Why equal marriage isn’t really equal
On the 26th of June 2015, in all its usual bravado and lavish flourish, the LGBTQ+ rights movement finally got what it had been stepping on the necks of the “unintelligible,” the “controversial” and the “unpalatable” parts of our own community for so long to achieve — legal protection and right under the law to marry. But, I stand before you today as a queer person to tell you same-sex marriage will not save you. The notion of marriage equality itself is an oxymoron, for the institution has never been equal. Predicated in its very function, the institution requires for the displacement of power from the one party to the other and by its very historicity, has been oppressive.
The inertia of the LGBTQ+ rights movement has shifted from its once radical strategies of alienation and retaliation in the pursuit of liberation to strategies for assimilation. For hegemony. For what it calls “equality.” But, where has this equality taken us? Only the most privileged amongst our community have the mobility to even consider marriage as an important principle. Marriage will not save the lives of the one in five transgender immigrants that suffer sexual abuse at the hands of an oppressive government detaining them in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Marriage will not give a voice to the now nine transgender women of color that have been murdered at the hands of a transmisogynistic and white supremacist society. Marriage will not shift the discourse on the pathologization of non-conforming bodies and/or sexualities. So, hear me again: marriage is not liberation.
Doug Ball of Equality Florida remarked, “We’re still not part of the privileged group of people who are entirely protected.”
The system that you seek the privilege of protection from will never care to hold your graces. The United States’ entire body politic and broader culture is a homophobic and racist set of institutions whose entire existence depends on our very exclusion. Can we not open a book or an ear to listen to the voices of those in our community, who just 35 years ago were left to die in the hundreds per week, thousands per month and the million per year at the hands of a virus, that our very government refused to acknowledge existed until six years after the first reported death? Do you not hear that very voice screaming in the echo of the shredded throat of trans-activist Jennicet Guitiérrez proclaiming, “We are dying” to a president, whose response was, “You’re in my house?” Do you queers at your pride parades recognize the backs of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson that your entire celebration is built upon? Gay liberation is a legacy constructed on the work done by those that this movement today has forgotten.
Respectability politics respects no one. The very movement you laude has forgotten who needs its help the most. In the words of a great trans-activist that I have had the honor to meet and know, Lady Dane Edidi, “scraps will never make a feast.” It’s those very scraps that you gays and lesbians have been brainwashed into believing is equality. Remember that the system you seek to be recognized by does not care about you. It is a historically oppressive and violent system that stands atop the bodies of our dead peers. Perhaps, rather than spewing the pious pluralisms of “our love is no different” to those who say, “Homosexuality will be the end of western society as we know it,” we should meet their eyes with every ounce of revelry held within our skins and say, “Yes, we will be.” I say to you now, do not be lulled into complacency. Now is the time for a revolutionary kind of change. One that does not care about its appearance to the mainstream heterosexual community. One that does not seek acceptance or tolerance. One that does not look like anything we have ever seen before. One that perhaps from the ashes of that “western society” homosexuality will end, will carry us into a queer new world. Remember, marriage is not our liberation. Marriage is not our equality. Marriage is not justice.