There is so much to say on marriage reform. I have tried to write this post over and over again with good references and quotes, but i’m just going to write down how I feel first, and hopefully put a new spin on the discussion. Your comments, as always, are welcome!
Marriage Equality and ‘Gay Rights’
We are currently seeing in the US and across Europe a series of reforms that allow same-sex couples to marry. These campaigns took me by surprise – as a political activist and a queer, I was sure I would have heard about the meetings building for this reform, the demonstrations and direct action. However this reform does not seem to be born from grassroots struggle. It seems to be initiated by a privileged elite within the so called ‘gay community’ – pink pound business leaders, LGB members of parliament, and leaders of top down LGB lobbying groups – largely white, middle-class and male. It’s central focus – access to the institution of marriage – an institution that has historically oppressed LGBTQ people, and in essence is a patriarchal capitalist construction.
This has left many of us radicals very disorientated. Some of us still support the reform, whilst some of us do not – however we still seem to be united over one fact – this reform is not a sufficient representation of the struggle we face in the 21st century. It is narrow – it affects only those who choose to marry, those who can afford it, and those who feel that it will help them ‘fit in’.
The reform has huge media coverage, it is debated in government institutions, it has widespread media coverage across the mainstream media. Yet there is still a space to the left of the reformers that remains relatively unoccupied – a space that could be used as a platform for a more radical LGBTQ liberation agenda.
Marriage Will Not End Queer Oppression
We know the struggle that faces us in the 21st century – we are faced with pressing issues such as poverty and homelessness, access to healthcare and public services, racism, sexism and disability, full legal recognition of trans* people, LGBTQ youth services and sexual education in our schools, to name a few. However we are yet to establish these demands coherently as a grassroots movement for sexual and gender liberation – a movement that quickly needs to be established in order to make sure marriage reform is not the end of the road for us.
There seem to be a large number of LGBTQ people on the left who are angry about the white-washing of sexual and gender liberation, and the pink-washing of government’s austerity measures. The organisations that claim to be fighting on our behalf often only represent a certain type of ‘acceptable’ queer who will marry, have children and run a business. They consistently sell out on a broader agenda that stresses the struggles of all of our diverse communities. The Human Rights Commission in the US is a typical example, shutting down dissent from trans* people raising their voices, and queers who want to see a revolutionary change in society – one that puts LGBTQ people before pink-pound profit. Stonewall, and the Coalition for Equal Marriage both benefit from narrow platforms that draw a dividing line between those who are ‘acceptable’ and those who are not.
We are also living under a government set on a course to devastate working class communities, and implement austerity in order to protect private profits. They say they support ‘gay rights’, yet they are systematically cutting and shutting down public sector services that serve the LGBTQ community – HIV/AIDS provision, the NHS, LGBTQ youth provision, support services and mental health provision. In this economic crisis queers are seeing an unprecedented rise in racism and the scapegoating of immigrants – many of whom seek asylum because of persecution at home due to their sexuality/gender expression. Many of us have been left with a legacy created by the party that governs us – Section 28. As Tory comments and their votes in parliament show, they still wish to stop us or turn back the clock. UKIP are rising in popularity, yet their views on queers represent a short sharp trip back to the middle-ages – they must be stopped.
Israel and its allies are attempting to use LGBTQ people as a weapon against the Palestinian people. They are attempting to sell their apartheid state as a model of LGBTQ equality, whilst they systematically try to destroy a people and their culture. We must not allow the pink-pound businesses to pink-wash the occupation of Palestine – we must stand against queers being used as political capital by warmongers and imperialists!
For A United Liberation Movement
We can have an ongoing debate whether or not we support the marriage equality reform. I support the reform on the basis that it is an opportunity to widen the debate on sexual and gender liberation. I believe we should be asking these so called ‘representatives’ of our communities why they are silent on all of the other issues we face. I think we should use the current media coverage to connect with the public who consider themselves pro-gay, and inform them of the struggles all of us face as LGBTQ people.
However, regardless of our position on this reform, it is now clear that we cannot win these struggles by allowing this debate to go on without our voices being heard. We need to establish networks and organise from the grassroots to provide a coherent alternative to the ‘acceptable’ white, rich men who claim to represent us.
I think it is time to put a radical third position forward. To bring together all LGBTQ forces fighting for liberation and reignite the radical and revolutionary tradition of the gay liberation movement. With organisation, protest and direct action we could put our ideas into practise. Together as a united liberation movement, we can fight for sexual and gender liberation for all!
Off the blogs, and onto the streets!
We’re here, we’re queer, we will not live in fear!