Sunday, November 18, 2007
The Marryin' Kind: Thoughts on Gay Marriage
Oh god, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. Ok, deep breaths, I think I’m ready. I think I’m ready to actually take on the ‘M’ word on the blog. I thought I could avoid it—I thought wrong.
You see, to say that I feel inundated with the subject of gay marriage would be a gross understatement. I got my marriage fix the spring of and summer after senior year of high school, when I worked for the Freedom to Marry Coalition in Boston, right as all of that shit was happening. I figured, as a young gay activist, let alone a young gay activist living in Massachusetts, it was the natural place for me to be. To a certain extent, it was—it was the largest mobilization of gay men and lesbians in the area in a very long time—it was successful—it was history in the making. At the same time, I found myself feeling, like many young gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals that I knew, incredibly distant from the whole thing. We all supported the movement, of course, but it didn’t really feel like it made terribly much of a difference in our lives, and wouldn’t for a very long time.
I pretty accurately summed up my own personal opinion on the subject in the last stand-up comedy performance—‘straight people have a lot more experience with this stuff, and they seem to fuck it up every chance they get. This is what we want? I know it’s discrimination and all, but this is kind of like complaining that you were rejected by a cult.’ Reading the articles “Why Gay People Should Seek the Right to Marry” and “Since When Is Marriage a Path to Liberation?” for the second time in my Carleton career, I again find myself agreeing with both articles. Ettlebrick’s critique of the race and class privilege underlying much of the struggle for gay marriage is very valid—however, I’m not so sure that her arguments as to the structural effects of achieving marriage rights are. To some extent, I feel that the existence of marriage rights, rather than undercutting queer struggles to legitimize relationships that do not conform to the marriage ideal as Ettlebrick suggests, simply empowers those who wanted to conform to that ideal in the first place. Now that we have marriage in Massachusetts does not seem to me to mean that gay men and lesbians envision themselves living a domesticated, suburban life any more or less than they did before. There is a fundamental disconnect between the ways that queers marry each other and the way straight people do—so long as we live in a heterosexist society, coming out will still disconnect queers from heterosexual expectations of marriage. When we do marry, it is a far more conscious choice, much more on our own terms. Gay men and lesbians in Massachusetts are not getting marriage at 25. Many are choosing not to get married at all. It is fundamentally different, and still allows for a wider understanding of what constitutes a family or a relationship.
The picture is taken inside of the Massachusetts State House in anticipation of one of the major votes in which anti-gay marriage constitutional amendments were voted down. I was looking through pictures from the same-sex marriage movement on flickr when I happened upon it. And what’s this? Who could that be at the left edge of the picture? I don’t know, but he looks pretty cool.