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Proof: The Gay Marriage Movement Is Draining Resources from Queer Activism [14 July, 2009]

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As anyone who’s been reading my posts on gay marriage knows by now, I’ve been critical of the “movement” for taking away much-needed resources and energy from far more important queer issues.  I’ll discuss that issue in greater detail in a longer post, but for now here are links to two pieces that provide the kind of numbers and details many of us have suspected from the start.  Note that this is not framed as a journalistic exposé, but as the affirmation of a hypothesis I’ve been mulling over for a while.

Here’s a letter from Ryan Conrad to the Portland Phoenix, titled “Dump Gay Marriage and Regroup.” Some of you might remember Conrad from the photograph which accompanied my article in No More Potlucks: he’s the one in the wedding dress.  Conrad is also a queer radical activist, most notably with the Naughty North, and he recently organised the “Future of the Past” exhibition and panel discussion at the Maine College of Art.  Full disclosure: he’s a friend and colleague of mine, and I was among those who gave him feedback on this letter.

He writes:

The gay-marriage campaign has been sucking up resources like a massive sponge, corralling us to give up our last dollar and free time, leaving little sustenance for other queer groups doing critical work in our communities.

Conrad points out that the “Maine Speak Out Project and the Charlie Howard Memorial Library close their doors in Portland while the few remaining LGBT youth advocacy groups across the state scrounge just to keep their doors open.”  Meanwhile, the “marriage equality” folks are still going strong, collecting millions for their cause.

Historian Amy Sueyoshi, writing for the National Sexuality Resource Center, is equally blunt:

The marriage movement’s single-minded determination for “equality for all” has forgotten that many more queers suffer at the hands of more urgent inequalities.  These inequalities may seem “special interest” or not relevant for a “larger” community, but this could be nothing further from the truth.

(h/t Nancy Polikoff, who points to Sueyoshi’s piece on her blog)

It includes a brief account of the Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community (APIQWTC) being refused support by a national gay rights organisation that will only work with groups on “marriage equality.”

Both Conrad and Sueyoshi are especially concerned about funding for queer youth projects, queer archives, and HIV/AIDS organisations being diverted towards gay marriage to the extent that such work is either suspended or completely disbanded.  No doubt, some will say: “If you want support or money, find your own.”  But anyone who has been anywhere near the non-profit industrial complex or the world of social services knows that getting support for any project means that you have to constantly reassure potential supporters/donors that the “community” really does want/need your work.  And getting support for a queer project that doesn’t primarily advance gay marriage or gay coupledom is increasingly difficult these days, given that the major “players” are the ones with access to the corridors of power, and who dictate the gay and lesbian agenda to politicians and the media.

I encourage you to read these pieces for more details.  And please let me know if you hear of similar instances of the gay marriage movement sucking away resources from vital queer activism.

During my own activism and reporting, I’ve come across other such instances but not everyone will go on the record or name names.  That’s understandable, given the precarious state of funding these days and the political and economic clout of the major gay and lesbian organisations which claim to speak on our behalf.  It’s time for those of us who are not hitched to the marriage wagon to start speaking out more clearly and loudly about the economic, political, and emotional costs of investing so many resources in a movement designed only to further the interests of a few or comfort the many who are deluded enough to think that gay marriage alone will substantially alter their lives for the better.

It’s become common in some circles to insist that gay marriage is the rising tide that will lift all other boats and help all other queer causes.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If we are to use any seafaring metaphors, it might be best to describe gay marriage as the Titanic, about to hit an iceberg and take everyone down with her.

Orginally published on The Bilerico Project, 14 July, 2009. Read comments here. 

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