Thursday, November 6, 2008

Letter to Our Internet Friends Who Oppose Marriage Equality

Hello readers. Today I'd like to direct you to this piece by our anti-equality friend "Ken the Playful Walrus." (My friend Jane wrote about this yesterday). Ken has basically written a letter of advice to his "homosexual friends" advising them to pretty much just get over the fact that California voters opposed marriage equality on November 4. He informs his "homosexual friends" that they are feeling "very angry, upset, or depressed" because Prop 8 passed but not to worry because the movement wasn't based in hatred. Ahhh, remember that good old mysterious case of the invisible homo-bigotry? It's amazing to me how those so involved in the "marriage defense" movement, just because they themselves don't hate gay people, so often fail to see evidence of hatred in other people. But I digress, that's not the point of this article.

The point of this article is to ponder Walrus' tidbits of advice. For, he informs us:

1) "If you really want the legal trappings of marriage, then get domestic partnerships."

Okay. Done.

Oops, but Walrus, domestic partnerships don't offer same-sex couples the federal benefits and protections of marriage. What if I want to file jointly with my "domestic partner" on income taxes? What if she were a citizen of another country who wanted to move to the US to live with me? Thanks to DOMA, state domestic partnership and civil union arrangements do not allow for these "legal trappings of marriage." And, it bears mentioning that civil unions and domestic partnerships are only offered by a handful of states, not including the state where I live.


If only it really were so easy for me to get full equality by just getting domestically partnered.

2) "Stop obsessing so much about what other people think of your relationships."

Walrus goes on to let us know that we, gay people, can still go on to live full, happy lives with our partners even if we can't marry our partners and that we should just go on and have our own ceremonies anyway. Who cares if lots of people, as Walrus does, think being gay is wrong and that our marriages aren't real. In other words, we're just too sensitive.

Okay then. I think it's safe to say he's missing the point.

Let me be very clear. It doesn't matter much what Walrus or "marriage defenders" think of my relationship, eternal soul, or my sexual orientation. Personally, I'm all set when it comes to spirituality and self-esteem. At the same time, it's clear that my sexual orientation, while not a problem to me, is often only a problem to other people- people who pity me, vilify me, and/or pray for my conversion. My sexual orientation becomes a problem only when other people make it be a problem by enshrining their beliefs into our legal code.

So, while I have learned to tolerate this basic schoolyard intolerance, institutionalized intolerance of the type enshrined in our society's laws and constitutions is different. It's a bit more serious. Ken is certainly right that we should have thick skins when it comes to what other people say about us and our relationships. That's just practical advice. Yet, while we can slough off the judgments that some people make about us, to advise gay people to just brush off what our shared legal system says about us- namely that it places a stigma on us and one of the most important relationships of our lives- is profoundly regressive, invidious, and sort of abusive to be quite honest.

See, in addition to being a lesbian, I'm also a tax-paying, law-abiding, upstanding American who is denied a right that similarly-situated heterosexuals have- the right to marry the person of my choice. When I decide to get married to a woman, I will call it a marriage because that is what it will be. What I want from the system that I pay for and contribute to are the rights that I am entitled to as a full citizen of the United States of America- and that means not having this system brand me with a badge of inferiority. That is exactly what "domestic partnerships" do to same-sex couples. Marriage is the standard by which all relationships in our nation are measured by. So, even though "marriage defenders" are willing to grant us some of the rights of marriage, insisting that we call it something else legitimizes this idea that we are inferior or "less than" heterosexual couples.

But in Walrus's eyes, we're just being overly-sensitive queers. You know, his whole argument reminds me of the schoolyard bully who calls people names and then justifies it by telling his victim to toughen up. In the bully's eyes, the problem is not with himself, the abuser, but in his victims for being so damn weak.

Ah who knows, maybe we could just take some special Playful Walrus self-esteem workshops and get over pervasive societal and legal sexual prejudice.

Now, since Walrus probably doesn't have his finger on the pulse of LGBT life, it bears mentioning that we gays have been having our "own" ceremonies for many, many years despite the fact that these ceremonies are legally meaningless. Why do we have these non-legally-recognized ceremonies in front of our friends, families, and communities even though these ceremonies give us nothing "new from the government? It comes from the basic human desire to demonstrate and receive recognition for our love- a good emotion remember!- in front of other people that we love. Walrus might call this desire for social blessing an "obsession," but heterosexuals take this stamp of approval for granted every time bridezilla forces everyone around her to "obsess" about her relationship for months on end- including her "homosexual friends" who Walrus informs to just stop "obsessing" about what other people think about their own relationships.

And "obsessing"? Pot, meet kettle. The way many of us see it, we don't understand why so many Kens are "obsessed with" denying us the right to marry when it so clearly doesn't affect them at all. That they create anti-equality "home party kits" and write dozens and dozens of letters to newspapers simply amuses, and sometimes sickens, us. I seriously just threw up in my mouth a little imaging "wholesome" family fun for the whole neighborhood that revolves around coming up with reasons to continue branding people as inferior.

3) "Consider that perhaps your activist group leaderships have been misleading you."

The gist of his argument here is that people in charge of LGBT advocacy groups keep the marriage debate alive because if they don't, then they will be out jobs. Nope. Sorry, but that completely un-cited claim just won't convince anyone who doesn't already agree with Walrus. These kind of generalized defamations contribute nothing of value to the discourse.

For, those of us on the side of equality could just as easily say, once again, pot, meet kettle.

The "marriage defense" industry thrives on keeping this controversy alive. Perhaps what Walrus doesn't understand is that he can live a full life with the person he loves even if two women or two men are allowed to marry each other. Activist groups want to perpetuate the idea that Same-Sex Marriage Affects Everybody to further their power over others, not to make his life better. The better he realizes his life is, the more he would understand that he already has his rights and that they aren't in jeopardy of gay people can get married. When he realizes this, the professional "marriage defenders" are out of a job.

Anyway, the Walrus claims that he doesn't hate gay people, and I'll take his word on that. But when he makes statements like the following, I can't help but wonder if he at least thinks there is something very wrong with us:

"...I suspect the anger and the unhappiness will never be removed through court decisions and laws and public affirmation. They are symptoms of something else, and as long as the focus is elsewhere, the real problems will not be addressed."

Walrus is certainly free to elaborate on his statement here, in front of my predominately LGBT audience, what exactly he is diagnosing us with. Tell us, sir, what do you see as the "real problems" affecting gay men and lesbians?

Had he bothered to ask a gay person about her anger, he'd likely get an up-front answer and would not have to rely on his own made-up theories. My anger, for instance, comes from the fact that I know deep down in the core of my soul that I am fine and good the way I am and, in spite of that, people like Ken pity me and insist that I am deficient, sinful, and/or miserable with who I am. The problem, you see, is not that we have to deal with being gay. It's with the fact that so many other people deal with this natural difference in humanity so poorly.

I fully realize that if a dialogue ensues here, it will have the potential to get heated and personal. I urge all commenters to abide by basic rules of civility. No name-calling. Assume good faith. You know the drill. My patience for derailed train-wreck side conversations and character trials has seriously reached its limit.

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