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Fighting the wrong fight

There is danger in thinking that winning gay marriage nationally and permanently securing marriage in Massachusetts are the "big wins." The queer community has greater needs than to be card-carrying members of the patriarchal heterosexist culture that has held down women, people of color, undocumented workers, and so many other marginalized communities. For decades, the dominant culture has oppressed us queers. Why now are we so willing to jump at the chance to join it? Let's not forget that the same society the gay marriage movement is trying to gain access to has lead to the deaths of many queers through hate crimes, suicides, and years of indifference to the AIDS epidemic.

Instead of focusing our efforts and money assimilating into a discriminatory society, we should be advocating for a revolution. The revolution begins with ending the silence and taking action against all forms of injustice. The queer movement should be fighting for universal human rights, not just for queers, but for everyone. Because in the fight for liberation, no one should be left behind.


Lynne said...

Ho now...!

As a happily married not-oppressed heterosexual woman in a great marriage for almost 6 years, I do take exception to the idea that marriage itself is always bogged down by its history of being exclusive, oppressive, or what have you. Marriage wasn't the problem; patriarchy and racism was, and marriage conformed to those unequal times in history. But just as the civil and women's rights movements transformed so many things, it has largely transformed the institution of marriage. Granted, if you need marriage to validate your relationship or else "it loses meaning," you've got a bigger problem than whether or not you are allowed to marry. But the institution is what we make of it - oppressive, or not, discriminatory, or not, it reflects our society and our ability to learn and grow our definitions of "rights."

I do agree, though, that incorporating ourselves into all the movements going after justice and rights is the best policy. Imagine what a powerful movement it would be, how transformative, if the immigrant-rights groups joined the pro-choice groups joined the peace movement joined the gay-rights coalitions. We can do more together than apart.

Mark D. Snyder said...

Lynne, interesting points :) That is how you write a respectful discussion-based blog post people!

Anonymous said...

"...and years of indifference to the AIDS epidemic." Isn't it the people who take the risks to contract HIV that causes AIDS, who are indifferent? Why are only the people who can look for a cure indifferent? Everyone knows how to prevent it and what behaviors cause it. What's the excuse?

Mark D. Snyder said...

Actually, not everybody does know how to prevent it and what behaviors cause it. In fact, the republicans are trying to keep it that way and make it worse by denying high-school aged students real accurate science based sexual health information. It sounds like you better stay anonymous, or support the comprehensive sexual health edcuation bill that is floating around our state house right now!

Wes said...

Ok. Now that's something we can agree on. re: comprehensive sex ed bill & sex education in general.

Steven Keirstead said...

Yes, comprehensive sex ed is important for personal and public health. People forget that HIV is only one of many STDs out there and that many of the other diseases are much more easily communicated. Abstinence only programs don't cut it, and neither do ones just focused on condoms. People need to know all the ways to protect themselves and to learn a bit about the most common sexually transmitted diseases.

Legal Reform Collective said...

I felt compelled to comment by the proposition that if a person doesn't "do queer" correctly, there is something wrong.

I agree with Jennifer, that marriage is not the "main struggle". The main struggle is recognition of all beings as having equal rights to love, and to live without being made targets of hatred.

I don't agree with the cognitive leap; "For decades, the dominant culture has oppressed us queers. Why now are we so willing to jump at the chance to join it?"

I don't think pushing for our love to be considered equal to that of others is "jumping to join" an oppressive society.

The major issue I see here is not whether some should struggle on this issue, but whether they should be able to do so without being attacked from their "own side". Restrictive notions of what areas are "proper" to struggle on do not promote liberation.


Legal Reform Collective said...

Marriage is a legal, social institution. Failure to have marriage recognised has implications for migration, superannuation, and rights to be considered the primary person in relation to a partner in case of death or illness.

Unfortunately, marriage is also seen as a religious institution that is the "property" of a certain religious group. This creates conflicts between the church and state. Some religious leaders claim that changes to marriage "demean the institution". They claim ownership of the institution, and they are listened to. But "marriage" is only a word.

My personal take is that we should separate church and state in the issue of civil recognition of interpersonal relaitonships. If marriage was *only* a personal and/or religious statement of union, with no legal implications, the state would have no voice in it. If a church is restrictive, change churchs. If any religion wishes to "sanctify" love, that is the business of the religion, and if a religion like Metropolitan Community Church sanctifies unions which include those between same-sex couples, they have as much right to religious freedom as the Catholics have. No other religion has any right to object, and there is no legal issue.

Any legal and civil considerations should not depend on "marriage". Create some other name for the institution. Then open it equitably for all people who want to register legal/civil commitments, without considering gender or sexuality. Make is a truly secular institution. If people want the legal social obligations and benefits, let the "social union" be the measure of that, with no religious-based restrictions on who may form unions.

If people want a religious/community ceremony, the state should have nothing to do with it, and it should mean nothing legally. "Marriage" should not have legal standing. If they want a legal "social commitment" let them have one with no reference to religion or "marriage" at all.

Mark D. Snyder said...

Legal Reform,

I agree with you to a point, but again, what about all of the relationships and family situations that do not consist of two non-related people? We need to extend the 1400+ rights to all families eventually right?
I like your word choice of "social union."

Sandouri Dean Bey said...

it alarms me how assimilationist the gay marriage movement has become. i was on the wrong side of that several times during the con cons back in '04. i think there's a real danger in a "see, we're just like you" type of message. glbt people are not just like straight people. we have our own culture and values. my relationship with my partner looks nothing like a heterosexual marriage. perhaps we need to speak of marriage in the plural.

and what to do about the issue of legal recognition for same-sex couples and families?

Anonymous said...

Don't feel guilty about being at the con cons. Although I do not exactly believe in the gay marriage movement I still think it was great for us to be at the Con Cons confronting the right-wing inside and outside the state house.

gerryscop said...

Right on, Jen! It's not that we are gainst gay marriage - it should be supported. But there are so many other queer and non-queer struggles that are far more compellning! Violence and harassment still goes on - shouldn't that be a free from fear and violence? There are few strets in Boston where we can display our love publicly without being harassed or attacked - and this goes for those of us who are married just as much! The right to health survival precedes the right to enter intpo a state-sanctioned marriage to me.We are not free yet on the basics.

It is folly to thing that our liberation can be secured without the liberation of People of Color, women, immigrants and the oppressed. We cannot secure a separate liberation, and why should we want to since many of us still are oppredded racially, by immigration status, gender identity, poverty, homelessness etc.