As a response to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing cases regarding same sex marriage in three states including my home state of Texas, a rally was held in Dallas where my wife and I live. Although the temps lingered around freezing that evening (not Dallasite friendly), we felt we should attend – in solidarity with our community and the couples representing us in the hearings.
I was expecting to see some anti-gay protestors around, but tacky signs with bible verses taken out of context were nowhere to be found. I was, however, unpleasantly surprised to find that members of our own Dallas queer community were present to passively communicate their dismay – holding a sign suggesting that “equality period” should be our focus rather than that of marriage and delivering a speech acknowledging that we should demand marriage equality but, in an almost patronizing fashion, reminding us that matters such as the bullying of our youth and the hate crimes against our trans brothers and sisters potentially hold more importance.
Overall, the rally was exactly what it should be – inspiring and motivational. It reinforced to my wife and me the importance of being active in this movement that is so personal. However, it also served as a reminder of how divided our community can often be.
I embrace and celebrate the various backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs that make up the LGBT family. We are quite diverse and when it comes to creating a picture representative of who we are, one brush simply will not do. We fall on all variants of the gender spectrum; we are black, Latino, white, Asian, Middle Eastern; we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist; we are monogamous, polyamorous, celibate; we are dating, married, single; we are conservative, liberal, moderate, non-political; we are everything you thought we were and so much more – I love it. And along with those differences comes varying worldviews. Regardless of what you’ve been told, there is such a thing as a gay Republican.
We’re not all Obama supporting, pro-choice-ing, immigration reforming, climate change acknowledging liberals. I am all of the aforementioned things and, admittedly, I struggle to understand and accept my LGBT brothers and sisters who aren’t, but I’m working on it.
Amongst the differing perspectives in our community, there is a movement that believes that the majority of LGBT activists are focused too heavily on marriage equality. Their perspective is that we are exerting too much of our energy in the fight for marriage while there are many other issues that deserve our attention in a more urgent sense than that of same sex marriage. And that, through our actions, we are suggesting that, as soon as nationwide marriage equality is accomplished, our work here will be done.
I wonder what would happen if we could find it in our hearts to support the causes of our community – whether actively or passively – rather than diminishing those that we are not passionate about. It seems to me that each of us has a zeal for something. Feminism, animal rights, racial equality, and LGBT equality are a few of mine.
If you were to look at my bank account, my social media updates, and watch where I spend my time, this would be evident to you. However, the fact that I’ve chosen to use my time in support of these causes does not imply that I believe others are of less value. It simply means this is where my passions lie.
Somewhere along the way, whether by nature or nurture, we all feel a tug to fight for something. It seems that this “tug” is there for a reason – so that we may use our talents and abilities to be a part of a movement that needs us. While my “tug” has called me to women’s rights, yours may have directed you to trans advocacy. Does this make me right and you wrong or vice versa?
I don’t think so. It places us on a parallel path – each having a goal that will lead us to the same place, but which has us on a different road to one destination.
The argument as to whether the marriage equality movement has overtaken LGBT equality is a tricky one. Opposition within our own community to same sex marriage activists will say that there are more serious issues we should be fighting for. They feel that we have become wrapped up in one issue rather than seeing the bigger picture. Maybe my strong desire for marriage equality is selfish. I am, after all, in a legally unrecognized marriage.
My wife and I have been together for 5 years, sharing a household for 4, running a business together for 2, and our wedding in Texas was in May of 2013. There is not enough time in the day to list the many reasons why I want for marriage equality in my home state. I will be a direct beneficiary when this finally passes. Maybe I am guilty of getting caught up in this particular brand of social change because it will enrich my relationship and remove many of the legal complications that go along with being in a committed same sex relationship. However, I am not in this fight for only self-serving reasons.
Marriage equality will not only serve as an advantage for gay couples desiring to marry. It will, and already has, been a major part of a culture change that has needed to happen in this country for ages. It has and will continue to be a crucial piece to changing hearts and minds in our society. As the naysayers see same sex couples functioning in this world as normal, committed couples, they will find fewer reasons to hold on to their prejudices. As the prejudices diminish, LGBT equality as a whole will benefit.
Young queer people will start to believe that, when Dan Savage and Terry Miller, told them it would get better, they might have actually spoken the truth. Once young LGBTs see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, they may be less likely to consider suicide. The ripple effects of marriage equality hold the potential to foster real positive social change for our community with further reaches than we can conceive of.
It is also relevant to address the fact that marriage rights are a part of a national dialogue happening now. There is something to be said for striking while the iron is hot. On a national level, same sex marriage is the focus of many in the equality movement, but why are we so quick to criticize? It is a conversation being had in political circles and in the media. And thank god for that. Is this not a product of the activism of our LGBT brothers and sisters who came before? Instead of picking apart the flaws of this discourse, shouldn’t we take advantage of the fact that it is being had? Maybe this is where we are placing our emphasis at this time, but we know that, as soon as this battle is won, we will damn sure be moving on to the next. We know the war is not finished until there is equality for all.
When queer people can be a united front, we cannot be stopped. We are at our greatest when we support one another. The fight for safer schools for LGBT youth is every bit as important as the battle for safer streets for trans people. Each has the potential to make the place of queer people in this world a stronger and more secure one. So, let us continue to view our movement with a critical eye and question everything. Let us always improve and refine our plans of attack. But, let us encourage and support our brothers and sisters who have chosen to give their time to the varying facets of the equality movement. Let’s face it – we have enough enemies.