Thursday, November 13, 2008

MFA not MRS.

I've been on my high horse this afternoon, leaving long comments on various blogs. I had a grueling week of exams which are all done now and went fairly well, so I feel tremendously relieved tonight and still full of useless nervous energy. When J gets home from yoga, I think we'll smoke some weed and watch The Bicycle Thief which came from Netflix today.

I'm so tired of studying!

I was telling my sister in an email yesterday that I'm kind of over this undergrad thing. I'll have to summon some energy from god-knows-where to push through the final semester and a summer I have left before I get my Bachelor's degree. I'm sure this feeling is brought about this fall by the process of applying for grad school, which reminds me what this whole expedition was about in the first place and I can't wait to get into filmmaking! I do love reading and learning etc., but memorizing pages and pages of arcane science facts is getting a tad tedious. Now except for finals, I'm done with exams. I have two papers to write. Writing papers stresses me out a bit too, but it's a very different stress than exam stress. It's a type of stress I enjoy because I feel like something is actually being accomplished. Whereas, 80% of what I memorized for the Biology exam I took this morning, I have already forgotten.

Anyway, back to my high horse. Adding to the general feeling of irritation the last week has been all the complaining about how we shouldn't really be too happy about Obama's election because after all California voted to take marriage rights away from homosexuals. I'm not totally insensitive to the fact that this is in some way a serious civil rights defeat. But as you know, I'm not a fan of how the marriage fight now dominates the gay and lesbian rights movement. There was a good post on The New Gay, one of the blogs I read, which provoked me to be maybe a little more articulate than I usually am about this issue, so I thought I'd paste my comment here for you. But I recommend reading the post and the comments there to get a good idea of how this issue flies lately in "the community."

Here's my comment:
Thanks for this post. I hope it provokes some good discussion. I feel like, when people start talking about gay marriage there's this assumption that of course it's what we all want or should want, and I'm always the one in the room going, "Um..."

Some time in the 90's the gay and lesbian movement took a really sharp right turn. First we were fighting for a bigger definition of family, then suddenly we were fighting to make it as narrow as possible. I think the reason marriage captured the imagination of the gay civil rights movement is that it touches on a very basic human insecurity, a fear of being alone. A fear which is exacerbated by growing up homosexual, especially for older generations whose only queer role models were reststop trolls. (I use that expression with the utmost affection!) We all want to believe in the myth of Mr. Right or Ms. Right, Prince Charming, we all want to flip through bridal magazines and dream about a fairy tale life full of sweet love, and oh my god how will I ever get to wear a white dress and marry the man of my dreams if it's illegal!

I think it would be more fair, more progressive (and, just as importantly, more palatable to the mainstream) to be fighting for the rights of ALL families, unmarried heterosexual partners, homosexual partners, and all the varieties of families that aren't structured around a sexual relationship (elderly sisters who share a home, a disabled person and his or her caretaker, friends who live together communally long-term, single parents with kids ...). All these relationships should have the benefits and societal support that civil marriage has now.

I say it all the time to my friends (who usually just roll their eyes at me) and I'll say it again. Marriage is a fundamentally conservative institution. It is conservative people who promote it (Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage, etc.) in order to create a world in THEIR image. But as an institution, it's been broken for a long time. It doesn't even work for straight couples. Why do you want it?


Colleen said...

In the fight to have marriage equality, rights for other forms of families ARE fought for: domestic partner benefits, including those for relatives who share a home, are part of those wins. How can you ignore that? This is still a fight to expand what the "traditional" view of family is -- and a fight for those who ARE raising children, or caring for someone who isn't well, for examples, to be able to protect their family as easily as possible under the law (as any married couple can do). Note that the California effort never said anything about doing away with civil unions or domestic partnerships, but wanted to expand the options to include the same option as heterosexual couples have if they wish -- marriage.

What's interesting is that you seems to be projecting your own dogma onto those who fight for marriage equality. You don't feel the need to pursue marriage, so no one else should be, either, you say. Yet, what those who seek marriage equality are doing is, in fact, looking for people to have options! The full range of options that any heterosexual pair has...domestic or civil partnership, "just living together", marriage, what-have-you. They are not seeking to remake what your options are, but instead to broaden them for everyone who wants to have them.

It is very easy to want to continue to play the counterculture punk and sneer at those who are still fighting to expand your rights. They fight and win more options for you, but you can stand back, sneer at them, and do nothing...yet you benefit. You've fought upstream all your life -- and here, people are clearing some of the way to offer you options on how and with whom you swim...and heaven help them.

Reminds me of a quote attributed to Mark Twain:

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. That is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

This is not to say, by any means, that the movement is perfect...but it truly looks as though you're more interested in containing them than they are you.

Steven said...

I think you have a very limited understanding of the legal issues involved. I'm not a lawyer, but I can recommend a great book written by a lawyer about this issue, called Beyond (Gay and Straight) Marriage.

Most of what you say I can't make sense of (in fact it gets a little surreal by the time Mark Twain shows up), but I will respond to your first sentence: How so? By fighting for marriage, how are you fighting for other types of families? I don't understand how that works.

Of course civil same-sex marriage is about limiting my options -- it limits my options to just ONE, if I want my family to be recognized and supported by the government. If I am not married (regardless of whether I want to be married or not), my family doesn't exist in the eyes of my government.

Colleen said...

Respond more fully - piece by piece - and tell us what you need to make sense of. If you can read, you can respond. What are the legal issues involved?

Simple dismissal is easy, and I suppose you can do that...just like you do with people who are fighting for you (and everyone else) to have options.

The Mark Twain quote is quite applicable. Here you have people who are trying to do good for you, and all you do is play backbiter and whine. Or, you could roll up your sleeves, get involved, and tell people what you want and fight for that within the movement that's currently happening.

But that would require effort. Much like the whole whinefest about applying for jobs earlier in the year -- it's just so much easier to bitch than to work.

Steven said...

Okay, now I remember why your name is familiar. I love to discuss these issues, but if you can't be nice, I'll delete your comments. This is my house. If you come in here and insult me, I'll ask you to leave.

My main point is that I don't agree with the people who are pushing for same-sex marriage. I don't agree that they are fighting for something that is of benefit to sexual minorities in general, let alone to me personally, so why would I want to roll up my sleeves, as you say? I can't have a meaningful argument with you if you don't, or if you refuse to, understand that. And you didn't answer my question: How is it that same-sex marriage will broaden the recognition of other types of family arrangements?

You haven't responded to anything I've said, except that I'm not in favor of same-sex civil marriage. You take that one fact and tell me all kinds of reasons why that makes me an asshole, but you haven't responded to any of the points I've made to support my argument.

Let's talk about it, if you really want to. Otherwise, move along.