Monday, November 10, 2008

Now That It's (Sorta) Over . . .

Well . . . we lost. Despite my fellow porn enthusiasts going out and buying to your heart's content, and despite voting (as I know you all did), we failed to defeat the ban on gay marriage here in California (a.k.a. Prop 8).

Of course, that doesn't mean defeat; the results were so incredibly close, support and opposition was huge on both sides, and, as Jiz Lee so wonderfully brought to my attention, the fight soldiers on. And hooray for that, because the last thing we need is to become demoralized and give up. We do not live in a democracy, where a majority rules our lives- we live in a republic, where the majority rules . . . so long as they don't infringe on our rights. I'd say refusing the right of marriage is one of those that we're entitled to (as citizens, taxpayers, and heck, human beings). So we'll turn to the blindfolded lady Justice and let her weigh it out in the times to come.

But now that all's said and done, I don't want an angry rant about homophobia, or a weepy rant about losing, or even an inspirational manifesto about overcoming. I want to ask: what are we doing?

It's incredible, I think, the amount of money we were able to raise in support of the "No On 8" campaign- a brilliant $38,432,873. We even beat out the other side with their $36,122,538 (not that it helped). I can hardly fathom these numbers- they seem fantastical. All for a few ads to try and sway the general public.

I don't mean to say that opposing Prop 8 isn't important- I hope that it's clear that it's a huge deal and one that certainly makes a difference in lives- it's not just about some abstract "rights", but about respect and tolerance and being acknowledged, in being able to be with your partner, and, for those already married, for staying that way. But was it worth such a price tag?

I'll admit that my thoughts have been seriously swayed by a book I bought a while back- Mattilda Bernstein's That's Revolting. In it are a bevy of essays asking the somewhat taboo question that doesn't get asked nearly enough in queer circles- the biggest of which is "Do we even need marriage?". Some will scream- of course we do! And on the other side of the divide is the radicals who would like to do away with the whole institution on the basis of what it used to be and maybe still stands for (the symbolic passing over of a bride from her father to her new husband as chattel?), or favor the philsophical approach that we don't need no stinkin' pieces of paper to prove our bonds. You've got queer folks who want to get married, queer folks who don't and never would, thinking it's too "straight", queer folks who want to have something but don't want to call it marriage, and those who won't stand for anything less than the M word. There isn't a queer around (I think) who says we don't deserve the right to marriage; that's a given. But as to whether we ought be fighting one of our many battles here, on this issue, and spending our money here, I just don't know if it's that clear-cut.

The various essays bring up strong, radical points that I don't always believe/agree with, but which are provocative nonetheless. Is marriage, and this fight for gay marriage, a fight that only benefits some queers? Does it represent a class of relatively elite, affluent, mainly white conservative (i.e. non-radical, not non-liberal) gays and lesbians, who have a vested interest in the institution of marriage, and the privileges it brings, both pyschological, in social reception, and least not in asset sharing and whatnot? How much of the fight for gay marriage has to do with wanting the status and privilege that comes with it, and the normalizing effect that goes with it? I'm not saying that queer folks are somehow less equipped or less inclined to go hand-in-hand with marriage. Gay marriage naturally belongs on the list of the gay agenda list (you know, the real one, not the one that has 'recruit and convert all the innocent chitlins on it).

My question is this: could that money have been put to other, better use? How many lives could have been bettered if the money went to helping the queers that get left out of the HRC meetings, or blatantly turned away? What if instead of waging a neverending battle against the lies thrown out by the Prop 8 supporters, the money was used for organizations with outreach and education? What if we created more and helped keep the public queer spaces open? How about providing aid to the GLBTQ homeless and at-risk youth?

Those are just some of the thoughts running through my head. Hmm.

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