With all the rose-colored musings on the wonders of marriage that have arrived with our newly acquired, still limited marriage rights, you’d think that all the problems of the LGBT community had just been solved with one stroke of a Supreme Court Fairy’s pen. But this flurry of excitement, while contagious, obscures the fact that the institution of marriage is woefully inadequate as a panacea to remedy even the challenges of our personal lives, not to mention our political ones.
I remember, in the seventies, being totally perplexed when the boyfriend of politician Harvey Milk committed suicide. Someone who was part of a couple offing themselves? How could that be possible? What does this mean? In my own fantasies the idea of finding a girlfriend would put all my existential angst to rest.
Marriage is part of a canned, lobotomized prescription for” happiness,” and in reality not much more than a massive advertising campaign. Americans tend to worship the philosophy of “rugged individualism.” Within this doctrine, all formulas for a productive life begin and end with you and yours. The acquisition of wealth is but another of these personal solutions. Reproduction is fundamental as well. Babies are just a commodity created by the family.
In this world view, poor, minority, female, queer babies all have their roles to play whether it is as a target for police, cashier for a convenience store, CEO for an internet giant, or doctor for the upper crust. Whatever their future role, babies keep their parents in line financially and help disseminate this “capitalist mystique.”
At my old librarian job, access to system-wide emails was strictly limited. Yet, we all received announcements of a co-workers marriage or birth of a child. Never did we get information about an employee who’d written and produced a play, an art gallery opening featuring someone’s work or a mountain successfully climbed. In fact, those accomplishments were seen as threatening, taking away from our “real” work in the service hierarchy of the library.
Why are we encouraged to retreat into a universe of marriage, babies and private life? The answer seems obvious. Together, questioning, participating, exploring greater community issues is too threatening to the powers that be. We might grow to see and understand things that would make the crumbs they throw us harder to accept, one that could jeopardize their dominance and hegemony.
It is absolutely necessary that queers have the civil right to marry, to adopt children, to join the military and share every single right that heterosexuals possess. But to elevate marriage to the highest, most noble fulfilling goal is to perpetrate a lie. Each of us is a member of a larger community, beyond the nuclear family and its rigid boundaries. We must make political sense of our shared circumstances and rise and fall together