So, I have had a number of people, both in the U.S. and Canada, ask me my thoughts on the Equality March. I was pretty much bombarded in the last 24 hours asking my opinion on the event. Last night I was firm in asking my loving community to give me the night to think about the event, read more of the articles concerning the event, and formulate my opinion.
Here it is.
Let me begin by saying that I did not attend the march for the reasons that I outlined previously. I continue to stand by those reasons.
I will not go so far as Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) who said in an article that he thought the march was a waste of time and effort. For the tens of thousands of people that attended the event, it was an empowering experience and was an energizing moment in their lives. Many people that I care deeply about attended the event, and one of the women that I love and admire, Penelope Williams, was selected as a speaker from the bisexual community. For those people, the event was an important exercise in visibility. I support their participation, and I believe that they got what they needed from the march. Penelope, btw, was invited to speak after intense lobbying by bisexual organizers that, in the last days leading up to the event, found that there was only one speaker from the bisexual community scheduled to address the crowd. You'd think by 2009 the marginalization of bisexual members of our community would be a thing of the past. Whoops.
Unfortunately the community at large and the movement specifically will find that the march was not productive in the least in terms of pushing forward a policy agenda. Obama is dead on right that the economy, the two wars, and health care are much more important issues than the rights of queer folks to openly serve as a part of the U.S. war machine, the marriage battle, or any number of narrow issues that are very important but nowhere near as important as ending war, rebuilding the economy, and establishing a national right to affordable (should be free) healthcare. The reality of politics is that the President has only so much political capital to expend at any one time. The more deft politically Obama is now the more room he has to push a more progressive agenda later. A bevy of polls in recent days have shown that his popularity is climbing again, topping 56%, and he has managed to not only contain but also turn around the spin of the massive conservative publicity machine.
Giving the Right base mobilizing, religious fervor fodder right now would not only retard the movement forward with healthcare and the economy, it would gut any real progress on LGBT liberation in the future. No one is asking our community to wait our turn...what is being asked is that we recognize that ending war, rebuilding the economy, and healthcare reform ARE OUR ISSUES AS WELL!
We are not separate from or outside of those issues and for queers that are progressive, we understand that those issues are at the top of our queer political agenda as they should be. What good is the right to marry if I can't afford a wedding? What good is the right to serve in the military if, after being awarded for service by life long mental health damage, I can't afford to go to the ER (and don't get me started on VA Medical services)? It is time for our community to grow up and learn some political sophistication.
If Obama wins on healthcare, the economy, and successfully gets us out of Iraq...his popularity will skyrocket, and members of Congress will not have the political will to oppose him on issues that, right now, would paralyze the political process and end up setting our justice movement backwards.
And let's talk about justice versus equality. Another failure of the march was the name: Equality. I am not interested in equality. I have no interest in being equal to a cultural system that awards racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism and ableism (which, incidentally, are truly at the core of our community's marginalization). I have no interest in joining a system of exploitation in exchange for the right to marry, be sent to war and die for oil, or bring my houseboy in the country legally through narrow immigration reform.
I am interested in liberation ad justice, which necessitates us dismantling systems based in oppression and replacing them with agreements that respect the inherent dignities of each person without creating a new hierarchical system of oppression and privilege in order to maintain those new rights. That means tearing apart the institution of marriage and replacing it with a system of legal union that is not based in centuries of sexism and case law that favors the wealthy over the poor, men over women, or in the case of child custody, women over men. It means looking at the military industrial complex and making a decision to create laws that stringently outline when a President can order troops to war, ends war for financial gain, restricts war time profiteering, and abolishes the poverty and racial draft once and for all. It means health care reform that ends in single payer universal health care.
Unfortunately, we have been trained from the gate and through the non-profit industrial complex to accept crumbs instead of a slice of the pie. Guess what? We deserve the whole damn pie. Until we get it, we need to fight for the biggest pieces first, the ones that will feed the most, sustain the most, support the most and will feed us and strengthen us to make further charges, and harder fights, possible and winnable.