My Not-Quite Outsider’s Perspective on Prop. 8
I have found my feelings about the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California complex. Note carefully that I have not said “conflicted” because I am not. But they are complex. My relationship is one of the boogy men the right uses against marriage equality. Even more so though, the gay movement falls all over itself to make it clear that relationships like mine aren’t any more welcome in the gay community (note the distinction between the movement and the community) than in the bible belt.
I was living in Massachusetts during the fight for same-sex marriage there and I remember being told by many of my gay friends and acquaintances that I owed it to my brethren to go back into the closet about my family because our existence sent the wrong message. The “right” message of course, and by “right” I mean the one on the press releases is that gay people are just like straight ones. They want to meet the right man or woman, settle down, raise a family. This is bullshit. Well the second part is.
I’ll grant that gays are much like straights. However, I reject the notion that all straight people want the wife/kids/minivan scenario. The difference between queer folk and straight folk has been that in rejecting society’s expectations that we be heterosexual we’ve also gained the freedom to reject other of society’s expectations for who we should be, from the nature of our relationships to defying gender role expectations and a host of other individual choices (my grandfather wanted me to consider business school, I wonder if I’d have been so comfortable disappointing him if my queerness had paved Disappointment Road already).
This narrowing of what it means to be queer has been by no means limited to poly folk. Drag queens, flamers, butch dykes and other “stereotypical” queers have found the movement shrink out from under them under the banner of gaining wider societal acceptance.
I’ve seen the same thing happen in the Tourette Syndrome world. Just as the gay community wants the rest of the world to know that being gay doesn’t mean that you swish your hips when you walk, there is a constant message from the TS world that having Tourette doesn’t mean that you have coprolalia (swearing tics). Just as gays I knew told me that I shouldn’t be open about Fire, Summer and my life, I recently spoke to the mother of a child with TS who stopped going to parent support group meetings because the other parents were so bothered by the fact that her child had coprolalia. She said to me (paraphrasing) “the Tourette Association spends so much time telling everyone, especially parents, that coprolalia is so rare, and that it’s not the defining feature of the condition that I feel like there is no support for me or my son. I feel like they’d rather we just keep our mouths shut!”
When I was in high school a lot of the literature for gay youth emphasized that gay kids were “ordinary” kids. That most of them didn’t swish or lisp or like musical theater. The problem was that if a kid did express themselves in that way (and I was literally swishing when I was five, although I later forced myself not to) they can be left feeling like they don’t even belong with the gays. I don’t know if that has changed much or not in the time since, although I will applaud Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys young adult series for featuring a variety of kinds of gay kids.
Don’t even get me started on the way that the gay and lesbian movement and to a lesser extent the gay and lesbian community threw transgendered people under the bus during last year’s fight for federal anti-discrimination protection. I’ll get to that at some point in the future. When I can think about it without wanting to put my fist through my computer screen. Be prepared to wait.
All of this said however, Prop 8 hurt. Leaving aside for a moment all the individuals wounded personally by it’s passing, Proposition 8 sends a terrible message. It says that the people of one of the most liberal states in the land don’t believe in equal rights for queers. Worst of all, it steals away hope from people all over. When push comes to shove, California is still perceived as one of the better places is this country to be gay. If California can overrule same-sex marriage why should anyone fight for the right to live their lives in a way that %51 of people might not like.
Same-sex marriage rights can never be my victory. But the passage of Prop. 8 and the other anti-gay ballot measures on Nov. 4th certainly felt like my defeat.