Putting my queer shoulder to the wheel

So, I tried for a few days to ignore the JoinTheImpact.com stuff coming through my inbox and across the news desk. I tried. I’m a full-time graduate student – I commute to school two days a week in Johnson City and I spend the entire day there both days. I teach a class of college sophomores and juniors. I have a wife. Two dogs. Three cats. And I work full time as Associate Publisher of OIA. My life is really gay – really queer, actually. In fact, only on the days when I’m at school do I really have conversations with people who are not part of the LGBTQ community.

It may not be protocol for a member of the LGBTQ media to share their viewpoint on a particular issue, but I can’t help myself this time. I will say that I am glad to hear that someone has organized something in response to the passage of Proposition 8. It was definitely a sad day. Particularly annoying because the majority was able to rip away the rights of an entire class of citizens of the state  of California – rights they already had. I keep hearing people say “enjoyed” in reference to rights, but we don’t “enjoy” our rights, we deserve them. We enjoy privileges, and as long as people refer to rights as something we “enjoy,” well, the argument will continue to fall on unfriendly ears.

So I tried to ignore that this protest was happening. I had plans for Saturday. They have fallen through since, but that’s not the point. I tried to ignore it because I’m not sure I want to go. I’m going, of course, because I feel like I have to. But I also think something’s off about this whole protesting something that already happened thing. Why weren’t there mass marches BEFORE the vote against Proposition 8? Oh, and I’m still pissed that people are blaming Black voters for killing this thing. Nate Silver wrote a great piece on fivethirtyeight.com about how it was actually about the proportion of older voters versus the proportion of younger voters that killed this thing.

I’m outraged about comments made on both sides of this thing – I’m outraged that Tony Perkins still needs to say that marriage is about having children. I’m also outraged that LGBTQ people say they want marriage to legitimate their children. Here’s a clue: children are legitimate because they are human beings. Adult humans, well, we are also legitimate… and we deserve the same rights as every other adult citizen. I won’t argue against that. However, I harbor resentment for anyone who makes the family argument for or against gay marriage – and especially when children are used. Seems to me both sides are taking a lesson from Anita Bryant on this one. Yes, she was successful, but I think it’s time queers stopped saying that “by any means necessary” means even those means that trade adult legitimacy for some future legitimacy of a symbolic child who may or may not exist.

I am also outraged that there are white queers at these protests who are defacing religious buildings and yelling racial slurs at Black folks who are there for the same reason they are.  And to some of those folks who want to place blame: Did you vote in California? Were you able to vote, but you chose not to? If you didn’t take the chance to make your voice heard in the ballot box – if you didn’t go to your polling place and pull a freaking lever or fill in a stupid bubble, well, shut up. You can’t blame this on anyone else. And if you did go and vote against Proposition 8 in California – if you cast your ballot – thank you. But there’s still a question left: Did you ask one more person to join you in voting no? Did you ask two more people? Did you explain to them why Proposition 8 violates every notion of equality and fairness in our society? Or did you think voting was enough? If you’re a straight ally of the LGBTQ community, I’m talking to you, too.

I live in North Carolina. We consider ourselves lucky here, though we have never fought a battle for gay marriage in our state. We’ve never tried to get it to happen, and we’ve never had to fight to keep it. However, we remain the only state in the Southeast without a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman or worse – further banning anything that even resembles marriage. We owe that to the efforts of one incredible PAC called Equality North Carolina – and to everyone who supports their work with the state legislature. However, the world’s not pretty for queers anywhere.

But I have mixed feelings about this protest because even though I have a partner I call my wife, even though we had a wedding in a church with our ministers of choice in our spiritual tradition of choice, I’m not sure I support gay marriage. The institution of marriage has a ridiculous heritage of property ownership and is still entrenched in patriarchal notions of the ownership of women as property – in the tying of women adn their sexuality only to the family unit. Of the legitimating of children because only children with married hetero parents are legitimate in our society… and maybe it’s because I’m a proud bastard-child of a strong Southern woman that I don’t give a hot damn about legitimate children… because all human beings are legitimate.

What I would prefer is a civil partnership that people get at the freaking courthouse that says “I commit my freaking life to you because I love you.” Because that’s how we’ve defined marriage these days – or at least that’s how us queers would like to believe marriage is defined. But last summer I attended my best friend’s Southern Baptist wedding and while I love her dearly and was there completely to support her in the commitment of her life to her husband, marriage does not mean committing your life to someone else because you love them in the Southern Baptist church – or in many churches, really. I am thankful for those spiritual watering holes us queers do have – for those places where  we can be treated as legitimate human beings as adults and as children. And what I would prefer is that anyone who wants a marriage gets it – but that the state stops legitimating marriages. The state can legitimate any contract by any name as far as I’m concerned, but leave marriage to the churches – all churches, including those who support gay marriage. We’re not going to succeed in getting the Moral Majority or the Religious Right to back down before they all die off, but we might succeed in scaring the hell out of them by making them irrelevant to the issue of legal rights and benefits. We can succeed in this fight by making the church irrelevant to the state – to making the church irrelevant to our lives as queers. And that’s where the choice is: we can fight over religion and words and whose God is more powerful for the rest of our lives – or we can say that in our America, God doesn’t make the laws – legitimate human beings do.

So, while I’m mixed about the issue of gay marriage, I will raise my voice and join in the spirit of protest tomorrow – even when i’m unsure what our message is supposed to be. I will raise my voice and join in the spirit of protest because I believe in solidarity. I believe that if marriage is really what so many LGBT people want, then I’ll put my queer shoulder to the wheel and help make it happen.

A NOTE: This also posted at OutLoud.

One Response to “Putting my queer shoulder to the wheel”
  1. Grégoire says:

    This is an awesome article, on so many different levels. Monogamy, marriage as a democratic partnership rather than an oppressive vertical structure, love. You’ve got it, dude(tte).

    Put your shoulder to the wheel, push along… (it’s a Mormon thing, that’s how I got here.)

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