Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Whose Rights?

[TW: Gender policing]

Timothy Kincaid at gay blog Box Turtle Bulletin doesn't appreciate how some in the LGBT community are going about trying to win "his" gay rights. Of a protest for marriage equality involving drag queens and led by Queer Rising in Manhattan, he writes:

"...[D]rag has nothing to do with marriage or our community’s quest for marriage equality. In fact, when it comes to marriage, the last thing we want is for those who are listening to our legitimate grievances to start thinking that gay people are just ‘men who like to parade around in women’s clothes’ or that we don’t take our own inequalities and indignities seriously.

Which is why it was really incredibly stupid and counterproductive for Queer Rising – an organization of queer activists and 'drag queen activists' – to block the intersection of Manhattan’s 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue this morning with a banner protesting marriage inequality in fright wigs and faux fur. This protest was a lot less about marriage than it was about 'look at me!'”

Now, since it is a tenent of our legal system to treat likes alike and unalikes unalike, the culture war narratives follow accordingly and breed this sort of internal intolerance and alienation. In order to win equality, LGBT people are pigeonholed into having to prove that We're Just Like Straight People (even if some of us aren't), that Our Relationships Are Just Like Heterosexual Relationships (eve if some are not), and that we therefore deserve equal rights.

So, rather than challenging the notion that there's something undignified, unserious, or undeserving-of-equality about "men who like to parade around in women's clothes," many gender-conforming queers get their knickers in a wad over the more radical members of our community who Ruin Shit For "All" Of "Us." Or, as Kincaid's title commands:

"When protesting for my rights, please try not to be incredibly stupid and counterproductive."

Now, I don't doubt that lots of gay people are just like straight people. But, lots of gay people, oh and transgender people and lesbians and and queers and bisexual people and drag queens too, are not. Many people perform gender and sexuality in different ways for many different reasons, few of which involve a "look at me" desire to be the center of attention on a Manhattan street.

So, I think herein lies a big question of what, exactly, the LGBT movement (if it can even be called that) is fighting for. I mean, what exactly are the big priorities of the Homosexual Agenda and who gets to set them?

Is the struggle primarily about marriage equality? Or, is our struggle something greater than what some cisgender gender-conforming gay men think they require for "their" liberation? Is marriage equality worth having if it means shaming members of the LGBT community in the process and mandating gender conformity at public events and protests? Is this gay "equality" worth having if we're leaving in place pervasive misogyny (and racism and biphobia and other -isms) within the LGBT community?

I'm not trying to start a blog shitstorm or writing this post just to say "look at me," but, rather, because when I read something like the following quote, as a lady, I don't feel exactly liberated. In response to a drag queen saying she wanted people to take their protest seriously, Kincaid asks:

"Serious? Really? You want morning commuters to take you serious in your purple eye-shadow and stiletto heels?"

Purple eye-shadow and stiletto heels. On a man. Like, what a woman would wear. Rather than critiquing how and why these symbols of femininity so degrade the wearer's credibility, Kincaid participates in the degradation, taking it as a given that of course purple eye-shadow and stiletto heals indicate that a person doesn't have serious things to say about equality.

Fun fact: The same day Kincaid posted this commentary, a couple of guys hanging out at his blog joked in the comments to another post about how a particular anti-equality female politician supposedly looks like "a drag queen."

A drag queen. You know, those people we can't expect people to take seriously.

See how I don't bring this stuff up just for shits and giggles? It's all related.

When men are seen as looking ridiculous, unserious, and self-absorbed in women's clothes because of the incongruity between masculinity and femininity, what does it say about women, as a class, that these accoutrements are a supposed perfect fit? Indeed, how does a BTB commenter retort to my taking issue with his sexism? By barking:

"@fannie, get over yourself"


Here we see, once again, the minimization by those with the relative privilege of sexual orientation being their only major axis of oppression of those who are oppressed based on other aspects of their identity. While such folks undoubtedly view the oppression of gay men as a Very Big Deal, and it is, some unfortunately dismiss, ignore, or minimize other people's experiences of oppression because, perhaps, they don't think it's as legit as the so-called Last Great Civil Rights Struggle.

Yet, marriage equality on the condition that we parade in our figurative and gender-conforming Sunday Best might be fine and dandy for some, but we can and should do better than turn ourselves into the American (Homosexual) Family Association just so we can get into the cool kids' marriage club. One wonders how many of "us" would be left once people are done throwing others under the bus in order to obtain "their" rights. One wonders what the new hierarchies would be and which crusty patriarchal ones would remain.

Kincaid ends by admonishing the drag queen:

"Instead, perhaps it is you who should be taking our community and our rights seriously."

With all due respect, I believe she is. If one is using a a broader definition of "our community" and "our rights," of course.

[Related- College Journalist: Flamboyant Gays to Blame For Suicides]

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