Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer

Some Thoughts on the New York Gay Marriage Victory

Filed By Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer | July 05, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: AmericaBlog, Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage, David Frum, John Aravosis, New York Senate, New York Times, same-sex marriage

My critique of marriage, and of the gay movement's recent obsession with it, is about large cultural shifts, it is about history, it is about the direction in which we choose to move as a society. I take a long view. I believe in my heart that we might be better off moving away from, not toward, marriage as the relationship privileged by the state.

I tend to pass over stories about people being barred from their sick partner's bedside at the hospital, or people who lose their homes upon the death of a partner after living in it their whole adult lives because they have no legal relationship to their deceased spouse, or people who cannot collect their dead partner's pension, or who lose custody of their children, and on and on.

But Friday night, watching the live feed from the New York statehouse as Republican after Republican stated that his reason for changing his mind and voting to extend the institution of marriage to homosexual couples was that, after thought and research and soul-searching, he found it to be the only right and decent thing to do, I found myself involuntarily putting aside my cynicism and disdain and thinking about all the tears of relief that must have been falling at that moment, the heartrending joy being felt by all the people who had been waiting desperately for this because it would change their lives tangibly, measurably for the better in 30 days.

My dear friend, T, with whom I've pondered sexual politics for nearly 25 years, has asked me many times to consider that, though marriage may not be perfect, it is a step toward basic respect in our society toward gay and other gender-deviant people, so that even if marriage is flawed it is worth obtaining access to. Get marriage first, then tear it down.

Whereas, I feel that in order to rally everyone, gay and straight, 'round the cause, we've had to downplay or ignore everything that is discriminatory, oppressive, reactionary, sentimental, hollow, and false about marriage and the wedding fairy tale, but that those negative aspects won't go away. They'll only come back to bite us in the ass because we've managed to convince ourselves that marriage will bring bliss and prosperity for the rest of our lives.

Of course homosexual couples should not be discriminated against, but that doesn't mean marriage is the holy grail of homosexual rights. And by fighting so hard for it, by giving it so much significance, we reinforce its status and entrench it further, even the bad stuff. Especially the bad stuff.

But T's words have come to mind over and over again recently as I've watched a critique of marriage begin to bubble tentatively to the surface in the New York Times. Maybe he's right. Katherine M. Franke's op-ed piece, "Marriage is a Mixed Blessing," is surely timid, but nevertheless important in that any suggestion that marriage might not be the answer to all our dreams has been rare to non-existent in the big media outlets. And in Sunday's magazine section, Mark Oppenheimer rolls out -- and perceptively and sensitively critiques and challenges -- Dan Savage's concept of "monogamish." Subversive stuff.

Gays interrogating marriage is red meat for Maggie Gallagher and her band of prudes, bigots, and Christians, which I would guess is why it has been for the most part absent from mainstream "liberal" media outlets that support gay marriage (like the Times) until now when New York is seen as a watershed and gay marriage seems inevitable. Get marriage first, then tear it down. (The reason it is ignored by "conservative" outlets like Fox News is that it doesn't even compute. They see gay marriage as the leftist cause of all leftist causes, so the notion of gay marriage being challenged from the left can't even get into their tiny brains.)

I'm willing to admit there's a small measure of conservatism, a belief in the value of enduring love creating stable families, somewhere deep in my soul. Maybe it's a little closer to the surface these days because I love a man I can see sharing the rest of my life with and he loves me. But, despite the joy I felt last Friday night watching politicians show real courage and empathy (imagine!) in the New York State Senate, I'm firm in my view that the campaign for same-sex marriage is essentially (in the original sense of the word, meaning "at its core") conservative (in the original sense of the word, meaning "upholding tradition").

For those with lingering doubts as to whether New York's marriage bill is a victory by, about, and for conservatives and conservatism, we have had, like a hot wind blowing all over the blogosphere and print media, a week-long collective sigh of relief from conservative commentators, gay and straight.

It's no surprise that Andrew Sullivan is exhultant since he practically invented the gay marriage movement. But David Frum?

And here's the always repellant John Aravosis of Americablog upholding the venerable Jesse Helms tradition of shitting all over someone else's party. (C'mon, we convinced straight people to let us get married by telling them we're just like them, so can you please just for once act straight?)

Tigger, the beautiful redhead in the thong and top hat, is a big star on the burlesque circuit, a dear friend of mine, and a tireless agitator for gay marriage. There's nothing "faux" about his marriage. That's his devoted husband he's marching with.

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I am curious about this sentence from your article: My dear friend, T, with whom I've pondered sexual politics for nearly 25 years, has asked me many times to consider that, though marriage may not be perfect, it is a step toward basic respect in our society toward gay and other gender-deviant people,
Notice you say gay and other gender-deviant people at first I took notice of your use of the word deviant. but then I also thought in the way the sentence flows that you were also implying that gay people are also a form of gender deviant people. Either way I'm not a big fan of the word deviant but I do support same sex marriage.Just curious would you explain why you chose to use the word deviant? and also whether you view gay and lesbian also as being gender deviant?

I'd agree with that assessment, Lisa. I think gay and lesbian people are gender deviant by dint of loving/having sex with the same gender. And by deviant I mean, "Not the same as the majority."

Nope... no one gets to apply the word deviant to me. Not no one, not no how. From my perspective it's hate speech. Too loaded a term and although those other meanings might work for Steven they don't work for me in the least. Nor do I consider myself gender variant although I do understand how some people might look at my history and consider me as such and I can accept that.

And Steven's little theory about the connection between gay and trans people isn't just reviled by 'trans activist types' (AKA people who won't just nod their head in agreement with what he says) there is, very possibly a majority of people in the gay community and trans communities who feel counter to that theory. So, Steven is entitled to his opinions, but just because they aren't beloved let's not blame it on the mean old trans activists.

Yes, I consider homosexual people to be gender-deviant (meaning, deviating from the norm), at the very least because their erotic/affectional orientation differs from expectations. (I.e., men who are attracted to men are behaving like women.)

I also believe -- this is more controversial especially among trans activist types -- that homosexual and transgender identities are inextricably related, possibly different manifestations of the same phenomenon.

I think I agree with both you and Bil somewhat at the very least we're somewhere near on the same page at least on this. I think why you find Trans activist upset about this type of concept is because they put most of their eggs into the social and psychobabble basket instead of looking at the cold hard scientific evidence.I wish there was a group or something to foster rigorous debate about this because I believe Transgender Theory isn't going to withstand the test of time the cracks are already more than evident.

Oddly enough, I *demonstrated* this, here, last year.

The result was not particularly difficult for "TG" sorts, but for the "TS" sorts, it got me attacked on multiple levels.

But that is what the science shows.

For over 90% of gay people, marriage is the ultimate goal (this is true in all surveys that have asked about this) for how they want to structure their families. In the real world, the vast majority of us do find marriage to be the best (although not the only) path to happiness and fulfillment. Regardless of one's personal views on marriage, though, there should be no question in anyone's mind about whether we should receive equal protection before the law. Marriage is the one place where gay people are legally treated differently than heterosexuals. As such, it is of course the ultimate and primary goal of the gay civil rights movement (or really the civil rights movement in general). We do also need an employment non-discrimination law that bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Thanks for replying Bil

You know, there was a time when even the idea of same-sex couples having a legal right to marry (connubium)was so far-fetched, because of the different bundles of rights and responsibilities afforded under the law to husbands and to wives.

It didn;t make any sense to make marriage gender neutral, because of these differing legal rights.

The success of the women's movement in ironing out the sex-based differences in the law over the past 40 years in states like New York, has made it truly possible to go that last step to make the connubiun also gender neutral.

In those bygone times when the rights bundles were so different, it was as if marriage was a bunch of grapes high in the arbor, just out of the readh of the L&G fox. No wonder, as in Aesop's fable, that the L&G community pretty much shrugged and decided that the grapes of connubium were just so sour. Thus the L&G community sought pride in being alternative and countercultural - if we did not fit in with the str8 majority, well, we'd have our own different "lifestyle" thing.

And that's the thing - the alternative "lifestyle" aspect that persons whose sexual orientation was not straight apparently became an inspiration for the heterosexuals looking for alternatiges to marriage. When gay stopped being illegal, "alternative lifestyles" started getting to be "cool."

But once the arbor got lowered by the women's movement, and all the rest of the marriage laws lost the distinctive legal rights for husbands as opposed to wives, the grapes got to be seeming tastier, especially for those whor eally would rather fit into society as best we can and not be all that avant-garde.

In firtherence of building a moral, ethical and philosophical framework to support the human dignity and right to marry against the heterosexist supremacists arrayed against the extension of the right to marry on a gender-neutral basis, I have taken to responding to one of the leaders of the het supremacist movement, Robert P George, Princeton Professor, co-author of the infamous Manhattan Declaration and past Board Chair of NOM.

Two essays I wrote over the last weekend are at my blog:
This one is a response to a pseudo-scholarly article co-authored by by Robert P. George

The second one is at
and it is a response to last week's National Review interview with Robbie George.

It's not enough to call them "bigots" and "haters." They think it's because we somehow oppose "traditional marriage" when it's really about their being opposed to the right to marry. We should make it clear that "heterosexual" is okay, but heterosexist" is evil.

If well-meaning Chritianists could only see their moral blindness cause by institutionalised heterosexist supremacy, they might actually be lifted from their ignorance and see the light anf truth.

Calling them bigots and haters isn't enough. It really isn't.

We need to start the dialogue on het supremacism and why it is wrong. We are as good as they are.

Jay Kallio | July 6, 2011 2:31 AM

I find all these anti marriage equality comments to be utter nonsense. Where do you folks get all these irrelevant presumptions about what the marriage equality movement "means" to the people fighting for it? Marriage equality has nothing whatsoever to do with absurd statements alleging that "it's about the direction in which we choose to move as a society" or "we've managed to convince ourselves that marriage will bring bliss and prosperity for the rest of our lives". or "by giving it so much significance, we reinforce its status and entrench it further". Only in your mind.

For the rest of us marriage equality is about fighting to get the 1,300 rights and benefits that the US grants to opposite sex couples, which include such life and death issues as obtaining health insurance, keeping one's home, getting social security benefits in old age when you can no longer work, among many other issues that have been the cause for catastrophic losses and deadly injustices among LGBT people. The fight for these rights is not about your projection of your own psyche into the construction of a grand social theory. It is about concrete, dollars and cents, bricks and mortar reality that reflects institutionalized, codified discrimination against same sex relationships. We are putting an end to a harsh, unjust, bigoted reality.

Winning marriage equality does not preclude redefinition of relationship, nor does stop us from fighting the long term battle to reissue all 1,300 rights and benefits so that they accrue to the individual, regardless of relationship status, as has been done in the social democracies in Europe over generations. Those battles will continue here, probably for generations. Have fun with all that folks. Everyone deserves those perks, whether they are married or not. Plenty of advocacy work to do there. Have a ball. Like Sisyphus and the rock.

Laws define concrete contracts between the state and individuals, and all sorts of psychological projection and interpretation of some fantasied emotional symbolism is relevant only as a reflection of the interpreter's inner struggle, and has nothing to do with why we fight to remedy legalized injustice.

Most people really don't like getting ripped off for rights, benefits and the social safety net that others receive as a matter of entitlement, after paying the same taxes and obeying the same laws and social contract as everyone else. It's very simple and straightforward. Equal means equal. That's what we fight for. And marriage equality is merely one more step in a very long work in progress.

So NY got gay marriage. Why is anyone critical on it?

They worked it and got it. Good for them. I will NEVER "get" why any LGBTQRXY and Z has an issue w/a organized group getting what they want?

Oh!! The "the dolla$"... It's always about the dollars.

The dollars raised. The publicity the dollars get.
Yet this very same queer radical group THAT despises the dolla$ for the imperialistic, capitalistic, misogynistic and the white agenda can't seem to get their "glitter" and paint straight.

GET over yourselves. Seriously.
This isn't a La Boheme opera.

There are real people, w/real lives, who want the 1,300 rights that their neighbors have.

If the dolla$ outnumber your street performance change... then change your act.

We should certainly be moving away from privilege-based rights entirely, rather than seeking to enlarge the privileged class of persons who are entitled to them.

Furthermore, over-identification with the Other has the unintended consequence of confirming the superiority of the Other on its own terms: Become like us - abandon your difference - and you may become one with us. The more you are like us, the more we know the true value of our power, and the more we are aware that you are but a shoddy counterfeit, an outsider.

That said, it is difficult for many us to stand nobly by on principle, while the best opportunity to improve our personal circumstances that we will see within our lifetimes lies so readily before us.

"Marriage equality" is an oxymoron, like "humanitarian bombing."

If the "privilege-based rights" means LGBQRXY and Z... then they are just folks who disagree w/you.

You don't want marriage.
You disagree w/the dolla$ and attention marriage is getting.

Still doesn't make anyone "privileged" and folks are SERIOUSLY catching on to this game.

Yours is the Comment of the Week, tonight at 7pm