Minnesota passed marriage equality yesterday. Technically yesterday, but I haven’t gone to bed yet. That’s all very well and good for Minnesota. Everyone can go off into the rainbow-hued sunset and live happily ever after! Except the ones who can’t, but who cares?
That’s the question: Why doesn’t anybody care about all the other queer issues? Why is it all about the f***ing rainbow-dyed wedding cakes?
That’s why. Marriage equality is “the pretty one.” The socially acceptable one. The middle-to-upper-class one. (Remember, in Pygmalion, how Eliza Doolittle’s father expounds about “middle-class morality” like marriage being a luxury?) The cute-culture happy feels one.
It’s the one that sells witty slogans. It’s the one that means money for bridal shops and bakeries. It’s the exotic valentine’s day candy that takes the internet by storm. (Seen the red equals sign with Daleks, the most hateful creatures in the universe, saying “Exterminate the hate”?) It’s the easy way to feel like a decent person. It’s a pinkwashed version of the American Dream.
And that’s what makes it so dangerous.
We’ve somewhat intentionally planted the concept that “Gay Rights=Gay Marriage.” Because it’s the pretty one. Because it’s the most socially acceptable one. We’ve deliberately tried to keep the public from knowing or thinking about any other queer issues, because those aren’t pretty and those don’t feel good and those don’t give off the vibe of “Hey, we’re just the same as the rest of your Wonderbread culture, except we bump uglies with people who have the same kind of uglies.” And I’d say about 90% of queer issues and the queer community aren’t like that. Not like that at all.
Queer People of Color.
Queer unemployment, homelessness, depression, addiction, and suicide.
Or all the ones for whom it does not get better, ever.
Tell me it’s all about marriage when Uganda nearly passes the “Kill the Gays” bill. Tell me it’s all about marriage when Russia sews shut the mouths of queer activists and a gay man gets killed and raped with beer bottles. Tell me it’s all about marriage when it took until 2011 to get DADT repealed, and when gay/bi men in 2013 still can’t give blood because of an outdated stereotype. Tell me it’s all about marriage when Tennessee tries to force teachers and counselors to out kids to homophobic and transphobic parents, and when Arizona tries to make it a crime to pee. Tell me it’s all about marriage when a transwoman has a suicide hotline counselor hang up on her when he finds out she’s trans. Tell me it’s all about marriage when queer people can legally be fired (at least in some cases not counting religious exemptions) for orientation in 29 states and for gender identity in 35. Tell me it’s all about marriage when the queer community has a 50% higher tobacco use rate than the general population. Tell me it’s all about marriage when the government ignored the AIDS epidemic and when most insurance companies won’t cover trans* healthcare. When trans* people are allowed to die before the eyes of a crowd because supposedly no one knows how to provide medical care for someone of unusual gender. Tell me it’s all about marriage when thousands of intersex children every year are forced to have their genitals mutilated. Tell me it’s all about marriage when queer youth are ten times more likely to be homeless than cishet youth, and when 60% of them feel unsafe at school due to their sexuality or gender expression or both. When cis queer kids have five times the normal youth suicide rate, and trans* kids ten times that rate. When I can’t go on my Tumblr dash without seeing half a dozen trans* kids posting about how they want to hurt or kill themselves, and there’s nothing I can really do.
Tell me it’s all about marriage. Tell me. TELL ME!
Because it’s not. So many queer people are having more than enough trouble surviving a society that hates them–marriage is a frivolity to us, a passing fancy for the day when we stop having to fear for our lives or safety.
And even if you are among the lucky few, the white, cis, able, middle-class, gender-conforming, vanilla gays and lesbians, focusing on marriage is ultimately not going to work. You might have all the papers and conformity and money to get what you want on the surface, but without fixing the deeper social issues, it’ll all crack one day. Jay Gatsby got shot, after all.