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Let’s Change the Paradigms of Gay Organising [8 November, 2008]

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A full 27% of gays voted for McCain in this year’s election.  That’s up from 23% in 2004, the percentage that voted for Bush.  It’s easy to dismiss these Republican-leaning gays as either self-loathing or deluded, but perhaps the numbers ought to make us pause and wonder about the easy distinctions we like to draw between lefty/progressive/liberal gays and the rest of the cruel, conservative world that wants to take our rights away.  And it ought to make us think about the outmoded paradigms of gay organising.

Perhaps it’s time for us to openly acknowledge that the queer community is not as progressive as it likes to imagine itself.  More importantly, it’s time to acknowledge that the cause of gay marriage is not radical or progressive but one mired in a conservative philosophy that endows married and coupled people with the kinds of rights that ought to be available for all.  Marriage allows the state to decide what kinds of relations are worthy of recognition, and that recognition is rooted in deeply patriarchal and capitalist ideas about the consolidation of property.

I understand the hurt and anger over Prop 8, but I’m not bothered about the measure.  I’m far more concerned about the Arkansas ban on adoption by unmarried couples (and, I imagine, by singles) because that delimits how people, gay or straight, can define the kinship networks they form.  As for the gay marriage fight, it’s been relentlessly fought as a battle against the Right.  This means that we’ve allowed ourselves to be defined by the Right and consequently emerged with a queer agenda that merely replicates the Right’s ideas about what constitutes an ideal world.  But it’s now time to change the paradigms.

The pro-gay marriage crowd has long insisted that civil unions and domestic partnerships are less than marriage.  Instead of beating that dead horse, why not strive to make such legal partnerships as good as or better than marriage so that people don’t have to be married in order to keep their children; health care; their property, or have to leave it to the state to decide when they’re legally dead in case of a terminal illness?  Why not fight for ways that people who’re not romantically tied but still close can designate each other as legal caretakers in times of crisis?  At present, that process is legally cumbersome and culturally unacceptable.

Why are we fighting for the specious rights granted by an outmoded institution?  Instead, why don’t we fight for the right to live in more interesting and complex ways that actually reflect the reality of our lives in 2008, as opposed to yearning for an endless simulation of life in 1958?

Let’s shift the paradigms, people.

Originally published on The Bilerico Project, 8 November, 2008.  Read the comments here.

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