Guest Blogger

Against Equality, In Maine and Everywhere

Filed By Guest Blogger | November 30, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, The Movement
Tags: California, gay marriage, LGBT priorities, Maine, marriage equality, No On 1, Prop 8, same-sex marriage

Editors' Note: Guest blogger R. Conrad is an outlaw artist, terrorist academic and petty thief dividing his time between Lewiston, Maine and Montreal, Quebec. He is a member of the naughty north collective and his written and visual work is archived at

conrad.jpgIn the aftermath of the losing battle for gay marriage rights in Maine, many local queer and trans activists have been left wondering how we even got here in the first place. And the more troubling question is: Who is going to clean up this mess? How did gay marriage become "the issue" in Maine and how did so many LGBTA folks get duped into making this campaign their top priority, emotionally, financially and otherwise, by the shallow rhetoric of equality?

If we, as a radical queer community, are to prevent the de-prioritization and de-funding of critical queer and trans community issues/organizations/services, the campaign in Maine must be dissected and used as a case study to learn from. Our queerest futures depend on it!

Maine in Context: Material Conditions/Political Positioning

Maine is one of the poorest states in the country with a majority of its manufacturing outsourced overseas and its agricultural industries struggling to keep up with the rising costs of doing business. The state ranks 43rd out of all states when measuring average annual income and has the 15th highest unemployment rate in the nation. To say that the economy in Maine is struggling is an understatement, and employment/poverty is a major concern for working class queer and trans folks.

Maine is also the largest New England state covering an area greater than all the other New England states combined with a population about the same size as Rhode Island. Maine's overwhelmingly white population and most of its wealth is concentrated along the coast, particularly in the southern part of the state. As in many other states in the US, this creates a dichotomy of rural poor versus urban wealth that is often translated to conservative versus liberal. maine.jpgIt's not that there aren't rich people from Boston buying second homes in the rural areas down east or abject poverty in small cities like Lewiston and Waterville, but the overwhelming trend points towards a paradigm of rural poverty in most of the state. Organizing a truly statewide campaign across such a large, rural, poor area is particularly challenging.

Under these material conditions queer and trans folks in Maine have been fighting for their lives. For over a decade the state struggled to pass and uphold an addendum to the state's human rights act that gave non-discrimination protections to LGBT folks in housing, employment and credit. The non-discrimination law, once vetoed by the governor after passing legislation in 1993 and overturned twice by referendum in 1998 and 2000, was finally upheld in referendum in 2005 by a narrow margin. The stranglehold of the conservative Christian right appeared to be weakening over the last two decades, but the bitter taste of defeat at the polls in the past still hadn't left our mouths upon entering the gay marriage referendum.

Outside of the political arena, queer and trans folks in Maine have continued to face anti-queer violence in their communities, in their homes and on the streets of even the most gay friendly towns. The gruesome murder of Scott A. Libby in Raymond in 2009, the gay bashing of a man in Portland to the point of unconsciousness in 2008, and the complete destruction of two lesbians' home and car in Poland in 2006 serve as just a few examples. They don't just want us to not get married, they want us dead!

This Wedding Cake Is Rotten

Gays and lesbians of all ages are obsessing over gay marriage as if it's going to cure AIDS, stop anti-queer/anti-trans violence, provide all uninsured queers with health care, and reform racist immigration policies. Unfortunately, marriage does little more than consolidate even more power in the hands of already privileged gay couples engaged in middle class hetero-mimicry.

Let's be clear: The national gay marriage campaign is NOT a social justice movement. Gay marriage reinforces the for-profit medical industrial complex by tying access to health care to employment and relational status. Gay marriage does not challenge patent laws that keep poor/working class poz folks from accessing life-extending medications. Gay marriage reinforces the nuclear family as the primary support structure for youth even though nuclear families are largely responsible for queer teen homelessness, depression and suicide. Gay marriage does not challenge economic systems set up to champion people over property and profit. Gay marriage reinforces racist immigration laws by only allowing productive, "good", soon-to-be-wed, non-citizens in while ignoring the rights of migrant workers. Gay marriage simply has nothing to do with social justice.

An Opportunistic National Strategy

The national strategy for gay marriage is much larger and more insidious than most expect. Maine was used as a pawn in a much larger scheme to pressure the federal government to take up the issue. Even though LGBTQ identified Mainers spoke loud and clear about their priorities at both the statewide symposium convened by the Maine Community Foundation's Equity Fund in 2007 and in a pre-election poll put out by the Family Affairs Newsletter in January 2009, somehow we still found ourselves in the midst of a $6 million dollar campaign for someone else's priority. The FAN found that nearly 70% of their readers did not identify marriage as their top priority issue1 and the symposium's 4,000 word summary only mentions gay marriage in one sentence positively.2 Gay marriage is mentioned twice in the document, but in the second instance it is referenced negatively by youth at the conference who saw the gay marriage issue as pressuring them to live up to unwanted heteronormative expectations.3

Most of the rights and privileges cited by the talking heads of the gay marriage movement are actually doled out by the Federal government and not individual states, thus the needed pressure from regional blocks on the federal government. These 1,138 rights are cited by the General Accounting Office [pdf] of the United States Government and largely pertain to the transfer of property and money. If Maine had won with the popular vote, there would have been a greater opportunity to push the federal government to move on the issue as an entire regional block would be able to apply more serious pressure than through the piecemeal process of states legislating in favor of gay marriage across the country here and there.

This national influence was seen in Portland on election night when both the executive director from the Human Rights Campaign (Joe Solmonese) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (Rea Carey) showed up to give the crowd a pep talk. Even more telling was the $400,000 plus dollars contributed by the HRC and NGLTG combined, as well as in-kind staff time. If the NGLTF or HRC were interested in improving the lives of queer and trans Mainers, they would have given this kind of funding to issues actually outlined as critical at the statewide symposium and not to a bunch of power consolidating homo-politicos in Portland.

More money continued to roll in from other gay marriage groups in Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Colorado, Oregon and New Jersey; all recent gay marriage winners or soon-to-be-pawns in the state-by-state game to pressure the feds, whether the issue is a local priority or not.

Following the Money

The gay-marriage campaign has been sucking up resources like a massive sponge, corralling everyone to give up their last dollar and free time, leaving little sustenance for other queer groups doing critical work in our communities. An Equality Maine campaign letter had the audacity to claim that gay marriage is "the fight for our lives." I wonder whose lives they are talking about, when AIDS service organizations and community health/reproductive clinics across the state have been tightening their belts and desperately trying to crunch numbers so that more queer folks don't end up unemployed, uninsured, or worse yet, dead. These organizations include clinics like Western Maine Community Action Health Services, AIDS service organizations like Down East AIDS Network, Eastern Maine AIDS Network, Maine AIDS Alliance, the Frannie Peabody Center, and queer/trans youth support groups like Out as I Want to Be, Outrageously Supportive, Outright L/A, and PRYSM.

In addition, over the last few years we have seen 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 after most of them folded in the late nineties. The Department of Education has also announced that it will no longer be funding HIV Prevention Outreach Educators as of June 2010. A particularly horrifying scenario for the queer community here, as queer men account for 67% of people living with HIV [pdf] in Maine.

While essential services are disappearing, organizations are closing, and new gaps in services for aging LGBTQ folks are being identified, the marriage campaign in Maine is spending money with abandon. The No on 1 group spent close to $6 million dollars over the duration of the campaign, taking in $1.4 million dollars in donations in the first three weeks of October alone. In a state with a tanking economy, this kind of reckless spending on a single issue campaign that isn't even a top priority for most LGBT folks is blatant and unrestrained classism at its worst.

To put this budget in perspective, the largest funding source for LGBT organizations in the state is the Equity Fund, which only distributes $40,000 dollars a year amongst the numerous LGBT applicant organizations. At the current fiscal rate, it would take the Equity Fund about one hundred thirty five years to catch up with the spending accrued in one year by the Maine gay marriage campaign. Imagine what kind of change could be made if that $6 million dollars was used to support organizational capacity building and programming of those organizations providing essential services and advocacy that the Equity Fund supports with their meager budget. This kind of long-term approach to advocating real change seems like an obvious preference to throwing money down the drain in single-issue legislative campaigns.

Cultural Change vs. Legislative Change

Changing a law in a book does much less to create an atmosphere of safety for queer and trans folks than long-term cultural change. In fact, in Maine the gay marriage law and referendum has conjured more reactionary anti-queer violence than before. This can be seen quite clearly in Maine where the platform for people to air their homophobic grievances became massively public. This overwhelming outpouring of homophobic vitriol via every kind of media outlet and public forum imaginable has had a terrible impact on LGBT youths' mental health in particular. One needs no further proof than volunteering at one of the few remaining queer and trans youth advocacy organizations in the poorer part of the state like I do in Androscoggin County. Here youth have been utterly demoralized, openly gay bashed in school and town newspapers, and some even banned from starting a Gay Straight Alliance in their Sommerset County High School because of homophobic school staff citing the gay marriage campaigns as too controversial.

The focus of this campaign was to win the referendum by getting out the vote in winnable parts of the state, ie. metro-Portland and the coast, leaving the already most vulnerable queers in the rural parts of the state to fend for themselves while the campaign drums up homophobic fervor across the inland counties. Those abandoned by the faux statewide campaign in the rural parts of the state have no support organizations to turn to once the campaign is over as they do not exist or barely do. Furthermore, even if gay marriage had passed, would it even be safe to get gay married in most of the state? Quite clearly, no. And again, power and privilege remain among those who already had them to begin with.

Some suggest that gay marriage is part of a progress narrative and that it is a step in the right direction towards more expansive social justice issues. This largely ignores a critique of power. Once privilege is doled out to middle class gay couples, are they going to continue on to fight against racist immigration policies, for universal health care, for comprehensive queer/trans inclusive sex education, or to free queers unjustly imprisoned during rabidly homophobic sex-abuse witch hunts? Doubtful is an overstatement. It's more likely they will be enjoying summer vacations at an expensive bed and breakfast in Ogunquit while the rest of us are still trying to access basic rights like health care and freedom of movement. Let's be real: Privilege breeds complacency.

Queer Futures Against Equality

The for/against dichotomy setup by the gay marriage movement and the homophobic legislative pandering of the Christian right is an absolute distraction.

If we are to imagine queer futures that don't replicate the same violence and oppression many of us experience on an everyday basis as queer and trans folks, we must challenge the middle class neo-liberal war machine known as the national gay marriage campaign. We must fight the rhetoric of equality and inclusion in systems of domination like marriage and the military, and stop believing that our participation in those institutions is more important than questioning those institutions legitimacy all together. We need to call out the national marriage campaign as opportunistic and parasitic. We must challenge their money mongering tactics to assure our local, truly community based LGBT organizations aren't left financially high and dry while offering the few essential services to the most marginalized of our community. Let Maine be an early example of why we must continue to fight against equality.

For further reading:

1. Family Affairs Newsletter, Bangor, 15 January 2009.
2. LGBT Symposium 2007: Strengthening Communities, Building Alliances Summary Report, 2008.
3. Ibid.

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Very fresh analysis and point of view- especially about social justice. I often see our people being left behind in the pursuit of our ideologies- and your point about monetary waste is well taken. Do we want to be a people who take care of our own? Or do we want to be a people who will do whatever it takes to get "ahead" socially? On the surface, very different questions, and in practice we have had very different responses, but maybe they don't have to be....
Thanks for making me think.

I am wondering if Alex "That-Post-About-Rich-People" Blaze helped you with this? You both seem to cast blame in the same direction.

I don't know either Alex Blaze or this poster...but:
1. This post is more of a critique of the marriage movement as THE issue, and not a "blame the rich" post (although it certainly could have gone in that direction).
2. Your suggestion that the author needed help with his post is insulting to his intelligence and integrity. Just not very classy.

Seriously, Andrew, you go around this site, misread what the authors say, and then get mad at them for things they either didn't say or explicitly said the opposite of. It seems to be your only debate tactic.

It's not just me, I've seen you on several threads literally making up accusations out of whole cloth and then wondering why no one would agree with you. If you want people to take you seriously then you have to take what they say seriously.

If something was misread or misinterpreted by me - you could point that out Alex. You have not. Save us the blanket accusations against someone who expresses some disagreement with your opinions and try to actually use some specifics. Otherwise, you have no credibility.

In your "Why I wouldn't expect the Catholic Church to become more gay-friendly" commentary, you grossly misrepresented the contents of a published article. I simply made an accurate comment about the real contents of that article. You remained silent.

Simple integrity would require that you at least try to respond thoughtfully. To instead claim that I have made mis-statements or that I employ some kind of "debate tactic" is sophomoric, at best. Perhaps, you should heed your own advice:

"If you want people to take you seriously then you have to take what they say seriously."

I have a suggestion, Andrew. Instead of taking the opportunity to hijack a thread by referring to other posts by other bloggers (no insult to you, Alex, just making a point), how about a considered and reflective critique of the original post? Is there something specific in Conrad's post that you have an issue with? Could you give us details? Perhaps we could then all continue to have debate and/or dialogue. Perhaps we could all learn something from each other.

Otherwise, leave the conversation to those who would like to have one.

Yes, Yasmin.

The author stated:

"The shallow rhetoric of equality."

Then it went further downhill from there.

This is another "blame" article and it's to promote socialism and it's not really about LGBT Equality. It is more "us-as-victims" - this time we're victims of ourselves.

Equality is the goal, not socialism. This attack on those in our own community that believe "marriage" is a good goal towards full equality and something worth fighting for, is mischaracterized as "taking money from Aids, HIV awareness and youth initiatives." That is false. It is also irresponsible. Take responsibility and raise the money you need WITHOUT blaming others.

Individual ideas attract money based on what the donors believe in. To suggest that anyone in our community actually decided to withhold funds for any of the needs (suggested by the Author) in order to play "marriage equality" is insulting.

As a community we are fortunate to receive donations from many kind people. Slapping them in the face with false accusations probably isn't very helpful.

Promoting socialism is fine. But, please, not at the expense of those being generous to our community. We need all the help we can get.

As Michael above points out, this is about the misapplied priorities of the "movement," not about "those being generous to our community."

You don't explain what you think of his deconstruction of "equality." You're assuming that everyone imagines that to be the goal.

But if you are going to insist that Conrad's extremely clear and extremely detailed analysis is "false," then it is incumbent upon you to prove that his numbers and analysis are false. And when you write, "Take responsibility and raise the money you need WITHOUT blaming others," you are completely evading and also proving part of his point, which is that the "community" is too dependent on funding by those who control the agenda and that the agenda, which is now controlled by those who control the money, is in fact taking money away from causes like HIV and youth initiatives. Talk to anyone working on AIDS and youth services, and they will tell you, more and more freely and openly these days, that they have had funders directly refuse to give money unless organisations funded gay marriage.

Don't believe me/us who say that big money controls too much of the agenda? Take a look at your own sentences: "Individual ideas attract money based on what the donors believe in." And "But, please, not at the expense of those being generous to our community. We need all the help we can get." Again, there's no engagement on your part with the piece, and no discussion of Conrad's essential points, which he proves with numbers, actual numbers, which you have not been able to disprove: We are too dependent on big donors to fund projects, and they don't care about the issues that are affecting the collective reality of our lives. Your own words prove that to be true.

As for this promoting socialism, whether or not that's true or a good or bad thing, your charge about that is a red herring and irrelevant to the case he has laid out.

Conrad's piece is not an attack, it's a critique and an exposé. There is a difference. Calling someone a socialist as a way of waving away their right to critique is an attack.

Come back with an explicit refutation of his points, please. Otherwise, stop already.

Visit his website

Thanks for the shout out.


Seriously, Andrew, please, engage, engage, engage.

Back on topic, please. Conrad's post is the topic - not Alex.

I remember back when I was in college, there was a gay guy there who was kinda weird, had no friends, and was easy to anger based on the silliest things (like once a DJ refused to play one of his Elton John recordings because it was a live recording and therefore is hard to mix, and he started an email campaign against her. Another time, he had a crush on a guy so he wrote a radio soap opera and gave the fictional version of that guy a deformed penis).

Eventually, he was caught with around $200K worth of antique magazines he stole from the school's archives. He had taken them, little by little, for years, and then decided to sell them on ebay. He was arrested when he went to the post office to mail them. His landlord, upon clearing this guy's apartment, found lots of Elton John costumes the guy had purchased online, as well as videos he made of himself lipsynching in those clothes. That was the last I heard of him.

Anyway, some time before that, it was found that this guy had a list of people he hated, and I was on it. I barely knew him, so I was surprised, but someone explained to me that my crime was "not responding to email in a timely fashion."

The lesson of that story is that I do have issues responding to online communication in a timely fashion. It's my greatest failing. But, please, as you're writing the list of people you hate, please take into consideration that my tardiness is a disability, not a personal affront.

Anyway, thought I should explain that I wasn't trying to insult you. Now back to the conversation at hand.

While I was largely in agreement with these points before reading this, I really appreciate the more in depth analysis of the effect of the marriage focus on a smaller environment. Thank you for helping make clear that the hurt marriage campaigns are causing our own community are not hypothetical, but very, very real.

I've always thought and believed this..but I've never been able to put it into words. To finally read something that says everything I would want to say is a great feeling. In this article, you put it into words..obviously, but also you made me think, it was extremely convincing, and you said it extremely eloquently. I've reached that aha! moment and you did all the work for me!

Thank goodness that when blacks and their white civil rights allies were beaten, shot with water cannon, and even killed in the 1960's, that they kept up the struggle, and did not blame the racism that they faced on other blacks. You seem to be calling for a LGBT version of Uncle Tom-ism, not to rock the boat. Visibility, being out of the closet, and then demanding our equality and civil rights does rock the boat. No civil rights struggle is a walk in the park.

Not a penny of funds for the Marriage Equality fight in Maine was taken from the other worthy causes that you mention. Millions of dollars of money, and lots of volunteers came from supporters of Maine's LGBT community from all over - me included,. The proper response is "thank-you", not a rude answer that you did not get what you want.

In a comment to a previous post, you described yourself as an "anarchist" and denounced electoral politics. This is too bad, because the Maine LGBT community has never had more supporters in the state legislature, as well as the governor. You all should be mobilizing efforts with these people, not bashing your generous LGBT supporters who jump started the media and visibility process in Maine by light years through the recent effort. The quickest way to alienate all the many Maine politicians who stand with the LGBT community, is to announce that you are against the whole system, and calling for the destruction of the political process (as you do on your naughtynorth site, and on a previous Bilerico post).

Mainers have historically been very bad at electing persons who really represent the needs of the people. Look today at your own two Republican senators. Snowe is somewhat supportive of health care reform, but Collins has been almost silent. Until very recently, Maine was near bottom with Mississippi in terms of educational spending and attainment by its citizens. These are issues that your state needs to come to terms with itself, and not look for a magic answer, or a straw boogeyman to bash. You also disparage the state tourism industry. Well, it is one of the biggest employers in the state, and brings in billions to your economy. Tourism also brings in lots of visible and out gays to Maine, ultimately for the better for Mainers. An interesting point that you make is the "stranglehold " of the Christian right. Gallup polling tells us that Maine is one of the least religious states in the country, along with Alaska. It is unclear just what this "stranglehold" is, or how much it mobilizes.
Whether you support marriage or not, it is unquestionable that no other issue has ever raised LGBT visibility anywhere as the marriage issue. This visibility may be uncomfortable or even painful at times, but is necessary in the process. The marriage visibility garnered more attention for LGBT issues in 3 months than all the LGBT agenda had in the previous decade.

drake, let me take a moment to thank you...

thank you for not listening to the majority of lgbt mainers who vocalized their actual priorities at the state wide symposium and via the FAN newsletter which were totally ignored by well to do "allies" like yourself.

thank you for not looking at my citations that look into the details of where funding came from, both locally and out of state.

thanks for making unfortunate (but all to common) comments equating the black struggle for self-determination in the 60s to the present multi-million dollar middle class campaign for consolidating money, power and privilege via marriage contracts doled out by the very state that sicced dogs, water cannons and racist cops on civil rights marchers.

thanks for discrediting the last decade of queer people fighting for the right to self-determination, particularly groups like ACT UP/portland and F.A.T.E. that are responsible for saving the very lives of young people like me. vague notions of visibility are far more important! particularly when visibility looks just like straight people!

thank you! thank you! thank you!

I disagree, Drake.

Not a penny of funds for the Marriage Equality fight in Maine was taken from the other worthy causes that you mention. Millions of dollars of money, and lots of volunteers came from supporters of Maine's LGBT community from all over - me included,. The proper response is "thank-you", not a rude answer that you did not get what you want.

I donated to Maine. That money was marked to be donated to an LGBT cause. It could have gone to an equality org, an HIV/AIDS charity, or the fight in Maine. I chose Maine.

Therefore, the other two groups got screwed. They didn't make the cut.

And I chose Maine because I felt forced to. I wouldn't have chosen the marriage fight over HIV/AIDS, for example, but that fight was brought to us. If Maine lost, it was a setback for our entire movement. If my local equality group fails, only the people in my area are affected. I was forced to prioritize and did so based on how many people would benefit.

It is always nice to get moral and political advice from someone who describes himself as a thief and a terrorist. May I ask that the author disclose what he has stolen and from whom? Whom has he terrorized? If you are an outlaw, what laws have you broken?

As for the turgid piece itself, I sort of lost interest at about the point where he accused gay marriage proponents of saying that marriage equality will cure AIDS and end anti-gay violence. Hey outlaw terrorist thief, you are supposed to present your adversary's views fairly before you rebut them. Otherwise, people will conclude that you are a sloganeering hack poseur and tune out the rest of your argument.

Anyway, I take it that "R. Conrad" is pissed that people don't have the same priorities as he does. And they have the audacity to donate their time and money on things that they care about, not on things that R. Conrad cares about. The humanity!

this isn't about my priorities. making this about me is an easy way of not actually dealing with the points i bring up in the paper (and a sad neo-liberal tactic of derailing the issue and turning this into a personal cat fight). perhaps you should actually read the entire piece including this tid-bit about priorities:

"Even though LGBTQ identified Mainers spoke loud and clear about their priorities at both the statewide symposium convened by the Maine Community Foundation's Equity Fund in 2007 and in a pre-election poll put out by the Family Affairs Newsletter in January 2009, somehow we still found ourselves in the midst of a $6 million dollar campaign for someone else's priority. The FAN found that nearly 70% of their readers did not identify marriage as their top priority issue1 and the symposium's 4,000 word summary only mentions gay marriage in one sentence positively.2 Gay marriage is mentioned twice in the document, but in the second instance it is referenced negatively by youth at the conference who saw the gay marriage issue as pressuring them to live up to unwanted heteronormative expectations.3"
(citations are at the bottom of the article)


also, yr questions about whom i have terrorized, what laws i have broken, and what i have stolen are good questions to ask. these questions of course point to larger ones: what counts as theft? what laws are just and how just is the legal system that upholds them? (it was illegal for me to have gay sex when i was in high school, someone throw me in jail!) and where/when does violence and intimidation start within a relationship between individuals and/or institutions? i reflect upon these kinds of questions often as a queer person negotiating a world that seeks my erasure. perhaps more of us should?

"also, yr questions about whom i have terrorized, what laws i have broken, and what i have stolen are good questions to ask. these questions of course point to larger ones:"

Wow, outlaw terrorist thief, you are so transgressive that you even refuse to capitalize letters! Way to stick it to the Man! Anyway, I am delighted to hear that my questions "point" to other questions. Do they point to answers from you?

Also, who are you to say which questions are larger and which are smaller? Aren't you engaging in a classic liberal tactic of establishing hierarchy, ranking questions in order of so-called importance and attributing a larger size to those you claim are more significant. This focus on size may reflect a subconscious phallocentrism on your part. I hope your fellow outlaw artists aren't reading this.

also, my paper has 16 citations, with hard data and reports to back it up. your comments have 0.

the burden of providing proof of your arguments are yours alone. talk about not making an argument worth listening to.

"also, my paper has 16 citations, with hard data and reports to back it up. your comments have 0.

the burden of providing proof of your arguments are yours alone. talk about not making an argument worth listening to."

Reification of the culture of citation. Check. Privileging european concepts of "proof." Check. Placing yourself in a position of judging a competing narrative as not "worth" listening to. Check.

You are very much a privileged white male. Not much of an outlaw, it would seem.

Wow. This is so deep. Phallocentrism has raised its wee head.

Seriously, this is the level of discourse? Nothing in response to questions or responses, just a lot of sophomoric petulance and the ultimate "You're just a privileged white male" response. In a paper that, like, you know, completely exposes privileged white male agendas? Come on. You know how to spell phallocentrism. You can do better than this, no?

Which is not to say that spelling "phallocentrism" is any sign of superior intelligence, but if you can spell it, you ought to be able to recognise it when it hits you on the head.

So to speak.

And, for the love of whatever powers we believe in, have we all completely lost the ability to recognise irony and sarcasm unless presented with emoticons?

"Petty thief" :-(

"terrorist academic" LOL!

"outlaw artist" :-)

No, those emoticons are not truthful representations, they're just examples. ;-) LOL!

ohhhhh! throwing the privilege card when privilege is a central focus of the paper! another neo-liberal distraction from actually dealing with the issues at hand...

thanks but no thanks. i dont take bait from trolls who hid behind anonymity and are entirely unaccountable for their comments.

As for the turgid piece itself, I sort of lost interest at about the point where he accused gay marriage proponents of saying that marriage equality will cure AIDS and end anti-gay violence. Hey outlaw terrorist thief, you are supposed to present your adversary's views fairly before you rebut them. Otherwise, people will conclude that you are a sloganeering hack poseur and tune out the rest of your argument.

To be fair, I have actually heard those arguments. The one about AIDS was famously made by both Andrew Sullivan and Gabriel Rotello, and is a perennial "observation" made by LGBT academics.

The one about violence made it into the hearing in Vermont on the bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

I don't think this is the mainstream view when people stop and think about it, but these arguments appear here and there.

R. Conrad, it's great that you want to be the rebellious provocateur fighting the establishment. Fun! More power to you if you don't want to get married or join the military. Daring!

I, however, see value in treating all people equally under that law. It's really pretty simple. And since your anarchist views are likely to remain in the minority until . . . oh, eternity, I'll spend my time and money in the real world fighting for rights like marriage that will benefit LGBTQ people in ways you clearly don't see or are unwilling to acknowledge. Thanks for the advice though.

While I was largely in agreement with these points before reading this, I really appreciate the more in depth analysis of the effect of the marriage focus on a smaller environment. Thank you for helping make clear that the hurt marriage campaigns are causing our own community are not hypothetical, but very, very real.

Here we are, treated to yet another facile post by a "radical queer activist" about the evils of same-sex marriage. Yawn.

It has all the usual features of "queer" writing, particularly the red-herring "same-sex marriage won't put food on the table or end war" arguments and attempts to blame same-sex marriage for everything from GLBT teen suicide to perceived unfairness in the patent code. I imagine that over the next few days, we'll see all the other "queers" patting R. Conrad on the back while denouncing his critics as representatives of the Neoliberal White/Male/Cisgendered/Gay Establishment.

The push for same-sex marriage is a consequence of the increasing societal acceptance of GLBT people. The fact that increasing numbers of us no longer fear unemployment or ostracization means that we can afford to have long-term relationships and settle down instead of sucking each other through glory holes before returning home to a clueless wife and kids. The ability to form long-term relationships leads to gay couples sharing property and other assets and liabilities, and when domestic partners have shared interests, they tend to want legal protection for them, a.k.a. marriage.

Same-sex marriage won't end unemployment, cure AIDS or make bald people grow hair. But you "queers," with your petulant obstructionism and unrealistic left-wing utopianism, won't bring about universal healthcare, world peace or any other achievement, either. All you will do is perpetuate inequality and exclusion for those of us who've actually grown up and acquired a mature and nuanced understanding of the world.

Thirty years ago, it was municipal gay-rights ordinances that fueled Anita Bryant's crusade of bigotry across the nation; today, it's same-sex marriage that propels the religious right. The irony is that in their misguided efforts, "queers" such as R. Conrad play right into the hands of the religious right. For the religious right, same-sex marriage is just yet another expansion of GLBT rights that results in an inevitable backlash by homophobic straight people that it can then use to further its goal of erasing gay rights in general.

I didn't allow President George W Bush or the Pope to tell me whom I may love. I will not let them, Ryan Conrad, or Yasmin Nair tell me whether or not I may marry.
I also do not buy your Leninist schitck for a new world order. Call me old fashioned (I'm gay, not queer, not faggott). I do not understand how persons who claim to be "progressive" or "radical" really want to micro manage so many of us. I want the government out of my bedroom, and that also goes for fringe LGBT arrivistes.

marriage and love aren't synonymous or inter-changeable. this paper is not talking about love, or what you do in your bedroom, or what kind of religious commitment ceremony you want to share with your family, chosen or otherwise.

so, what is your point again?

This comment clearly pertains to civil marriage. Just like the homophobes, you are equating CIVIL marriage with the religious.

Tomorrow, in our nation's capital, same sex marriage will pass the vote of the City Council by at least 10 to 3. The DC LGBT community for many years has worked hard, electing 2 openly gay members. There have dozens of changes to the law over the years, all increasing LGBT rights across the board. Yes, we had some defeats along the way, but tomorrow will be a great victory.

I am trying tyo figure out - just whom are you addressing in your remarks? Not the political leaders (you are against them), not the greater LGBT community, whom you attack. There is a certain narcissism in your remarks by which you seem to suggest that you are the sole possesser of "the truth" for us all.

I am trying tyo figure out - just whom are you addressing in your remarks?

I believe your question is answered in the poorly written second paragraph of his post: "If we, as a radical queer community, are to prevent the de-prioritization and de-funding of critical queer and trans community issues/organizations/services, the campaign in Maine must be dissected and used as a case study to learn from. Our queerest futures depend on it!"

Basically, R. Conrad and other "queer" writers here address each other. They're basically an just insular community of bitter, resentful people who share a common unrealistic and puerile worldview that most people grow out of once they graduate from college and have to get a job.

Count in many Lesbians into that "angry bitter" group that you describe and define so disdainfully. Our healthcare agenda has been wholly sidelined by other priorities.

Guess waht?
Marriage is not the be all end all of gay rights.
Neither is socialism some kind of tainted club that can be used to smear or hammer people, particularly when free market economy worked so very well unregulated that banking required huge bail-outs

Christopher D | December 1, 2009 2:56 PM

An unrealistic and puerile worldview? I think there are plenty of us who are out of college and working who don't think marriage should be the gateway to security or the answer to our prayers.
We don't all fashion ourselves as radicals or anarchists, but we aren't all hyped up on gettin' hitched as the pathway to a bright and glorious future either.
Marriage is a perfectly valid family relationship, but it shouldn't be promoted and privileged over other perfectly valid family relationships. We could all use a little more safety and security.

@ peter

see, this is where the gay marriage campaigns being waged around the nation get confused with their own rhetoric. they collude love and rights. one minute its about love this love that, then its about my rights this my rights that. not that they are mutually exclusive, but the point being, these campaigns are NOT about love.

what this paper is dealing with is marriage as a state controlled contract between two people. this is what the marriage campagin in maine and across the country is fighting for. access to privileges.

go have your beach front, unitarian universalist commitment ceremony and call it marriage, or whatever you like for that matter. no one is telling you that you cant do that and many many people have. but that is not what the gay marriage campaigns are interested in, although they use the rhetoric of love because it pulls on people's heart strings and leverages an emotional response. but lets be clear, the bottom line is not the right to have commitment ceremonies before god/family/etc, but the right to access rights/privileges.

so it's not me who is colluding confusing rhetoric, it's the gay marriage mainstream.

my comments stand.

Just curious:

How does a paper, with footnotes, citations, and facts and figures, so assiduously detailing the political failure of a movement, appear as "narcissism?" Can you pinpoint, exactly, a passage, a sentence that you find narcissistic? A part where Ryan actually declares that this is the truth above all? And, more importantly, can you do that in the context of the larger piece, without making personal comments? Can you disprove any of his facts and figures?

Let's, for the sake of argument, say that he's an utter narcissist. Can you explain why and how that detracts from his argument? Can you disprove any of his arguments AS arguments?

[chirp of crickets]

As for audience, here's the second paragraph:

"If *we*, as a radical queer community, are to prevent the de-prioritization and de-funding of critical queer and trans community issues/organizations/services, the campaign in Maine must be dissected and used as a case study to learn from. *Our* queerest futures depend on it!" (asterisks mine)

All it takes is a reading. That paragraph even appears before the jump.

This is exactly why I don't, in my own work on Bilerico, ever concern myself with proving anything about my own life and activism to those who rant on about narcissism and selfishness and who then demand one's credentials; it's a slippery slope with people who really don't care for any proof and whose only aim is to distract with personal attacks. Ryan could give you a 10-feet long CV detailing all his community work, and those who can't stomach the hard reality of his critique would still find ways to go on about his "narcissism."

Do you have any more ad hominems? What's next? His table manners?

I mean, really, come on, people. Discourse. Raise. Level. Of.

I feel compelled to point out that this doesn't make sense:

I do not understand how persons who claim to be "progressive" or "radical" really want to micro manage so many of us. I want the government out of my bedroom, and that also goes for fringe LGBT arrivistes.

By arguing in favor of same-sex marriage, you are automatically arguing in favor of the government in your bedroom. You want the government to sanction that the person in your bedroom is more important to you than anyone else and should have benefits because of their relationship status in your life. You're literally asking the government to sanction your relationship - therefore agreeing that same-sex sexual relationships are valid.

I'm not trying to be a douche - just to point out that sometimes our kneejerk reactions (like "get government out of the bedroom!") don't really follow through. That slogan was effective for the repeal of sodomy laws, but apparently now we want government approval.

My personal preference would be to allow everyone to get a civil marriage/partnership for tax purposes, legal obligations, etc and/or a religious marriage for spiritual reasons. Anti-gay churches wouldn't need to bless gay marriages if they're religious beliefs oppose it, but there's plenty that would bless the unions.

Socialism? Gasp! The Horror...The Horror!

In reality, this article is a look at the cost of yet another loss of marriage as an issue and the ancillary costs that accompany such a defeat. Consider what the lobbying and publicity campaign monies and volunteer time COULD have acheived working on another social issue.

The critique is well written and certainly worthy of consideration

Yeah, it's like playing whack-a-mole. I mean, we thwarted socialism by neutralizing that shining paragon of Leninism, President Obama, through massive corporate campaign donations. Then it reared its head in the form of ACORN, which only a timely smear campaign saved us from. Now it's back attacking love and (gay) marriage through well-reasoned essays with footnotes! I swear, I really thought we'd be free from this insidious threat by now, but I guess that if we let our guard down for one second, we'll be excommunicating rich people from our movement and speaking Swedish before we even notice!

The key to understanding Conrad, Yasmin and other über-liberal activists like them is the issues they support are those which demonstrate their "concern" for the most disadvantaged. Demonstrating such "concern" is the currency the über-liberal activists use with each other to "prove" how very special they are.

This is the Mother Teresa (MT) effect as in Mother Teresa's claim to care for the poor in India while perpetuating their existence, using these poor to further her agenda and accomplishing a trifecta by having others pay for her ego enhancing project. ( ).

In order to enhance their all important egos über-liberal activists must have an endless supply of victims. The moment a person works their way out of victim hood or even shows signs of doing so the MTs of the world bail on them.

Victims are particularly useful to work with since they don't have the power to promote their agendas over those of the MT type activists. It is damaging to the fragile egos of the MT types to work with people with the power and inclination to promote their own interests such as the gays wishing to marry or to serve in the military openly.

By always remembering that the real agenda of Conrad and his über-liberal activist peers is to enhance their egos at the expense of others we can save ourselves the effort of taking their concerns seriously.

Or here's a thought: perhaps Conrad, Yasmin, and other queer activists are supporting the issues they are is because those issues are the ones that impact them the most. Just like the pro-marriage activists are no doubt working on that issue because it's the one that will benefit them the most. I really don't think you need to invent any other motivations for activism unless your goal is to personally discredit someone and, by extension, their ideas.

Then again, discrediting queer activism does seem to be your goal. So keep making up those motivations to assign to us!

Wow, the original post has "footnotes and citations." It just has to be true, accurate and indisputable. Well, I grew up in a home full of books promoted by the John Birch Society (and later Eagle Forum). They all seemed to be 2/3 text and 1/3 footnotes. So forgive my scepticism. But for all you footnote-lovers, here's a link to a "meticulously footnoted" screed that basically takes you to the same place R. Conrad is headed. Anti-equality makes for strange bedfellows!

That's a good point. A wealth of footnotes only matters if a) the sources are credible and b) are used in a fair and accurate manner.

As I said before, this whole post is pretty typical of "queer" writing on this subject. Conrad is even pretentious enough to refer to it as a "paper," but I looked on his Web site, and it was published in some little newsletter put out by a "queer" organization.

Thank you Conrad for adding an interesting and provocative piece to the Bilerico community. I think you do raise important questions about the ultimate usefulness of the marriage equality debate. I'm forced to agree that the marriage movement does distract from the larger and more important social justice issues.

On a personal level I really enjoyed the voice you brought to Bilerico and I hope you become a regular contributor. :-)


I appreciate a number of the ideas and comments that are in this post. Particularly, I think Mr. Conrad does a good job of critiquing the lack of focus we have as a community on wider issues of social justice (though I disagree that marriage has nothing to do with social justice, as often marriage can help decrease the cost burden for people by pooling resources thus leaving them less destitute; but that's obviously not exclusive to marriage and is something different types of relationships can do) and our obsessive focus on issues that largely impact only us. It's telling to me that some of what I view as the most effective movements for social justice--liberation theology, the black civil rights movement--address and work equally towards a broader vision of social justice that has a large impact on not just Catholics or not just African-Americans (even if I do take issue with the Marxist-inspired programs that often dismiss the contribution of capitalism to a world with a greater freedom from poverty).

But one of the biggest issues that I think is unresolved by this post is hard evidence that marriage campaigns decrease funding to other activities. I know it seems obvious to assume that if money is going to a marriage campaign then it must not be going to an HIV/AIDS program or a community youth group, I'm not so sure we can just assume that. The reason I say this is that it's not clear to me that the dollars donated to a marriage campaign would have been donated at all to any other group if the marriage campaign did not exist. There are many for whom marriage is the motivating force for them to donate to an LGBT organization and if marriage were not in the picture their money would just sit in their bank account instead or be used to purchase something. To me it seems like the question that is still out there is where is the hard evidence that these marriage campaigns are sucking money from other groups? Though I saw that Bil noted that he did not donate to another organization because of the Maine campaign, I think it needs to be respectfully noted that that is anecdotal evidence and does not necessarily--though it may--prove a broader trend. Do you know of any research that looks at the funding levels of other organizations and how those change or don't change when a marriage fight is introduced?

I could see it going several ways, actually:

(1) Marriage fights suck donations from other organizations
(2) Marriage fights have little to no effect on other organizations donation levels
(3) Marriage fights increase donations to other organizations by increasing grassroots reinvigoration (sort of a positive sum scenario)

Frankly, I don't even know if that kind of research has been done, but I'd love to see it if it has.

Just exactly when did the open and honest discussion on the prioritisation of LGBT issues become a referendum on economic theory?

"neo-liberalism?" "Socialism?"

There has been a huge push in New York for a vote on gay marriage here, a vote whose outcome is foreordained and by and large written in stone thanks to that enterprising pentecostal minister, Ruben Diaz. We will lose. And the Right will have more ammo against us; "even New York doesn't want gay marriage" We ought to have used our lobbying, influence and efforts to keep our 2002 promises to the trans community to "come back for them" and to amend SONDA to include them, rather than this pro-forma gesture

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | December 1, 2009 8:53 AM

Conrad asks " How did gay marriage become "the issue" in Maine...?

Was it because rich GLBT accomodationists whose greatest desire is to become collaborators with capitalism decided to sabotage the rest of the movement. No, that’s preposterous.

The fight and the defeats in Maine and 37 or so other states occurred because right centrists like the Clintons, the Bushes and Obama, the DNC and RNC and most congressional candidates of the Democratic and Republicans parties vie in using SSM as bait when they go trawling for votes.

They imposed these fights on us. If Conrad had complained about Clinton, Obama and Bush inflicting these fights on us and using them to drain our scant recourses in mostly hopeless battles he’d be unerringly right. But that’s not what Conrad is saying. His complaint is not about Obama’s ‘gawd’s in the mix’ being used to take away court granted SSM but about all those mean ‘ole accomodationists and ‘'duped' GLBT activists captured by 'the shallow rhetoric of equality'. Conrad appears to have successfully completed his masters thesis in patronizing.

Why do ultralefts, ‘left liberals’, sectarians, fake leftists and wannabe anarchists always give the Democrats and their Republican cousins a pass while focusing their anger against the very GLBT activists who tried to defend our rights? Why do they preposterously claim that "Gays and lesbians of all ages are obsessing over gay marriage as if it's going to cure AIDS, stop anti-queer/anti-trans violence, provide all uninsured queers with health care, and reform racist immigration policies."

You can find part of the answer in Lenin's booklet Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder . The other part of the answer is that these fake left criticisms come from liberals, not leftists - liberals, who are angry that their initial efforts to solve the insoluble problems of late stage crisis capitalism using patronizing social work-community organizing schemes and petty reforms were rebuffed by pro-capitalist right centrist politicians. They're simlpy latter day SDS'ers.

What we're dealing with here are the antics of angry liberals, about whom it could have been said that “Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned.”

oh shoot! this is great! almost as good as yasminites!

Not exactly a political comment.

Please feel free to argue with the political analysis, if you can.


To be fair: What political analysis? This is the same thing from you that I've seen on my blog posts: A volatile, angrily written screed which tars everyone with the same brush and ultimately says little more than "I'M the authentic something-or-other in the room, the only one!" In the process, you produce ... a spiel of hastily clobbered together phrases and dictates which reproduce every tired cliche in every book.

I'm not even sure you quite know how to identify yourself most days. In your rush for ideological purity, you even paint the same people as liberals, anarchists, leftists and so on - do you understand the distinctions between any of these categories?

Ryan can take this on if he wants to, but let me just say, as someone who's clearly pointed to in your most recent screed and who has seen the same post many times on her blogs: I, for one, would rather not embarrass you by deconstructing your words. I know you'll keep showing up nonetheless, but just so you know - it's not an inability to deal with what you call "political analysis" that prevents anyone from commenting on your comments. It's more a general sense of befuddlement. I can't speak for everyone else, but I do note that folks of all stripes generally remain silent on your comments.

And that is not personal; it's entirely political. Take the time to read your own words, please.

Yasmin, I suspect that you just don’t want to deal with criticisms of liberals like Conrad from a left perspective. So you claim it's not political. But it is. He’s a classic reformist who, when rejected, goes through an ultraleft, sectarian phase before turning right again.

I think it can best be illustrated by examining the political trajectory of SDS, a ‘youth’ group organized by Democrat Party liberals, mostly social democrats. At first they emphasized a program of patronizing community organizing and social work to ‘uplift the masses”. Then they supported Democrats while criticizing the war and were stunned to find that LBJ’s Democrat administration regarded them with the same contempt they regarded the Vietnamese. SDS then when through a short berserker ultraleft phase, became sectarian and withdrew from the antiwar movement by insisting that the Vietnamese negotiate. In a final frenzy of political idiocy they attacked Chicago, a stunt that left the Chicago PD and the FBI grinning from ear to ear. It was victimization city. Then the remnants of SDS settled down and withdrew from politics entirely.

I suppose my comments do get fewer responses than yours because most are centered on exposing the folly of supporting Obama, or being neutral about him. I don’t make comments to attract attention to myself but to provide a leftist political approach, which, judging by the reactions of right centrist liberals and conservatives, have an impact.

I don’t, unlike you, identify activists in the movement for same sex marriage as enemies but I do accuse Obama supporters and Democrats (and Republicans) of misleadership if they put partisanship ahead of the needs of the movement.

So please, deconstruct away. But keep in mind that pedantic word games are not what’s at question here. It’s all about, and only about, political perspectives and where they take us. A political discussion might help clear up some of your befuddlement. That certainly couldn’t hurt.

But you have to stick to the issues I raised. I oppose the idea that the new layers of activists who defend against right wing attacks on same sex marriage are our enemies. I think the fight to defend against rightist attacks for SSM equality is legitimate. I think our real enemies are politicians who use the issue of same sex marriage to trawl for bigot votes. That includes Obama, McCain, the christer right and to a lesser extent those who think, out of fear or befuddlement or partisanship, that we should abandon the field to the right. Some actually oppose same sex marriage because Obama does.

And in your ‘deconstructive’ efforts, try not to make the same gross mistakes you made ‘deconstructing’ Peter Tatchell. Don’t make stuff up and don’t repeat slanders from fellow sectarians who lied and claimed that he’s an islamophobe. And please don’t bother ‘deconstructing’ the above by insinuating that I’m comparing myself to Tatchell. I’m just asking that you not repeat the embarrassment you should have felt by using those same tactics on me.


I'm not going to address the rest of your meandering rant, but I will just say this:

You misunderstand me when I write that "this isn't political." I wasn't referring to Ryan's piece which is, of course, absolutely political - how could you think that I would think otherwise? By "this" I meant my own response to you, in case you misconstrued it as some personal spiel. Given your ability to flail at straws, and bring in matters that are of no concern to the posts in question, I wanted to be clear about my intentions.

That question I posed just now, by the way, just to be clear, is a rhetorical question. I'm not inviting you to respond. Although, I have no doubt you will.

Carry on, then. I'm done here.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | December 2, 2009 1:55 PM

Don't be afraid, Yasmin. It's OK. Deconstruct away. Deconstruct me just like you tried to denostruct Tatchell.

Or ignore me. In either case you're right, I won't stop advocating a socialist, leftist approach to politics.

But don't play games. I was refering to your comment "What political analysis?", not to Conrads 'liberal on steriods' attack on GLBT activists.

I believe that LGBT rights are better and more quickly advanced when in the diverse LGBT community when individuals are free to pursue their goals and interests, and if needed, to raise funds for the same and to organize.
I believe that it is antagonistic to the advancement of LGBT rights and goals when some few individuals decide to advance their LGBT careers on attacking others in the LGBT community who are pursuing various divergent activities (in good faith, and usually at personal and financial sacrifice), all of which are supported by elements of the LGBT community, and all of which will benefit many in the LGBt community.
Inherent in the arguments advanced by Ms Conrad and Ms Nair are their attempts at forced homogenization of the huge diversity within the fragile LGBT coalition. There are subgroups within each of the groups of the L-G-B-T coalition, that themselves have divergent interests. In voluntary efforts, and within the non-profit community, there also exists a "marketplace" of ideas, personalities, moments-in-history to seize, etc. which many decide to support in various fashion. I say it is wrong and selfish to undermine such efforts, simply because such an effort may not be MY personal cause or passion.
I also must question whether it is even worthwhile discussing issues with persons who claim a commitment to the elimination or downfall of the system of government in the US or in Maine. With such planks in their agenda, any banding with such advocates discredits the overall LGBT movement that has no such aspirations. Imperfect as American society is, it is difficult to discover better or safer places on this planet for LGBT individuals, generally speaking. Very few of us are ready to trade it for systems in which a government, or an "enlightened elite" who wishes to high-jack the history and efforts of the LGBT movement for their own diverse and generally non-LGBT ends, is ready to impose their own agenda on all. And make no mistake, they wish to IMPOSE. No one is forced to marry. Why should this not be an option for folks who desire this? The poster most disingenuously claims his support for religious marriages - confusing civil and religious marriage, just as the far right does. I wish that no individuals or group on the political spectrum deny civil marriage to the LGBT person who want it.

Ah, such a nice conformist piece of radicalism. Sorry but you tipped your hand with "prevent the de-prioritization and de-funding" You are focused on the money as much as the organizations you condemn. You also have a rather bold way of conflating the currently popular health care debate and the old radical trope of racism into your critique though arguably neither has ever been a central part of our movement of sexual outlaws historically.

I highly suggest a different tract. Instead of critiquing the Marriage Movement perhaps the real radical exploration is to discover what the driving motivations are that might bring larger sections of the community together? It is entirely too easy and not at all helpful to toss people under the bus. Much more useful to figure out how to get them on board.

Oh, nice tip of the hat to the issue of "rabidly homophobic sex-abuse witch hunts" You actually got my attention for critical thinking there.

Hi all,

I've been a silent lurker admiring Bilerico from afar for some time. I love the back and forth on this blog. But this post (more accurately the push back it received) motivated me to come out of the woodwork: I've spent the past 8 years researching what life is like for LGBT and questioning youth who live in the rural U.S. (Kentucky and its Appalachian boarders specifically). [Full disclosure: I just published a book on that work called "Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America" NYU Press, 2009].

R. Conrad's post and responses to it underscore for me that, as a movement, we have to come to grips with how little we know (or have cared about) the experiences of rural communities or what marriage equality might mean to local residents (LGBT-identifying or not, rural or not) who struggle to access basic resources.

Until we reckon with the class, spatial (rural vs. urban), and racial dimensions of the Marriage Equality Movement and the city-centric assumptions that drive much of our organizing efforts (see my book on this, I don't want to bore you here), we'll continue to lose at the ballot box (and on a host of fronts) in places like Maine (and California, and the other 29 states that have voted against gay marriage in state-wide referendums).

What R. Conrad's essay suggests to me is that we have to rethink what it means to call for equality/fairness or the benefits and privileges of marriage in communities that have been historically marginalized/treated unfairly and have such strained socioeconomic resources that access to health benefits or an opportunity to, as one response above put it, "shar[e] property and other assets" is difficult to come by whether you're married or not. Let me be utilitarian about this: if you're for marriage equality and you want to see it in more than a few states then it's in your best interest to understand why this issue might fail beyond simply assuming those voting against us "don't get it" or "don't like us"'s more complicated than that. For example, in several of the communities where I worked, "LGBT issues" registered as "a city thing" or "special rights" precisely because the issues presented to them (Amendment 2, KY's anti-gay marriage bill from 2004, for example) suggested that access to marriage would give LGBT people access to healthcare and other benefits that come with marriage. How do you "sell" that in a community where there are few local healthcare *services* let alone benefits to pay for them (other than medicaid)?

Unless we can make our issues familiar and local to these communities--make them matter for local residents who are not LGBT-identifying and don't see LGBT people as a local constituency beyond Uncle Rob down the road--we can't expect those communities to care about what we care about. In other words, we have to find and build common cause without assuming there's something obviously "right" about our political priorities. That translation work is on us and we've barely (if really at all) started that conversation beyond the few strongholds of friends of allies we've turned to for decades.

For those who see marriage equality draining resources from other fundamental services: let's note (as I think R. Conrad does) that the draft is coming from all sides--dwindling state funding and the little private funding our community generates going to non-profit orgs that increasingly channel it toward marriage equality. To me this is about agenda-setting and figuring out how to intervene in the national debate around movement priorities. That is the most pressing challenge for those of us who feel we need something other than Marriage Equality to define the LGBT social movement. Creating Change (counter) Conference perhaps?

stoked to check out yr book! thanks for mentioning it, there is so little content out there about rural queers, particular queer youth...

A bit late to the game here - was busy prepping for World AIDS Day - but I do have a question. Why is it, Conrad, that you think when folks spend time on a particular issue that they are automatically giving up on all the other issues they care about?

Your critique of gay marriage as a strategy for social change is compelling until you consider that no other single change or reform could ever live up to the test you've contrived for marriage equality. Raising the minimum wage to a livable level will not cure AIDS, end disparities in sentencing for people of color, prevent gay teen suicide, bring justice for immigrants, challenge pharma patent laws or ensure reproductive freedom. One could even argue that raising the minimum wage would reinforce a capitalist system that is inherently unjust. So, by your logic, living wage campaigns are NOT social justice campaigns. That's just absurd to me.

Several years ago, I put a lot of time and effort into raising the minimum wage here in New York. When I was working on that, I didn't give up on LGBT rights, HIV/AIDS, reproductive freedom, educational equity or environmental justice as causes I care deeply about. It's just that raising the minimum wage was the fight right in front of me at that time. Now it's marriage equality. Who knows what it will be a few years down the line. I just know I'll still be fighting.

I admire your commitment to social justice and appreciate your post as a reminder that marriage equality will not solve all of society's ills. But when you condemn people who are working on their little piece of the social justice puzzle, you lose me. It just sounds like more of the circular firing squad that so much of the progressive community wastes time with. Instead of being "against equality," why not just respect what others are doing to make society more just and work with others on the issues you find more important? There is so much injustice in this country that I just don't see the point in condemning another part of the small crew trying to right society's wrongs.


I appreciate your comment and your research. I must take exception to this statement regarding rural voters:

"Let me be utilitarian about this: if you're for marriage equality and you want to see it in more than a few states then it's in your best interest to understand why this issue might fail beyond simply assuming those voting against us "don't get it" or "don't like us"'s more complicated than that."

It really isn't that complicated. People who "don't like us" believe we are wrong. That got that belief from religion - nowhere else. Our "rural" areas (as demonstrated in Maine) have two major distinctions - older and more religious than the general population.

In the State of Maine only 48% of the residents make religion "important." That's why most polling on SSM was always around 50/50. But, in the rural areas, nearly 70% of the residents make religion "important." This corresponds with the higher average age for rural areas. The older the person, the more likely they make religion important.

Religion determined the outcome in Maine in two ways: 1) the rural religious vote against us, and 2) their ability to get the vote out. The rural turnout killed us. The opposition had more than 1,000 churches (600 in rural areas) to rally their troops. We didn't have anything comparable and certainly couldn't set that up temporarily.

We lost in Maine because WE didn't get out OUR voters. That's the lesson.

I agree that we need to have a national dialog about LGBT Equality priorities and strategies. We also need to be painfully honest and completely objective in our search for answers.

I believe the real message of Conrad's article was fighting over resources. At some point we need to be fighting over ideas, ideas to actually WIN, not just survive.

As a writing teacher, I notice a strong disparity in style and format betwinxt Ryan Conrad's post and some of the comments that he has made in rebuttal. In fact I see a blending with some of Yasmin Nair's previous offerings. Question: Is this a joint effort?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | December 1, 2009 3:02 PM

Who cares?

Is it important whether they agree or collaborate? Not at all.

And for the record, while I disagree with their opposition to same sex marriage equality, there are lots of other people who share their view. It's just that few of them want to be described as 'leftists'.

Ryan, I had a good laugh at the photo of you bearded in a wedding dress (with an anti marriage sign that I did not like). However, in case you are not aware of this group, do you know about The Cockettes, later The Angels of Light? They were in San Francisco in the Castro heydays, led by Hibiscus, who performed bearded and in drag. I think that you would have had fun with this gang. Google "cockettes" and you will find quite alot, including wikipedia and youtube entries. The documentary about them is fun. Since you are an artist, I thought that you would get a kick out of this.

It's appropriate to remember Hibiscus and the many Cockettes who died of AIDS on this World AIDS Day.

Bangor Daily News, a blog, a few .org's and .com's here and there? I don't know what they taught you at your local community college but they hardly make for authoritative citations.


its funny, because the actual paper has full footnotes citing actual newspaper articles, journal articles, organizational year end reports, and financial records.

i was asked to change them to weblinks if possible to make it more blog-gy. ha! thanks bil!

We began with an insinuation that this was co-authored with Alex Blaze; then charges that Ryan was too leftist/anarchist; then an insistence that he, gasp, wasn't leftist at all; then an insinuation that I must have co-authored it with him; and then a snide comment about his sources and the quality of his education (the last of which insults millions who do actually get perfectly good educations at community colleges).

I'm sure Ryan is just wounded and devastated and is rolled up in a corner nursing his ego, and will promptly return with photocopies of his academic work and degrees because THAT would be the only thing that proves his arguments, yeah. Not the evidence of facts, presented by legitimate organisations. That's just so...2002 and completely irrelevant.

I'm waiting for this to become an indictment of Ryan's fashion sense. Is that...OMG...FLANNEL?!?! he's wearing in his photo? Outrageous! This article will not stand! Fie, fie, Mr. Conrad, you are an impostor! Why, sir, only a bespoke suit in leather could affirm the validity of your article. Take your research, your analysis, your facts and figures out of here and do not return without trite contradictions about love and the state and made up hypotheses about how gay marriage IS the only motivation for us all! And dress the part! Begone!


I think the verdict is in. Other than a couple of genuinely probing engagements, it appears that the majority of those who disagree with the piece are unable to find anything they can actually disprove and are left with nothing but the dry mud of ad hominems.

You don't have to agree with the work in its entirety or at all. But if you want to disagree, could you go further than petty insults, or what you fondly imagine to be insults?

Awww appealing to emotion, are we now? Perhaps you and the author of the article went to the same community college and took the same class by the same distraught queer studies professor and that is why you write the same drivel?

You and the author of the article have had a consistent hollier-than-thou attitude to whomever has questioned your article and _now_ the problem is that *I* am elitist.

In another post on this website I engaged with you. Interestingly enough you didn't. By no means am I going to go over the same points again.

Both you and the other "queer radicals" all write the same idiotic posts anyway. Your answer to any issue is expected. You have turned yourselves into the kid in highschool who thinks that he is cool and different because he scratches two notes on his guitar. The difference between the self-appointed radical in highschool and you, is that you are referring to very real problems, problems that have caused people a terrible amount of trouble/pain/etc. And once again that is what makes you not only a pseudo-intellectual but also immoral.


PS. Next term please look up what it means to deconstruct before you decide to use the word to threaten someone. Even at that your ignorance is appalling.

[Weeps openly and copiously, distraught, heartbroken and humiliated that someone has questioned her use of the word "deconstruct," sneered that she must have gone to community college, AND called her an elitist]


now you're getting confused between radical queers like yasmin and myself and those performing radical queerness like bash back (

you must not have taken that class on performativity at your conservative christian college. ;)

Ok, let's come clean here:
The paper was coauthored by Alex and Yasmin, who prepared it under the watchful eyes of the IWW(Wobblies), MoveON, and ACORN. Raoul Castro weighed in on it as well.

The insidious social agenda of re-directing the LGBT movement towards such socialistic endeavours as employment, housing and education protections was the objective. The paper was oroginally prepared on lettrehead that has a red hammer and sickle stamped on top of a rainbow-striped triangle.

[having been discovered, throws hands in air and shamefacedly trudges out of the room]

Provocative post but I'm not sure I get the point of your anti-equality rant. Are you saying LGBT folks should avoid mainstreaming with "the system" and remain defiant outsiders? Thumbing their noses at the bourgeoisie and living anarchic lives? At your tender age, sex-drugs-rock'n'roll or whatever may make sense as a focus of your life, but when you hit 35 or 40, your values might change. You may consider it selling out, but some of us think monogamy and commitment are important, and want the same governmental perks for our relationships that heteros get. Whether you call it marriage or partnership doesn't matter much to me, but "marriage" seems to be the quickest shortcut to obtaining those 1,100+ benefits. I assume some gay folks within Maine thought marriage recognition was important if your legislature passed the law in the first place? Are you saying the Maine gay community should have given up when the referendum challenge materialized?

It's an obvious shame (word of the Day) there were no new ideas in the article - just more blame. At least it's easier to see who actually wants "equality" and who wants to make more noise.

Marriage may be one step for LGBT individuals who are in committed relationships to gain equality but
what about all those LGBT individuals who are not in
rleationships (IE single)??

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | December 2, 2009 5:26 PM

Marriage is a reactionary way of partnering.

Partnering should be free and easy to get in and out of and the benefits now reserved for straights should be open to everyone, including single people. The state really has no say in partnering except to protect women and children.

The other part of this question concerns the cults and their interference in civil and political life. The cult’s opposition to SSM ought to be criminalized. They have no right to interfere in political or civil affairs and should lose their unfair tax exemption.

The three things that create revenue for the deadbeats called priests, pastors and ministers are raking in money on marriage, donations from the deluded and unfair tax breaks. Part of our fight for civil equality has to be to take away their financial base and muzzle their interference in politics.

This article and the ensuing conversation have begun and ended in the same way: pathetic.

I will never understand why fabulous folks like Conrad, Yasmin, Mattilda and others continue to willingly post on Bilerico. It seems like it ALWAYS ends the same way. A few people excited and all about it and then a bunch of angry faggots, who don't get it and (apparently) never will. In continuing to post here, it feels like this handful of interesting peopleare just shooting them selves in the fucking foot, over and over and over again. We need to leave this trash behind.

I think this is a really interesting post over all but there are some parts that really rub me the wrong way.

"the gay marriage law and referendum has conjured more reactionary anti-queer violence than before...this overwhelming outpouring of homophobic vitriol via every kind of media outlet and public forum imaginable has had a terrible impact on LGBT youths' mental health in particular."

And this is entirely the fault of those who are spewing the homophobic vitriol. I think I can say pretty safely that their reaction wouldn't be any kinder if more people adopted your philosophy of railing against marriage and the military as institutions. You have to keep in mind that while you might think (maybe correctly) that the narrative of inclusion reinforces the status quo, in these forums gay marriage is an extreme challenge to the status quo. And that's is an inditement of their bigotry, not of the marriage equality movement. Your statements here smacks of the same victim-blaming mentality that pervades discussions about a wide variety of hate crimes.

"Once privilege is doled out to middle class gay couples, are they going to continue on to fight against racist immigration policies, for universal health care, for comprehensive queer/trans inclusive sex education, or to free queers unjustly imprisoned during rabidly homophobic sex-abuse witch hunts?"

I can't make definitive statement on what would happen. What I can say is that I've never met a person interested in marriage equality who wasn't interested in all of the above. In fact I'm under the impression that the latter two would still be deeply personal for any LGBT person.

What you're suggesting is that victory is the enemy of activism. And who knows, maybe that notion contains a grain of truth. But it can also be used to cut the legs out from under any activist cause you feel like lampooning, which seems dangerous.

Finally, you didn't address the issue of gay adoption in this post and im interested to know how you feel about it since the gay marriage and adoption dialogues as so intertwined. To me, denying a gay couple the right to adopt is as bad as denying me the right to bear children. They're both limitations on basic "reproductive" freedom (I just realized how heteronormative that term is in this context but I can't think of a better one so I'll keep it). Do you think gay adoption reinforces the nuclear family standard and is therefore not worth campaigning for? Just wondering.