Thursday, May 17, 2007

OK, The Marriage Issue

Today my Stonecoast professor and former mentor Leslea Newman, has an op-ed article about gay marriage in The Republican, a Massachusetts newspaper. She beautifully describes the scene on the day that gay marriage became legal in MA:

...I wouldn't have missed this historic day for anything, and it was clear from the crowd that many others felt the same. A woman walked down the line of about-to-be married couples looping plastic rainbow-colored Hawaiian leis around their necks. A man stood in the parking lot waving a banner that read, "And they lived equally ever after." The woman next to him held a sign that simply said, "It's about time." A child wearing a T-shirt imprinted with the words, "I love my two mommies" handed out bubble blowers shaped like miniature wedding cakes. Slices of an actual wedding cake donated by an anonymous baker were passed about. A musical group called the Raging Grannies sang "Here Come the Brides." Even the reporters and newscasters, those staunch upholders of professional detachment, had tears in their eyes.

To be clear, I am not really a fan of "the marriage issue." I don't like that it's taken the forefront of gay activism, because I think that there are some more pressing issues (hello, civil rights? violence and hate crimes? most of the middle states? texas?).

Marriage needs an overhaul. It's too easy to get into--for straight folks, of course--and too hard to get out of. Maybe it made sense to make a lifelong commitment when it was mostly a financial arrangement, but now that we (mostly) claim love as our reason for marrying, we should recognize that hearts can change and grow over the course of a lifetime. Plus, let's not even get into how it supports the patriarchy and capitalism.

Mostly, though, I don't like the "we're just like you" message, because the folks who say that in the publicity materials are middle-class white gay men and lesbians who want to get married "because they're in love." This message excludes some of the vibrant and diverse populations that make up our queer communities. Where are the "leather daddies for marriage" commercials? Or the "militant bi's for full equality?" I think that it is more useful for people to talk about different types of relationships and see marriage as one option among many.

Plus, we're not "just like you." We are discriminated against, ridiculed, and beaten. We have a resilient community that has put into practice some viable alternatives in reaction to the indifference of mainstream culture, like our "families of choice" when our biological families aren't accepting, or the AIDS activism of the 1980's and '90's that set the standard for everything that came after.

As a parent, I keenly understand the need to create legal responsibilities and commitments. If I had married my daughter's father, we would not be in this weird custody neverland where I can't take her out of the country, and I might have more leverage to get child support. Of course, we might also still be legally married, since I can't seem to find the guy to serve papers on him, and chances are pretty good that I couldn't afford a divorce anyway.

Instead of focusing on marriage, let's take a look at what our community really needs, and move forward from there. Let's talk about how lesbians make less money than practically everyone else, and how we can better work for transgender rights, and why so many people in our community have substance abuse issues, and why queer youth are committing suicide and running away from home, and about second-parent adoption.

Marriage is one of those things that our community needs. But it's one of many, and we shouldn't get caught up on the one just because it easily appeals the the middle-class white people who make the laws. Rather than trying to assimilate, we should be stretching the boundaries of the mainstream, and making our own space.

No comments:


Blog Archive