Gay Marriage Has Nothing To Do With Love: Anti-Assimilation and a Radical Vision of Queer Revolution

This piece was a guest submission written by Matt Massaia. Matt is a New York-based poet, artist and activist who writes about queer identity, long-form poetry, cultural hegemony, and the liminal nature of sexuality in Dionysian ritual.

After both the legalization of same-sex marriage in my state of New York in 2011 and the repeal of DOMA in 2013, friends have categorically asked if I’d ever get married. My answer remains: “I love weddings and I hate marriage.” I think public declarations of love are awesome. I also believe that the marriage equality movement has nothing to do with love. One self-labeled “ally” found this disturbing, recently remarking to me: “But we’ve been fighting so hard for marriage equality and now you can get married! There are so many benefits to marriage!” And that’s true. Married couples receive that the myriad partnered, dating, and single among us do not. To name a few: the ability to hop on your partner’s healthcare plan, more comprehensive end of life planning, filing joint income tax returns, an easier route for non-citizen spouses to traverse the byzantine immigration process. Who wouldn’t want all of that?

I’m not going to spend much time on “the benefits of marriage equality,” as many other people have written on that and I personally find it redundant to explain them all again. What I do want to address is why we’re fighting for marriage as “the way” to expand access to these benefits to a few more people. What I do want to talk about is inclusion, about our queer identities, and how the fight for marriage is a half-assed attempt at what could very well be a political and sexual revolution.

Why is it that a large part of our community thinks that marriage is going to fix all of our problems? That if we’re able to get married legally and have our marriages recognized everywhere, suddenly, all of our issues will go away. The Supreme Court of the United States is in the process of deliberating Obergefell v Hodges, the latest landmark federal suit in a long slew of cases assessing the inclusion of gays and lesbians in civil marriage. Always the focus is on this idea of “inclusion,” this we-are-just-like-you. The assimilation of queer people into the heteropatriarchal institutions of marriage and military is not what I’d consider a success.

We should be questioning why married couples get these benefits and why they aren’t accessible to all people instead.

Civil marriage is a coercive state mechanism for policing your family structure and sexuality. The movement for marriage equality ignores our right to self-determine what our families can be. Rather, it extends the bourgeois nuclear model which fails time and time again. It excludes those of us who are polyamorous. Civil marriage is state-backed monogamy. If the Supreme Court rules that all states must recognize same-sex marriages, what victory has the queer community won with thousands of homeless queer youth, with people of color subjected to murder and violence from the same institution that recognizes their marriage, with hundreds of thousands of undocumented queers struggling to survive, with the transgender community fighting for their lives and access to healthcare.

All people should be entitled to healthcare, regardless of their marital status and their partner’s insurance plan. All people, regardless of their marital status, should be able to move between countries without having to worry about laws that make them unable to legally work or reside where they want.

Inclusion is not liberation. Assimilation is not liberation. Why is it that our goal is assimilation into the hetero-patriarchal institution of marriage? The marriage equality movement has attempts to depoliticize the inherently political nature of living as a queer individual into a discussion centered more often than not on whether or not it is “right” to be queer. We’ve wasted so much time arguing with people about the morality of our identities that we haven’t been able to take a step back and assess why and if we want to get married in the first place. We are unable to engage in the discourse on whether or not marriage is the battle we should be arming ourselves for because we are too engaged in the cultural litmus test of affirming that, yes, it’s okay for two men to want to sleep with each other. Our celebrities—our Macklemores and Lady Gagas—profit off exploiting pro-marriage positions. Young queer people are drawn to this because it gives them an illusory sense of political agency. This rhetoric of “same love” encourages queer assimilation into state-sponsored monogamy.

Is marriage equality the battle that we should be fighting while there are white gay men, young and old alike, demonizing uprisings in response to police brutality happening in Baltimore (not 50 miles away from Antonin Scalia’s saggy rear) who have seemingly forgotten their own history—that the first Gay Pride was a riot? That the Gay Liberation Front, named to resonate with anti-imperialist movements in Vietnam and Algeria, worked in solidarity with the Black Panthers and working class people around the world? That demands for our dignity as queer people, our right to be both erotic and romantic, was intimately bound to anti-capitalist struggles for economic justice and racial justice?

When the Supreme Court heard the case of United States vs. Windsor, they entertained the interests of a handful of affluent gay people. Edith Windsor’s case was heard because she didn’t want to pay nearly $400,000 in estate taxes when her partner died—a sum of money that most of us will never see. The marriage equality movement benefits the few wealthy (mostly white and male) gays by allowing them a capitalist avenue to for inclusion.  During the AIDS crisis, queer people wanted to get married because marriage would have allowed us see out partners on their deathbeds. Why is it that we didn’t demand to have our families respected without being under the auspices of government-backed monogamy? Why do the dying not have the right to their own last wishes, regardless of the nature of their family?

We must realize that fighting the battle for gay marriage is neither radical nor progressive. It is an assimilationist and ultimately conservative fight to want to be included in an institution that privileges those who enter into state-sanctioned monogamous relationships. My vision of a true queer liberation movement does not include us having to register our relationships with the state in order to ensure our access to citizenship and healthcare. Why are we not fighting for our right to self-determine what our families are? We often run into the slippery-slope conservative talking-head question “If two women want to get married, then who’s to say three women won’t be able to get married?” To this I say, go right ahead.

We’re too occupied with comforting paranoid straight people that their marriage won’t be affected should we choose to marry that we don’t seem to understand that marriage is a political institution. We live in a culture where marriage between straight, cisgender people has no apparent political consequences. We need to understand that there are political consequences to our all of our identities, that our cultural has normalized certain decisions that are otherwise political. What do I mean by normalized? I mean depoliticized. Should our goal really be to depoliticize the way we organize our lives, the way we choose to love who we love? The way we structure our lives carries inherently political consequences. Pretending that we can exist in any arrangement that doesn’t have ramifications outside of ourselves is a disservice to our communities. Our culture emphasizes that it is only a political decision when it deviates from “the norm.” The idea of a mother, a father, two kids, a dog, and a house in the suburbs appears to be an apolitical family arrangement, especially when compared to queer relationships, which are viewed as part of political conversation. There is nothing less political about taking part in this lifestyle as compared to any other. If I walk down the street with my boyfriend and I hold his hand or if I kiss him in public, we are—whether we like it or not—making a political statement. To not acknowledge the power of such statements, to pocket ourselves into little bubbles that desire inclusion over revolution, is to ignore the true potential of our political agency.

Marriage makes gay people more palatable for straight people. If we get married and enter into state-sponsored monogamy, we’re just like them. We’re safe. We’re not scary, rainbow-splattered faggots roaming the streets rabid from orgy to orgy. We’re not demanding economic justice. And we don’t treat it like that. Where is the desire for massive social overhaul? We’re eating marriage equality like we’re dogs eating scraps off of the floor. We’re being placated and I’m sick that this is the direction our discourse turned. Gays and lesbians bartered this arrangement by leaving out in the cold the rest of our community, the trans community, queers of color, the undocumented, and others who won’t benefit from a capitalist system of state monogamy.

What kind of justice is the marriage equality movement pushing for if it only wants to let us be just like everyone else, robbing us of who we are? A truly revolutionary queer movement must not be one in which gays rush off to get married with South African blood diamond rings on their fingers. We must demand economic justice. We must fight for freedom of mobility and work for all people regardless of citizenship or gender identity. We must demand true universal healthcare, not an insurance marketplace. We have a right to be erotic. We have a right to love who we want and a right to enter into sexual/romantic relationships with people who want the same. The struggle for asserting our queer identities must be a struggle that asserts our desire to not have wars to fight in, not to be just be included in the military. We must protest imperialism. We must combat misogyny, transphobia, and racism while amplifying the voices those whose very existence is oftentimes an act of rebellion. We have the potential to create a powerful revolution. How can we think about marriage at a time like this?

~ by Randi Saunders on May 4, 2015.

2 Responses to “Gay Marriage Has Nothing To Do With Love: Anti-Assimilation and a Radical Vision of Queer Revolution”

  1. […] moving away from a gender-discriminatory policy.  Not deliriously happy, mind you.  I feel some kinda way about the political energy and focus poured into marriage equality.  But I do have a sentimental […]

  2. […] 8. Gay Marriage Has Nothing To Do With Love: Anti-Assimilation and a Radical Vision of Queer Revolutio… […]

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