the blog posts and listen to the radio spot before rushing to make these statements.

"Told ya so" is hardly the dominant tone of anything that Ryan or Denise discuss. If anything, it's one of the morer illuminating and incisive pieces to emerge from this whole marriage fracas in a while. And I should know, having written and researched this subject for a long time.

Nobody's being turned into "doofuses, ninnies or enemies" - I challenge anyone to find that level of discourse and that kind of language in this highly intelligent and sophisticated spot. Spreading that kind of misinformation isn't going to make the case for gay marriage any stronger.

It needs to be acknowledged that marriage is the wrong goal, and that it has nothing to do with economic equity. If anything, as Ryan and others have pointed out consistently, marriage is also a sure way to raise the level of economic inequality. And, let's be clear - a lot of us are not about making allies in the marriage movement; we don't believe that marriage is a goal, period.

Again, if anyone wants proof in terms of actual numbers in relation to the fiasco that was Maine - listen to the spot (it's only about 15 minutes) and read the blogs. Let's stop jumping to conclusions and inventing language or emotions that simply aren't there. And let's stop pretending that a lot of us were not critical of the Maine marriage push long before fall of 2009.

This is not about finger wagging - this is about consistent, solid critique and a set of concerns that were being articulated long before Mainers went to the polls. In fact, Ryan published a letter in the Portland Phoenix in July, yes, JULY of this year that warned about the resources being sucked away by the Maine marriage movement; some of you might remember it from a post I published around that time. Just in case, here's the link to his letter again:

http://thephoenix.com/Portland/News/86213-Letters-to-the-Portland-Editor-July-10-2009/?rel=inf

"Inherent violence of the marriage system?"

Please, just stop.

He even sounds kind of like me! But, yes, kindred spirit would be an apt description. I don't think he's 100% correct, of course, but he's articulate and it would be interesting to talk to him or read some blog posts from him. Do you have contact info?

He talks about the "prison-industrial system" and other B.S. that is not a GLBT issue. Sorry, we do not have money or person power to tackle all of society's ills, no matter how worthy, LGBT need to stay focused on issues that mainly or only are ours, because no one else will do it for us. There are many other better funded and better organized groups which we may join on all the other issues and ills of society. However, you do not see legions of straights signing-up to end DADT, pass ENDA , etc. We need to fight these battles ourselves.

Of course, it is necessary to get support of all sorts for the LGBT issues that he mentions, (forget the prison-industrial complex and other issues that were dragged into the interview in terms of the LGBT agenda) No one ever said that marriage is the only issue. There is a moment in history which has sparked this issue to prominence. It is the first time that I ghave ever seen all the rest of the country get excited and talking about LGBT concerns. He is gaining an audience in the mainstream to listen about the other LGBT issues because of the marriage battle, and not vice versa. The mainstream media, especially in Maine , has not been into LGBT issues until marriage came along.

There is no reason for him to selfishly trash the marriage issue, just because he isn't ready to marry now. Marriage people have been on all these other issues for many years, without attacking other LGBT groups or efforts. I personally would be disinclined to lend support or funds to anyone attacking the difficult efforts of others in the LGBT community. People can work together and simultaneously.

As for the money spent on the marriage campaign, lots (if not most) came from out-of-state. I know that I sent $250. myself. His programs weren't robbed of a penny by marriage, because it wasn't there to begin with.The out of state money was given specifically for marriage. His arguments about fund allocation are misdirected against the generosity of thousands from outside Maine who joined their cause.
I encourage the naughty northerner to organize and raise funds. But do it in a mature and civilized fashion, without dragging down the rest of the LGBT community, and without the arrogance of thinking that he possesses the sole agenda for all. The LGBTprograms that he mentions that need money are worthy, but that does not make the goals of others unworthy.

I disagree, Prison issues, Healthcare issues, and military issues ARE LGBT issues because LGBT people ARE disproportionately discriminated against in these systems.

I think we need to bring more attention to this.

That said, you're ALSO right that most of us only have so much time to study a few small niches in depth.

I appreciate those that bring attention to these issues, and just because I don't take them and run with them, doesn't mean I'm not listening. I put a lot of energy into the areas I've been studying for a good amount of time. I couldn't possibly do the kind of in-depth study of this disproportionate discrimination on my own and pursue the issues I already do. So I thank them.

Its not right to dismiss others because they don't take up your pet issue. They ought to respect what's important to you, just as you should respect what's important to them. We're all fighting for what we believe is right. Some of us are going to be pursuing justice in different ways. I think its all good. As long as we try to keep our respect for one another.

When we dismiss what's important to others, that's when I get pissed. But that's me.

So how do you feel when someone dismisses marriage which others may feel is important?

Rearranging "priorities" does nothing to create "equality." Equality is equality.

Ryan did admit the LGBT Community doesn't have a strategy. His attack on marriage equality does nothing to advance that conversation.

We lost in Maine because the issue wasn't "equality," it was "marriage." That was a mistake. If it was "equality," we would have won.

I didn't get anything useful from the interview.

Because staying with the same priorities we have right now is working out so very well for us, right?

My Partner and I simply want/desire full equality
for all members of the LGBT community. The focus
show be on the best methods to achieve this objective.

It may only be one step, but right now there is a bill in the US Congress that would make equal hiring practices the law of the land. You can help by calling your representative and telling them not to vote on ENDA right away--not February. Passing ENDA won't make the workplace perfect for LGBT people, but it will mark an improvement in the law.

We could at least start there.

Phil, I'm confused by this one I thought that you supported ENDA. Did you mean to tell people not to vote on ENDA or was that a typo? Is there another bill being cooked up that would be better because if there is I would like to know about it?

OPPS! To VOTE on ENDA right away, not wait til February! SUPPORT ENDA--ITS RIGHT AT OUR FINGERTIPS, LETS MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Howard_(murder_victim)

I was living and studying in Maine (Bowdoin) at the time Charlie Howard was sadistically murdered in a gay bashing. The prison industrial complex as Ryan calls it, let us down, and the murderers are all free themselves. It was terrifying for gays to be out after the murder, and after their quick releases from jail (less than 2 years). Ultimately, the opponents of many of the LGBT issues simply are against LGBT visibility, preferring us all securely in the closet forever. The town where this occurred (Bangor) voted against marriage by the way. They are still against us.

Human rights laws protecting us in housing, health care, and employment have been essential in regard to educating society that we are out, and claiming all of our rights, including marriage for those who want to marry. I wish that Ryan Conrad (the naughty northerner) would go to his state legislature and seek the funds that the LGBT programs need. Maine is a poor state after many generations of neglecting to pay to even properly educate its own population. It has improved a bit recently, but as recently as 1999, is ranked #46 down with Mississippi and other backward places in terms of educating its own population. Conrad says he wants health care. Well, don't blame same sex marriage. Talk to the Senator you all elected, Susan Collins, and ask her why she refuses to endorse health reform or the public option. In other words, Mainers are bringing alot of their misery on themselves, and should not be scape-goating the LGBT community as the cause of this misery, because some in the community want visibility and equality and marriage.

My final point is that all the issues need to be advanced. It is too big an agenda to be carried by only a few, and paid by only a few. Those working on one issue or set of issues should be able to count on not be stabbed in the back by other elements of the LGBT community. Rather, everyone benefits from the higher visibility and increasing the comfort level of society at large due to all of us being "Out" including in marriage.

this is conrad from the interview.

most of the comments here are really sad and make lots of assumptions about what i do with my life, how i make change and where my critique comes from. assumptions often made by knee jerk liberals who demand equality, at any cost and invoke the overzealous rhetoric of george bush (you're either for gay marriage, or you're with the terrorists!). this critique of marriage really isn't about just me.

be expecting a longer written piece on the issue by me to be published soon.

and lastly please, don't waste your time writing your senators to do anything and instead work to make changes in your local community right now. what a waste of time, writing letters to people who DONT GIVE A FUCK unless its politically useful to. we need to stop depending on systems and institutions set up to disempower, imprison, and kill us.

what planet are people on? denial or privilege?

Hi Conrad,
Have another chat with Bil for a perspective on the unique "melody" of the Bilerico comments section. That will help you frame your dialogue with your readers and also help you craft the submission you reference. I would hate to see this valuable discussion scuttled because embers turned into flames.

Gosh, Conrad. I thought that your quote from Fr Tony was kinda chill, and the interview sort of ok, even though you knocked the Maine tourism industry and the tourists from New York (Fr Tony?) and Boston (tourism being one of the few viable economic mainstays of Maine, employing 10's of thousands of people, and bringing billions of dollars into your state annually). But you sound like one angry fella (you betcha).
Message to the LGBT community: America will never support any of the LGBT agenda at all if we are perceived as being anti-democracy (read Ryan Conrad's last paragraph) and anti-marriage as an institution.Straights do not want marriage in America destroyed, as Ryan Conrad and Yasmin Nair,commenter above, seem to advocate. Somehow on Bilerico, almost every person who identifies him/herself as "Queer" really is an anarcho-nihilist against everything.
Mr. Conrad, I wonder why you are so anti-Maine politicos? You are in a state that actually had its legislature pass a marriage law (one of the few in America to do so), and you have a governator who actually signed the law, unlike Arnold of California. So, even if marriage does not turn you on, there is certainly lots for LGBT organizers to build upon in terms of sympathetic allies for achieving something. Of course, lack of experience in knowing how to do these things does not qualify one to denounce the entire system, and to declare it in need of a total overhaul which will only respond to your particualr dictates. I would think that now would be a perfect time to make such an overture to the legislature and governor, with the Question 1 loss so fresh. They probably would be open to some sort of consolation prize. Man, this is the system. You are in America. If you really are fighting against the system, you have a much different agenda than fighting for LGBT rights. LGBT rights should not be co-opted by an individual for their personal launching pad for going against everything ala Ted Kaczinski. Don't tarnish the movement with all this other crap.

yes i am an anarchist (does anyone even know what this means anymore!?). no i am not a nihilist, those two political philosophies are not synonymous and never have been. before you throw around big words make sure you know what they mean.

no the united states is not a democracy and never has been. it's a plutocracy. hence why i don't funnel my energy or encourage other people to invest their energy into a political system designed for rich people.

we should settle for a consolation prize!?!? my queer futures are much more exciting, democratic, pleasurable and fabulous than a shit consolation prize from a political body i have hard time even finding minutely legitimate.

and lastly, this whole for against gay marriage thing. it's a distraction!!! everyone is so hell bent on determining who's team everyone else in on and what i'm suggesting is the whole game is a setup! while pro/against gay marriage forces battle it out, the most marginalized queers are getting flushed down the toilet.

that is not democrcay, it's classism at its finest.

I think there are a few points emerging from this discussion that are worth considering.

Even if I didn't know of Ryan's work and activism, I'd be dubious about the outright cynical and dismissive stance being adopted here as in comments about his "lack of experience in knowing how to do these things." Really? What makes you so sure that a critique of the system implies a lack of experience with it? Doesn't that often mean the opposite - that one has had too much experience with old and tired systems? Resurrecting the old "marriage is for mature people and anyone who doesn't think so is just stupid and immature" tactic doesn't seem particularly wise or, well, mature.

Perhaps it's time for us all to wake up and realise that there are deep divisions about marriage and world-making, period, within this fictitious entity we insist on calling a community. It's also important to realise that a lot of us who work against the emphasis on marriage come to that position after years and lives spent in the trenches of our activism and work. You can dismiss us all you like, but the potency of our critiques is clearly having an effect, judging by the shoddy rhetorical devices being employed here (such as blatant misrepresentations, which I've gently pointed out).

Look, no one who delivers a sophisticated and articulate critique of marriage politics - and Ryan's critique is both - is going to be greeted with open arms by everyone, precisely because it is sophisticated and articulate. What strikes fear into the heart of gay marriage supporters is the fact that this critique is so well done. A less sophisticated and frothy dismissal of marriage would be easier for them to deal with, but this is a different animal altogether - it actually provides hard facts and figures along with some devastating analysis.

No one needs to destroy marriage; the institution is caving in on itself. Queer concerns go far, far beyond marriage, but the problem is that it's currently taking up so much airtime and energy from everything else.

What pro-gay marriage gays and lesbians are really pushing for is not equality but the right to privileges that can only accrue to married people. It's like saying: "THOSE people, in the big fancy houses over there, have more just because they are (insert category here - race, class, sex, gender, relational status, whatever). Their privilege comes about because of a system that is unfairly skewed towards the (insert category here - race, class, sex, gender, relational status, whatever). So, hey, *I* want to be part of that unfair system of privilege. Oh, AND I get to call it EQUALITY."

Yeah, it doesn't make sense to us either. But that, in sum, is the marriage movement's rationale.