Some hopes for marriage equality

I’ve already shared some of my general thoughts on the marriage equality movement, but now with the overturning of Prop. 8 and the possibility of my home state of California allowing gay marriage, I find myself thinking about what I hope for the future of marriage.

My feelings about the news were conflicted. On one hand, I’m ecstatic that the court chose the side of equality, taking steps to ensure that same sex couples who hope to commit to each other in marriage can enjoy the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples who do the same. I’m not even going to bother trying to put in my own words what Judge Walker so eloquently explained about how gay couples who deserve to marry deserve equal rights — to me it’s just common sense.

On the other hand, I have to stop to wonder, what are we fighting for? The right to be miserable in marriage, and to join the ranks of the frequently divorced? Our little piece of a historically oppressive institution? The chance to show people from outside of our communities that we’re “just like them”? It’s not as if this changes anything for relationships between LGBT people. Queer folks have been loving each other and committing to one another for centuries, and it’s not as if we need the validation of traditional marriage to make us feel like we have the right to love each other.

Unless it does change something. Maybe if I try not to be so cynical I can hope that, rather than queer folks adjusting their lives and perspectives to support traditional marriage, the result of such acts as overturning Proposition 8 will be the queering of marriage.

Some hopes for the future of marriage:

  • Perhaps the obvious: more acceptance of queer folks and their families. Moving past outdated attitudes and religious interpretations that characterize people in same-sex partnerships as “living in sin” and being incapable of sustaining stable, loving relationships or raising healthy children. Hopefully we can reach a day when nobody would think twice when a bride-to-be announces her engagement to a fellow bride.
  • A shift in our understanding of gender and gender roles. In his ruling, Judge Walker pointed out that it’s not a change in marriage that allows for same-sex couples to marry but a change in an understanding of gender. Perhaps if society no longer expects for marriage to only occur between a man and a woman, then we will no longer adhere to traditional ideas about the role of the husband and the wife in a partnership. With many traditions left over from the days when marriage made a woman the property of her husband, we can only benefit from moving on from our ideas of binary gender and male and female roles.
  • A recognition of the role of marriage in race and immigration movements. Unjust immigration policies have torn apart queer partners and their families, and perhaps working to dismantle these policies on a federal level can lead to much-needed solidarity between racial equality movements, immigration movements, gender equality groups and queer rights groups, and others who realize how these issues affect us on all levels.
  • Related to the above point, increased dialogue and community building among communities of color and communities of faith. Hopefully, an elimination of language and attitudes that frame being a person of color or a person of faith as separate from being a queer person. Recognition that there are some people whose identities intersect these areas, and that there is room in these communities for acceptance of queer folks.
  • I also hope that this whole struggle for marriage rights will shed light on the imperfection of the institution of marriage. I hope we can see that marriage isn’t for everyone and it shouldn’t be imposed on everyone, to realize that many of the rights and benefits tied to marriage should be available to everyone, even if they don’t choose to express their love in the form of a traditional marriage.

Well, I could go on for days about how I’d like to see marriage change, but this is a start. Hopefully, the marriage equality movement won’t stop at winning the rights to marry, but will continue to address the social issues related to the struggle and create a picture that truly reflects equality for all people.

Photo from the Huffington Post slideshow

Published in: on August 7, 2010 at 12:49 PM  Leave a Comment  
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The road of rejection

Let me begin by recognizing the historic ruling against California’s Proposition 8. A judge overturned the ban against same-sex marriage, and though we’ll have to wait through a long appeals process to find out if this actually changes anything, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Now, of course, I feel all this pressure to blog about it, but I’m gonna go ahead and take the pressure off and selfishly blog about myself in the midst of social change. I’m definitely happy about the decision, but for my thoughts about the marriage movement as the central focus of the struggle for LGBT rights and the idea that marriage rights mean “equality for all people,” please click here. I’ll have a response later, when I’ve gathered my conflicted feelings into coherent thoughts.

On to the selfishness:

Continuing what’s becoming a series on how to begin failing as a writer, so you can someday find success (yeah, I’ll let you know if I get around to that “success” part): Earlier this week, I got a rejection letter that came with a personal note. For something I’d written, that is, not some kind of dating rejection or a rejection of my being, or I might be feeling a little more discouraged.

Anyway, what began with a disappointing “We’re sorry that your submission was not accepted…” ended up sort of lifting my spirits by adding that they really enjoyed my story, and they hope I find a home for it somewhere because it just wasn’t the right “fit” for them at this time.

That’s the best I can ask for, right? Well, I suppose the best I could ask for would be to actually be accepted, but the eternal optimist in me (ha) says that the majority of what I submit at first won’t be accepted, so a rejection letter that comes with a personal note is the next best thing. I’m sure they get bombarded with submissions, and I’ve always heard that if someone takes the time out to recognize what they like about your work while they’re rejecting it, that’s a pretty good sign. Perhaps these particular editors write personal notes to everyone, but if you happen to know this, I’d advise against bursting my bubble. I’m gonna go ahead and revel in my rejection.

I’m sure this is just the beginning, and if I work hard I should soon have a pile of rejection letters to welcome the next acceptance one. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high — it doesn’t help that the first piece of fiction I submitted to a magazine was accepted and given an award, but I certainly can’t expect that every time. So I prepare my work for submission while expecting rejection, which might seem like a hopeless way to go about doing things. But I don’t see the wall of rejection as an unbreakable one. I’ll hold on to the little glimmers of hope: Oh hey, they liked my story. Oh hey, they used my name instead of just writing “Dear Reject.” Oh hey, they didn’t advise me to keep my day job. The little things.

And I’ll build my wall of rejection, made of flimsy pieces of paper and not-quite-right fits and comic sans (at least, I believe all rejection letters should be written in comic sans, that way I can giggle a little and not feel so bad about them). I’ll build it knowing how easily it can be knocked down. Knowing that someday, I’ll get a letter saying that the editors enjoyed my work and found it to be a perfect fit. Knowing that no rejection letter, no matter how impersonal or discouraging, could stop me from writing or getting my writing out into the world. This blog itself is a reclamation of personal power over my work, as I put work out there regardless of whether anyone wants to publish it (and find that some people want to read it). Even the act of getting up each morning to write, knowing that most of what I write will never be seen, is an act that declares that my writing means something to me, even if someone else chooses to reject it.

So, even while I’m failing to get my work published, I’m determined to define success in my own terms. And I’m considering myself a damn successful failure.

And now, some fiction to help heal my wounds.

__________________________________________________________________________________

They never called her anything but “the intern.” During the fall reading period, it was her job to brew their tea (three different pots of three different varieties). There were no coffee drinkers. If they had a guest editor who drank coffee, it was her job to get that, too.

It was the end of the reading period, and they’d given her a pile of letters for the rejects (they never called them anything but “the rejects”). Now their job was done, and she was alone in the office, addressing rejection letters to make sure nobody received one that began “Dear Reject,” as that was how they were formatted. She wasn’t supposed to write anything personal, though she knew each of their stories quite well, having familiarized herself with them so that she could understand the context of the comments made when she took notes during their meetings. They couldn’t be bothered to take notes themselves. The rejects weren’t worth removing their hands from their warm teacups.

But before she sealed the first letter, she hesitated. She recognized the name, Rupert Singer, and remembered his story, the one about the boy and his rabbit. Cliché, they’d called it. They hated that it ended with a sunset.

She took a pen and wrote by hand, bright blue ink sticking out like a moving flag against the black and white printed paper.

“Loved the images in this story,” she wrote. “The last one of them hopping into the sunset will stay with me forever.”

She looked at the stack of papers beside her. It would take all night for her to do this for each one. They wouldn’t pay her for that.

But it would be worth it to someone, she told herself as she picked up the next sheet.

Published in: on August 5, 2010 at 11:24 AM  Comments (2)  
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Part 1 of Finding my focus as an activist: It’s not in marriage

In the past, I’ve had trouble finding my focus as a social justice activist. It’s hard when the general feeling is that there is injustice everywhere, and there seem to be a million different ways to get involved.

In moments like these, preparing for this week’s U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, I realize I’m still having a hard time narrowing it down. I could attend any number of workshops on anything from women’s rights to media justice, climate change to disability rights.

But one thing I know, in light of the recent events surrounding marriage equality in California, is that the marriage fight is not where I belong.

I used to think that it was. Frustrated with feeling discrimination on a personal and institutional level, I took the November 2008 passage of California’s Proposition 8, banning same sex marriage, to heart. I wanted to join the fight for marriage rights as an activist, and in May 2009, when the California Supreme Court decided to uphold the ban, I engaged in civil disobedience with 210 others in protest until we were arrested.

I was certainly proud to participate that day among activists, clergy and folks who stopped by and wanted to join the fight for justice. But soon after that event, I began to realize that my involvement in the marriage equality movement was misguided and ill-placed. I had been swallowing a rhetoric that claimed that the achievement of marriage rights would mean equality for all LGBT people, but I have since had a hard time believing that.

I still believe in the right for all people to get married. There are over 1,000 rights and benefits given to people who are married and denied to those whose marriages aren’t legally recognized. Those who choose to get married, and maybe have children, should have the right to do so and enjoy the benefits for themselves and their families regardless of their partner’s gender.

Part of the problem, though, is the assumption that all people will want to get married. Some won’t choose to, and what happens to the queer people whose partners and families don’t reflect what’s socially or legally recognized as marriage? Who don’t fit the mold of a nuclear household with same-sex parents of two children and a golden retriever? Do we have to try to fit into this image in order to gain so-called equality?

Historically, marriage has been an institution that has limited the rights of women and people of color, and some critics of the gay marriage movement have pointed out that its leaders have failed to address this issue. And personally, I felt very uncomfortable in my position as a queer person of color during the scapegoating of the Black community after the passage of Prop 8. With the gay marriage movement all but ignoring communities of color in the No on 8 campaign, and then blaming them for the loss, it’s hard to believe that the leaders of the movement care about the rights or needs of queer people of color. And it doesn’t seem like they’ve gotten any closer to addressing this problem since that election.

Anyway, my point here was supposed to be not just a critique of the marriage rights movement, but also a reminder that there are other needs that we can focus on to achieve health and happiness in queer communities. There are folks suffering from a low sense of self-worth, from a lack of education about how to stay healthy and from dangers to their safety and their lives. Luckily, rather than feeling completely excluded from and lost within LGBT activist circles, I realized I’d simply misidentified my goals. I’m not setting out to change queer communities but to celebrate them as they are and help support them so they can thrive. When we gain the right to marry, I’ll certainly celebrate, but I’ll also know that it’s not the end of our struggle for justice.

I’m glad to attend the Forum with CUAV (Community United Against Violence). I first got involved with CUAV last year, when searching for queer groups that were less marriage-focused. They’ve been around for over thirty years, doing amazing community-based anti-violence work for LGBTQ communities.

My association with CUAV will certainly help me find focus this week, as I attend workshops that explore ways for communities to prevent and heal from violence without relying on the prison industrial complex. I will also bring my perspective as a writer, seeking out discussions of topics like art as social change. I’ll keep in mind my goals of empowering, celebrating and embracing those who shouldn’t have to try to resemble mainstream communities to enjoy the same rights and privileges that they do.

I’m going to try my best to blog from Detroit, but I don’t know for sure if I’ll be able to. Be sure to check back for possible updates! Until next time, faithful readers!

Published in: on June 21, 2010 at 10:05 AM  Comments (4)  
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