liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
I really, really wanted to go Bicon this year, because it was in Edinburgh and because [personal profile] tajasel was organizing and because I've been promising myself for years I should make it one of these summers. In the end I didn't make it, not because I was too angsty but because I was just purely too busy and a bit short of cash. I mean, it's all for good reasons, my job is going really well and I'm supervising an undergraduate summer student (who is a darling), and I've already had one foreign trip this summer and I'm planning another for after the summer project finishes and before term starts. So I can't exactly complain, but I can't help feeling slightly wistful that I wasn't there.

Also, I ended up spending the weekend of Bicon doing really really heterosexual things. First of all helping out my in-laws with family obligations, then having a brief but delightful romantic date with my male husband, and making at least a token effort towards celebrating 15th Av, the Jewish romantic love day. It was just the same week that the UK passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill into law. So lots of my social networks were full of celebrating progress in gay rights, while a minority were complaining about the exclusion of non-heteronormative Queer people.

Some links against marriage equality:
  • The ever wonderful Meg Barker of Rewriting the Rules summarizes the positives and negatives of the UK marriage equality situation: Opening up and closing down
  • Stavvers has a great summary of the concerns of minority Queer voices, and argues for liberation rather than equality.
  • [personal profile] auntysarah lays out in great detail how the new Same Sex Marriage Act doesn't create equality at all, since it not only ignores and excludes trans people, but actively makes their legal position worse.
  • This really powerful essay from the blog A Paper Bird contemplates the harm done by facile "marriage equality" campaigns on the international scene: “Equality” has become the be-all and end-all of LGBT aspirations. A Paper Bird discusses in considerable detail the reality of racist and colonialist violence; the article contains both images and detailed descriptions of murders and torture, but every brutal, unflinching word is directly relevant and important.
  • ETA: The person whose locked post inspired me to think about these issues has given me permission to quote her piece anonymously: Heteronormativity is not equality


I absolutely do seek justice for people who are less heteronormative or generally more marginalized than I am. Until the recent couple of weeks I hadn't really considered the idea that marriage equality might be actively harmful for Queer people who don't want to or aren't in a position to get married. I was thinking that legal recognition of same-sex marriage was a step in the right direction even if not going far enough. I can definitely see the argument that it might cause gay and lesbian people with otherwise fairly cushy lives to give up prematurely on what should still be a key political struggle. And I can definitely see the argument that extending legal marriage to a slightly broader group of people contributes to further marginalization of people in relationships that don't look like conventional marriages.

People mocked politicians for declaring that "same-sex marriage is a fundamentally Conservative value", but to some extent it's true. It's legal support for the patriarchal idea of a nuclear family; in many ways it seems like a pure historical accident that political conservatism has been associated with homophobia. Me, I've never been a rebel, much less a revolutionary, I'm thoroughly bourgeois and respectable and generally accepting of authority and the status quo if it brings stability. Of course, in spite of my definite plans against it, I did end up married. The fact that I now have the hypothetical right to marry a woman makes me feel happier (hypothetical because I don't have the legal right to marry anyone unless I divorce my husband, which I have no intention of doing). It makes me feel like I'm a full citizen within my country, like my community accepts me. However, that was kind of the only barrier between me and perfect mainstream acceptance; I can very well understand why people who have much more significant barriers might resent people like me. Particularly since I married a man when same-sex couples had only the inferior option of a legal equivalent of marriage rather than actual marriage, for the rather trivial reason that I wanted to get married on 29th February and I didn't want to wait until 2016.

Truth is I got married because I felt like it, unlike a lot of people I had no real need of the institution of marriage. I am slightly shocked by how many advantages I've accrued from making that choice. On the one hand, I would like those advantages to be available to couples of any gender combinations. In a few years, taking part in in-laws' family events isn't going to be a particularly heterosexual thing, just like participating in conventional romance rituals isn't a particularly heterosexual thing any more. That doesn't really help, and people are starting to convince me it may actually damage, people who don't want to devote their lives to a single partner, people who are doing something more original than just following the well-worn grooves of commercialized romance and dating which are after all full of pretty toxic and gender oppressive expectations.

In some ways I have something closely kin to straight privilege. Passing privilege, heteronormative privilege. I have this weird kind of doublethink going on, on the one hand my life has never been appreciably worse because of my sexual orientation, and on the other I can list a load of negative experiences that most straight and gender conforming people wouldn't have experienced; I'm not sure how both those things can be true at once! Partly because having a generally cushy life in other ways, being middle class and generally perceived as normal in most respects and so on means that I can see occasional bits of homophobia as just one-off incidents rather than as a systematic disadvantage. I am afraid of falling into the trap of wanting to claim / appropriate the shiny bits of Queer culture – not so much the rainbows and the musicals and the slightly off-beat flamboyant and gender-challenging fashion, but the sense of community and camaraderie – but without actually being in meaningful solidarity with people for whom being Queer isn't just a fun quirk of identity but a real source of problems in many areas of life. I definitely don't want to be among the people who give up because "we" have marriage equality now.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-25 08:27 pm (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
In many ways, I suspect that Marriage equality will change the ally relationships in the queer and straight communities, which will take some adjusting and will be uncomfortable, but there will be people who were heavily involved in the marriage issue who are uninterested in bi or trans or nonmonogamy issues and who are actively invested in privileging marital relationships over non-marital ones. There will also be straight people who were not particularly interested in marriage equality who might be interested in non-marital relationship issues or who didn't believe anyone should get married and so were not involved in marriage equality but support bi or trans issues, or are somehow invested in multi-parent child custody issues that have overlap.

And part of it is simply a social pressure that people in same sex relationships have been able to side step that people in straight relationships haven't. So, um, in that way they've been lucky, but it isn't like people in straight or non-relationships haven't already been dealing with that for years and years. I'm sorry that they can't pass as well any more within their community, but I don't believe they should denigrate other people's celebration in increased choices.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-26 05:57 pm (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
We have a fair number of conservative queer persons who are regularly on political chat-shows who just want a legal recognition of them settling down with their partner and not be discriminated against on the job and that's it. They tend to be fairly visible because they are highly main-stream palatable.

I don't think that marriage equality makes it actively worse for people who want non-traditional relationships, but more passively worse. When one overshadowing problem gets solved, suddenly the overshadowed problems become more visible.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-27 12:57 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
I was thinking similarly to you, and then I read the third bullet-point link in the OP. I hadn't known there was a poison-pill provision aimed at transgender people, buried in the marriage equality bill just passed in the UK. So, no, it's not just that marriage equality makes it passively worse; to my surprise, and perhaps to yours, this particular marriage equality advancement was quite made on the backs of transgender people, entirely actively.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-26 04:22 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] daharyn
Interesting thoughts. I appreciated reading them.

As far as the benefits you have accrued via marriage being a surprise to you--I want to find a really NICE way to say "I told you so", but does such a way exist? Because I'm pretty sure I did say this in advance of the event, kinda loudly and without much tact, to you and to a mutual friend of ours and to my own few readers, and I may be repeating myself here, but uh, yeah, what did you think was going to happen, you know? (Sorry. I'm just sort of shocked that you're shocked.)

Maybe it's just a hell of a lot easier to see the magnitude of those benefits when you have lived and will always live outside them, but I remember being frustrated as hell at what I perceived as yours and others' inability to SEE this, in advance of the event. In one case in particular I gave up on the argument because I felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall.

Right now my relational life is set up in a way that gives me far more passing privilege than I am used to having, and even after some years it still makes me extremely uncomfortable. I have also been exploring issues of marginalization vis-a-vis marriage equality (most specifically with the recent DOMA decision here in the states), and while I have really strong feelings about it I also wonder if I have too much of the wrong sort of privilege to even say anything. That said, if you push on that privilege the slightest bit, it crumbles, because I don't have a legal safety net. So I decided that my own uncertainty on whether or not to speak and write about the exclusivity of marriage was actually the byproduct of my own erasure, rather than an artifact of privilege per se.

I just want to be able to choose whether or not to inform my government of my interpersonal bonds. If I choose to do so I don't see why I should have to do it via an archaic religious ritual that is rooted in the transfer of woman as property. I don't see why it should have to be someone I'm having sex with, or someone I have romantic love for, and I don't see why it should only have to be one person. True liberty would be getting my government out of the business of marriage. I'll concede that in theory there might be a compelling state interest in the welfare of minors, but "the good of the children" argument is a slippery slope, seeing as how it is still regularly used by individual US states to deny basic civil rights (like adoption rights) to LGBT individuals and families. So if that really is a compelling concern, surely we can restructure our society so that we have ways to ensure the welfare of the young without impinging on the freedom of adults to structure their emotional lives in the manner of their choosing.

One last thought. Right now, if I wanted to have some sort of commitment ceremony with the person I would be most likely to have it with, even an extralegal and totally personal one, I would be actively breaking the laws of two nations. I don't see how this makes any sense. I would really kind of like to do that, and I can't. So there's a way in which even the frippery of ritual is further denied to at least some of the marginalized. And I know I just used the word frippery, and that I derided marriage-as-patriarchal-power-transfer in my preceding paragraph, but we all use ritual to give our lives meaning, and knowing that in the eyes of my government I can't have certain things makes the erasure and marginalization I felt after the DOMA decision even worse--it makes it ongoing, and unlikely to change.

It really is very nearly enough to make me a libertarian--and THAT would be truly frightening.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-26 08:46 am (UTC)
ptc24: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ptc24
"Community and camaraderie" - I think one effect of my particular condition with regards to gender and sexuality, is that I've tended to see communities (defined by "whoever shows up") rather than community; if people have such things in common, then there's a potential for them to get on well, but it isn't automatic. Perhaps I'm unnecessarily terrified of the identity police. Certainly I've seen cases of support and social communities using language in ways that activist communities criticise (the language, that is, not the use by other communities).

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-26 03:21 pm (UTC)
elf: Anime-ish version of elf: long cyan hair, glasses (Anime me)
From: [personal profile] elf
Random thoughts:

I want to replace the phrase "passing privilege" with something more accurate; I've ranted about how passing is not a privilege. The privileged group decides who is "not like us, and therefore unworthy of consideration," and who is "meh, seems enough like us that we'll let them play along, until/unless they do something that puts them firmly in the Not Like Us category." It's not like you get a choice about passing.

Whether or not same-sex marriage is "good for the movement," I could not ask that it be withheld from those who want it, who've fought for that exact level of social and legal recognition of their relationships. The fact that it still excludes those whose relationships don't fall into a pattern that looks like nuclear-family marriage is irrelevant; they (we) aren't going to get closer to legal recognition by demanding that "nobody gets any rights until we ALL get rights." It doesn't work that way. Civil rights are almost always a trickle-then-flood situation.

The power-hungry crowd watching their privileges erode are entirely aware of that, which is why they pick rhetoric that focuses on extreme and often ridiculous possibilities... notice them screaming about people marrying horses and NOT about "some middle-aged divorcee could decide she wants TWO HUSBANDS and seduce some barely-20 college boys and they'd both get jobs and wait on her hand and foot! Such perversion! Blasphemy! Must stop gay marriage because it will eventually lead to lazy bitches taking advantage of our noble youths!" Which I'm sure would actually happen, sometimes, if marriages of more-than-two become legal.

In any battle against oppression, there will be those who stop noticeably fighting when they've won whatever was their most intense goal. This is not a matter of laziness or selfishness; everyone has different limits, different amounts of energy available. But there will also be members of the privileged group who see the changes, realize the world hasn't ended, and decide that extending the same rights to [other group] probably wouldn't end the world either.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-26 04:21 pm (UTC)
rysmiel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rysmiel
I want to replace the phrase "passing privilege" with something more accurate; I've ranted about how passing is not a privilege. The privileged group decides who is "not like us, and therefore unworthy of consideration," and who is "meh, seems enough like us that we'll let them play along, until/unless they do something that puts them firmly in the Not Like Us category." It's not like you get a choice about passing.

Oh, thank you. This is something I feel kind of strongly about. In England, where I lived for about four years, I'm instantly marked as Irish; in Ireland, where I grew up, under "Will you be perceived as Catholic or Protestant ?" where no other options exist, I get filed as Catholic; in Montreal, where I've lived this past decade, I'm Anglophone rather than Francophone. The last of those three has much less unpleasant potential failure modes than the other two did in my younger days, but still, when I'm in the US I'm non-consensually passing for white-as-unmarked-state, and I am a long way from comfortable about it, or about the assumptions it sometimes gets.
Edited Date: 2013-07-27 02:52 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-27 02:02 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
I want to replace the phrase "passing privilege" with something more accurate; I've ranted about how passing is not a privilege. The privileged group decides who is "not like us, and therefore unworthy of consideration," and who is "meh, seems enough like us that we'll let them play along, until/unless they do something that puts them firmly in the Not Like Us category."

I love that you're tackling this! I do disagree with you on some particulars. Speaking as someone with way, way, way too much experience passing, myself: Yes, passing is not a privilege, but passing gains one privileges. That's sort of the point. I, for instance, get all the white privilege I can eat -- nobody follows me in stores, no employer discriminates against me on the basis of my racial identity, cops and other authority figures see me as a Nice White Girl, etc -- just so long as nobody who is too persnickety about their whiteness figures out my ethnicity. And if I avail myself of those privileges -- say by getting hired by someone racist who thinks of me as white -- I run the risk of what happens if I'm outed[*].

So I also disagree that it's not a choice: it being a devilish forced choice between social equality and personal integrity is what is so pernicious about it.

Where I agree is that treating this like a good thing, or a fortunate thing, misses how evil it is, how corrosive and damaging and unfair[**]. Closets kill.

[* Not, alas, an invented scenario. My mother, not I.]

[** One of the IMHO undercommented things about marriage equality is its effect on bisexual people. There's this attitude that marriage equality doesn't have to do with them, that, "Oh, well, they already can marry people," i.e. they can pass as straight to avail themselves of the straight privilege of marriage. Suuuuuuure: If they fall in love with someone of the same sex, they can just break up with them and hotswap in a member of the opposite sex, easy-peasy. It's not like humans aren't entirely fungible./sarc To be a bisexual person who is marriage minded in a society that doesn't allow gender-free marriage, is to always have a social pressure to discriminate against and deprecate one's affections towards people of one sex, always there in the back of one's mind, coloring one's decisions. It means knowing, "If I pick her over him to have children with, those children won't have the same stability or benefits", or "If I pick him over her, what will it do to my career?" That's hideous, that such a social pressure should be brought to bear on matters of the heart.]
Edited Date: 2013-07-27 02:03 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-28 02:26 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Yeah, this. I think this is an example of how people can be trapped into misusing the word "privilege". If "privilege" means "everything in your life is hunky-dory", then no, passing is horrible. If "privilege" means "having opportunities better than the alternative", then people who don't pass are entirely reasonable in resenting that some people have the option, even if they don't actually enjoy it.

It's similar to any two groups, where one seems to be discriminated against much worse than the other (and people in the overlap usually have it worst of all). The worse-discriminated group understandably resent the other group for making a fuss when they have it so much worse. But the other group's discrimination is completely true and awful, even if someone else has it worse.

And it's very hard for them to talk to each other, especially if they have the same problems, but one side much worse.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-27 04:52 am (UTC)
soon_lee: Image of yeast (Saccharomyces) cells (Default)
From: [personal profile] soon_lee
New Zealand which passed its Marriage Equality law earlier this year, got this one right I think. It seemed such a no-brainer to me.

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