Queer Victories: “Normal” is a weapon of mass destruction

Cross-posted at Not Your Average Feminist

As I’m sure you know, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal was voted through the Senate, and is currently on its way to the President’s desk. My facebook and twitter live feeds are full of victory cheers, but I have to be honest when I say that I’m a little torn.

The two most salient issues I’ve seen get a lot of attention in terms of queer politics are DADT and equal marriage. The loudest/most televised voices in this disjointed movement are fighting for my community to join the military and have institutionally recognized marriage. And a lot of those marginalized queer folks, myself included at one point or another, have come to believe that this is our movement should be fighting for. Since when was it a good thing to go to war? And maybe my opinion isn’t a popular one, but I could really care less about the word “marriage” or all the oppressive history that comes with it. Make marriage what it should be, a secular contract between consenting adults that share a household and deserve the same economic and social benefits as everyone else.
Notice I didn’t say two adults, or people in some type of romantic relationship. If multiple people want to enter a consented polyamorous relationship, who are we to put a value judgement on that? Who are we to say that two sisters living together who never got married, or perhaps are widowed, should have to pay more taxes because they aren’t technically a joint household? I get that to a lot of people, the word “marriage” is a comforting and familiar concept that if granted, would help us feel “normal.” SCREW NORMAL! Who gets to define what normal is? I love being queer, and I’m not nor do I want to be just like everyone else. If anything, we should be helping other folks realize that there are many choices in this world, and that they don’t have to follow all the scripts out there if they don’t want to.  Queer used to be RADICAL, and in many spaces it still is. But these spaces aren’t the ones that have media darlings. We have become too reliant on politicians to make a change. The shit that really matters can only be changed if EVERYONE feels the responsibility to do so.
What do I really care about in terms of queer issues: bullying, international death penalties, the hundreds of trans people that are murdered yearly, HIV/AIDS research medication & support, access to decent healthcare, the estimation that 40% of homeless youth are queer identified, sexual liberation, visibility, education, affordable housing, support services, the right to equal employment without discrimination, sexual violence in prisons, prison abolition, police brutality, racism, access, gentrification, suicide, drug addiction, & being treated like a person in my day-to-day interactions. Where is the bill for that?
If we keep spending all of our time trying to be what society tells us is “normal,” we’ll completely miss out at being ourselves.
But maybe it’s just me…What do you care about?
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2 Comments

  1. Posted December 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think there’s any way to not have queer cease to become as radical and subversive as it once was, since the other side of it is, all too often, isolation and self-loathing. Queer was radical to the people fortunate enough to be openly out. It might not be as self-satisfyingly transgressive now, but the benefits of eradicating the closet door are worth the loss.

  2. Posted December 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    The end to DADT is a specific case of dealing with queer discrimination in the workplace. It is limited to dealing with the military in conjunction with same-sex attraction, but it can pave the road for sexual orientation anti-discrimination for other jobs. The idea of the military going to war is not appealing, but it is (at least at times) a defensible action — not that war is ever good, but it can potentially be less bad than not going to war. I wouldn’t begrudge the military’s existence as much as how the US military is utilized — which needs to be considered alongside other foreign policy actions (I doubt 9/11 — the justification for the war in Afghanistan — would have happened if we didn’t provide arms to al-Qaeda and support a dictatorship in Saudi Arabia).

    Regarding marriage and unions, it probably makes sense to reclassify the legal contract of marriage as simply being a legal union. There is no practical reason to exclude non-romantic twosomes from joining together to seek out the same legal benefits allocated to romantic couples. Even if all romantically-tied adults were able to get the “marriage” title that they want, it would unnecessarily complicate things to have unions and marriages floating around — it’s simpler to just have one legal classification.

    I would provide these sort of limitations on unions:

    1) They still need to be limited to adults to help ensure the people involved have the proper rights and authority in the relationship.

    2) Unions of more than two adults are possible, but they necessitate either a weaker or a customized contract. In a two-person union, if person A becomes unable to make certain decisions, person B is allowed the ability to make some of them in person A’s place. In a multi-person union, you may not get persons B and C (and D and E…) to agree on what should be done for person A, so some limitations or extra work may be required.

    3) While there are some legal benefits with regard to designating someone in the union to have authority regarding someone else and their property, there really should not be financial benefits tied to a legal union. Just as some people can achieve a “marriage bonus” by marrying due to their incomes being lopsided (allowing them to pay less collectively), there are others who take a “marriage penalty” when both partners make about the same income (compelling them to pay more collectively). I don’t know how practical it is to accomplish this goal with a progressive tax scheme, but we really need to look for a system that is neutral towards one’s household status, so people aren’t feeling they derive a financial benefit/penalty from union/marriage.

    3a) This issue of fairness also extends to other topics, such as Social Security and health coverage. The consequences are far-reaching, and I can’t really do them justice right now, but you can probably tell these topics bleed into a few of your listed issues.

    The sort of issues you listed possess a certain gravity to them — and in defense of the US government, racism has been addressed extensively, even if it is not to your satisfaction. A lot of these issues have been addressed at the state and local level, and it may be that they are being worked on this way because it is possible to work on them in that way and because they are generally contained within the respective states/locales. Anti-discrimination laws in a state pretty much end when a person travels to a different state, but a same-sex couple crossing state lines has a more complicated legal status (and DoMA permits states to ignore it), and state laws cannot apply to the US military. It may be partly due to these reasons a lot of your issues have not had a national reckoning yet.

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