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so, the Federal Marriage Amendment didn't pass today in D.C.

that's a good thing.

however, with all the political hub-bub leading up to it, i realized how ambivalent i am about marriage. while i do believe it would be wrong to pass a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex people from getting married... i don't think that same-sex couples should get married anyway (or any couple, for that matter, but that's a different post...).

some people say that AIDS destroyed the queer community. it ravaged our bodies and left straight america staring in disgust at our revolting, incomprehensible, dirty, diseased sex acts. in an effort to prove the world that we are "just like everybody else," the LGBT (not queer) community took up the issue of marriage. we have been asked to prove our ability to be "normal" and be in "healthy, committed" relationships.

i believe that the gay marriage movement, rather than healing the wounds left by AIDS, infects these wounds and continues to fester in our communities. this politics of assimilation asks queers to forget ourselves, our past, and our present. it asks us to look past the heteronormative patriarchy of marriage while simultaneously buying into it, in order to prove our (hetero)normativity.

the gay marriage movement is homophobic and heterosexist. there. i said it. i'm sure this will baffle/infuriate most people. i mean, how could a movement that strives for the equal rights of LGBT people be homophobic? well, it's homophobic because the movement rejects queerness and substitutes a complacent, assimilated, gayness of passivity. this erasue of queerness is dangerous for many reasons.

for one, this politic of heteronormative sexuality severely limits the queer community's to engage in radical sexual politics of liberation. public sex, group sex, even private gay sex in a bedroom without gay shame creeping in. by reinforcing marriage as the normative institution to regulate the politics of sex and love, all sex and love that falls outside of this institution becomes further marginalized. the psychic violence of the marriage movement is fierce and damaging.

additionally, the marriage movement has totally co-opted LGBT politics. how does one build a movement and maintain a voice for any other need of the queer community when marriage is all we can hear and see? having previously worked for Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project, i saw firsthand the damaging effects the marriage movement has had not only on our organization, but on the movement in general. funding, for example was extremely difficult to come by. the community, not having embraced the issue, does not look to us when they want to pour millions of dollars into LGBT rights. they look to the Human Rights Campaign or MassEquality. our marriage-centrism needs to end. it is ruining our politics and silences many queer communities.

marriage is particularly harmful when it comes to domestic violence. as we try to prove the "normalcy" of our relationships for the sake of marriage rights, how do we come out as survivors of domestic violence? how do we come forward and say, "my partner is abusing me. my relationship is unhealthy," despite all the community pressure that has been telling us otherwise? why must we add shame to those who most need our support? marriage is only another obstacle to survivors of domestic violence. feminists have known this for years, and since domestic violence is just as prevalent and just as lethal in the queer community as it is in the straight community, i think we should take a cue from our feminist sisters on this one. marriage does literal, and lethal violence to our communities.

and yet, despite all this,, i was sincerely relieved to hear that the FMA didn't pass. not just because it would have been wrong, but als because if it did pass, there would be a terrible backlash from the LGBT marriage activists that would further galvinize the LGBT community to fight against themselves (i.e. for marriage), while believing that they are fighting for themselves. for this reason, i am relieved. the backlash would have hurt us more than helped us.

and still, i am stuck with the question, why are we so hell-bent on killing ourselves?


Mark D. Snyder said...

Very interesting persepective on demostic violence that I have not considered a whole lot before. Great post Alex.

Jennifer said...


Great post! I too am relieved that the FMA did not pass. Not only because it is wrong, but because hopefully the LGBT community can move on and realize that gay marriage shouldn't be the #1 cause of the queer liberation movement. There are many, many more important queer issues, to name a few: ending violence against queer youth, stopping the shame of queer sex, fighting for equal rights for the transgendered and genderqueer community, securing funding for HIV/AIDS programs and providing accurate safer sex education. Liberation NOT Assimilation!

Anonymous said...

i agree that gay marriage should not be the only thing that concerns GLBT advocates. domestic violence, among other things, is a big problem that we should be working on solving too.

that being said, i dont believe there is anything wrong with making sure that everyone has equal rights under the law. i am a woman. i am dating a woman. i want the rights of being married without it being a huge legal debacle. maybe not everyone does, but that is true for gays and striaghts.

i also dont believe that promoting equal marriage undermines any other sort of relationships or sexual activity- there have been straight "swinger" couples for years, for example, regardless of traditional marriages in this population.

lastly, i dont agree that the "normalcy" of gay relationships is mutually exclusive with domestic violence and other issues that the GLBT community is facing. again, straight couples have had these issues for years and manage to work towards solving DV while promoting healthy marriages- or any type of healthy relationships.

its a very interesting viewpoint, and i had not considered the detremental effects of throwing all of our resources into one fight. thanks for the fresh point of view!

Anonymous said...

I like many of the points you make. Marriage is certainly heteronormative and traditionally an oppressive institution. I question whether gay marriage should be the central issue of the GLBTQ movement.

However, I reject your characterization of the gay marriage movement as homophobic. The movement, while certainly flawed, has not only brought gay rights into the forefront of public discussion, but is fighting the same right-wing elements that we would be fighting if we were struggling for something other than marriage. The reactionary right doesn't care what we are fighting for- making gains on ANY front against social conservatism is progress to some extent, and winning any rights for an oppressed community (despite a degree of assimilation) is not counter-productive and certainly not homophobic.

In addition, what about all of the GLBTQ couples who do want the right and option to marry? What about those who do want to be in monogamous relationships? I don't believe one lifestyle should be valued more than another- I don't believe monogamy is any better or worse than an alternative- it is a personal choice and people should have the greatest degree of freedom in choosing how to live their lives. For focusing solely on monogamy and committed marriage, the gay marriage movement is perhaps narrow, misguided, and flawed- these are valid descriptions. But it is not homophobic.

What needs to change is the suffocating dominance of marriage as THE issue of gay rights and liberation. Marriage is certainly not the most pressing issue of the queer community- but, presently, the marriage battle is the most visible way of fighting the right. It should not be that way and that should change, but that does not equate to homophobia.

Mark D. Snyder said...

I think marriage can undermine some relationships because if you are in a marriage makes it illegal to be non-monogomous doesn't it? Correct me if I'm wrong I don't know for sure.

I believe we should have legalized gay marriage yes but I also believe the way the fight has been framed and decided for us by both the right wing and the mainstream gay groups is really flawed. You rarely see massequality or the other marriage groups actually celebrating diversity. Their theme is more often celebrating our "normalcy." Take their web sites for example. Primarily red white and blue. No one has dyed hair or peircings. No one is trans or genderqueer in the photos etc. etc.

From what I can tell it was the right wing that decided gay marriage would be our issue and the more powerful gay rights "leaders" who decided to go along with that.

This is a really healthy and good discussion that I hope continues for a long time, and I love hearing all sides to the debate.

Anonymous said...

Mark, you make some good points- but I think to say that gay rights leaders "went along" with the right-wing agenda in taking up the gay marriage issue is absolutely ridiculous. The right wing sought (and is seeking) to officially marginalize our community, and our community is fighting back on this particular issue; this is not "going along" with it, but fighting against an attempt to directly discriminate against us. You make it sound as if gay rights leaders are pawns of the right. You can criticize their strategy all you want- and I think criticism is warranted- but your characterization of gay rights leaders is, quite frankly, unfair. They are part of our community too, and they are fighting against direct attempts to discriminate and marginalize us. This is a noble struggle, even if you don't agree it should be our only one, or our main one.

Anonymous said...

I think it will be funny when you grow up and want to get married to some one you love.You deserve the same rights as your peers. At least there are some good people out there working to make sure you can get married when you grow up.

Mark D. Snyder said...

Anonymous, I agree that HRC, MassEquality, Etc. are apart of our communtiy too and that we agree on way more than we disagree on. I also agree we should work together to fight the right. Unfortunately these organizations often are pawns to the right wing. They are often reactionary rather than proactive. They often choose messages like "we are just like you" rather than "we are proud to be different" as a way to "win." They also endorse people Joe Leiberman who is pro-war republican lite failing to recognize that womens rights and the war affect queer people too.

Mark D. Snyder said...

Anonymous, don't give us adultist bullshit about growing up. There are plenty of queer adults who have criticized the current structure and messages coming from the mainstream gay rights organizations. Urivashi who wrote The Trouble With Normal would be one, or Michael Bronski to name another.

I dont know how many times we have to repeat that we are in favor of the fact that more people have more rights now, but that gay marriage can't be seen as the be all end all and we don't agree with the way it is marketed etc.

Sandouri Dean Bey said...

wow, great post and good comments. i'm not sure i've got that much more to add, but here goes...

i think that the way in which the equal marriage movement has proceeded has been assimilationist and oppressive at times. back in 04 i held up a "jesus was queer" sign at the con-con and the now campaign director of mass equality (let's call him m.s.) yelled at me. i laughed (because his hissy fit was humorous) but really, folks, that kind of oppression is no lauging matter. and the insidious "we are just like you" bent of the whole thing has got to go.

that said, shouldn't there be equal protection under the law for same-sex couples? i agree that marriage privileges couples to the exclusion of other types of relationships, but beyond raising awareness of the different types of relationships that exist in the queer world, i'm not sure that fighting for marriage rights for same-sex couples is a bad thing.

it's all about how the case is made. i don't believe that it has to be done in an assimilationist way. admittedly, that's a weak argument to those who believe that marriage itself is assimilationist. i may believe that myself, but i think that those who choose to couple up should enjoy the same rights regardless of their sex or sexual orientation. and marriage doesn't have to include monogamy. in part, the equal marriage people need to drop the emphasis on monogamy and focus more on the law. we need to make good legal arguments, not bad cultural ones.

at the same time, i think that the equal marriage movement should proudly own their redefinition of marriage. i don't believe that marriage has to be heteronormative. it depends on how it's defined. the media loves to talk about "gay marriage" (because they like pushing buttons). i myself refer to "same-sex marriage." perhaps we need to refer to "queer marriage." i might if i were married, but my partner and i are not. but i'm not at all convinced that marriage can't be queer.

alex said...

anonymous, you're right. i do deserve the same rights as my peers. however, i think marriage is not the best way to get those rights. in fact, i think it's a damaging means to an ends.

if i do end up in a committed relationship with one person for the rest of my life, i probably would like access to the (over 1,000) rights and privileges that go along with marriage. BUT, i think we need to establish other ways of living and acknowledging relationships that exist OUTSIDE of marriage. since marriage is the only way to get those rights at the moment, it's often difficult to imagine any other way of getting them. but just because the institution of marriage regulates our lives in that way, doesn't mean it always must. there are ways to get equal rights without getting married, without bringing shame on our communities and further marginalizing those who've already been labeled as deviant.

we just need to be a little more creative. a little more.... queer.