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Assorted thoughts on Pride, weddings, and capitalism

Last night I went out to my neighborhood queer bar, the White Horse Inn, to see the East Bay Kings put on the most kick-ass drag show ever. It was not only the runup to the enormous Pride festivities in San Francisco, but also the farewell performance of Neil Down, who is seriously out-of-control fantabulous.

The mood was raucous and joyful, bolstered even more by the presence of a young couple celebrating their wedding, which had taken place earlier that day.

Now is the time to talk about my mixed feelings about gay marriage. I mean, of course I support it, since the alternative is to oppose it, which would be...wrong. But I cringe at the sheer volume of resources that have gone into fighting for marriage instead of, say, health care and other rights that should not be dependent on relationship status. Sometimes I feel churlish about that—and, as someone who did actually once use straight privilege to take advantage of the easy path to relationship legitimacy that marriage offers, more than a little hypocritical. And sometimes I find radical arguments against the support of gay marriage unrealistic; in practice, it's not like we're actually going to get a more just society for queers or other marginalized folks without an intermediate step like marriage rights. And the resources being used for the marriage fight would not be available to agitate for affordable housing, a living wage, or universal heath care; those issues have, for the most part, a different (and less wealthy) set of supporters than the marriage equality movement.

But when I read this account of California businesses preparing to extend the wedding industrial-complex to same-sex couples, the relationship between marriage, assimilation, profiteering, and consumerism was made crystal clear. The revulsion I felt upon reading about grooms shopping for "the perfect diamond" as if a hunk of compressed carbon extracted by one of world history's most damaging industries can validate a relationship, and companies poised to offer "organic framboise ganaches, Russian River honeymoon canoe trips and Gay Palm Springs hotel packages with rose petals, Champagne, [and] two souvenir pillows embroidered with the couples' first names," made arguments like Gay Shame's newly resonant.

But being part of a crowd of baby dykes, low femmes, genderbenders, and assorted other queers cheering madly for the stylings of the Kings and also for the pair of early-20s women sitting at the side of the stage, one in a white spaghetti strap dress and the other in a dapper white suit, the issue felt even more complicated. I couldn't help but feel moved by the historic nature of the moment, and the emotional connection between social institutions and cultural acceptance within, among, and between communities. Yet another example of the kyriarchy in action (h/t to Sudy for introducing me to this term). But does rejecting the kyriarchal forces that have made marriage equality such a priority (and some would say a necessary one) mean rejecting the powerful beauty of witnessing moments like this? I hope not. But I can't say I know either way.

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Comments

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Assorted thoughts

After two marriages and two divorces on the hetero side, I also wonder why the gay and lesbian communities have pursued "marriage" with such a fervor. With that said, I finally recognized a few years ago, I was a lesbian. The hetero community has more than a 50% divorce rate. As a lesbian, that is not what I aspire to....I want something more. In many ways, our community is seeking to follow a model that has not worked for millions. Why??? Because it is the socially accepted norm of our day. As we long to be accepted socially by mainstream America, I believe we've sacrificed "what could have been" for something that has been proven not to work effectively.

neighbors!

Hey, cool to run into someone from my neighborhood(ish) in the great expanse of internet...

I've been dealing with a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to marriage rights as well. I think that het marriage is an institution that is massively fucked, and that even those who claim to have "equal" partnerships rarely achieve equality when it's all said and done. And yet, I really do think that marriage equality is an important step. The government can say that it supports and protects all citizens as much as it wants, but if the policies say the opposite, then it's worthless. Granting equal protection under the law is goal, and it's coming along (too slowly...).
I wish that the "wedding industrial complex" (glad someone else uses that term!) would stay out of it, though, because its horrid and tacky and it exists to prop up the kyriarchy. I was hoping that more queer couples would set about redefining the institution......

http://katsbitcraft.blogspot.com

I agree with both of you...

I too wish/hope queer folks would "do marriage differently from straight folks and transform the institution, but the unfortunate fact is that apolitical and unpoliticized folks come in all genders and sexualities. So expecting queers to have a unified progressive vision of what marriage looks like and whether/how it should be transformed is, sadly, unrealistic.

I think we will get some changes in the institution overall through marriage equality (which is why I keep holding onto my support if it), but, yeah, the emotional investment in marriage (among anyone, no matter what their sexuality is) mystifies me, given the its massive failure rate and the damage it clearly does to people. But I can understand the political investment even if i disagree with it; there are very concrete benefits that accrue to married people through tax law, employment benefits, social acceptance and the propensity to shower gifts on married people.

Political, Apolitical, Unpoliticized Queers! Oh My!

We are in a heated debate about this post over at the B-Word offices and are needing some clarification to come to a conclusion:

"I too wish/hope queer folks would "do marriage differently from straight
folks and transform the institution, but the unfortunate fact is that
apolitical and unpoliticized folks come in all genders and sexualities. So expecting queers to have a unified progressive vision of what
marriage looks like and whether/how it should be transformed is, sadly,
unrealistic." 

Is the implication from this statment that only apolitical and unpoliticized queers are
fighting for marriage rights (which is more than the right to marry) or marching their gay/queer/bi/dyke/lesbo/non-'straight' selves down to the courthouse to get
married in the "traditional" sense?

--Or--

Is it that there are policital queers that get married and apolitical or unpolitized folks that are get married so we cannot expect queers to have a unified vison because some folks out there are getting married and are subscribing to the massive marriage market and therefore 

Help clear this up so I can get my free pint from Miriam!

Doing Marriage

Why not just let couples decide for themselves how they want to "do marriage?" Isn't that what we've fought for in the first place?

Mick, it's difficult to

Mick, it's difficult to decide for yourself how you want to "do marriage" when there's an enormous industry telling you that in order to "do it right" you have to buy the right products and spend the right (read: large) amount of money. Most wedding traditions exist only because some company (wanting only to sell things) has convinced people that they're "traditional" at all. Diamond engagement rings are a tradition because DeBeers says so. Now there's a giant ad at the Civic Center BART station (in SF) trying to con men into buying diamonds for each other...

it's the latter

i didn't mean to suggest that only apolitical folks are concerned with marriage equality (obviously any kind of struggle for rights is political) or that only apolitical folks get married—just that there is a wide variety of political positions and understandings among queer folks the same way there is among non-queer folks, so expecting one unified view is unrealistic. some queers will do marriage in a transformative way (just like some hets do!) and some will do it in an assimilationist way.

 

amy and miriam, let me know who gets the pint!