Good reason to be wary of marriage

May 28, 2008

WHILE I agree with the overarching analysis of Sherry Wolf's article, "Guess who opposes gay marriage?", that "the 1,000-plus rights at stake in marriage laws and the ideological blow to sexually repressive ideas and laws are very real to most [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (and queer)] LGBT[Q] people" makes the struggle for gay marriage rights absolutely necessary--both because it is just and because it is a part of the larger oppressive capitalist system--I think that it is simultaneously important to respect people's wariness around the notion of marriage.

(Note that I added "queer," because I think that it is incredibly important to extend solidarity to those who identify outside of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, but who are still greatly affected by the false and oppressive construction of gender and sexuality in our society).

The article outlines how the opinion of "LGBT folks vacillates between euphoria and a wistful sense of loss from 'assimilation' into the 'straight culture.'" The use of indirect quotes in this article invalidates the voice of a whole layer of people who, understandably, don't trust the U.S. legislative system to acknowledge their specific oppression in an acceptable fashion.

Capitalism necessitates a construction of gender and sexuality norms for a broad range of reasons, including a constant reproduction of the labor force and mechanisms that oppose solidarity between oppressed groups. This does not mean, however, that the issue is that cut and dry.

By this, I mean that power relations in our society make it necessary for the construction of these norms, which create a real lived experience for people that confuses the issue at hand. The concern over assimilation into straight culture is understandable because it has been created in a way that denies a whole layer of society access to certain rights, creating a sense of alienation.

There are very seldom representations of gender/sexuality variance in mainstream media, and when there are, they are often demonizing and disempowering. I would like to point to the recent media coverage of Thomas Beatie's pregnancy, who is frequently referred to as the "pregnant man." The media's use of quotes calls Beatie's very identity into question. This denial of his identity is absolutely representative of the all-too-common creation of the "other" in our society.

Any gender or sexual variance that falls outside of the heterosexual norm is cast as alien to "everyday people." This creates a situation where people's personal identities are constructed in opposition to societal norms (read: straight culture), making LGBTQ concerns about assimilation valid, as this means a further sacrificing of identities that are already delegitimized.

Furthermore, it is understandable that anyone who identifies in a way that falls outside of the norm could, legitimately, have an inherent mistrust for the structures in a society that serve to systematically disparage. This absolutely includes the institution of marriage.

Although (recognizing my exclusion of the discussion about ties between church and state) I do think that if marriage is going to exist at all, it should be a right that extends to all people, it is also absolutely crucial to recognize people's mistrust of institutions used in the process of the construction of the "other" and people's legitimate concerns around trusting that system.
Graham Shaw, Chicago

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