Blue Crack Addict
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Local Time: 10:09 AM
some interesting articles on what is being lost as gay goes mainstream, with excerpts:
That said, I do find myself worrying about the aftermath of an affirmative decision from the justices—but my anxieties don’t concern the decline of the righteous American empire. Instead, they’re about what the solidly established right to marriage might do to queer people and to the unique community we’ve created over the past century or so. To be sure, marriage equality is, on balance, a great good for us in all kinds of ways, both material and spiritual; but it may also have, yes, some unintended consequences that aren’t so positive.
To begin, I have a sneaking suspicion that the freedom to marry may quickly become the coercion to marry, both from outside and within the community. If marriage equality becomes the law of the land, many states and businesses may decide to do away with any domestic partnership-type arrangements that came before, forcing couples who might not otherwise want to marry to get with the program. Some of these couples will find this uncomfortable for ideological reasons—many folks, especially on the radical queer end of the spectrum, still find the institution off-putting. But as the Human Rights Campaign pointed out in a recent press release imploring the business community to retain the option, others may wish to maintain domestic partnerships because getting married would effectively “out” them to their communities, putting their jobs and safety at risk in areas lacking LGBT discrimination protections. To paraphrase Foucault, visibility can often be the trickiest of traps.
There’s also the question of marriage becoming a mark of “success” or “seriousness” among queer people—a hierarchical framing that has long plagued the straight world. In the past, being single, being partnered but open, having a community of lovers, or being monogamously devoted to one person for life were all legitimate options in the queer community, mainly because there was no arbitrary endgame like marriage. Because young gays and lesbians did not grow up with marriage as a realistic “goal” (nor with the pressure of family expectations), they were able to imagine and discover many other romantic ways of being. That may well end, or at least lessen in prevalence, and from where I sit, it would be a loss.
On the activism front, it’s hard not to wonder if, in the wake of a win at the court, a certain class of queer—wealthier white gay men in particular—might not jump from the LGBTQ ship into the mainstream as quickly as possible. In my recent long-form piece on the state of gay identity, “What Was Gay?,” scholar Mary Gray described this group as being “one layer away from full citizenship,” the layer being the social respectability and wealth consolidation mechanism that marriage affords. Once these men (or mostly men) have passed this final hurdle, the thinking goes, they may be much less likely to feel any affinity with the queer folks still struggling behind them—often for sorts of inclusion connected to gender and racial justice that are much more threatening to the status quo than marriage ever was. This potential exodus would mean not only an increase in the rolls of the Log Cabin Republicans, but also a major shake-up in the financial and organizational makeup of mainline LGBTQ activism, which has long been defined, for better or for worse, by the money and efforts of such men. To be sure, a recalibration could be healthy—but it won’t be easy.
Some “unintended consequences” of marriage equality worth taking seriously.
“What do gay men have in common when they don’t have oppression?” asked Andrew Sullivan, one of the intellectual architects of the marriage movement. “I don’t know the answer to that yet.”
John Waters, the film director and patron saint of the American marginal, warned graduates to heed the shift in a recent commencement speech at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers,” he said, adding, “Gay is not enough anymore.”
No one is arguing that prejudice has come close to disappearing, especially outside major American cities, as waves of hate crimes, suicides by gay teenagers and workplace discrimination attest. Far from everyone agrees that marriage rights are the apotheosis of liberation. But even many who raced to the altar say they feel loss amid the celebrations, a bittersweet sense that there was something valuable about the creativity and grit with which gay people responded to stigma and persecution.
For decades, they built sanctuaries of their own: neighborhoods and vacation retreats where they could escape after workdays in the closet; bookstores where young people could find their true selves and one another. Symbols like the rainbow flag expressed joy and collective defiance, a response to disapproving families, laws that could lead to arrests for having sex and the presumption that to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender was shameful.
Lisa Kron, who wrote the book and lyrics for "Fun Home," which features a young lesbian girl. “The thing I miss is the specialness of being gay,” Ms. Kron said. Credit Walter
“The thing I miss is the specialness of being gay,” said Lisa Kron, who wrote the book and lyrics for “Fun Home,” a Broadway musical with a showstopping number sung by a young girl captivated by her first glimpse of a butch woman. “Because the traditional paths were closed, there was a consciousness to our lives, a necessary invention to the way we were going to celebrate and mark family and mark connection. That felt magical and beautiful.”
Ms. Kron is 54, and her sentiments seem to resonate among gay people of her generation and older. “People are missing a sense of community, a sense of sharing,” said Eric Marcus, 56, the author of “Making Gay History.”
“There is something wonderful about being part of an oppressed community,” Mr. Marcus said. But he warned against too much nostalgia. The most vocal gay rights activists may have celebrated being outsiders, but the vast majority of gay people just wanted “what everyone else had,” he said — the ability to fall in love, have families, pursue their careers and “just live their lives.”