I’ve been thinking about how there has been a fair amount of talk about how marriage isn’t the be-all end-all for queer people, and that now we can start talking about other queer issues, which is good, but I think it’s missing something. It’s focusing about the gay part, and not the marriage part. We should still be asking questions about whether marriage equality, as it exists in our collective imagination, is the correct way to distribute rights, and if it serves all sorts of families.
There’s this pretty rainbow graphic that’s been going around showing all the rights that people get when they’re married, and I love the fact that I could marry my partner and we would get all that, but it isn’t fair that this is based on nuclear family structures. If we got married my partner could visit me in the hospital, and we could share insurance, and our household would get a tax break. But my best friend is my family too, and I should be able to easily say “this person is my family, this is one of the people I’m building my life with,” but that isn’t a simple thing to do.
Every time I see that graphic I get more annoyed, because the right to organize our families, things like medical decisions, and immigration connections, and housing access — these things should not be based on nuclear family structures. Gay marriage is giving right to more kinds of nuclear families, but it is still leaving out a lot of people, hetero and queer. People who aren’t nuclear families are generally folks who have less money, and would benefit more from the sort of benefits that marriage gives people.
Gay marriage is supposed to be a victory, but it doesn’t feel like it, it feels like it could wind up very limiting. I worry that a lot of people are just going along with the idea of nuclear families instead of trying to build something else.
(I’m using the phrase gay marriage instead of marriage equality because to me gay marriage goes hand along with respectability politics and assimilation. “Gay marriage” was the talking point, let’s not call it something different now that the battle has been “won.”)
I really like the idea of marriage, and I would love to marry my partner some day, but I hate the fact that our culture has such a narrow view of what family means. My partner is super important to me, but family doesn’t need to be built around a single monogamous couple. Family needs to be built around people who love and take care of each other.
This connects to the idea that our culture values romantic relationships over platonic ones, which is just bullshit. Sex or romance doesn’t make something more meaningful, just different.
Marriage is a way of making families fit in a certain shape. I want those rights, so I’m probably going to get married someday. But I hate the idea that the government is saying that the way they do things is better than what we can make for ourselves.
I really love the idea of weddings, of public declarations of love and commitment that are celebrated and shared with the community. But we don’t need the government to have a super awesome wedding. The government is involved because marriage is a path to legal rights. Giving people rights because they’re married is just silly — it’s unnecessary and limiting.
Families should be seen as something that we craft, that we build. They come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. In the 21st century the nuclear family is becoming less and less prevalent, but the capitalism still has a vested interest in keeping people structured in these units because it makes us easy targets for marketing and good consumers.
Gay marriage feels like a trap because it’s reinforcing a dominant script, and does nothing for people who can’t or don’t want to follow along. There are always going to be people, straight and gay and otherwise, who don’t fit in that mold, either they can’t or don’t want to. Gay marriage makes it easier for the people in charge to say that people who aren’t the marrying sort don’t matter (that we don’t matter). Everyone can have a happy monogamous partnership, so everyone can stop questioning whether or not this is how we should organize our lives. It allows complacency. It means people don’t have to think about it so much — they can get married and be normal, and that’s nice. It really is nice. There are people who want this, and that’s great, and I wish them well, but now that everyone can marry there’s going to be less discussion about how these rights are distributed.
There’s a joke, I can’t remember who made it, about how gay people should have just as much opportunity to get married and make themselves miserable as straights have. Really, that’s it, right?
Gay marriage means we have the same opportunities to be sold things, to be parceled off. nuclear families are structures that promote self-interest over community need. Same sex marriage means that queer people can stop thinking about this if they want to. we can go off and marry our partners and raise children and be happy. Self interest is so easy. I’m so lazy, and so tired, and don’t actually know how to make the change I want to see happen. But I’m not willing to give up on an expansive view of family.
There have been times where queers have considered themselves all family — I know this isn’t true, I know I don’t have the same values as other people just because we’re both not straight. But there could be some truth there if we try.
We can make our own families.
For a long time queer people made their own families because it was the only thing we could do. We had to be creative and resourceful. Family was community, and people looked after each other.
Being allowed the picket-fence capitalist dream it doesn’t mean much. Not when there are other things keeping us out. Being allowed something doesn’t make it comfortable.
I don’t want to marry my partner, and buy a house, and raise children, and be a registered democrat, and act respectable.
I want to live with my partner, and my best friend, and whoever else falls into our family. I think I want kids at some point, but I’m not sure, that’s still a long ways off. I want to be a part of something bigger than just me and my partner and the idea that we’re reproducing for the future. I want to be surrounded by people I love — I want to feed the people I love. I want to be able to visit them in the hospital. If I’m sick I want my best friend, my soul-sister, my platonic lifemate to be able to visit me, and have a say in my medical decisions (she’s better at this kind of stuff than I am). She is just as important to me as the partner I’m going to marry.
We need to get past the idea of partnership as the ideal unit for building a family. We need to recognize that lots of families already aren’t organized around that sort of unit, and that granting rights to people because that’s the way they’ve found love isn’t a solid way of dispensing rights.
Love needs to win. All sorts of love. Not just romantic partner love, but family love, which is why there need to be other scripts besides marriage.