Given that this is a queer blog, or that is it is a queer blog to the extent that the writer considers himself quite rather queer, it might seem odd that I have not said a whole lot about Proposition 8. Given also especially that I live in California and donated a little money to the No on 8 campaign and voted against it myself and did other assorted things to work against its passage, one might think I would have more to say.
I am a little surprised myself, but not a lot. I am upset about those whom I know who are waiting to find out if they are still married and I do not think that it is right that a simple majority should be able to write a specific group’s rights out of the constitution so easily here in California and I wholeheartedly support the lawsuits that are being filed as efforts to get the thing repealed/revoked/rebuked/removed/rerased. I do!
But to be honest I am having a hard time working up the energy to go to the protests and I am having a hard time working up the energy even to argue about it. I do not think this is just because I never plan on marrying, do not understand the urge to marry, and wonder why anyone would pledge to spend the rest of their life with one person (realizing of course that a large number of marriages end in divorce, so that pledge has to be taken with a grain of irony). I do not think that my reluctance has to do with my own alienation from the whole institution.
And I have read the arguments about marriage being a tool for wealthy white folks to accumulate more wealth, but from my vantage point, queer marriage rights are for legal protection, more than anything, of one’s access to one’s chosen partner in times of crisis: the legal definition of “kinship” extended to one not related by blood is enormously important in all sorts of contexts and all the legal maneuvering and contract-writing and power-of-attorney-granting one can afford to engage in can so easily be trumped by selfish and self-righteous family members that I think this one reason alone is sufficient to throw one’s support behind queer marriage rights–but then, I think that we should all be free to define our own familial relationships however we want, be it in marriage or other types of chosen alliances with those we love. For so often are many of us cast out of our “real” families that it should be an easy thing to say simply “this person is now my next of kin no matter what any of the idiots in my ‘family’ have to say about it.”
And that is probably enough to brand me some sort of anti-American communist, to be so thoroughly distrusting of the American Nuclear Family. Later on I am sure there will be discussion of the roots of my dissatisfaction with our so-called building block of society. For now: bullocks. The building block of society is friendship. Whether your friends are blood or legal relatives or not, your partner or spouse or not, society begins wherever there is love and trust.
That is my general position on legal kinship, which is the sum total of my personal stake in queer marriage rights–the degree to which these two ideas intersect.
But I have not been to one protest in support of queer marriage rights since Proposition 8 passed, and as badly as I knew I would want to riot if the presidential race had been stolen by the Republicans, the loss on this Proposition is not compelling to me, and if you do not mind, I would like to talk about why that is. If you do mind, move along. Nothing to see here.
First there is this: Why the fuck is there, in all the Proposition 8 ranting that I can find, no mention of the recent murder of Duanna Johnson, a black transgendered woman who was enmeshed in a legal battle with the City of Memphis, Tennessee over her beating at the hands of Memphis Police last June?
Now, I do not believe in zero-sum games when it comes to community activism, and I do not think that we need necessarily to abandon our outrage over the passage of Proposition 8. But why is that outrage so out of proportion to what sparse protests there seem to be over this woman’s murder–a murder that may well have been orchestrated in some way by the very City and Police Departments that are now “investigating” the murder? If anything should outrage queer sensibilities in the United States right now, it should be this woman’s death.
I could make an argument as to why so little attention is being paid to her case. She is not a young white boy from the heartland. She is a black transwoman from an urban area of the Deep South, a place where, I suppose, we accept this sort of thing happening as an every day occurrence. I mean, I could make that argument. Should I?
Or maybe it has something to do with uninformed queer historicizing that subtracts gender-variant people from the whole queer rights movement, as though we were only just now jumping on the queer bandwagon for a ride on coattails already bloodied by pure gayness, untrammeled by poor “gender confused” bleating for human dignity. Is that it? Is that an argument I should make? I will say that much to this end right away, and for the nth time, so listen the fuck up: the Stonewall Riots were led by drag queens and other gender-non-conforming individuals, because they were the ones who were targeted in the lgbtq community all along. A goodly portion of anti-queer legislation in the US during the first half of the twentieth century mandated such things as that one wear “gender appropriate” clothing in public, and if one did not, one was subject to arrest. In short, in Anglo-American culture, queers have always been persecuted for gender-variant behavior, of which sexual contact with members of the “same” gender was just one offense among many that could contravene strict gender roles.
“We” seem to have forgotten our history. Maybe I should be writing lectures instead of rants.
On the other hand. Because there are always other hands, often as many as fifteen or more: queer marriage is what is up right now. For better or worse, this has become the “gay” issue of our time (I actually cannot say for certain that it is an LGBTQ-wide issue, because little has been said about transgendered marriage rights, or genderqueer marriage rights, but one probably can assume that “gay” marriage would be written so as not to discriminate against any gender. Or one hopes that one can assume this). It is not the issue I would have chosen to stake a national battle on the worthiness of queer relationships and identities on, because I think that there are more grievious problems in the relationship between LGBTQ culture, such as it is, and the larger, heterocentric culture of the US.
The fight over queer marriage rights is certainly bringing all sorts of “cultural warriors” out of the woodwork to defend the country against the mythical “Gay Agenda”; likewise it has been quite revealing to read what some white gay men have to say about people who are not white–even when they are gay. People say the darnedest things when they are upset. This issue may well prove to be a cultural turning point on queer rights–I just hope that we do not lose sight of the fact that people are still dying in this fight, and that pushing anyone who is other than cisgendered, white, or 100% homosexual ever further to the fringe of the LGBTQ-rights movement is only going to replicate the same disenfranchisement that marrying gays and lesbians are experiencing right now, working thus to fragment what could be a vibrant coalition.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance will be this Thursday, November 20. Demonstrations are planned worldwide. Duanna Johnson’s case is still waiting for some sort of outcry to push the federal government to intervene in a case where the investigating entity has a clear conflict of interest. The HRC’s call for a federal investigation is already buried by continued screeds about Proposition 8.
So “we”–whoever we are–do have a chance at proving that we can be as outraged by continuing predations on the most vulnerable members of our community. Will we? I do not know. I will go to the demonstration here in San Francisco, and probably report back. Until then, I am not certain that I will throw my efforts wholeheartedly at regaining the right to marry whomever I choose. Right now, I get a little miffed when gay men think it is ok to address transsexual men as “it” (sorry I cannot find a link for this right now. Let us just say this is aggregate data collected from various sources. Press me and I will find that one horrible column in The Advocate again if you cannot find it yourself), or when lesbians accuse transsexual women of rape simply by virtue of their being (you can find that one yourselves easily enough as well). I simply hang my head in shame when white gay men shout the One Word I Will Not Type at black gay men. You could say that I am torn, in similar ways that I think the LGBTQ “community” is torn. I would be happy to support queer marriage, if I thought that there was a good chance that it supported me and several other people whose lives and deaths are getting lost in the din. Right now, I am not so sure.