Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Same Gender Marriage: My Analysis

Yesterday I posted my first guest blog at My Feet Only Walk Forward, and I am mightily glad that I did. Some of you loved it, some of you hated it, some of you agreed with it but didn't like the style in which it was presented. I will make this comment that the person who wrote it is brilliant and has a right to their rage, anger, and disappointment with the topic of marriage. That person also has a right to use profanity, and I believe did so in a hilarious way. But the reality remains that so many of those with money or those that make decisions about the priorities of the movement for LGBTTSGNCSGL/Queer justice have pushed, cajoled or plainly forced those of us with a broader and more substantial agenda for change into their cubbyholes. It is not cool at all and displays the underlying power, privilege and oppression present within the queer community.

Today, an article appeared on the Huffington Post stating that Obama has had a reconciliation with the "gay" movement largely because of the myriad of ways he really has been an ally to queer folks and has used both legislative and executive avenues to push forward various issues important to various segments of the queer and trans community. The article would have been fantastic if had stated that and stopped there. But oh NO...the first couple of paragraphs were right on and then the rest of the damn article was about marriage. And that right there is the problem. Let me restate.

THE REST OF THE ARTICLE WAS ABOUT MARRIAGE.

The article clearly reflected its sources. Ask most folks at the HRC, The Task Force, Freedom to Marry, and Equality Matters and you would end up with a priority list with marriage at or near the top. Ask the Stonewall Democrats and the Log Cabin Republicans, and you'd probably get the same thing.

Now trot your ass down to 24th and 7th and ask FIERCE (Queer youth of color organization), Audre Lorde Project(LGBTSTGNC people of color organization), Sylvia River Law Project (trans criminal justice organization), or Queers for Economic Justice, and marriage won't even hit the top ten. Ask Unid@s and it might be in the top five but it won't be number one.

Let's examine why....it's pretty simple. The first batch of organizations largely represent middle or upple middle class white heternormative individuals with tons of privilege and a narrow view of what a "gay" issue is.

The second batch of organizations works with working class, poor, vulernable and homeless populations that are largely people of color and include a huge number of immigrants.

So the math is pretty simple, those with the most need and are facing the most urgent issues that relate to life and death, food, clothing and shelter are those with the least means to force recognition of that need onto the national stage. Those privileged individuals that fund the national organizations have the means and do prioritize their narrow desire and do so without regard and often times concern other than a general recognition of queer and trans folks of color and working class queer and trans folks.

Thus marriage assumes a level of focus and importance way beyond its actual potential impact and ability to change lives broadly.

And I get even more angry because it forces an internal division between my politics and the impact on my friends. My politics are clear: marriage is not a priority nor should it receive the resources it receives. My reality is clear: many of my friends are in loving committed monogamous relationships, many with children, and would benefit from the economic and immigration rights that come with marriage. My friends Susan and Rocki would never have had the stress of worrying about Rocki's green card. My friend Karly and her partner Laura are currently living in England, where Laura holds citizenship, because Laura's visa expired and though they are married she can not petition for citizenship as a straight couple would be able to do. For them, marriage would be life changing...life changing but not life saving. Though it sucks beyond suckage, and I want them to be here in the United States, neither of them worry about food, clothing, shelter, access to HIV and other medications, addiction treatment, or any of the other broader and more impactful issues within the queer and trans community that can and often do mean life or death.

That's what we are talking about here people: quality of life versus life or death. I want all of my friends that wish to celebrate their love for one another and have it recognized by the state to have that right without reservation. I also live with HIV and I want a cure. I want their to not be a waiting list for ADAP insurance for positive individuals. I want their to be housing for people living with AIDS and hospice care for those for whom the medications no longer work and they are transitioning out of this life. I want any young person that runs away or is kicked out of their home because of being queer or trans to know, with certainity, that they can walk down the street to the nearest youth service organization and there will be supportive housing available to them free of charge. I want any addict anywhere (and at least 25% of queer folks suffer from some form of addiction) to have instant access to rehabilitation services in a queer affirmative environment by simply asking for it.

Since 1996, somewhere around $1 billion has been spent on the marriage fight. $1 billion dollars could have made any one of those other issues right up in that last paragraph a reality or have gotten us so much closer to making them realities.

Next month I will be in Los Angeles at the wedding of a dear friend of mine who is marrying a beautiful man. I will be there with joy for them, but I won't lie, there will be some part of me that is bitter that they can get married wherever they want in the world and have it recognized by the world. I don't have that right. But, I am personally willing to sacrifice that right for now, for myself, in order to heal much deeper and broader and life threatening wounds in our community.

And there is also a part of me that wants to end marriage for everyone entirely. I currently have a partner and am seeing another wonderful man. Even with a win for marriage, my relationship structure choice will not be validated nor will folks that are single be included in the awarding of the economic privileges that go along with heterosexual style marriage.

I am not in opposition to marriage and I understand why many find it to be so important, it is the place it holds and the resources it has appropriated in this fight that make me so very upset. But I am also a realist when I have to be. We are winning this marriage fight despite the laws on the books federally and in so many states. The courts are siding with queer folks. Popular opinion has swung in favor of allowing same gender marriage.

I will continue to critique marriage loudly and openly. I will continue to support fights AGAINST amendments like the proposed constitutional amendment in Minnesota limiting marriage to one man and one woman---those are direct attacks on us and should be resisted rigorously---I wrote the largest single charitable contribution check that I have ever written to a single organization last year...the organization was formed specifically to unseat Senators in New York that voted down a marriage law last year...and I believe that politicians with fucked up positions should pay for their votes with their seats. But I won't be writing a check to any organization that has as part of its agenda active advocacy and organizing FOR marriage in the absence of a attack on marriage rights. Let the courts keep the legislatures in check...that's why we have a system of checks and balances.

But, also, I am so tired of the fight in general, and I know, eventually, that we are going to win, so I would like us to get to victory...like right now...so we can move on to the issues and concerns that are truly going to radically change the lives of millions of queer folks in this country. I too am Beyond Marriage.

9 comments:

  1. i so feel you....
    but/and i am also in support of campaigns to fight for marriage rights when these courts/legislators/the*public are deciding that they get to make that decision for so many people who have nothing to do with them or even their money (which is really all it comes down to in the end). marriage is definitely not a huge thing on my list either, but i definitely want the ability to have an opportunity to have some legal process so me & my future shuga-mama/beauty-queen/most-perfect-adoring wife (smile*) can have the same rights as the het spouses get.
    but you tell it so well, we've GOT to focus on so many other pieces of equality/justice/safety for the Q's, mo's, trannies, poc's out here...
    keep tellin' it.
    love.

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  2. Always appreciate your commentary, but do need to note that marriage equality is not among GLSEN's strategic priorities. Best regards, Eliza Byard (Executive Director, GLSEN)

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  3. Charles Rice-GonzalezJune 15, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Right on! This needs to pass already so that the issues you raised get to have their prominence and focus, too.

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  4. So very true, Eliza. I have edited this to remove mention of GLSEN...that was sort of a tongue in cheek statement that I can now should have been edited out. It has now been.

    Yours,
    Brandon

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  5. I completely agree with your analysis and I say this as someone who IS married. I am glad I was able to do it but as a queer man of color, I need other things for my people first.

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  6. Now this is the brilliance that you claimed for a post that was in the end nothing but a string of f-bombs.

    The other guy was nowhere near this articulate or informative!

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  7. I believe this is just the "tip of the iceberg" for the queers & trans people. I believe once we get our foot in the door, it will be a way for us to open the door all the way, and succeed in the other issues.

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  8. Amen, brother. Just today on Twitter, I begged OutFront and MN United to create a movement like the one brewing in North Carolina that's a broad-based movement to create justice TRULY for ALL. http://bit.ly/nP3FZT

    I don't think marriage is a "tip of the iceburg" because I think once middle class white people get marriage, they will forget everyone else. And they're *not* talking about everyone else.

    At the PFund Moxie awards recently, a white rich man got on stage and talked about fighting the amendment, how much cash he's going to give to the fight, I thought, this movement is *never* going to be broad-based and about true equality. He works at a big "wealth management" firm and his first priority is protecting everyone else's wealth.

    Thanks for telling the truth.

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings, and insights. And thank you for reading!