About a month ago I opened my email only to find an “Important Announcement from the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus,” a longstanding Harvard University community and alumni group with a deep and interesting history. Apparently, the HGLC was going to become the HGSC, or Harvard Gender and Sexuality Caucus. The message went on to explain the name-change in the following way: “As many of you know, we have struggled to find a name that represents our diverse community and its values. When we have talked about simply adding to the HGLC acronym, there has not been any clear consensus about whether we should also specify transsexual, intersex, queer, and questioning members, and how we could keep the name from becoming increasingly unwieldy. Many of our members are strongly opposed to the term ‘queer,’ and feel that it does not represent who they are or the community they are a part of.”
I was frustrated with this decision by a group that I have had a longstanding affiliation with. Not only did I believe that the ‘unwieldy’ acronyms that so many groups around the nation have persisted with better represent the necessarily conflictual and coalitional aspect of any (gender and sexuality) organizing, but so was I dismayed at the ongoing attempts to erase those of us who are queer (Q). I blamed same-sex marriage and, more specifically, the hegemonic gay and lesbian politics of same-sex marriage.
This brings me to a question recently posed in the Supreme Court and, also, on Columbia Law School’s Gender & Sexuality Law Blog—Can You Oppose Gay Marriage and Not Be Anti-Gay? In answering this question (in the negative), the author of this blog post excoriates the right-wing’s attempts to find a ‘rational’ reason to oppose same-sex marriage. Yet, the author—and so many others—have conveniently ignored left, or queer, reasons for opposing same-sex marriage; reasons which, to my mind, appear considered and rational and plausible.
Obviously, there are many discussions and disagreements within queer circles, with much queer opposition to same-sex marriage taking on the class- and race-privileged nature of contemporary marriage in the United States, and the undesirability of expanding the reach of marriage any further. The group ‘Against Equality’ (about which I will have more to discuss in later posts) has recently produced excellent work along these lines, as have many others before (and after) them.
While I generally agree with these queer critiques of marriage, in recent work of mine I have also attempted to more specifically argue the ways in which marriage is ‘majoritarian marriage’ in each of the different U.S. states, and the harms to LGBTQ people which can result from being absorbed/coerced into majoritarian institutions. There are alternatives to marriage to strongly consider and also preserve, namely those alternative relationship structures (domestic partnerships, civil unions, others) which some states (e.g. California) have legislated and which hold out the possibility of different—and arguably better—notions of family/kinship, material support, and, yes, even love.
I will have more to say about all of this in upcoming posts, but let me conclude by emphasizing that the issue of same-sex marriage has heightened already-existing disagreements in the ‘LGBTQ’ community, so much so that some queers are arguing for a ‘breakup’ with gays and lesbians. So, yes—and no—you can be against gay marriage and not be anti-gay.