Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An Entry from My Writerly Morgue

Well, readers, I think it's safe to say that we've entered the rejection portion of my writing career, where I plan to stay until the day I die. I'm definitely not bitter. Thanks to 21st century self-publication, I can pawn off my failed writerly projects on you folks! WHO NEEDS AN EDITOR?! (Answer: Me. I need an editor. Always and desperately.)

The following isn't an overly original marriage piece, but it looked like it was going to run in a certain Washington periodical that shall remain nameless, until they pulled it at the last minute. Since the piece's relevance pretty much expires on election day, I thought I'd post it here. There are a few lines/strains of thought that I want to see the light of day, in one form or another. I hate writing about my own writing, but I'd hoped this might help make the terms of the marriage debate a little less self-evident and start to get at the larger stakes of marriage equality, especially for collective citizenship.


For those of you living in a hermetically-sealed bubble for the past several years, I bring breaking news: there’s a marriage debate being staged across the nation concerning the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people to marry. The right exists in a small number of states (plus one district), and a few additional states now recognize the same-sex marriage certificates issued by other states. This election season, though, the question is appearing as a ballot initiative in four states – Maryland, Washington, Maine, and Minnesota. It seems timely, then, to take a moment to root around a little in the business of both marriage equality and state-sponsored love in 21st century America.

Perhaps we should stop swaddling ourselves in inherited marriage bullshit, whether religious or cultural. Let’s be clear: Marriage, within the realm of government legislation, isn’t about love. Marriage isn’t about creating healthy environments for children. (After all, America’s ever-expanding foster care system suggests that nuclear families fail their children every day.) Present-day marriage doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus either, much though that diva would like it to. The nuclear family, crafted in the furnace of marriage and government-sponsored love, is a technology by which the state organizes and exercises power over its citizens. Through the institution of marriage, the state acknowledges specific kinds of relationships, glues in place patriarchal gender relations, and fortifies the structural economic inequality that has become the calling card of 21st century America. Marriage is more about the selective distribution of privileges than it’s ever been about love.

In light of my emerging cynicism, maybe you won’t be surprised to learn that there are divergent strains of thought within the LGBT community about whether or not the ability to marry is even a desirable right. After all, marriage is a deeply sexist institution that has a long history of overt racism. Plus, many LGBT people have spent years, sometimes generations, forging unconventional community ties whose perceived legitimacy hasn’t a single thing to do with one-on-one marriage. We also might wonder if the enormous resources spent passing marriage legislation, by organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, might be better spent on more pressing issues like healthcare and workplace discrimination. Does the fact that in 2012, LGBT rights automatically equals civil marriage keep us from recognizing both the landscape of possibilities that LGBT politics might present to the American imagination and the larger economic problems that make marriage a necessity in the first place?

But if we’re going to have the marriage conversation, and by now it’s very clear that we are, none of this is really the point. That isn’t what is at stake for either the state-specific ballot initiatives or the larger campaign for marriage equality. The black-and-white reality is that one set of American citizens can achieve a basic set of rights and privileges that another cannot. Denying LGBT citizens the right to marry creates a system of tiered citizenship that values certain Americans over others. The fact that Sharon Stone can marry, but Sharon Needles can’t means that Sharon S. has access to fuller citizenship than Ms. Needles, having absolutely nothing to do with whether or not either has any business getting married at all. Flat-out, this is not the democracy on which America prides itself.

What’s more, this debate has an effect on our collective citizenship. Where you, good fundamentalists of the world, love to argue that homomatrimony would weaken the value of your “traditional” marriage, I’m going to suggest that denying a specific group of Americans the right to marry cheapens your citizenship. And honey, in most cases you’ve been American much longer then you’ve been husband/wife.

Will marriage be good for LGBT people? Sorry, the cynic in me started laughing before you even finished asking the question. However, at this particular political moment, it’s possible to be against marriage, but for marriage equality. Hell, it’s even possible to be against LGBT people, but for marriage equality, because voting for equality doesn’t have anything to do with marriage. It isn’t even a statement about how you feel about homosexuality. Fundamentally, it’s a vote in favor of democratic equality for all citizens.

Discuss. Oh, and vote. Be as hipster-trendy as you want, there’s nothing cool about not voting.


Now, Will Danger, your questions are irksome and perhaps you should take your furs and your literal interpretations to the other side of the river. Sashay away.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hot Glue, Halloween, and Hilary Fucking Clinton

I know, I know. On this cold, rainy Friday morning, you've come to New Queer looking for sharp, extremely relevant political commentary. I shall not disappoint you, loyal readers. Today is Hilary Clinton's 65th birthday, a holiday second only to Tyra's birthday in this corner of the internet. To honor of the birth of America's first lady of ass-kicking, and in lieu of absolutely nothing, here's a birthday/Halloween post that ended up looking more like a love letter.
The editorial staff at New Queer suspects that Ms. Clinton, rock star that she is, has been too busy saving the world, teaching Barack and Joe what memes are, and looking fabulous to come up with a proper Halloween costume. Worry not, Hilz, we've come up with several options for you. Some may be more or less appropriate, depending on which of the hundreds of potential parties you're going to attend. (We won't be too offended if you don't come to ours; you can still have our presidential vote whenever you want it.) Will Danger is also a wizard with a hot glue gun, if you need any help executing these costumes.

1. Cheetara from Thundercats: Because she was always way more awesome than She-Ra. And let's face it Hil, you'd look downright foxy.

2. 1980s Hilary Clinton: Just to remind people of the time you tricked them into believing that Bill was the politician in the family.

3. Regina George from Mean Girls: Teach the boys of the White House that they can't wear a tank top two days in a row, along with, like, the rules of feminism. And let's be honest, you already have a White House burn book.

4. Amy Poehler: Turn the tables on this comedy goddess. She how she likes it, for once. 

5. Couples Costume #1- Hilary and Michelle Obama as Columbia and Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Because I could do your sequin gluing for you and because I would really like to see Michelle with giant Diana Ross hair. And I bet you could do a pretty great Time Warp if you got Raul Esparza to sing the Riff Raff part.

6. Ann Romney: How much fucking fun would that be? You could talk about dressage horses all night.

7. Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty: It might be too late to rent a raven by next Wednesday, but this would still be a strong costume idea, especially if your Halloween plans involve standing atop the White House and cackling at how you run the world.

8. A giant pantsuit: Because fuck off, 2008 political commentary, you're Hilary Clinton and you'll wear what you damn well please.

9. Joan Jett: Because you're a fucking rock star and "Bad Reputation" is your pump-up song before every public appearance. You don't give a damn.

10. Courtney Love: You'd get to chain smoke with Barack all night and, admit it, "Doll Parts" is your ringtone when Bill calls.

11. Governor Chris Christie: Sure, you'd get in some great digs at this possible future presidential contender. Mostly, though, you'd dress up as the Governor to remind people that his future defeat has absolutely nothing to do with his body-type. 2016 belongs to you because you eat politicians like Chris Christie for breakfast.

12. Couples Costume #2- Hil, Michelle, and Ann Coulter as Baby, Scary, and Sporty Spice: Because she's the devil, poor Ann often gets left out of group costumes, and even when she's included it's usually because Sarah Palin needs someone to play bass in her Kiss cover band. Reach way way way across the aisle and invite her to join you for a little Girl Power. You'd look great. Plus in those giant platform shoes, you'd tower over all the dudes in the room.

What do you think, readers? I know most of you prefer to be silent blog spectators, but weigh in here. Surely I've missed some really fantastic costumes. Anyone want to do their patriotic duty and help me glue sequins to the Secretary of State? Your country needs you!

Seriously, Hilz. Please come to the New Queer Halloween Party. Our friends would just die.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weaves, Binders, and Library Cards: Fragments from the Week

Twelve years in, I'm finding 21st century America to be a wildly suffocating environment, though one not without its absurdities.

1. I wrote a startlingly successful exposé detailing the latest trends in weave/wig extensions. My primary source materials were a website called "The Weave Divas," my time living in College Park, and various experiences finding old wigs on the floor of the DC metro. Needless to say, durability/reuseability was an important criterion. What is the real world, exactly?

2. Twice this week, I've opened my laptop at a coffee shop to discover that I left the previous evening's pornography playing for the world to see. The guy sitting next to me was unprepared for penetration that early in the morning, and I can't really blame him.

3. The next person I meet who describes him/herself to me as a "young professional" is getting a sharp kick in the shins. Still desperately trying to disembed myself from that kind of DC-style douchebaggery.

4a. In my wildest dreams, I'd never imagined that our presidential debates might look so much like an episode of the Jerry Springer show. Would you two just kiss, already?!

4b. Immediately following the infamous "binders full of women" remark (to which the internet has responded spectacularly), Obama almost said something really smart about gender and class, but then he backed away from it.

Image courtesy of Mr. and Ms. Vincent P. Cat

4c. The hilarity of Mittens' binders remark has actually worked in his favor. People seem to be too busy laughing/meme-ing to be properly outraged at his horrifying statement about women in the workplace getting home in time to cook dinner for their men. This fucker is running for president, you guys!

4d. People on both sides are still making uncomfortably racialized remarks about Barack's (and to a lesser extent Michelle's) anger. Ah, that Audre Lorde were still with us.

5. Adrienne Rich's 2004 essay on James Baldwin, "The Baldwin Stamp" is really wonderful.

6. James Baldwin's essays on James Baldwin (oh, and 20th century America) remain energizingly urgent, especially given our current political landscape.

7. Nora Ephron is one of the best essayists I've ever read, may she rest in peace. Her prose is so readably warm and hilarious.

8. Beat-era essays are startlingly similar to writing that came out of Occupy, leading me to wonder how much politics and counterpolitics have actually changed in the past 60 years.

9. I got a Washington library card, but you probably guessed that.

10. Rilo Kiley's The Execution of All Things is my official fall album of 2012, with Fiona Apple running a close second and third.

11. The vote on marriage equality (both here and in my home state) remains offensively close. The drama is ramping up, and I'm surprised at how personally attacked and defensive I feel about my rights being put up for popular vote. Maybe you're not surprised. After all, our worth as citizens is being held at the rusty gunpoint of a revoltingly uneducated citizenry. How else are we supposed to feel about this horseshit, exactly?

Friday, October 12, 2012

When is a Queer Critique of Marriage Not a Queer Critique of Marriage?

Answer: When it's ajar!

I've been, as usual, infinitely lax in my blogging responsibilities. In the spirit of yesterday's National Coming Out Day, the obnoxiously unfurling election season, and Will Danger's secret desire to be a bridezilla, let's talk about marriage.

There's an especially relevant conversation unfolding over on The Madwoman with a Laptop about marriage equality.  Check it out, I'll wait for you to come back. In the specific context of Will Danger's former home state (home is, after all, where you hang your hat and I don't have a single hat rack left in MD), Madwoman's "Terps Against Marriage for Marriage Equality" addresses the marriage conversation in a way that is responsible, nuanced, and generally awesome.

The fact that in 2012, when a politician says "LGBT rights," they really mean "gay marriage" says a lot about the way we think, sure. Nonetheless, the mainstream LGBT movement's matrimonial tunnel vision is toxic for a poop-ton of reasons. In a practical sense, it keeps us from mobilizing political energy on other issues, many of which are more pressing that my right to bear wedding dresses. But in a more fundamental way, the focus on marriage is limiting the way we think about so-called "LGBT issues" and indicates a national refusal of more complex, messy political thinking. After all, in neoliberal America we love the supposed clarity of identity politics. Our inability to think and legislate sexuality alongside, within, or even as race, class, and gender continues to cripple our ability to address the structural economic inequality in which marriage obviously participates. It also hampers the cultivation of an American political vision that might actually start to earn the increasingly tired label "progressive."

Lately, I've been all about plunging headlong into possibility. I think then, what I find most fascinating about homomatrimony is that it contains the possibility to fracture the stability of our gender relations. Marriage remains, after all, public enemy number one in terms of gross medieval gender dynamics and is also a primary organizing framework for American culture. So an invasion of "traditional marriage" might be exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of finally letting American gender off the leash. What happens to our sense of culture when gender runs wild, queers leading the charge? Can we start to imagine male spinsters or female lotharios or chick flicks for men? Do many/most of our cultural assumptions become deservedly denaturalized, and might this mean that we can finally start thinking beyond gender? Letting loose the reigns on marriage could reorder our culture in some really thrilling ways, and might open up some exciting and startlingly queer horizons of possibility.

And I suppose that this cultural reordering is exactly what opponents of marriage equality are afraid of. They worry that enabling the gayz to marry will unravel the fabric of society. On this particular rainy Friday, I'm sort of inclined to say, "Duh." But that's exactly the point. Sorry [insert dummy Republican], but legalizing gay marriage might actually help dismantle, or at least de-privilege an institution from which you draw a lot of smug/undeserved economic and cultural capital/superiority/privilege. [This is probably the point at which you realize I will never be a political figure, if you've even managed to make it this far with that delusion in mind]. If I allow myself to loosen my white-knuckled grip on the queer critiques of marriage for which Madwoman spectacularly calls my generation out, marriage equality might create a political environment that finally forces our political thinking to evolve, in which we can finally think about race and class alongside and in place of LGBT issues. [Quick aside: Isn't your run-of-the-mill queer critique of marriage almost as privileged and culturally specific as the institution of marriage itself?]

I'm certainly not saying that there is no trouble with normal, just that it's become obnoxiously hipster-trendy to think that marriage equality is stupid. An aversion to marriage has achieved common sense status in many queer circles (circles that, perhaps ironically, claim to resist common sense in most other contexts). I just wonder if anyone's pausing to wonder what might be queer about voting for marriage equality, and about the important ways that achieving marriage equality could reorient and expand the American political imagination.

At any rate, folks, votevotevote. Vote. Vote. Be as brilliantly queer and subversive as you can, there's still nothing cool about not voting.