Contrary to what most people might think, gay marriage doesn’t mean a whole lot to me aside from its symbolism. The passing of such things like Prop 8 gets me so upset not because I was making plans to rush out the door and get hitched and now I can’t (in fact, Oregon has a domestic partnership registration that grants Oregon citizens every single right available to married couples, but just doesn’t call it marriage, and frankly, that’s fine with me). It upsets me because it’s a way for the majority to hold power over, dehumanize, and dictate “morality” to the minority. I know it’s the history of this country, but frankly, I can’t really understand why these things are put to voters in the first place. Shouldn’t the courts be the ones deciding? If somebody started a petition tomorrow to reinstate slavery and got enough signatures, would people be willing to go vote on that too? (Yes, I understand there’s a a federal amendment banning slavery; I’m just speaking hypothetically.) It doesn’t seem very different to me.
All this talk about a “tipping point” in the gay rights movement right now is pretty exciting. People are talking about ACT-UP and Stonewall as models for a resurgence of gay activism. As one op-ed piece I read the other day said, gays have been shaken out of their complacency and their belief that their only duties as gay people are to “fuck and shop.” It seems that California and Prop 8 are the wake up calls the activists have been waiting for to mobilize.
Dan Savage (I sure have been quoting him a lot lately) said it best in an op-ed yesterday though, about this new rage exploding from the gay community in response to one, giant, Californian gay bash:
Gay people generally aren’t the placard-waving, bomb-throwing, chaps-wearing, communion-wafer-stomping radicals we’re made out to be by the Bills O’Reilly and Donohue. Most gays and lesbians are content to be left to alone; many gays and lesbians go out of their way to ignore political threats and political activism and political activists. Only when gays and lesbians are attacked—only after the fact—do gays and lesbians take to the streets. Remember: the Stonewall Riots were are a response to a particularly brutal and cruelly-timed (we’d just buried Judy!) police raid on a gay bar in New York City; ACT-UP and Queer Nation were a response not to the AIDS virus, but to a murderous indifference on the parts of the political and medical establishment that amounted to an attack.
Most gay people grow up desperately trying to pass, to blend in; most of us flee to cities where we can live our lives in relative peace and security. We don’t go looking for fights. And most gay people walk around without realizing that they’ve internalized the dynamics of high school hells some of us barely survived: it’s better to pass, to stay out of sight, to avoid making waves, lest you attract negative attention, lest you get bashed.
But once you get bashed, once someone else throws the first punch, then you fight back—what other choice do you have?