So, every time somebody finds out that I’m queer, or that I’m part of the LGBTA on campus, or that I identify as some variant of queer, I get this question: “What do you think of gay marriage?”
I was enjoying dinner with some friends when the same-sex marriage act was passed in New York over the summer. The table erupted into cheers when the news came in, and I got the sense that I was supposed to be cheering, too.
The problem is that I don’t care about marriage. My passion for it was fervent in my earlier days of self-actualized queerness, but the more time I have spent out of the closet and in my community, the less I find myself caring. In fact, my feelings on the topic have shifted from ambivalence to annoyance. You’d be annoyed too if every day you were asked your opinion on a topic that continually diminishes in importance to you.
It’s not marriage’s fault that it’s become the benchmark of mainstream gay acceptance. It’s just that somewhere along the line, there was an unseen decision made that marriage was the thing we wanted most. We want to get dressed up in white and walk down the aisle, surrounded by our friends and family so we can say our vows, cut the cake and then get our guests boozed up on the dance floor. We want that. It’s just that somewhere along the line, it was decided that as long as everyone could do that, the fight for equality was over.
It’s because marriage is nice. It’s idyllic—it’s the picture on the final page of a story with the words, “And they lived happily ever after,” written under it in script. The problem is that marriage isn’t the end of the story by a long shot.
There’s an overabundance of homeless LGBT-identified kids out on the streets; they make up 40% of homeless youth. The centers that help them are underfunded and their numbers are small. Gay marriage won’t fix that.
It’s still perfectly legal to fire a trans person because of their gender identity. Gay marriage won’t fix that.
We’ve got that phenomenon called “corrective rape,” too. It deserves its own column. It certainly won’t be fixed by marriage.
These are only a few problems that LGBT people face—there are others. I don’t blame you if you haven’t heard of them; it’s because everybody is talking about marriage. If some other problem comes up in the papers, it’s usually related to marriage. It’s become a behemoth, eclipsing everything else we’re fighting for.
Did you hear much from the Human Rights Campaign about GENDA earlier this year? GENDA stands for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, and it passed through the New York Assembly before being quietly shot down in the Senate. It would have made it illegal for a person to be fired based on their gender identity. How many people did you see standing on street corners, telling you to call your senator to pass this bill? How much coverage did it get from the mainstream media?
I recently spoke to a colleague who argued that gay marriage was a good thing, because it would further acceptance of the LGBT community. But which parts of the LGBT community? I don’t see transgender characters on TV shows the way I see cisgender people. I don’t see any widespread outrage over the fact that children are being thrown onto the street by uncaring parents. When we privilege one right over every other, are we really fighting for equality?
It is exhausting, trying to tell this to people over and over again. They don’t understand why I and so many others can’t be satisfied with what the heteronormative majority sees fit to give us. It’s because we shouldn’t be fighting for these rights in the first place. We should have a right to a home, a fair shot at a job, to use the bathroom without harassment.
Until everybody understands that marriage will not fix everything, we continue to push forward. I only hope that sooner or later, we’ll get more help with it.