We stand on the verge of a breakthrough, a triumph of unprecedented magnitude. With the federal court challenge of Prop. 8, the process is set in motion in which the Supreme Court could potentially legalize civil marriage equality for the entire nation. This is the goal, the prize, we have fought for so long, and now, we are at the brink of achieving it!
At least, so goes the conventional narrative. The mainline gay rights (no longer gay liberation, and hardly Queer) movement has come to dedicate itself not exclusively to marriage equality, but certainly primarily so. The objective of the movement has become very narrowly defined, with marriage being held up as the ultimate test, the last and greatest battle to be won, after which we’ll all be, if not equal, at least close enough to it that gay people can finally fully assimilate.
For the past two decades, this has been the focus—I would say the obsession—of the modern gay movement. The logic goes: gays are the same as straights in every sphere of life except sex and romance. Therefore, equality means equality in the area of sex and romance. Since the ultimate societal legitimization of a sexual-romantic relationship is marriage (civil or religious), achieving equality must logically mean achieving equal marriage rights.
This logic is good as far as it goes; however, while I fully support marriage equality, I do feel that it’s ultimately inadequate as a means to achieve true equality for LGBT people.
There’s more to life than sex, and there’s more to being gay than dating, partnering, and marrying. The various overlapping subcultures designated “LGBTQIA” or simply “Queer” are far more than a dating scene. Sexuality and gender are facets of identity that pervade one’s whole existence—and the larger heterosexual cisgender society recognizes this. Thus, you have Queer alienation from almost every aspect of the social mainstream, whether it’s in the field of religion, politics, work, housing, healthcare, or even simple place of residence. Marriage is hardly the only area of society that Queers are excluded from, so why should it be the only one the movement attempts to integrate the community into?
Furthermore, there are, in my opinion, far more pressing needs than marriage for most Queers. Marriage is the main concern primarily of gay people in long-term committed relationships who have established home and professional lives and simply seek to be integrated—or rather, assimilated—into their neighbors’ world. Most LGBTQIA people don’t fit that description.
I used to live in Houston. Twenty-five percent of that city’s substantial homeless youth population identified as LGBTQIA—these are kids who were kicked out by their parents for being Queer, who are now a part of the most disenfranchised group of people in the United States (the homeless) solely because their parents valued their bigotry more than their children. There is only one homeless shelter in Houston that serves youth; it does not allow trans kids to live with others of their psychological sex. Where is the HRC’s outrage?
In 2008, there were more than 100 murders of transgender-identified individuals reported to the police as hate crimes in which the bodies were identified in the United States alone. Marriage equality, while undoubtedly a positive thing, won’t rectify the danger that many people (such as myself) live in as trans individuals in a profoundly—often violently—transphobic society. Again, where is the HRC’s outrage?
These are two issues; there are many, many others. They rarely, if ever make the headlines—certainly not the way that marriage does. Despite that, and despite the comparative lack of resources devoted to them, they are of vital importance, in a very literal sense. Why, then, should we be obsessed with marriage as the ultimate aim of gay rights?
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