“I’m not against gays. I like gay people. I’m just for traditional marriage!”
I can do this trick too: I’m not against “Twilight”; my sister likes it. I’m just for my self-pretentious literacy!
While I’m beginning to tire of hearing this “distinction,” what’s starting to bother me is the response I’m hearing from the LGBT community. “That’s a tune I’ve heard before: ‘I don’t hate blacks, I’m just for slavery.'”
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book: relying on traditional religiously-oriented laws to impose standards on contemporary Western society. But it is a contradictory trick. After all, we don’t legalize selling our daughters into slavery or killing men who cheat on their wives — although perhaps some wish we would — just because Leviticus says so. These contradictions are typically waved away by the hand of someone trying to draw subtle “distinctions” that allow us to follow certain doctrines and not others.
But to argue the above “distinctions” all work the same way to marginalize others is to conflate gay marriage with gay identity, a conflation that essentially says that slavery was to blacks is what being denied gay marriage is to the LGBT community. That confuses systemic issues with the sense that civil rights movements have already accomplished their goals. The real analogy to draw is that homophobia is to gay rights what racism is to blacks and their civil rights — there are plenty of ways to be racist or homophobic that don’t involve the legal infringement of rights.
One should thus be arguing that any marginalization of gay identity is homophobic. By claiming gay marriage is the finish line for gay rights, one dismisses many more pressing concerns created by homophobia than gay marriage (like the continual rise of homeless gay youth and employment discrimination). It assures, in other words, both the LGBT community and dominant culture that if only gays could marry, they would be as liberated as the blacks were by Lincoln.
The entire mainstream gay rights movement is heady with this brew, especially in Utah. The demand for gay marriage comes with two appeals: one to the surrounding aesthetic of perfected normalcy and the other to hollow rhetoric of “wrongness,” that one would somehow be impeding important social progress catching on outside Utah. The problem is the systemic enforcement of traditional sexuality and gender roles, not just culturally and legally instituted biblical traditions.
The LGBT community cannot ask this conservative culture to give them privileged “normal” club memberships for spouses and then assume the homophobic conditions also occurring outside the chapel will disappear. The goal must be complete liberation, and without the co-option of other civil rights movements; anything else is just settling.
As long as gays rely on “distinctions” that conflate social status with progress, they’ll be exchanging their freedom for mere crumbs of a meal. And wasn’t that, after all, how Jacob cheated Esau?