Thursday, July 03, 2008

Is That All There Is?

I have been writing this post in my head for the last week or so and mulling over whether or not I want to post it. But I think self-censoring is never a good idea, so here goes. I want to start off this post with a disclaimer: I do not have anything against my fellow California gays, lesbians, queers, non-heteros, etc. who want to get married. I am not mad at you for your desire for this or for your choice to do so. What I am a bit mad at is how marriage seems to have become the be-all, end-all goal of the mainstream gay movement.

I will say straight-up that I think marriage is a dated and antiquated institution that I see very little value in beyond the rights and benefits it imparts to couples who engage in it. And therein lies one of my main problems with marriage as it is today - those pesky rights and benefits that are bequeathed to these sets of people and denied anyone else who is not able to or willing to undergo the rites of legal marriage. Anything outside of that sanctioned union is unrecognized, unworthy, unrewarded.

And that's what it feels like - a reward for participating in this highly normative institution; an institution which has roots so thick with misogyny and heterosexism, with women being treated as property handed over by fathers to husbands in exchange for land and goods. There's no recognition of people maybe having more than just ONE important person in their lives, whether that's due to being a polyamorous individual or someone with a community of friends or a self-made family who might want to visit them in the hospital, be able to share health insurance with a beloved friend who doesn't have it or anything else that doesn't get to happen because they aren't part of a married couple. The idea that I am supposed to pick one person in my life who can receive all these rights and benefits and cannot extend them to anyone else seems ludicrous. And yet so many members of my "community" seem to think this is a perfectly legitimate situation and are hailing this as an across the board victory.

And I don't blame people for feeling victorious, don't get me wrong. It is a victory of sorts, albeit a very limited one - don't even get me started on how limited gay marriage is in California, being recognized solely at a state level. And, like I said before, if you really want marriage, I am not holding that against you. I just wish people would set their sights a little higher. Like, marriage today, tomorrow we dismantle this whole dated, limited institution and demand more! But that doesn't seem to be the general response. And I wonder how much of that is just about how most of us are raised in a culture where the values that are fed to us are ones of marrying and starting a nuclear family and living happily ever after. Just because a bunch of us turn out to be big ol' queers doesn't mean we all escape that influence. Just the other day I read a blog post by a SF-based gay guy which included a photo of him and his boyfriend to which one of his friend replied "You two make such a cute couple! Could there be wedding bells in your future??" It suddenly occurred to me, with bone-chilling certainty, that these kinds of questions that I used to feel I could sidestep by being gay are now potentially going to be lobbed at me any time I am dating someone for more than 5 minutes. And, frankly, that is not something I look forward to.

I guess I just want to see a more radical assessment of marriage and rights and how they are granted in this country. There used to be a time that the queer rights movement had a more radical feel to it; a feeling that we were trying to dismantle some archaic systems while trying to gain rights for ourselves and hoping to be treated less like second class citizens. But somewhere along the way radicalism got pushed aside in favor of joining the winning team and to hell with anyone who doesn't want to play for that team.

I expect that some people will not have a positive response to this post. But, in responding with your disagreements, please keep in mind that this is not a personal attack on any queer folks I know who are or want to get married. This is about a larger issue that I feel is not being addressed.


At 7/03/2008 3:11 PM , Anonymous Daigan Vince Gaither said...

I totally agree with you. I think it's great to have the right to do it, but I think it's not really the perfect thing everyone wants to make it out to be. It's not for everyone, and to have to give up the rights that go with it, simply because you aren't interested in "marriage" is stupid.
THat being said, I did cry when I read the decision. MOstly for what it said, not for what it granted.

At 7/03/2008 3:13 PM , Blogger ohnochriso said...

I for sure got teary-eyed, especially seeing the joy on the faces of so many people who had been waiting so long to get married.

At 7/05/2008 3:20 AM , Blogger Mel said...

Okay, so my sweetie and I just got married (legally in Canada - with an extralegal church affair here in Maine). Now, it's not even remotely recognized in this state at this time, but we've got the specter of his fundie parents and sister and would really like to have some protection if any issues should arise along those lines. Anything we can have that shows a familial-type relationship is helpful.

Frankly, I think that marriage as an institution needs some serious overhaul, or at least we need to start recognizing that relationships come in a lot more forms than one-man-one-woman. My poly friends should have their relationships recognized, too. People who choose not to enter a marriage for whatever reason should have their relationships recognized.

You might find the Alternatives to Marriage Project interesting.


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