DOMA: The fight is not over yet.

I’m late getting this posted, but am so pleased to have Katherine back with another great guest post! Katherine previously shared “My Love Matters” with us. If you haven’t read that, please do, and visit Katherine at her blog, A Collection of Lights.

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For weeks I have been a little anxious. Dreams about something specific – some happy, some awful – have plagued me. On Wednesday morning, when I woke up, I immediately pulled my laptop into bed and began scouring the webpage that was already open.

It’s an interesting morning when your right to marry (i.e. right to be treated as a legitimate human being) is being decided.

I live with my partner, Marisa, and I don’t know that I could be happier. I want to be married to her. I want our love to be worth something to the country – and world – we call home. I was overjoyed when I learned that DOMA and Prop 8 were overturned. This is a huge step! One of many, to be sure, but a step all the same.

As the day progressed, however, my thoughts grew darker. In my Sexual Behaviors class, the professor knew nothing of the Supreme Court’s actions as he lectured on – who would have guessed? – gay people. I am a quiet individual, but I could not help but find the courage to point out the stride made that morning. When I learned that he had “no idea” the cases were even to be decided, I waited a few minutes and walked out, fuming. Look, the guy is straight, white, and has two kids. He just came back from a vacation during which he acquired the stomach flu. While I am more than willing to give him some leeway, his apathy toward my goddamn rights infuriates me.

This, combined with the fresh realization of how virulent opposers of queers can get, soured the brightness I felt somewhat. My right to be treated the same as any other human being has nothing to do with religion. Marriage is not the whole point. Marriage is not about religion, either. I’m an atheist, too, and it isn’t any concern of yours.  Frankly, my sexuality is none of your goddamn business. While it may chafe at my delicate fucking sensibilities, it does not matter to me what you think of who or how I love. My sexuality does not make me abnormal. Sexuality is anything but black and white. Who one has sex with does not dictate sexuality, necessarily! Were this about sex, I am not certain I would feel the desire to be in a relationship at all. Hell, the definition of sex is murky enough as it is (though lesbian sex certainly is sex, fuckers). The rhetoric surrounding sex and marriage in this country is awful and largely without scientific merit.

In simpler terms: if you would like to talk to me about gay people and/or marriage equality, I am more than happy to do that… as long as you are kind and don’t pull facts out of your ass.

I do want to be clear that I am not totally bitter. Being queer is a new challenge each day, but I would not trade the perspective it has given me or the contentment I feel with the self-knowledge I have now. I am going to keep on walking, and I am going to hold the hand of the person I love tightly, and I am going to believe that we can push through the difficulties we are facing. I am going to appreciate the fact that those around me are also fighting for the rights of those discriminated against. Despite the anger I express here, I feel extremely lucky to be where I am today. I am proud that we have come this far.

The fight is not over yet.

This Week in Politics [part 1]

If ever there’s been a week that’s made me want to move to Sweden… well that’s every week, really. But this week in particular has been vexing in regard to US politics and culture. This week reinforced the many reasons why the United States ranks sixth overall on the Social Progress Index. (We’re seventh in personal freedom and choice, sixth in personal rights, fourth in equity and inclusion, and forty-eighth in ecosystems sustainability. OUCH.) Sweden is ranked first overall.  I want to go to there, Liz Lemon. But running away or choosing not to care doesn’t do any good. Apathy does not an ally make.  Let’s talk about two big things happening around the US this week, and why we should care.

The Supreme Court overturned DOMA. Huzzah, hurrah, it’s about time. I’m annoyed that this is even an ‘issue’ that the government needs to intervene upon. I’m more annoyed by all the idiotic and frustrating responses coming out around the ruling. This morning I heard some lady on NPR say, “Of course I don’t support same-sex marriage because I don’t support same-sex couples.” Hi, lady. I don’t support you or your bigotry! Other people were going on about the man/woman marriage precedent set by the Bible, which is a totally valid argument since this country is and should definitely be governed by that particular religious text. I feel absurd stating that I’m being facetious here, but apparently there’s still a large group of people who don’t understand why the Bible isn’t a credible political document. Hey, y’all. Don’t like same-sex marriage? Okay. Don’t have one. And while you’re at it, stop trying to legalize discrimination. All that hatred doesn’t look cute on you.

Wendy Davis is a rockstar. Oh, man. Oh, men. Oh, white men of the Texas senate. You are the worst. Wendy Davis led a one-woman filibuster against SB 5, a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and would close most clinics across Texas. For thirteen hours, Wendy Davis stood and spoke against the bill. She did not sit. She did not even get a bathroom break. For thirteen hours. Republican senators tried to trick her into speaking off topic, a violation of rules, which would have ended the filibuster. They tried to claim she broke the rules by receiving assistance putting on a back brace. When the bill was finally voted on, the numbers were in favor of passing SB 5. (After all that!) The vote took place a few minutes after midnight and was therefore invalidated on a technicality.  But because white men in politics can do anything, they tried to change their own rules. They tried to kill the bill, even though the vote was taken after midnight. Wendy Davis was treated terribly all day long by a bunch of people without uteruses (Hey there, white dudes. Don’t like abortion? Okay. Don’t have one.) and then they tried to change their own rules. All that hypocrisy and cruelty doesn’t look cute on you. Oh, and Big Media? The way all of you felt the need to comment on Davis’s pink tennis shoes? That sexism doesn’t look cute on you, either. And I clearly know about what looks cute on people, seeing as I have a uterus which radiates fashion sense. That’s a biological fact, isn’t it?

I love the idea of politics and hate the way they’re carried out in this country. A cursory glance at any comments section will show a lot of sweeping and often off-topic generalizations about “all liberals” and “all conservatives”. We’re so mired in our camps and we all get off on hating each other so much, that we’ve lost the ability to converse like compassionate humans. We can’t even treat each other with basic decency. (Someone helped you put on a back brace because we won’t let you sit down and we don’t care about your physical wellbeing? Rule-breaker!!!) We’re not willing to listen to each other. This includes me- I don’t want to hear anyone’s ideas on why they think homosexuality is wrong. I’m a fallible human and I don’t have time for that nonsense. I just wonder when we’re all going to realize how terrible we are, and decide to do something about it. When are we going to decide life could be a little better if we tried to be a bit more like Sweden? Is that ever going to happen? I worry about the fact that none of us seem to be concerned with the embarrassing and shameful conduct of our country.

Speaking of that shame and embarrassment… tomorrow we’ll be talking about racism. George Zimmerman, Paula Deen, and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Indian Child Welfare Act…get ready. This Angry Feminist Killjoy is coming for you.

My Love Matters

My friend Katherine has lovely and important words, and has very graciously agreed to share some of them here. I feel so honored to publish her thoughts and to share them with all of you! I will pass along your comments, but you can also visit Katherine and her wonderful words over on her blog, A Collection of Lights. Thank you, Katherine!

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My name is Katherine, and I’m kind of gay. Gay as in delighted, mind you, and in the sense that I fuck women. (Well, one woman.) I’m queer. Queer like I’m odd, ever so slightly strange, and I fuck women. (One woman.) I’m a lesbian in the sense that it’s an easy label to peel off and stick on, just as any label might be. I wouldn’t say I’m particularly bothered about the label. Well, that’s sort of a lie. I’m a little bothered by it, but theoretically it doesn’t matter.

Before I came out, I had to come in – into myself, that is. There were years of slight self denial, sure, but I wasn’t lying when I told people I was straight. Okay, maybe I should have questioned the frequency with which I had to deny the queer aspects of my personhood. Perhaps there were clues. But at the tender age of nineteen, when I found a woman making my heart flutter and a stammer trip up my tongue, I was probably the most surprised person of anyone I knew.

And despite the rampant heterosexism in our society which is compounding directly into the newfound difficulties I am facing, finally I can truly say that I am happy. Five months ago, I met the most wonderful woman. There is nothing I regret–being with her is one of the single greatest experiences I have had in my lifetime. But with this and the somewhat new discovery that I am queer comes a sort of strange navigation. Is it okay to hold hands? What will my boss think if I tell her that my partner is a woman? What will my peers think? What will my mother think? The questions don’t end.

In the state of Texas, I cannot get married to the person I love. I cannot foster children with the person I love. I cannot adopt children with the person I love. My university and place of work are supportive, but I could – in another position, another place – be taunted and terminated for sharing who I am with other people. Institutional, symbolic, and individual oppressions intersect. They are all out to get me. Governmental and social institutions reward heterosexuality.

And okay, marriage is a construct, but I’d like to be rewarded for the love I have someday. My love matters.

Being queer is as normal to me as getting up in the morning (new, frustrating, ultimately rewarding), yet in order to be taken seriously – in order for change to be made – I must be an activist. Activism is great, but it’s frustrating to me that I must make who I love something political. Granted, our society has made me a political figure already. This time? It’s going to be on my terms.

This is all to say, I don’t have a huge amount of experience as a queer human being, but I do have the somewhat unique perspective of someone who identified as heterosexual until fairly recently… I have supported queer equality for quite some time, but life as an actual goddamn queer is very different.  And lately, a lot has pissed me off. You’re welcome in advance.

If your only defense of common and garden, everyday feminism is “we’re not all lesbians!”, fuck you.

If you try to console queer individuals by telling them of this one time, in a separate life, you–or someone you know–knew a gay person who was really cool despite their crippling gayness, fuck you. (You know, I knew a straight person once. He was pretty cool!)

If you ask a queer lady if/how scissoring works, fuck you.

If you heckle a queer person and their partner, fuck you. (If you heckle anyone, fuck you.)

If you refer to a queer person’s partner as their roommate despite correction, fuck you.

If you have the audacity to find yourself feeling discriminated against for being straight, fuck you.

If you ask queer ladies who the “man” is in their relationship, fuck you.

If you identify as heterosexual, consider completing this questionnaire.

Condescending Gold Star Award: Love Is All You Need

Last night I watched a short film called “Love Is All You Need?”. That link will take you to the film if you feel like spending 20 minutes acquainting yourself, but this needs to run with a massive trigger warning: the film is full of slurs and shows graphic images of bullying, violence, and suicide. If those might trigger you, I think it’s better to sit this one out than to have a seriously day-ruining experience because of a mediocre movie.

The basic premise of the film is to flip the societal script. Our current world is heteronormative and full of homophobia. The world of the film is homonormative (I guess? Is that a word?) and full of heterophobia. In the film, heterosexual individuals are the targets of hatred and bullying which emerge from society’s systematic othering. The film is attempting to show hetero people how it feels to live with the kind of violence that is inflicted on queer people every day. It’s been received positively and has won lots of awards. Unfortunately, this movie is a problematic disaster hiding under a façade of good intentions. Congratulations, “Love Is All You Need?”, you’ve just been awarded a Condescending Gold Star!

You Tried Gold Star

First and most glaringly, this film features a blatant erasure of identity.  The film gives no space, voice, visibility, or even acknowledgement of anyone other than cisgender gay people and cisgender straight people. The entire community of trans* folks, as well as people who identify as bi, pan, or asexual are completely absent. This erasure of identity is a form of violence, and is extremely problematic in a film that is allegedly advocating for social justice. On top of all of that, there are no people of color in this film. (Help! I’m drowning in a sea of white people!) Oh, wait! There is one person of color… a black man who beats up a white girl. Your star is being amended.

No You Didn't Star

One of Ashley’s moms is aggressive and disinterested while the other is passive and compassionate. These obvious male/female role assignments are clearly a heteronormative representation. I don’t know what the filmmakers were trying to do there but it was disappointing to see queer parenting presented in such a heteronormative manner. Emphasizing our sameness is not equivalent to celebrating our difference. Just like the idea of being colorblind, this approach ignores very real struggles. It results in more identity erasure.

This was further emphasized by another of the film’s galling missteps: the bizarre portrayal of gender role reversal. In the film’s world, acting is for boys and playing football is for girls. Of course I support boys in the arts and girls in sports, but the film showed a reversal not a mingling. That is completely inappropriate in a film about sexual orientation. It seems like these filmmakers don’t understand that sexual orientation and gender identity operate independently of each other. This film effectively reinforced the harmful and idiotic stereotype that all lesbian women are butch and all gay men are femme. The film’s website argues “this film is not about ‘genderizing’ or ‘stereotyping’ but I really can’t see how perpetuating the masculinization of lesbian women and the feminization of gay men is helpful in any way.

In fact, very little in this film is helpful. It speaks to a group of hetero folks who probably already vaguely identify as allies. These hetero ‘allies’ should be learning about microaggressions and legal inequities, and how they can use their privilege to change those things. I have a feeling that were a violent homophobe to watch this film, they would leave feeling more justified in their hatred. Because homophobic individuals are already operating in an illogical framework, they’re going to use the film as a justification for eradicating homosexuality in order to prevent the perceived end result of the gay rights movement- heterophobia. I can already hear the deranged chorus, “If we don’t stop the gays, look at what they’ll do to us!”

The real kicker comes at the very end of the film when a slide appears saying, “This film is dedicated to every child who has ever felt such darkness due to others’ hatred and misunderstanding. Always know that love is meant to be within and you should never feel wrong or alone by being who you are…Unique” which is a seriously minimalizing and hurtful message. They may as well have said, “Oh, you precious gay kids. Sure, you live in a violent world where people literally try to kill you because of who you are, but it doesn’t even matter if you just love yourself!!”

Tried and Failed Star

“Love Is All You Need?” is an unfortunate example of the problematic ally relationship. Too often, allies come into a movement and silence the group they’re allegedly advocating for. I don’t agree with the rhetorical approach of this film; I think it’s a blatant straight appropriation of a queer movement. Straight people should not gain sympathy or decide to become an activist as a result of the issues being made all about them. Everything is already about straight people!

I do think this film could work. But it needs to be made by queer folks. If we’re really going to be allies, we need to stop taking control of movements that are not ours. We need to have more public discussions, and I appreciate this film’s attempt to do that. I think the filmmakers’ hearts were in the right place… but there reaches a point when love is not all you need. As allies, what we need to do is to shut up and stop trying to take control of movements that do not belong to us.