Freedom to Marry Our Pets or What’s Wrong with the Gays Today? A Midsummer Blog in E-epistolary Form
I just walked by some of those kids with binders shucking and jiving for HRC on a NYC sidewalk. “Do you have a moment for gay rights?” “Do you have a minute for gay marriage?” This time I didn’t have the energy to let them know that I, a gay, had serious reservations about HRC’s agenda, especially its emphasis on gay marriage. Of course I, like you, am old school and think marriage rights have hijacked the gays. I still think the goal is to create and sponsor an emotional situation where marriage itself was no longer the model of ideal relations between people. Call me a crank but I think abolishing marriage altogether is a better agenda. This isn’t exactly a pragmatic political agenda but I think gay pragmatism has not gotten us much. Certainly nothing approaching the real political gains that previous in-your-face gay politics have given us.
The inescapable counter-argument of course boils down to marriage rights equaling tax breaks, insurance and other real material advantages for gay couples. My response to that has always been to poke fun at Evan Wolfson’s website “FreedomToMarry.org.” My favorite response to this particular use of the word “freedom” is to mock it in a little dinner party/bar routine where I declare that none of us will ever be free until we are allowed to marry our pets! Freedom to Marry Our Pets! Here I am adopting the right’s argument that gay marriage is a slippery slope to bestiality. I recently tried this bit out at a fancy lesbian dinner party in San Francisco when talking to an acquaintance who is a dyke activist and filmmaker. She really wasn’t having my line and didn’t seem to see the humor or the strange truth to it. I get this response all the time. I ask you Lisa, from my cranky lefty position, what’s wrong with the gays today?
Yours in Struggle,
I remember, back in the day, when the gays and especially the lesbos were asking the state to butt out of our sex lives. We were against state regulation of sexuality and love. Joni Mitchell was singing that she didn’t need no piece of paper from the city hall….. Freedom meant breaking out of social norms and conventions, to connect in new ways. Those were the days. But these young people today, what are they doing Jose? Asking the state to legitimate their utterly conventional couplings? WTF? I shake my head.
You are right about all the benefits that come with marriage, that so many homos would like to have. But gee, why should those benefits be tied to state legitimated monogamy? Why aren’t the young ones on the barricades for universal, single payer national health care, rather than hoping to get private insurance through marriage? Why not march for more open immigration policies rather than hope to bring just their legal spouse into the country? Why not allow everyone to choose their next of kin for medical decision making and all that, regardless of the nature of the relationship? And why enshrine the couple form at the top of the gay agenda, when we used to want to mix things up in the world of possible significant intimacies. So yeah, why not get rid of the churchy sanctified idea of “marriage” all together? FreedomToMarry.org argues that having the homos get married will lead to separation of church and state. Say *what*? If we want to separate church and state, let’s have non conjugal and/or polyamorous next of kin recognition for the hospitals and all (call it, um, Best Buds or Golden Girls status?), and universal social benefits not tied to sex or love or jobs! Wouldn’t that be fun? Why that would be almost just like……social justice!
But it looks like we’re stuck with this stultifying marriage movement for awhile. What to do? How about we lobby for Same Sex Adultery, Bigamy, Gold Digging and Divorce–aka Real Marriage Equality! Or, if we want the state to legitimate our deepest love and intimate relationships, I’m with you on Freedom to Marry Our Pets! Love Makes a Family, Jose! And Scully, Mulder and I are worthy of inclusion in the glorious diversity of our narrowly pursued legal relations. I am who I am, I love who I love. I demand the Freedom to Marry Our Pets, because the slippery slope is a fun ride when you’re bored to death on the narrow “high” ground of conventional normality and conservative policy goals.
Yours in struggle,
Totally. I hear you. I know that friends who we once felt we were squarely aligned with have expressed reservations about our cranky hard line. I was recently on a panel where one friend in the audience, an artist and writer who I deeply respect, closed the panel’s hour and a half Q & A/gripe session (mostly about the normative politics of marriage) by saying we should not make “marriage the straw man for our collective sense of self-righteousness.” He went on to explain that he went to weddings, that he went to his friends’ weddings and that he even read poems at weddings. My panel fatigue meant I was going to let him have the last word but looking back, had I been made of sturdier stuff, I would have quipped that my own personal sense of self-righteousness and those of my dearest allies like you, Lisa, expands far beyond marriage. (It seems like it is hard at this moment to have politics and not open oneself up to the charge of self righteousness.)
But seriously, I know all sorts of people have all sorts of different relationships under the sign of marriage. Some of them are cool, some of them are progressive, some are lame, some are fun, some are boring, some are repulsive, and some are cute. That’s not our issue. It is more nearly the unbearable monolithic focus on marriage as the gay agenda or at least its primary concern. All the broader economic issues you mention around universal health care and immigration seem a lot more urgent to me than marriage. Some of our friends who where there for the nastiness of Prop. 8 in California remind us that we didn’t see how hateful the anti-gay marriage campaign became. Point taken. But I also see that kind of organized mass hate routinely aimed at poor people in this country every day of my life.
But let’s get back to Freedom To Marry Our Pets or the families we really actually super choose. Like you, I find real joy in what I call the companion species good life. Let’s roll with the pro-marriage gays for a minute. If marriage is the way you can be sure that our bonds count in the world then I might as well be married to my princess of a bulldog Dulce. And along the way I would like to marry a whole bunch of my friends and maybe even some objects that I cherish like favorite books or my new pair of age-inappropriate Vans. It would be nice to be able to marry some our own feelings and thoughts that we feel especially attached to. Maybe even marry a very vague yet poignant sense of hope for a future in which all our relations will matter and marriage itself will eventually become irrelevant. Why not? Once we leave Adam and Eve behind it really becomes everything goes and that’s actually a good thing. Right?
Yours in struggle,
Alice and Eve, Adam and Steve–they should all get a room and stay out of the city hall! Unless they are there to lobby for …. Freedom to Marry Our Pets! About material interdependencies, we can be serious. We need the state to offer benefits and recognize relationships (only when needed, as in child care and medical situations). But if we’re out there yammering about wanting the state to recognize “love,” a patently ridiculous and reactionary goal, then let’s be democratic about it. Who and what do we love? With whom do we have the deepest intimacy? For some of my friends, I think it may be reality TV. But for many of those who are dykes, it is definitely the companion species. We must demand the Freedom to Marry them! Petco needs a gift registration system and a special wedding outfit section, next to the leashes and harnesses of course! We want to be part of the industry as well as the legal system! My own wedding will need to be polyamorous as well–I love *both* my cats (even though they don’t especially love each other, so it’s complicated, as they say on facebook). And while we’re on the Slippery Slope, we can go ahead and advocate consensual incestuous and intergenerational marriages too! What *is* the age of consent for a puppy, do you think?
I worry that gay marriage proponents will feel that our campaign demeans theirs. They will want to write in and say so. But we don’t mean to demean the marriage campaign, we mean to ridicule it in order to expunge it, yes? Fat chance we have, but we can vent a bit trying.
Yours in (seemingly endless) struggle,