Friday, March 22, 2013

the same sex marriage "problem"

Lately, I've seen more and more widespread celebration among my peers about the recent developments in the same sex marriage issue.  I feel as though I can't enter a space with gay identified individuals or allies without hearing the excited buzz over the fact that a few Republicans have been in favor of the gay marriage agenda.  I even recently read an article in the Huffington Post tracking the new fervor with which previously opposed parties are turning in favor of gay marriage due to personal relationships with people who are coming out as gay.  I paid little mind to the polls included in the article, as I felt that the Huffington Post's readership didn't really capture the opinions of Americans as a whole, but seeing these polls led me to do a little more research on the current "favor" of same sex marriage in the United States.

I looked around at different major news sites for polls of this same type. CNN's poll boasted similar results, revealing that from 2008 to 2012, the percentage of people who supported gay marriage rose by 10%, and is still on the rise. I checked Fox News as well (mostly out of a sick interest in whether or not Fox would deign to make a poll of this nature), and the results were, unsurprisingly, the same. Gay marriage supporters far outnumbered non-supporters, though some additional questions were added to the poll, much to my chagrin A question phrased "As you may have heard, Barack Obama recently changed his position and now supports same-sex marriage. Which of the following do you think is the more likely reason Obama announced this now?" appeared as well, with such possible, leading answers as "he was pressured by same-sex marriage proponents and needed their campaign donations and support."

Though I was exasperated by Fox News being, well... Fox News, that was not the major thing that began to worry me as I filtered through these poll results.  Of course, I'm as happy as anyone about same sex marriage being legalized in the United States (it's about time!), but I'm worried, too, about what this means for the LGBTQ movement as a whole.  When looking at it with an activist's eye, it becomes clear that the gay marriage initiative is only a small fraction of the larger whole that LGBTQ communities are striving for.  And yet, many people, including friends and acquaintances of mine that I speak to on a daily basis, believe that the fight will be over when gay marriage is passed in the United States, and are beginning to celebrate a bit too prematurely.  This, however, seems so wrong when I know that there is so much that remains unchanged.

Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are very single-minded, but they are the only ones representing any part of the LGBTQ communities that have a loud voice and a big budget.  It's a sticky situation, since these are the people telling our allies what they should focus on.  "Go big on gay marriage!" says the HRC, and the activists and the larger gay community does so, but then they say little else.  HRC neglects to emphasize the growing homeless LGBTQ youth problem, the biphobia that occurs in our society on a daily basis, sexual abuse and misogyny is still rampant in our society and in the news, even, and the flat out abuse and appropriation of trans* people who live in the US.  The privileged few in the LGBTQ community make the calls, and those privileged few are almost always either white, male, or a combination of both.

So then, what do we do about it?  I don't believe we should trash gay marriage and start anew-- by no means do I mean that at all, and I do believe that celebrating small achievements like marriage is a good way to up motivation, particularly among allies and straight activists.  But we need to spread the word that marriage is not a finish line.  We will not cross it and then walk the rest of the way, or else we will never truly understand what the word "equality" truly means.  We must always remember what we've accomplished, but never be satisfied with it.  Only then can we, whatever our identity or place in the LGBTQ spectrum, stand up together, hold each other up, and move forward with pride.

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