To the leaders, membership, and supporters of The Human Rights Campaign, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and state-wide groups supporting marriage equality as your primary goal,
Hello. I'm Kate Bornstein, and I've got a great deal to say to you, so you deserve to know more about me: I write books about postmodern gender theory and alternatives to suicide for teens, freaks and other outlaws. I'm a feminist, a Taoist, a sadomasochist, a femme, a nerd, a transperson, a Jew, and a tattooed lady. I'm a certified Post Traumatic Stress Disorder survivor. I'm a chronic over-eater who's been diagnosed with anorexia. I'm sober, but I'm not always clean. I've got piercings in body parts I wasn't born with. I'm also an elder in the community you claim to represent, and it is with great sorrow that I must write: you have not been representing us.
Let's talk about a love that unites more people than have ever before been united by love. Let's defend some real equality.
The other day, New York State's lesbian and gay bid for marriage equality went down in flames, enough flames to make people cry. Thousands of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people and their allies spent a lot of money and heart-filled hours of work to legalize marriage equality, with little to show for it. That sucks, and I think the reason it didn't work is it's because marriage equality is an incorrect priority for the LGBTQetc communities.
Marriage equality—as it's being pushed for now—is wasting resources that would be better deployed to save some lives. There are several major flaws with marriage equality as a priority for our people:
- Marriage as it's practiced in the USA is unconstitutional… if you listen to Thomas Jerfferson's interpretation of separation of church and state. The way it stands now, if you're an ordained leader in a recognized religion, the US government gives you a package of 1500-1700 civil rights that only you can hand out to people. And you get to bestow or withhold these civil rights from any American citizen you choose, regardless of that citizen's constitutionally-granted rights. The government has no constitutional right to hand that judgment call over to a religious body.
- Marriage equality—as it's being fought for now by lesbian and gay leaders who claim they're speaking for some majority of LGBTQetc people—will wind up being more marriage inequality. Single parents, many of whom are women of color, will not get the 1500-1700 rights they need to better and more easily raise their children. Nor will many other households made up of any combination of people who love each other and their children.
- When lesbian and gay community leaders whip up the community to fight for the right to marry, it's a further expression of America's institutionalized greed in that it benefits only its demographic constituency. There's no reaching out beyond sexuality and gender expression to benefit people who aren't just like us, and honestly… that is so 20th Century identity politics.
- Marriage is a privileging institution. It has privileged, and continues to privilege people along lines of not only religion, sexuality and gender, but also along the oppressive vectors of race, class, age, looks, ability, citizenship, family status, and language. Seeking to grab oneself a piece of the marriage-rights pie does little if anything at all for the oppression caused by the institution of marriage itself to many more people than sex and gender outlaws.
- The fight for "marriage equality" is simply not the highest priority for a movement based in sexuality and gender. By simple triage, the most widespread criminality against people whose identities are based in sex and gender is violence against women. Women still make up the single-most oppressed identity in the world, followed closely by kids who are determined to be freaky for any reason whatsoever.
Lesbian and gay leaders must cease being self-obssessed and take into account the very real damage that's perpetrated on people who are more than simply lesbian women and/or gay men, more than bisexual or transgender even. Assuming a good-hearted but misplaced motivation for all the work done on behalf of fighting for marriage equality, it's time to stop fighting on that front as a first priority of the LGBTQetc movement. It's time to do some triage and base our priorities on a) who needs the most help and b) what battlefront will bring us the most allies.
I'm asking that you to fight on behalf of change for someone besides yourself. Please. I promise the rewards of doing that will revisit you threefold. Who needs the most help is easy: women. To lesbian and gay leaders, I ask you to ally yourselves with the centuries-old feminist movements and their current incarnations. You want to get a bill passed through Congress? Take another run at the Equal Rights Amendment. Unlike gay marriage, the ERA stands a better chance of making it into law, given the Obama Administration and our loosely Democratic majority in congress.
Stopping the violence against women and freaky children, and backing another run at the ERA have got the good chance of creating national front, lots of allies. On the home front of sex and gender, there's plenty of room for change that doesn't require millions of dollars and thousands of hours.
Looking into the community of people who base their lives on sexuality and gender, there's a lot of door-opening to do. Beyond L, G, B and T, there's also Q for queer and Q for questioning. There's an S for sadomasochists, an I for intersex, an F for feminists, and another F for furries. Our community is additionally composed of sex educators, sex workers, adult entertainers, pornographers, men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women, and asexuals who have sex in whatever manner they define their asexuality. You want to create some real change? Make room for genderqueers, polyamorists, radical faeries, butches, femmes, drag queens, drag king, and other dragfuck royalty too fabulous to describe in this short letter.
There are more and more people to add to this ever-growing list of communities whom you must own as family and represent in your activism. You cannot afford—politically, economically, or morally—to leave out a single person who bases a large part of their identity on being sex positive or in any way a proponent of gender anarchy.
That's what I have to say to you. That and thank you for the good hearts you've clearly demonstrated in your activism. I'm asking you to open your hearts further is all.
You're welcome to leave comments on this blog, but the best way to engage me in a conversation or recruit me to help is to contact me through Twitter. I look forward to talking with you, and I hope we can work together on the terms I've outlined above.
Warmly, and with respect,
Your Auntie Kate