With the DOMA and Prop 8 rulings, I’ve been hearing a lot about how “we’ve made it!” and what a monumental step this is. While I hear that and understand the sentiment – yes, this is a step (quite incremental, but yes, a step); it reminds me of the press when President Obama was first elected and many declared racism dead (the New York Times ran an article titled: Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls)
Yes, marriage is important for a lot of people. It’s an institution in our society and it provides over 1,000 rights, benefits and protections. I’m not 100% sure that marriage is the “right” or “best” fight as ultimately it buys into a structure which was not ever intended for queer people. I suppose that is another post. For now I’d like to focus on what’s missing when we only focus on marriage – I came up with four main areas, violence, media portrayal, racism and economic justice.
Violence against queer and specifically trans* people receives very little media coverage. Trans* folks face a disproportion amount of violence and hate on a daily basis this violence is amplified if the person has additional marginalized identities (class, race, etc). Believe it or not, the numbers have only increased in recent years. And these crimes are not only happening in southern, less traditionally LGBT friendly places but in places like New York City as well.
- Media portrayal
The media tropes around who queer people are, what they do and act like continue to be upper-class white gay men (a la Modern Family). These portrayals are not only not realistic but further push queer people of color, folks who don’t fit in gender binaries and non-picturesque queers to the margins. Imagine growing up in a world where you never see anyone like you in your community or on TV. Broadening what queers “look like” in public can only be beneficial.
The LGBT movement (the machine) has a racism problem. This is nothing new however recently there’s been exclusion of undocumented queer folks from the national conversation, and new reports published about just how much differently queer folks of color experience violence and poverty. All while ignored by the “mainstream” queer advocacy orgs. We’ll never be truly liberated until we recognize that these injustices are connected and join together in the fight.
- Economic Justice
Employment discrimination, lack of health insurance and homelessness lead LGBT folks to be significantly more likely than straight folks to live below the poverty line. Again, these rates only increase with additional marginalized identities (race, gender, etc). Couple that with the knowledge that about 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT and close to 70% of those were kicked out of their homes after coming out – and you can see there’s significant economic injustice happening. It isn’t just income inequality, it’s structural.
So, sure, maybe some de jure measures of structural inequality, like marriage, are slowly changing but the de facto measures? Those are still so present in the daily lives of queer people. Marriage is incremental change but what we need is broad sweeping radical change. If we view all oppression as connected then we will not reach liberation until we are able to come together and create meaningful social change.
I can only view the queer community from my own lens — what have I missed? What are other areas which are missed in only focusing on marriage?