not in Primary anymore

why i’m against gay marriage

Some people have told me that even though there’s a long journey in front of us before we find true queer liberation; we should celebrate every stepping stone we cross on that path. I’m just not sure if full assimilation into a toxic culture is a step in the right direction though. 

I recognize there are pros to marriage equality, both immediately through the rights of individual queer people and perhaps even on a longer timeline by opening up doors for larger discussions deconstructing gender and relationships. 

I wish to discuss some of the cons of marriage equality and the fights we’ve spent so much time and money on while so many queer youth have gone homeless, so many trans women of color have been murdered and raped, and so many queer people have been evicted and fired, deported, and incarcerated. 

It’s not my place to tell anybody to not celebrate marriage equality. I simply want people to understand why some of us aren’t.

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I’m against gay marriage
(and straight marriage for that matter)

because I’m against the State preferring one type of relationship (sexual monogamy) at the expense of all others.

because I think we shouldn’t have to get married to decide who we want with us during an emergency.

because I think we shouldn’t have to get married in order to adopt or raise a child.

because I think wanting to help your partner get on your health insurance is a fine goal, but we should ALL have access to affordable healthcare.

because I’m against the HRC spending millions of dollars on marriage equality for the white cisgender middle and upper class while poor queer and trans folks are getting fired from our jobs and evicted from our homes, kept from life-saving medical care, violently attacked, murdered on the streets and raped in prisons and detention centers everyday. Money speaks, and marriage, not murder, has been the thing most LGB folks with money put their money towards, because those who are struggling to survive don’t have money to spare for your charities.

I’ll come to your wedding happily as a celebration of your love.

But don’t expect me to go out for drinks tonight in celebration of a faux victory, a tactic to passify the queer masses, a weak corporate rainbow-colored bandaid over a pile of blood, a distraction from the continued street violence, corporate violence, and state violence against us.

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*Video by Darkmatter, the trans south asian performance art duo comprised of Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian.

**Jennicet Gutiérrez is the trans activist who interrupted Obama’s speech at a Pride dinner in order to draw attention to the 75 undocumented trans women the President has placed in male detention centers who are being raped frequently, sometimes by guards.

***If you’d like to learn more about why some queer liberation activists and anarchists are against marriage, this link is full of great sources.

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7 Responses to “why i’m against gay marriage”

  1. Lorian

    You are right that marriage equality is only a small piece of the anti-discrimination picture. You are right that it does little to help trans people, as a group (though it does benefit those trans folk who have had serious difficulties because their home state does not recognize their marriage after they transition, or they move to another state which does not recognize their marriage while their home state did, etc.).

    But I ask that you place the lion’s share of the blame where it belongs — not on HRC or those who have been working so hard to fight the marriage equality battle on behalf of all of us (and, yes, it is on behalf of all of us, because we now all have the right to protect our loved ones and families in this way, whether we choose to or not, whether we are wealthy or poor or middle-class, people of color or white), but on the people who used hatred and discrimination of the LGBTQ community, and the fear of same-sex relationships and families, as a rallying cry to mobilize the politically and religiously conservative base to vote for GWB and a host of conservative governors and lawmakers in all of the elections of the early 2000’s. It was that legislative push to preemptively *ban* marriage equality (and overturn it in the handful of places it was legal) which necessitating this massive push-back from our side to overturn these hateful laws.

    Interracial marriage was not by any means the most crucial aspect of the fight against race discrimination for the majority of people of color, when black people were still being denied housing, employment, educational opportunities, and service in public establishments. It didn’t affect a large percentage of the African-American population (in fact, a certain percentage of the African-American population was as opposed to interracial marriage as the white people who opposed it). Loving v. Virginia did not solve all the issues of race in this country (obviously, since racism continues to be a huge issue for our society), but it *did* remove one very visible obstacle to legal equality for people of color — one intense area of legislation which said in clear and uncertain terms that the state governments which had imposed these antimiscegenation laws, and the federal government which upheld their legality, did not view people of color as being “good enough” to marry white people. Antimiscegenation laws were a clear statement of White Supremacy, and striking them down was absolutely necessary for the pursuit of racial equality to proceed. Had we, as a nation, been able to achieve full equality for people of color in areas of employment, housing and public accommodations, and to completely and smoothly integrate our schools and communities (something which still has not happened, these 50 year later, although undeniable progress has been made), the existence of these antimiscegenation laws would have continued to define people of color as second-class citizens, not fully human, certainly not “as good as” the white people who implemented those laws.

    The same is true of anti-marriage-equality laws based on sexual orientation. Whether or not you want to get married (and marriage *does* have value to families like mine, who are raising children and who need the protections and rights it offers), having laws on the books in so many states denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples was a clear and incontrovertible statement that people of minority sexual orientations were *not* the legal and societal equals of heterosexual people. Just as denying interracial couples the right to legal civil marriage was a symbol of oppression against *all* people of racial minorities, whether or not they actually *wanted* to marry a white person, so were anti-marriage-equality laws based upon sexual orientation a symbol of oppression and a statement of the perceived inferiority of all people of minority sexual orientations.

    So I, for one, am grateful for HRC and Lambda legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and all of the other organizations which have worked so hard to make marriage equality a reality, and all of the people who have given so much time, money and energy to this cause. Do we still have a long way to go before we have true legal equality, before trans people can be safe and have equal access throughout society, before queer people are no long an “issue”? Yes, of course we do. But I’m certainly not going to rain on this parade. It is one step in the process, but it is an important step, even if it is not the entire journey.

    Reply
  2. Suzanne Neilsen

    Oh, I hear you. Well, I do if I adjust my hearing aid.
    But as the scripture says, “Line upon Line, Precept upon Precept”
    Romer begot Lawrence. And Romer begot Windsor. And Windsor begot Obergefell, who will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of Liberation.

    Reply
  3. meli

    Perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly, but there are two distinct ideas being explored in my post.

    One point is that the focus on marriage equality by the LGBTQIA community wasted valuable resources that could have saved lives. That focus shows us how money talks, and those with money and influence care more about the issues they’re facing with all their privilege rather than the issues those without money and influence are facing.

    The other point is that perhaps marriage equality was NOT a step in the right direction, that assimulation into a toxic heterosexual culture with toxic values is a journey to something distinct from freedom.

    Getting LGBTQIA people to become CEOs of large corporations so they too can exploit their workers just as much as straight people does not feel like progress to me. Allowing an openly LGBTQIA person to wear a uniform so they can murder people of color in the name of the State at home or abroad does not feel like progress to me. And yes, empowering marriage with its history of abuse and misogyny, praising it, cannonizing how “necessary” it is for the future of society in order to have a select few LGBTQ people participate in it does not seem like progress to me.

    I recognize that some LGBTQ people want the benefits legally marriage offers, and I’m glad that they can receive those benefits right now, but why don’t they try to get ALL of us, the married and the unmarried, those benefits instead of continuing to keep it to a select few?

    Reply
  4. Lorian

    meli, one point you seem to be missing is that going after marriage equality was not a choice that the LGBTQIA community jumped to out of the blue. You seem to have bought in to the religious conservative narrative of the “Gay Community” as a monolithic structure (from which you see yourself as being excluded) lead by the “Head Homosexuals” who plan the “agenda” for the group, and are out to use their wealth and influence to take things away from the heterosexual majority.

    I’m sure this is a narrative that you and many other younger LGBTQ folks have heard all your lives, particularly if you were raised in a Mormon or other insular religious conservative community, so it would be easy to project a good deal of that into your worldview, possibly without even realizing it. You don’t have the experience of growing up during a time when it was actually *illegal* to be gay in many places, and where many young gays and lesbians (and bisexuals, transgender persons, and all the many other folks who are part of our sexual and gender minority community, but for whom there were not even terms back then — we were all just “fags” and “dykes” and “queers”, or “homosexuals and cross-dressers,” if someone was being especially nice) were put in hospitals and tortured with horrible regimes of medication, “aversion therapy,” shock therapy, and other mistreatment, in the attempt to “cure” us of our “sickness.”

    You weren’t around to participate in the first few tentative and terrifying marches where those of us who could take the risk outed ourselves by showing up in public to proclaim, “We’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going away.” You perhaps don’t know all of my lesbian friends who joined the military because it was a good job opportunity back in the 70’s and 80’s after the Vietnam War was over and before we had plunged into George W. Bush’s huge mistakes in the first decade of the new millennium. These women were subjected to huge witch hunts in which they were interrogated, humiliated, jailed, forced to identify other targets for investigation, and eventually discharged dishonorably, so that the best job many of them were able to get was dishwasher in a 3rd-rate restaurant kitchen. Their careers and sometimes their lives were destroyed.

    There was a time when I, like you, thought of marriage as just a patriarchal institution, and thought that we, as a community, should aspire to something better. Heteros weren’t going to give us their toys anyway, so why should we even want them? We’ll make our own way, our own traditions, our own forms of community and relationship. I came out in the 70’s and 80’s, back when lesbians were doing rap groups for consciousness-raising, and taking ownership of our bodies, and organizing huge Womyn’s Music Festivals. Back when it took a lot of courage to slick back my short dykey haircut, put on my “DYKE” pink satin tie and take my girlfriend out to see Kate Clinton. I stood in the rotunda of the Chicago City Hall and held hands and cried with other gay and lesbian people, singing, “We Shall Overcome,” after the Aldermen voted down what would have been a landmark ordinance protecting our right in the city not to be fired from our jobs or evicted from our homes for being gay.

    I marched in the very first Orange County, CA, Pride Parade, with the Orange County Visibility League. We couldn’t even *call* it a “gay pride” parade; we had to call it a “Cultural Pride Parade.” But the church people knew what it was, and they came out en masse. The Santa Ana Police knew what it was, too, and they assembled a block away with riot gear and mounted police. When the church people surrounded us and started throwing garbage and dirty diapers at us, we sat down and sang. The Santa Ana Police swarmed in with their helmets and clubs and horses and shields and, instead of removing the people who were throwing garbage at us, they ordered us to disperse (even though we had a permit to use the park for our event), and then they formed a line and trampled over us, stepping on us with their horses, and taking some people down and beating them while standing in a circle around the person giving the beating, to keep photographers from taking pictures.

    I lived through the AIDS crisis of the 80’s and 90’s. We lesbians worked hard even though we were the least affected by HIV, marching in support of research and medical care, helping to run meal deliveries to people dying of AIDS. At first, people thought it was a “gay disease,” and sometimes ambulance workers, paramedics and even hospital personnel wouldn’t touch gay people (lesbians, too). Sometimes a gay person injured on the street would be abandoned by the ambulance sent to help them, because they wouldn’t put them on their truck for fear of “catching AIDS” from them. I had doctors double-glove before examining me, even though I was a lesbian. Police would put on double pairs of rubber gloves when arresting a gay person so they didn’t have to touch them and “risk getting AIDS.”

    We came through all of that, meli. And we weren’t, most of us anyway, even thinking of asking for civil marriage equality. Some didn’t care about it, but many of us, especially those with children or who wanted to have children, understood how important (and utterly unattainable) it was. Those of us who were elderly and had dying spouses also understood how important it was, because many, many were turned away from the bedside of their dying spouse, denied access, denied the ability to make final decisions for their care, denied even being able to attend their funeral, and often evicted from the homes they had shared for decades, and their assets taken away by hateful blood relatives.

    Elderly gays and lesbians were separated from their partners when put in nursing homes. There was usually no attempt to keep them together, and often attempts by relatives to make sure they were separated, at a time in their lives when they most needed each other.

    And surviving partners were left in poverty because not only could they not collect their deceased partner’s social security, but many were not eligible to receive pensions and retirement income and survivor benefits from plans provided through the deceased spouse’s work.

    Parents have had their children taken away when their partner died, because their partner was the one who was able to establish legal relationship to the children — both parents weren’t allowed to in many cases; only the parent who gave birth or adopted the child had a legal relationship to the child. So children were given away to grandparents who hated the surviving spouse and refused access to the children. Children have been taken away and placed in foster care, and denied visitation from the only living parent they have ever known because the state does not recognize that parent as being in any way related to them.

    But still, we weren’t agitating for legal marriage, because we never dreamed it would be possible for us to protect our families in this way. Friends of mine, who have twin boys about the same age as my girls, went to attorneys when they found out they were pregnant, and spent over $10,000 in attorney fees, trying to put in place contractual arrangements which gave them and their children a tiny handful of the protections available for the cost of a $15 civil marriage license to any heterosexual couple who walked in the door. But that wasn’t available to us.

    When my wife and I had been together for about 8 years, she became desperately ill and nearly died from internal hemorrhaging. She was hospitalized for 11 days, given transfusions and tests, and finally they identified a rare tumor in her intestines, and were able to surgically remove it and save her life. During that hospital stay, we filled out a Durable Power of Attorney for me to make medical decisions for her. It didn’t protect me in any way other than giving me the ability to make medical decisions for her. If she had died, I would have lost the home we shared and most of our assets, because most everything was in her name.

    Filling out the power of attorney was an interesting experience, too, because the hospital social worker brought it to us and helped us fill it out, but when it came to signing it, it had to be witnessed by someone who was not a hospital employee. The only person available was an older man visiting a patient in a neighboring room. The social worker asked him if he would come and witness us signing the power of attorney and sign it as a witness. He agreed, and came to my wife’s room. We both signed, and then the social worker handed him the pen. He looked at us as he was signing the form, and a disturbed expression crossed his face. He turned and started to say something to the social worker, but she quickly grabbed his arm and hustled him out of the room. We heard him in the hallway, angrily demanding of her, “What was THAT? What did I just sign???” as she lead him away. He seemed to believe he had just essentially given two lesbians one of the privileges which should only be accorded to married people. He behaved as though he believed he’d been tricked into acting as witness in a “gay wedding,” even though we would not be able to be legally married in California for another 9 years after that. But just giving us the right to make medical decisions for one another was apparently, from the expression on his face, disgusting.

    When I was pregnant with my twins, I nearly died from pre-eclampsia. My wife and I had no legal way to protect the babies inside of me, and, when it became clear that I might die, as they were preparing to wheel me away for an emergency c-section to try to save my babies and me, I scrawled a hasty note in pencil on a sheet of notebook paper, directing that, even though my wife had no legal relationship to our babies, I wanted her to be their parent in the event of my death. The hospital told us it was meaningless and probably wouldn’t have any effect, but it was all that I could do. When the babies were born, we tried to have my wife listed on the birth certificates, but the hospital registrar sent back our forms and made us refile them again with me as a single mother and the “father” listed as “unknown.”

    meli, I understand that this is not your experience, and this is not where you are in your life. I don’t know where your life will take you in the future. I know that I was once in a part of life which I think was probably similar to where you might be now. And I know where I’ve come since then. And I know exactly how important civil marriage rights are to, not just wealthy, privileged white gay men, but to lots and lots of LGBTQIA+ people in varying stages of life and with a variety of backgrounds, experiences and relationships.

    Not everyone *needs* the benefits of civil marriage. That’s fine. And yeah, there are lots of other very important priorities which need our time, money and attention. But don’t minimize the importance of what happened this week, or think that it is just a plaything for the wealthy and privileged who just wanted to call themselves “married” when they schedule their power-meeting on the golf course. It’s hugely, tremendously important for lots of families like mine.

    And, as I said before, we’d never even have pursued it like this, and spent all this time and money going after it, if it wasn’t for the fact that the religious conservatives, the same ones who have convinced you that we “older gays” are some white, wealthy, monolithic secret society with a mysterious agenda locked in a safe somewhere, had not started using the *denial* of marriage as a tool to attack our community and to galvanize their political base by fomenting hatred and fear among them of the horrible gays who want to ruin marriage for everyone. Our efforts to gain legal civil marriage have been purely a struggle against their attacks on our community.

    Is there a lot more work to be done? Absolutely. But please don’t tear down and minimize the hardships and sacrifices we have made in this process to come to where we are at this moment. You may not perceive those sacrifices as benefitting you right now, but the fact that we are able to even have this conversation means that we have come incredibly far since I started coming out back in the 70’s, and it has been through the work, sacrifice, blood, sweat, tears and, yes, monetary investments, of the people you are criticizing so vigorously. Legal marriage equality doesn’t just benefit the married. It doesn’t just benefit their children (though it certainly does do that, and, for that alone, I think it is incredibly worthwhile). It benefits the entire community, even those who never want to engage in it, because it means that we have been able to sway the tide of public opinion over the course of just 60 years or so, from a time when we were regarded *almost universally* as criminals, deviants, sexual perverts, child molesters, and mentally ill, to where we are today, when an actual *majority* of people in this country understand that we are just people, like them, with sexual orientations and gender identities which, though not the norm, are *normal*, not deviant or perverted.

    We’re not there yet, and trans people probably have it worst. We need to do a LOT more for our trans siblings. We need to help them get the protections and rights they need. I have a friend who is raising her daughter who is trans, and I’ve been so moved to see my friend fighting for acceptance for her little girl since her twins (who were identified at birth as identical twin boys) started Kindergarten. Her daughter, Conner, needs to grow up in a safer world where she can be treated just like her brother is treated, and be safe and happy and know that she is valued and loved, unlike my friend and neighbor growing up, Greer Lankton, who was one of the earliest transgender people to receive surgery in this country, and who died in her 40’s of a drug overdose because of all that she suffered through her life as a trans person.

    It’s all out there, and all waiting for us to work on it and make it better and make it change. But if we spend our time angst-ing over the progress that one part of our community makes because we don’t feel it provides enough benefit to us, personally, then we are not all working together to meet everyone’s needs and we are not functioning as a community. Your needs definitely need to be addressed and met. So do other people’s. The priorities may not always match what I think they ought to look like. Sometimes, like in the marriage equality struggle, we are responding to outside pressures (if you want to blame someone for the money and time and energy we’ve had to focus on marriage over the past 2 decades, point your finger at the LDS church, along with a few others). But we will get there, especially if we keep working together.

    Reply
  5. Suzanne Neilsen

    oh, unlike me, you expressed yourself clearly.
    Was going to write an epistle, but I see that’s been done.
    So what I will say is this–You sound a bit naive and ignorant.
    “but why don’t they try to get ALL of us, the married and the unmarried, those benefits instead of continuing to keep it to a select few?”
    Really.
    Here’s where I ask incredulously, do you think every thing would be magically better if Bowers was still precedent?

    I, for one, am glad Ginsburg is on the toxic Supreme Court. And here’s to the brief she wrote in Reed v. Reed and the 14th amendment (finally in 1971) including women. And yes to the equal protection clause appling to gender and sex. Could have been better, but it was a start. (and certainly much better than what happened to Myra Bradwell in Bradwell v. Illinois. But then, that also was the court that was oh so talented at not applying the 14th to black males.)

    So we got Romer. We got Lawerence. We got Windsor. We got Obergefell.
    A body of case law that says the 14th amendment applies to something besides corporations. And if that’s assimulation into a toxic heterosexual culture, I’ll take it.

    Reply

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