June 1, 2012
In 2006, I was at the Creating Change Conference, the nation's largest LGBTQ conference, in Oakland, CA. At the time, I had met and eventually dated Pedro Julio Serrano. At the time, he was working for Evan Wolfson at Freedom to Marry.
Freedom to Marry held a workshop on marriage, and at one point, they panel was taking questions and comments from the audience. I walked up to the microphone, and I told the panel exactly why I was not on and would never join the marriage "movement." Since 1996, quite literally tens of millions of dollars have been spent on the gay marriage battle front by the LGBTQ community. At the same time, we saw a drastic decline in giving to any and all other fronts of the LGBTQ agenda except Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal.
Then, as now, I said that this massive diversion of resources was having a killer impact on people living with HIV, undocumented queer immigrants, anti-war efforts, poverty and class issues in the queer community, and a whole host of other more pressing and more life endangering issues than marriage.
Later, Pedro Julio told me that Evan Wolfson had gone to him and told him that, "your boyfriend better fall in line and get on the marriage bandwagon."
Excuse the FUCK out of me? I am now collegial with Evan, but that right there at that time cemented my opposition to the marriage movement. You don't tell me anything let alone what to think and feel politically. No m'am.
From that day to this, my feelings related to the massive resources diverted to marriage and fighting amendments and fighting to get the legal right to marry while not fighting for working class and poor queer and trans people of color and the issues that MOST impact our lives hasn't changed one damn iota.
Let's be clear. I am not opposed to gay marriage. I support the right of all folks to enter into the benefit laden institution of marriage in the way that best suits and represents their lives and life structures. It's the resource issue that drives me bonkers. I myself fully anticipate, one day, being married. Let's see who has the bad luck to shack up with me ;-).
Despite my political feelings related to the gay marriage movement, I have to say that yesterday I watched two friends openly declare their love for each other and have that love sanctioned by the state of New York. Don't get me started on the role of civil government in marriage, but nonetheless I was very happy that Yuri and Stephen could share a brilliant day with friend and family and have their relationship stand on equal footing with straight folks in New York.
It is an interesting and contradictory place to sit. I have deep gratitude to all those that made gay marriage possible in New York, yet I am livid over the resourcing they receive and continue to receive while QEJ, the organization where I am co-executive director, and an organization that has done more for working class, poor and adult homeless queers than any marriage organization has ever done for anyone, struggles to make ends meet. (You can help us with that by making a tax deductible donation to QEJ at www.q4ej.org).
I am happy that President Obama and the NAACP have come out in favor of gay marriage, now come out in favor of jobs and job protection for trans and gender non conforming individuals. Come out to end homelessness for everyone and LGBTQ folks in particular. Come out for HIV/AIDS, the pandemic is so not over, but since it now impacts people of color and women in a way that it didn't, it is less important in the eyes of power. Or as a friend once said, once rich white men got their anti-retrovirals, they and their money left HIV. Come out end injustice in its deep and ugly and insidious forms. And put your money behind all of these excursions out of the closet.
It's time to get Beyond Marriage as a movement. If we are truly about justice, then we will center those most impacted and most marginalized first. And I can guarantee you that a homeless black lesbian mother would give you a prioritized list of needs and the right to marry wouldn't be one of them.
Marriage should be the right of all consenting adults, but let's keep the resources in line with the impacts and needs. Let's celebrate love and the victory of love but let's also remember and center the needs of those that are often voiceless and penniless and thus unable to articulate what really matters to them and their lives. Before you can marry, you need a house, a job, healthcare, safety, and dignity. Let's start there...the rest will follow and actually mean so much more. Justice first, human needs first, survival first.