Beyond Gay Marriage and Queer Separatists–The Call for a Working-Class Queer Movement

2010 October 14
by Lou

The gay marriage debate has taken over all the attention from the queer movement left and right. The right wing is consistently and stubbornly denying the existence of queer folks by saying that it’s an immoral choice of lifestyle. The liberal gay and lesbian organizations are continually pulling millions and millions of dollars to appeal to the state for marriage equality under the rhetoric of “we are all the same.” On the other hand, queer separatists are fiercely combating the liberals with the slogan: “we are totally and absolutely different from the heteros,” and have made good points on criticizing the oppressive patriarchal nature of the institution of marriage and how queers should not seek this type of inclusion (see: against equality).  However, these critiques have not necessarily been able to generate an alternative grassroots movement which can seriously take on the demands of those queers who are marginalized–queer people of color, trans folks, working-class queers, queers with disabilities, and third world and immigrant queers–from all of the above approaches.

There has been a series of intolerable queer violence that occurred very recently in the country–torture, youth suicide, school bullying–while the violence is nothing new to queer folks, it is urgently calling for the communities’ response to these issues. Though the liberals are posting heartwarming videos and articles and holding vigils saying that “it gets better” (Dan Savage’s video),  we know that the fight cannot end here. As oppressed folks we know that queer oppression does not end when we graduate from high school bullying and move to San Francisco and suddenly become successful professionals who hang out in fancy bars and overcome all of our internal and external conflicts. Here are QPOCs’ responses to queer youth suicides: “It doesn’t get better. You get stronger

and “For colored boys that speak softly

Yosimar Reyes; “for colored boys that speak softly” from Corduroy Media on Vimeo.

The liberals see gay marriage as the end of the queer struggle, and have this fantasy that if gay marriage was legal national-wide, then soon it would “trickle down” to the marginalized communities and thus end all queer oppression.

We know for a fact that the gay marriage demand alone is incapable of solving our problems of physical, psychological, and economic violence, but instead normalizes a different though limited type of family under capitalism. Criticizing the approach of marriage equality alone has not helped much with movement building either. The debate overall has clearly not been very productive so far, but instead, it has instigated so much anxiety among the queer communities–many politically conscious queers are having panic attacks just over the moral decisions of choosing to support and/or participate in gay marriage if they had the rights to do so. All this overwhelming anxiety around the gay marriage issue is exactly because that there has not been an alternative queer movement that can channel the energy, and this debate has been monopolized in the framework of “individual choice” and “individual freedom.” Under this liberal ideology, many queer folks think that, of course we should have the right as individuals to choose who we love, who we want to have sex, and who we want to have family with! If straight people do why can’t we?! While queer folks are absolutely discriminated against by the heterosexist state which should not be tolerated, seeking freedom under this individualist ideology has not gotten us too far. Instead of carving out a tiny gay space out of the small stream of bourgeois, legislative rights, can we imagine a kind of sexual freedom that is for all people? A kind of freedom where a single mom is able to bring up her child without feeling obligations to marry? A kind of freedom that no one would be restrained in pantyhose at work anymore? A kind of freedom that as a culture we are finally not tabooed to talk about sex, but does not idealize or professionalize it either? A kind of freedom that everyone would play with gender without shame, and a culture that no youth would commit suicide because of school bullying, or because they might just have a different sexual fantasy? A kind of place that no one would be afraid to walk the streets at night, where none of our body parts– our brains or our genitals –are pathologized. A kind of freedom that is multifaceted, and does not merely carve out a different shape of box to fit in a particular sexuality, but opens up the possibility to more creative desires for everyday folks.

The mainstream gay movement today has hijacked the revolutionary sexual liberation movement in the 70s and turned it into a short-sighted individual rights agenda. They assume that every queer person has the same class position and desires the same kind of American Dream. Their answer to the queer working-class concern is that marriage can help poor folks get access to spousal benefits such as health insurance–which is fundamentally contradictory. For instance, many of our partners do not have health insurance in the first place because we do not have stable jobs or jobs that offer it in the first place. That said,  the issue of gay marriage should not merely be decided by who participates in it. Rather, we should ask–who are the people controlling the movement? Whose voices are not heard? And, what is our alternative? While having equal rights can perhaps open up more space for our struggle, we cannot let the liberals such as the Human Rights Campaign and Democrats define our movement. We also cannot let the queer separatists defeat us and push us out of the struggle.

What we need is to build an issue-focused working-class movement that centers queer analysis.  Our demands should cut across sexuality and gender lines, while fore-fronting and popularizing queer needs. We should demand universal health care that includes access to hormones, gender reassignment surgeries, and an anti-heterosexist health system that does not attempt to pathologize our queer bodies and erase the traumas we face in a violent homophobic society.  We should demand asylum for all immigrants and not solely rely on the liberal, imperialist reform agenda such as the DREAM Act that attempts to draft the youth from our communities into the oppressive military system. These need to be our demands because we know that our fate as workers are bound up with the exploitation of the undocumented workers and the exploitation of youth of color. Today, anti-queer violence erodes our sense of community and leaves us feeling raw, vulnerable, and fearful for ours and our friends’ safety. This is a crucial time for queers and allies who distrust the state and the police to come together and mobilize from the grassroots to defend ourselves from homophobic violence. We should take the lesson from the initial domestic violence movement which set up grassroots phone trees, patrols, and shelters to challenge patriarchal violence in the households and in the streets. Today, we need to resurrect this sense of grassroots unity that links our struggles together and not to rely on the compromised liberals and non-profits, or the homophobic, racist state institutions that divide and assault our communities.

When the gay liberal assimilationists say to middle-class straight folks, “we are just like you,” and the queer separatists on the other say “hell no we are nothing like you” and form their own blocs, we should be the force that says to every day folks who struggle that “we are just like you, and you are actually just like us”–because queer folks have always been part of the working-class and we are not fundementally different from one another. Our oppression as queers is not a fixed pathology. It is a product of the heteronormative, homophobic society, and it does not have to stay that way forever. In fact, the essence of queer liberation lies within the ability for everyone to celebrate and experiment their sexuality, gender, and desire. It is not enough to only carve out another limited category of acceptable sexuality for a certain group of people. This kind of change is not liberation–it is a very limited imagination of freedom. We need to start off with this fundamental vision of uniting the working-class and queer struggles and ensure that not any part of ourselves will be forced to compromise in the movement.

News on the recent anti-queer violence and youth suicides:

Lured into a trap, then tortured for being gay

Anti-Gay Attacks Reported at Stonewall Inn and in Chelsea

NJ’s student suicide resonates on campus, beyond

Campus Pride: Openly gay Johnson & Wales student Raymond Chase commits suicide

  • cg

    This piece is an amazing beginning to an outline of STRATEGY for queer struggle that I haven’t really seen before!! In New York, wen is pushing us a lot to think seriously about how to build organization that can fight these battles and build queer youth of color leadership that goes beyond “against gay marriage” or “for gay marriage”–this essay puts forward the positive vision of demands that are necessary for working class queer poc while also recognizing the specific situations that qpoc face–increased violence, lack of feeling safe that can lead to anxiety, etc. What is great about this piece though is that it does not suggest stopping EITHER at demands on the state to confront capitalist exploitation of working class quees OR at strategies such as phone trees, self-defense, etc, but rather sees them as part of the same struggle. also the need to see how homophobia and heterosexism are part of capitalist oppression, not subordinate to it, or to white supremacy. qpoc are also exploited, and are also fighting against white supremacy, and queer liberation cannot be separated from these struggles.

  • Virginia

    This is an awesome post! Really excellent breakdown of the gay marriage movement, and a more meaningful, nuanced call to action than just the queer separatist wholesale rejection of marriage. Miss ya Wen!

  • http://spiritualdesert.blogspot.com/ Mamos

    Yeah, this is a great piece. It reminds me of Advance the Struggle’s “Twin Pitfalls of Adventurism and Centrism” concepts, where AS outlined the two main tendencies in the anti- budget cuts movement – the centrists who trail the liberals to just “defend education” and the adventurists who say “fuck education, it’s oppressive”. AS laid out a third tendency, a class struggle approach that focuses not only on fighting budget cuts but on transforming the university and the workplace through insurgent mass democracy.

    The same thing could be said of the queer liberation movement today – you have tailists who focus only on Gay Marriage and then you have adventurists who say “fuck marriage” but don’t pose any alternative demands that a mass queer liberation movement could rally around, and instead just build separatist subcultures. Wen outlines a “third tendency” which doesn’t get caught up in Gay Marriage reformism but also asks what kinds of demands can capture the imaginations of millions of working class queers out there who do want to fight heterosexism.

    What are some other examples of this “third tendency”? What work are queer liberation fighters out there already doing which are examples of what Wen is looking for here? What demands, besides Gay Marriage, could folks unite around to fight for queer power today?

  • http://spiritualdesert.blogspot.com/ Mamos

    By the way, I really like the “it doesn’t get better, you get stronger” message. Especially the part where she says “if Jesus came back he’d chill with us cuz everyone else hates us.” Amen to that.

  • Pingback: A call for a working-class queer movement | The Fourth Dimension

  • g

    Good piece! It articulates really well some of what I’ve been feeling for a while. Clearly the struggle for gay marriage is limited and deeply problematic (if folks haven’t read Kenyon Farrow’s “Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black?” I highly recommend it). On the other hand much of “radical queer politics seems to be ultraleft and lifestylist, having its major political content as opposition to gay marriage, and its practice as dance parties. Neither of these poles seem to be what we need to queer communities and liberate humanity

    I agree that taking the struggles of working class queers and particularly queers of color is a good starting point. Groups like FIERCE and Safe Outside the System have been particularly inspiring to me. Also it seems worth looking at where queers are organizing in groups that are not “queer” organizations. Groups like Critical Resistance and certain copwatch groupings seem to develop a queer political culture while struggling around other issues.

    Finally I like that this gets to the question of universality. While we should certainly uphold the equal rights of queer folks in opposition to the attacks of the right, that’s not the real point. Part of what’s exciting about queer liberation to me is that it creates new possibilities for all people. Queer political struggles and queer communities have created new models of love, kinship, and sexuality. While many of these are limited and contradictory, the opening of new possibilities beyond compulsory heterosexuality and the gender binary system serve the interests not only of self-identified LGBT folks, but of all people seeking freedom.

    Again, thanks so much for this piece. It’s given me a lot to think about. Given how dismal the marxist left’s record on these questions has been at certain points, I’m very excited about the work of developing a revolutionary queer politics.

  • wen

    i echoed strongly with g’s point that there are many queer militants organizing in “non-queer” specific organizations–in the movement for public education, immigration, environmental justice, fight against the prison industrial complex etc. yet i’m eager to see the socialist/libertarian left take up the question of queer liberation as part of the class struggle and create anti-hetersexist revolutionary organizations that is sustainable for queer folks to be involved in the long term. i know many folks have started seriously thinking of the question of patriarchy and the involvement of women in revolutionary organizations and establish uncompromising feminist analysis on marxism–i think it’s also a crucial time for us to think about the oppression of queer (which is so tied to patriarchy!) and expand the feminist analysis to queer liberation both in theory and in practice.

    i think it’s also important for revolutionary organization to build alternative forms of anti-violence patrol/network and hopefully in the long term to take over the type of limited services that are currently still providing through the non-profit industrial complex which is tightly connected to the state. just like what cg said above, we want to build this type of community strategy against queer and DV violence within the movement, instead of seeing it as a separate project that is easier to be co-opted by liberals and the state, and understand this type of every day struggle that queer/women/poc folks face is a product of capitalist exploitation that we must confront uncompromisingly.

    i always go back to the work sylvia rivera and STAR has done–they took over houses to build shelter for homeless queer/trans youth but were also seriously fighting against capitalism and for trans rights through labor work at the same time. i think thats the type of strategy we should learn for our the work we are doing now.

  • Pingback: Shout Outs! |

  • Fantastic

    Absolutely fantastic piece. I’ve been wondering where the voices of reality were.

  • http://www.gatheringforces.org Will

    Excellent post!

    Just had some questions:

    What are the qualities of a revolutionary organization which make it sustainable (and fun) for queer militants? What are the qualities of intermediate/ center type organizations which make it sustainable (fun too) for queer militants?

    Wen, in your comment you agree with queer militants struggling in “non-queer” specific struggles. I am guessing you would agree that things like budget cuts, fight against prison, or the police also effect queer working class people. That is why you put “non-queer” in quotes. It is just key that those struggles also have a political and organizational analysis for working class queers. Or are you saying there are queer specific/ only issues which queer militants need to fight for? And are there struggles in this period which warrant queer only formations?

    Will

  • foe jax

    Though I agree with your impulse to seek a unity between less mainstream queer struggle and working class ones (an argument that has — for good reason — been around for a long time), your piece participates in a common, but dangerous, mischaracterization of the “the revolutionary sexual liberation movement in the 70s,” in that — much like the moment we’re in now — the so-called revolutionary 70s was really very much participating in a troubling politics based on individualist modes of self-expression and self-discovery that did not, in any way, stand as a challenge to capitalism and worker exploitation. As we’ve seen, the sexual liberation movement of the 70s flourished just fine right alongside the flourishing of capitalism and the progression into the neoliberal moment we’re in today.

    Though I know it’s a small point in your post, romanticizing the free expression of the 1970s as a time we should somehow get back to is one of the problems that face today’s mainstream queer politics, which says that — as long as we are represented more in the media, and as long as people like Lady Gaga can push the boundaries of heteronormativity — things will eventually go our way. As Benjamin and others have said, the capitalist state will concede to as much free-expression and illusion of choice as it needs to so long as it keeps the masses from getting what is due to them.

    Like you, I am deeply frustrated by the movement. But, rather than romanticizing the 70s — whose obsession with self-expression, it seems, has much to do with the heart of mainstream glbt politics today — we need to really think long and hard about the history of this so-called liberation and strategize about how to think beyond “everyone … celebrat[ing] and experiment[ing] their sexuality, gender, and desire” so that queer politics truly becomes synonymous with smashing the state.

  • http://ellapelea.wordpress.com Krisna

    Hey foe jax,

    I didn’t take away the same conclusions so perhaps you can clarify some things for me.

    What I’m reading is a criticism of existing practices of both the mainstream gay organizations as well as an abstentionist queer counterculture not “mainstream queer struggle and working class ones.” A working class queer movement is what is being proposed which negates the binary choice of assimilationist and reformist gay marriage and the isolation and cynicism of working class queers and queer people of color. You mentioned that this is a fairly common discussion. Where is that conversation happening?

    In terms of romanticism, the quote you cite follows arguments for a strategic reorientation towards building a fighting working class queer movement as well as a historic critique of the cooptation of the queer movement in the 1970s. I guess that strikes me as a pretty sober analysis.

    Having said that, I agree that romanticism is harmful and unnecessary. However, I think reductionist arguments are equally dangerous and the sexual liberation movement which is tied at the hip with women’s and queer liberation deserves a fuller and more complex history than “individualist modes of self-expression and self-discovery that did not, in any way, stand as a challenge to capitalism and worker exploitation.”

    There’s a good interview with Sylvia Rivera of STAR, a revolutionary trans organization that existed in the 1970s that worked together with the Young Lords in New York. I think the work they did took up precisely the challenge you mention and it is worth mining the experience and incorporating that back into our present struggle.

    Peace.

  • Giselda

    “A working class queer movement is what is being proposed which negates the binary choice of assimilationist and reformist gay marriage and the isolation and cynicism of working class queers and queer people of color. You mentioned that this is a fairly common discussion. Where is that conversation happening?”

    While largely non-profits, many groups like S.O.N.G., FIERCE, etc. have styled themselves in a way that at least rhetorically matches this conversation, but to be frank I think bad organizing ideas have stifled the realization of goals similar to this article. Although I don’t want to just put it on them – there’s also a lot of objective factors that need to be taken into account that I won’t get into now.

    Most left (socialist) groups discuss this on some level, but mostly not in a way which proposes separate all queer formations outside of other working class struggles. As for non-left groups, EAA may seem hopelessly liberal and lacking in militancy to some but I’m getting a bit impressed, at least in SOME cities, at the progression of their focus into areas outside gay marriage. This may be largely because of ISO participation or not, I don’t know. Sherry Wolf and the ISO have definitely been one of the most vocal in the area of making queer struggles working class struggles, even though I disagree with part of the assessment (much like their discussion on feminist struggles there’s a quick rush to label autonomous cultural movements as “identity politics”).

    I do see the conversation happening to some degree – in cities like Atlanta there was at one point in the not so distance past over a hundred people attending meetings of the Queer Progressive Alliance, who’s aim was to counter the liberalness of HRC, etc. , and there’s been similar examples across the country. I have yet to see a movement, though, and that is largely related to the reasons there are not really working class movements period. I hope this conversation deepens and appreciate the contribution here. My only advice at the moment (because even though I am queer and working class I personally do not feel building a working class queer organization is strategically the best priority for me, so I only have casual advice on the matter) is that we do not categorically reject all non-profits, liberal groups, etc., when thinking of possible allies to build this movement. I think like Wen said, it’s important to see who’s leading the movement/group instead of just the form of the struggle . Yes, this is partly an application of Lenin’s ideas of content vs. form but I think it still heavily applies. For example, I think the non-profit of HRA is very, very different than a non-profit like S.O.N.G. with a good base of radical members throughout the south – one is definitely worth working with, the other would be a waste of time.

    Also, there is still, although much smaller than in the past, a network of ballroom culture and “houses” in some parts of the US that are good building blocs for a radical community base of queers of color, if people further wish to investigate that possibility.

  • JOMO

    Some thoughts:
    - I am very excited that we are having this discussion that begins to get at a concrete strategy for a working class queer movement. The theoretical development needs to be ongoing, but now that we have some space carved out for this way of thinking about queer struggles that is a “third tendency” – not bureaucratic nor separatist — we can start brainstorming and putting into practice the nitty gritty!

    - I sense alot of energy around doing queer lib stuff in light of the recent violence. But society-wide “hate” or “homophobia” is a very giant and powerful, and seemingly abstract thing to fight. The target is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Our goals should be a combination of
    –> self defense — practising solidarity on the streets, w the resources that we have — phonetrees, or queer patrols and at some point, when we have the resources, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!

    –> bridging urban-rural queer struggles — which means expanding the language of queer struggle into non-urban/liberal bastions; expanding the images of the “safe” queer lifestyles; this might mean more concrete organizational associations w existing queer networks in non-urban areas, doing solidarity work — daily relationship building

    I know many queer homeless youth in the city who have escaped from their less-urban homes and been beaten down by the continual daily class oppression of city streets. Imagine if we had a queer street organization that also saw as part of its vision, the expansion of queer liberation into the places that we felt we had been forced to escape from! A reclaiming of our homelands!! Of our spaces! So we dont NEED to escape, so that one day our movements to urban areas is a CHOICE, not a life and death survival tactic.

    I think this touches on what I love about the article , that our vision is one where queer identity opens up a series of beautiful and happy choices and options, not simply misery and survivalism. For this to happen, we need to be STRONGER AND the fucking world needs to change and make way for us and our desires!!

    —> centering queer struggles in working class struggles:
    theoretically this is clear from our conversations but concretely, this feels abstract. i feel like this is not because there is a lack of theoretical underdevelopment, but because there is a material underdevelopment of organized working class struggles in the country right now. we need to build up organizations, strategies, visions etc of working class struggles and through the dynamic living out, practice, daily strategizing of those struggles, INTEGRATE queer struggles seamlessly into those formations. This is needed not because I dont believe that queer struggles are also class struggles, but that theory doesnt mean much until we see it in PRACTICE, in struggle.

    One thing we as U/S have always tried to support/encourage is the formation of non-bureaucratic/hierarchical independent workplace groups.

    One of the biggest issues that queer folks face is how our bodies are being criminalized in the healthcare system — less care and medical aid cos hetero and transphobic society rejects our bodies and genders. The recently published report is here: http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/resources_and_tools/ntds_report_on_health.pdf

    Imagine if we had indy workplace groups that would go on strike, or do a work slowdown, to fight this. To say that as a society we cannot tolerate trans bodies being under attack. The reality is queer struggles like this are also struggles WITHIN THE WORKING CLASS, and have to be fought through working class institutions and organizations, for a battle around OUR liberation as workers and everyday people. Management and the rulers have a hand to play in the continual instituionalization of transphobia and heterosexism for sure, but they alone are not enough. We have to fight the battles within the class and queers need to take leadership in shaping the values, principles and fighting campaigns of these fighting organizations. But first, these fighting organizations need to be built! I think this is one direction we can channel our energies as militant working class queers

    I listed the example of the healthcare industry, but I think the same can go for the teacher’s unions and struggles.

    - I think what;s been gaining alot of attention these days is the gay marriage debate, the DADT debate…but these are places where working people feel the weakest. These are battles that are fought out in the Dem party platforms, through the supreme court etc. This is not our strength. While recognizing that many working people care about these issues, we also do well to expand the conceptions of queer struggles beyond these high-flying big issues and tackle the day to day experiences and political lessons and visions they point to. I think our ability to do this is a measure for whether we succeed in building a third tendency workingclass queer pole, 10-20 years from now.

  • http://www.againstequality.org conrad

    did yall really just refer to the against equality project and its members/contributors as “queer separatists”!?

    before writing this posting off misdirected anger/frustration/critique (i know a lot of us feel those emotions working on the a.e. project), i’d like to hear these claims substantiated, rather than let the broad generalizations about our work that has been posted here go unchecked. we love criticism and self-reflection on our work, but these claims about “queer separatism” seem off to me. so please, substantiate your broad generalizations so we can learn and grow too!

    also, from going on tour and talking with 30-40 queer and trans folks (some activists and radical, some not) across the west coast and mid west (from small and large towns/cities) we found that a lot of people were really thankful for the materialist/class critique and framework we were sharing (about gay marriage and neoliberalism) and that a lot of people weren’t necessarily ready for a strategy session on how we move forward together materially. it was sad for me in particular because this is what i was most excited about for tour, but most people at these events just weren’t ready to jump into action/strategy sessions and really seemed to need a solid framework foundation from which to jump from. people that did want action/strategy were asking a.e. to provide it, ie. “tell us what you think we should do next,” which is not our place to provide nor should it be.

    hope those thoughts are useful as we struggle together!

    xo/conrad

  • http://www.yasminnair.net/ Yasmin Nair

    It’s great to have these conversations happen, but I wonder why they always need to be framed as “X and Y are not useful, so let’s move on to Z, our way, which is the best way onwards.” That kind of critique is necessarily based on broad generalisations – and in this case, for some reason, you seem to have decided that Against Equality is a bunch of “queer seperatists” who have no connection to the reality of our material lives.

    First, I encourage everyone to check out our website and the book for evidence of the varied organising and lived realities that we and our critiques come from. I would also suggest that we consider not throwing around terms like “separatist” loosely – I have a great deal of respect for lesbian seperatism in its historical context, and it was absolutely a defining and even necessary part of the queer movement, even as it exemplified so many problems (the resulting trans-phobia being just one of them). But separatism in and of itself, whether queer or not, has a long and rich history.

    That being said, AE is hardly a queer separatist group and we don’t identify as such. Every one of us lives,works, and breathes in the multiply inflected communities and political groups of which we are a part – and our political commitment as a collective is to make that interconnectedness more, not less, visible to the world, straight or gay.

    Which brings me to the last issue: the idea that the work engaged upon by AE and its ilk is necessarily separate from productive political action. As Ryan points out, what has been made clear to us on our tour is the very great hunger for change action – most of the many, many people (there were often 30-40 people at each gathering) who showed up at our presentations crave a change and our work is proving to be a springboard towards change and action. The mainstream gay community has, over the last three decades or so, sapped our economic and political capital so much that we are only now beginning to wrest control of a more radically transformative politics.

    But that vision has always been with us, as those of us in AE who have been fighting for years on issues like immigration, health care, and the prison industrial complex, to name just a few of our political struggles, know too well. Those are fundamentally queer issues, whether or not the marriage industrial complex will admit it or not. We invite you to join the struggle.

  • JOMO

    Hey Yasmin and Conrad,
    Thanks for posting your thoughts and pushing us on what we mean exactly by “queer separatist” in such a comradely way. I trust that what is important for all of us who have participated in this blog and its comments, is the desire to build working class, anti-war, poc-led queer organizing on the streets. It is in that light that we may have specific disagreements.

    In retrospect I do think the term “queer separatist” may be too much of a short hand for describing mine and wen’s criticisms of AE organizing. I think the rest of the piece articulates what exactly we mean though in the first paragraph it may not have been so clear.

    What I was trying to get at, is a conflict I have felt in many discussions around Gay Marriage. On the one hand, I absolutely detest and hate the GM Bureaucracy and certainly see GM as an agenda for “equality”/inclusion into an undesirably oppressive and heteronormative world. In my personal beliefs, I have many many agreements with the critiques laid out by AE on your blog. In fact, an article I wrote earlier “Queer liberation is class struggle” is up on that list too. We agree in our critiques and opposition to the GM bureaucracy, its erasures of race and class, and most explicitly exemplified by the GM bureaucracy to the Jersey 4.

    I have felt many conflicts though between my own personal belief around gay marriage and what I observed to be its appeal to queer folks around me who dont explicitly identify as radicals. Some of them are queer homeless youth that I used to work with, and others are queer workers who dont always float in a progressive milieu. Many of these folks I know see the assaults and attacks on GM by the right as an attack on their loves and desires; see the denial of GM as an explicit denial of their right to participate in a society as equals with everyone else they know. Then there is also the comparisons with the civil rights struggle. The US then and now remains a hugely segregated, violent, racist society, and yet millions of Black folks inspired and triggered off a whole generation of upheaval when they began to demand the right to vote in this racist system. I felt the need to take seriously what these folks were expressing. I felt it was important to distinguish the GM bureaucracy and their manipulative intentions, from the way that everyday queer folks understand and express their relationships through marriage. I did not feel like it was my place to tell them that their desires to marry their partners, to be legally recognized was them being bamboozled by the system. I recognized that when folks talked about marriage, it was an expression of their real experiences of queer oppression; it wasnt merely a bamboozlement by the white middle class GM bureaucracy.

    Much of the language around GM that I have seen in queer left circles becomes exactly that: of critiquing everyday folks for wanting to be included in a society that is heteronormative, is oppressive, etc as if to say that those desires indicate a lack of consciousness. I may be mischaracterizing AE, but the impression I get from such rhetoric is that there is a “purer than thou” attitude going on — of some queers are more anti-assimilationist, closer to queer politics and vision, than others. For me, it has been important to acknowledge and affirm my own distaste for the GM bureaucracy from the real life expression that it takes among folks I know, which then inform my strategic and political take on the issue.

    This is not to say that I dont think it is important to challenge my friends and fellow organizers when they support racist and classist legislation. I am more politically opposed to the repeal of DADT, far more than GM. DADT involves concretely the inclusion of queers into the military machine to kill other POC and queers in the third world. I agitate fervently around this issue. However, I dont think that opposing or supporting GM has a substantial impact on the ways in which queers, POC and working class folks continue to be oppressed or not. I agree 100% that as queer leftists who take seriously race and class, we need to struggle against the fact that healthcare and marriage go hand in hand; that visitation rights and marriage go hand in hand — I want to struggle for a new conception of the family. But I also feel that this new conception of the family needs to be BORNE in struggle. It is not something that we can think into being, and that those who dont aspire for the same kinds of families are somehow not queer enough. I hope to struggle with you guys and all other queers, to fight for universal healthcare, for the sharing of resources and love across “blood” lines, and the like. And this most importantly, is what I hope we can move toward in strategizing.

    Another aspect of my dissatisfaction with the ways in which current queer politics are discussed, is the absence of queer workers and our workplace struggles in most conceptions of queer liberation. I am a queer workplace militant. I am angry and exhausted by my everyday workplace oppression. I want to fight at work. But I dont know of many queer organizations that can support me in my workplace struggles, that can understand what I mean when I say that I hate union bureaucracies cos they always try to coopt class struggle; that their cooptation of class struggle, and management’s freedom to assault me and my coworkers at work everyday means that my everyday experience at work is not free, not creative, not queer. I feel a vacuum in this realm and if you guys have suggestions/advice for where a queer workplace militant should turn to for support in class struggle a the workplace, I would love to know more. But till then, it remains for me a project and vision that needs to be built.

  • http://www.againstequality.org conrad

    jomo,

    thanks for the thoughts. a couple things i’m mulling over in response.

    – the talk that was being given as sort of the opener at A.E. events while on tour set out to do a few things. dissect the love discourse and rights based discourse being mobilized by the gay marriage movement to dupe us into the campaigns to consolidate power, property and privilege amongst hetero-mimicking couples. and secondly to ask, “what does marriage actually do for us?” what affective needs (love/respect/dignity for our families and relationships) and material needs (healthcare, citizenship status, etc) does marriage supposedly meet and how can we meet those needs without giving up our agency to the state or turning a blind eye to the fact that even when we are married people will still hate us and want to kill us (and our families) and we still wont hav access to many of marriages supposed benefits…

    – the first tour event was held in my hometown of lewiston, maine. an impoverished post-industrial mill town in central maine comprised primarily of quebcoise immigrants. this town is the definition of working class. and everyone that came to the kick off book party (gay and straight) got the critique we framed and were fired up to talk about re-directing resources away from marriage and meeting our community’s needs without the state. i think there is this assumption that working class people are too un-educated or too stupid to be able to get what we are talking about when in reality while on tour working class folks have been the ones with whom our work seems to resonate the most (particularly in richmond, lewiston, new york, chicago).

    – as noted by an unmarried, straight, working class, rural momma at the event in lewiston, working class people have a lot to lose from marriage. materially speaking, if she was married to her partner of 14 years, she would lose the state assistance she receives for her child. she would also lose her WIC and TANF support and her partner would lose or reduce their SSI support.

    – i am wondering what a.e. has done that comes off as holier than thou? we primarily exist as a digital archive and not so much as an organization even. hell, yasmin and i never met until 24 hours before the panel we did in chicago. i am wondering if maybe it’s our anger and frustration that comes off as such? or just our flagrant sassy-ness!? :)

    – lastly a useful anecdote that was helpful in combating this idea that getting married will dignify us or make us feel more respected… “The state is a homophobic, misogynist, racist, classist warmongering homicidal maniac hell bent on world domination. If the state were a person, would you invite them to a ceremony to celebrate your commitment to your lover(s)? Would having them there make your relationship better or more dignified?” …while on tour this was a useful question/framing to pose to folks having a tough time with our critique of the mobilization of affect by the gay marriage organizations.

    i will let yasmin respond to the bit about “queer workers” which she writes about extensively independently from a.e. and includes a bit in the a.e. book’s introduction.

    i think we are very much on the same page about most stuff. but i’m concerned about this characterization that we are arrogant/holier than thou.

  • http://www.yasminnair.net/ Yasmin Nair

    Thanks for engaging us in this conversation.

    To repeat Ryan’s point from above, I think it’s dangerous and condescending to assume that a critique of neoliberalism and the state is foreign to those who identify as working class.

    But before I go on, let me also just step back a bit and caution against this notion of a working class as some kind of unified totality in the United States. Someone above made a valid point about the romanticisation of the 1970s, and I think those of us working on class issues in the U.S tend to do the same thing when it comes to developing a working definition/concept of the “working class.” The U.S’s history with class is entirely different from, say, that in India or in England or Sweden or Canada. The one thing that strikes me about the U.S context is how fungible the notion of the “working class” is here – and how it gets deployed in sometimes essentialist ways to mean, too often, nothing in particular. I also think there’s a great deal of romanticisation of people of colour/working class struggles – that’s especially evident in wen’s original post and the words “third world and immigrant queers.”

    Well, I’m a third-world immigrant queer who works on queer and immigration reform issues. Both my experience and my study and activism (I don’t want to prioritise experience over others, to be clear) indicate that the phrase is a broad stereotype which assumes that all “third world and immigrant queers” are just full of the spirit of la raza and are waiting to bring the revolution to fruition.

    In fact, immigration reform in this country stumbles and falls as often as it does because a vast number of third world and immigrant queers are also invested in the status quo which prioritises “family” and marital status over questions of labour (witness the Uniting American Families Act, or the push for “family reunification”). They are often from the professional and privileged classes and would never identify as “working class.” At the same time, it’s also likely that working class immigrants, like their professional counterpoints, are over-invested in the notion of family reunification even though an emphasis on immigration reform via labour reform laws would probably grant them more protection in the long run. Immigrant queers may or may not identify on class vectors. And so on.

    The point is: it’s complicated. And in a country where most citizens refuse to identify as “working class,” and where “gay” has become a class identity unto itself, the notion of class struggle becomes, at times, a phantom call to action.

    That being said, I would press you to consider what Ryan has revealed about the work and experiences of Lewiston, ME. As someone who works with queers and immigrants, many of them students in the shockingly impoverished and deeply militarised Chicago Public School system, I know that we (in Gender JUST, the group I work with) see no separation between queer struggles against homophobia, the struggles against poverty in a city that relentlessly kicks out the most economically disenfranchised while recruiting their children for war, and the struggles of undocumented people and students who worry about their lovers and parents being swept up in ICE raids and deported.

    Is it not possible to have a critique of marriage and its dangerous coupling with the state AND have a perfectly conventional relationship? All my married friends and many commentators – straight and gay – have such critiques. Which is to say, some of them feel they were forced to marry because there was no other way to get health care for their partners; some of them like the idea of marriage but detest the way the state uses it to parcel out essential benefits, and so on. How do you see evidence that we don’t acknowledge these realities?

    As for making class struggle more evident in the workplace: here’s a concrete example. If Unite Here is anywhere near your workplace, demand to know why they have made it clear that they will only support gay marriage – not even domestic partnerships or civil unions will do – and what business a union has to determine that only conventionally coupled relationships deserve basics like health care. Demand to know from corporate workplaces why they have sometimes banned queer groups because they’re afraid they might form unions – and only allow them to exist with the understanding that they will only function as social groups. Gay is a class identity, and I’ve frequently had gay people write and tell me not to confuse workplace and union issues with “gay politics.” If you want to address workplace issues, you have to develop a way to engage people with the idea that “gay” is not an isolated class identity unto itself. I write more about these issues in the introduction to our book. Which is to say: you can’t develop a movement without first being able to articulate a critique of some sort while working within the realities of the world. AE is intended to do just that.

    Lastly, I’m wondering why you keep wanting to position yourself as somehow radically different from AE when we seem to share the same goals (and we’ve even got your piece on our archive)? If we are to continue this conversation about solidarity and empowerment, it would help greatly if you could tell us how and why you see as so different – so far, frankly, I only see strawman arguments. And if you think we’re that holier-than-thou, could you provide more examples of where you see that?

  • wen

    hi yasmin and conrad,

    thanks for your thoughtful comments. i agree with the critiques that AE’s politics are not separatist in the sense of lesbian separatists in the 70s. i used AE as an example mostly as the militant critiques against gay marriage and the repeal of DADT instead of extreme queer separatists (there has not been a cohesive queer separatist organization i know of, except certain lifestyle anarchist circles). i do recognize that we have similar goals for queer liberation-i was coming from a place that i found this overemphasis on the critiques of gay marriage hasn’t able to generate new energy except frustration and division so far. and that over criticizing reformist demands when there has not been huge momentum for a movement can be counter-productive. it’s good to hear about you all’s experiences on the tour and how the work has engaged working-class folks. my experience in the tour in NYC was that it was almost all white audience, and some people were very preoccupied with where the money from rich white gay donors should go and what to do if their friends want to get married. first of all i agree that the gay resources should not all go to HRC, etc, for gay marriage, but i also see that thinking under the framework of “gay resources” is problematic because we probably should not appeal to those folks to beg for money in the first place because they are not the ones we are mainly interested in allying with. i came from the concerns that many queer activists still conceptualize queer liberation largely based on sexual identity-community, and i think we all agree that it hasn’t been productive so far. i also want to say that i recognize that there may be various approaches and perspectives within AE.

    i agree with yasmin that we should not over romanticize the immigrant and qpoc communities and that they can be reformist or buying into the status quo at times–but under capitalism, most everyday working people have controversies within ourselves. i emphasized on the immigrant, third world, and poc queers from our experience working on palestine solidarity. we all know that queer liberation cannot come from western NGOs to “save” palestinian queer but it has to come within the communities. i emphasized on the immigrant and qpoc communities not because i romanticize them, but because i think it’s urgent for us to mobilize together and struggle for the same goal. i emphasize on this because i do think queer liberation has to come from the immigrant and people of color communities, especially if we have a global vision of what liberation should be. i think your example of ryan’s organizing experience with queer immigrants which see the connection of the ICE and economical oppression and queer oppression is key. i’m truly excited about a new vision for queer movement that i think we are all working towards.

  • http://www.yasminnair.net/ Yasmin Nair

    I think Ryan can chip in here about the issue of what we’re actually saying in terms of “resources” – what you’ve written is a serious misreading of our politics. We’re the last ones to want part of the non-profit industrial complex or “rich white gay donors,” and that would be evident to anyone who has read the book. To the best of my knowledge, the discussion was about redirecting/doing without npic capital, but Ryan can address that since he was here.

    I’d also like to raise a real issue of concern here – it strikes me, and I can point to a great deal here for evidence, that no one here who has written about AE so far has either read our work or fully engaged with the collective in any way.

    I’m very glad you’ve been able to engage in a civil conversation with us, but it’s been extremely frustrating to have to discus our work with people who, as far as I can tell, have not even bothered to read our work at all. So far, we’ve got “feelings” that we’re holier-than-thou, for instance, or a complete mischaracterisation of our work based on a reading (out of two) in NYC.

    I’m new to this site – this is the first time I’ve visited here. It appears to be intellectually engaged to some degree, but also profoundly disengaged in many ways. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always thought that reading and engaging with the issues completely before discussing and even, on occasion, dismissing them and/or misreading them (I’m the one who works with queer immigrants, for instance, not Ryan) is a mark of political weakness. I’m also disturbed, frankly, by the constant essentialisation of queer immigrants/people of colour communities and of placing an undue burden of “queer liberation” upon these communities (whatever your understanding of them might be).

    This has been a polite but frustrating conversation. Ryan and I have come on here in the hope that we’re talking to our political allies but I, for one, find myself bewildered and frustrated at what seem to be willful misreadings. Everyone else: please check out – and read – our work at http://www.againstequality.org. Also, do get a copy of the book – $8 plus shipping, PLUS two free postcards! :-) You can’t beat that.

    I hope the way forward will continue – after we’ve all had a chance to read and engage the work of AE.

  • http://www.yasminnair.net/ Yasmin Nair

    Typo: Ryan was “there,” not “here.” Just disregard any others!

  • http://www.yasminnair.net/ Yasmin Nair

    And we actually send out THREE, not just two postcards.

    All this is a sign that I need some ridiculously over-priced and sickly-sweet, pumpkin-spiced Halloween-themed drink to wake me up. ‘Night for now.

  • http://www.againstequality.org conrad

    “some people were very preoccupied with where the money from rich white gay donors should go.” – wen

    i don’t recall this as a preoccupation at the nyc event at all. i believe some people were hearing a critique of the non-profit industrial complex for the first time and needed to work through some shit. this process/conversation seems very valuable to me. not to mention i remember clearly responding to folks, saying that i think it is useful to redirect capital and resources out of the NPIC, but that we also need to find ways to meet our material and affective needs in ways that don’t require capital. this conversation was hardly a preoccupation at the event and writing it off as such, marking it as unuseful, unproductive, too white, etc seems to be doing just what you are saying we shouldn’t be doing in that writing off reformist tactics isn’t always productive. if that conversations on tour means the one less person will dump money into the voracious NPIC and give it to grassroots groups like QEJ, FIERCE, SRLP who struggle to stay afloat financially instead, i consider that an extremely productive conversation that has direct material impact on radical queer organizing.

    also, considering that there has been no actual examples as to what a.e. has done to be categorically labeled as separatists, arrogant, holier than thou, etc, as we have been represented in this blog post and the follow up comments, i am having a really hard time engaging with yall honestly.

  • http://spiritualdesert.blogspot.com/ Mamos

    I’m having trouble following this whole debate because I’m not that familiar with Against Equality’s work, but I will try to engage specifically with what’s been raised here and hopefully I’ll get a chance to read your book if I have time. Here are a few thoughts:

    1) I saw Wen’s piece as acknowledging that critics of Gay Marriage raise crucial critiques but have not yet posed an alternative. I didn’t’ see it as a dismissal or outright attack on critics of Gay Marriage in general or AE in particular. It is just a call for further development of the critique of Gay Marriage into a full fledged alternative mass movement strategy for queer liberation instead of simply the politics of a queer subculture. AE folks here have admitted your intention was not yet to pose a fleshed out alternative, but simply to make the critique. Fair enough. I agree that making a critique of an existing reformist strategy is often the first step in moving forward to build a new movement, but Wen’s piece aims to move beyond that step by opening up a conversation about how to develop a new strategy for how we can get free. She’s asking: if Gay Marriage won’t get us there, what will? In that sense, I don’t think it’s so much a mater of “X and Y have both failed, so let’s do Z”… it’s more about trying to develop a method and strategy that incorporates the good points of X and Y but moves beyond them through not only critiquing them but asking our readers to contribute to a conversation about what the alternatives should be. I think AE’s contributions to this discussion are crucial since ya’ll have a lot of experience with this kind of work.

    2) I also didn’t see the piece as directly focusing on Against Equality, it only tangentially referenced AE’s work. I do think we need to read AE’s book and consider your work more carefully before making any more substantive analyses or critiques of it, but at the same time AE is not the only intellectual tendency that critiques Gay Marriage and we are not intellectually out of touch simply because we haven’t read your book.

    Although I’ve never met AE folks, Wen’s critiques definitely do apply to some of the critics of Gay Marriage I have met. What about queer folks who are religious? What about folks who share critiques of hetero-patriarchal marriage but personally practice monogamy? i feel many radical queers have dismissed these kind of perspectives as conformist or full of false consciousness. In particular, I’ve encountered a kind of authoritarian approach where queer activists wanted to make polyamory normative and judged folks who didn’t practice it. I am for a democratic approach where we defend folks’ right to choose monogamy OR polyamory freely. Perhaps folks in AE agree with this, again I’m not assuming that you share the same bad politics of the folks I’ve debated this question with in the past.

    3) I agree with you, critiques of Gay Marriage are not something that will somehow go over the head of working folks. I don’t’ think Wen or anyone else is saying that we shouldn’t raise these critiques because workers won’t understand them. Most of the people who produce this blog are workers and we raise all sorts of complex theoretical and strategic questions all the time with other workers in our communities, and they raise such questions with us as well. I am definitely not for “dumbing down” theory or glossing over the real debates going on in the queer liberation movement. My main beef with a lot of Left critics of marriage equality is that they do exactly this – they assume that the majority of the working class has false consciousness, that as workers we will always be heterosexist or at best we will be for assimilationist visions of Gay Marriage, and therefore all folks can do is build up queer subcultures in a few cities isolated from the rest of the working class. It sounds like from your insistence on working class peoples’ intelligence, and from your experiences on your tour that you would disagree with this so again this is not an attack on you at all.

    I organize with working class youth of color and never hide my gender politics with folks when we’re organizing. We’ve had a lot of great conversations about how heterosexism is related to other forms of capitalist oppression. For example, the housing authority that runs the projects here in Seattle puts limitations on extended family members or friends living with you. They make it difficult for working folks to form alternative forms of family life besides the nuclear family. While this is NOT the same lived experience as being queer, it is structurally related to attacks on people who build queer families because capitalism reinforces the nuclear family in order to control the reproduction and training of new generations of workers as Jomo argued in her piece “Queer struggle is class struggle”. So in our organizing work we’ve talked about the need for alliances between families living the projects, single mothers, workers with alternative families, and queer folks because all of us are facing attack for the types of family we are building. This is the kind of alliance that a narrow focus on Gay Marriage doesn’t build, because it leaves open the possibility of the state sanctioning and supporting middle class “nuclear” gay families while policing every other form of family, queer and “straight” that violates hetero-patriarchal capitalist norms of what family should be.

    4) I agree with you there is no one essential “working class” identity. The class is incredibly complex and diverse, and it is full of lots of contradictions. If you read through Gathering Forces postings I’m sure you’ll see that we’re aware of these contradictions and discuss them extensively. That being said, I don’t think that any left tendency, ours included, has developed an adequate analysis of race, class, and gender and how they work together as one social process. We’ve been working on that for years, as is evident throughout this blog, but we still have a long way to go and welcome contributions to this project from our readers and friends.

    5) I’m not sure what you mean by us essentializing immigrant communities. Can you please give examples of this? I don’t think anyone is saying that immigrants need to shoulder an extra burden in the struggle for queer liberation… this is a struggle that ALL people should be waging. My sense is Wen and Jomo are emphasizing the queer liberation struggle in immigrant communities simply because most of us are engaged in organizing in immigrant communities so this is a very real, practical, everyday question for us. Some of us are queer immigrants of color so it is also a personal question. If you check out other posts here on Gathering Forces you’ll see we’ve done a lot of work around immigrant rights and Third World solidarity in various communities of color. We are trying to theorize based on our experiences and experiences folks around us have shared with us. We are definitely aware of the challenges and contradictions in immigrant communities that you laid out, as Wen acknowledged. If we emphasize that new queer liberation perspectives need to come from communities of color this is not because we think that people of color are God’s humanizing agents or that people of color need to shoulder the burden of ending heterosexism or anything like that. In fact, we’re very critical of that kind of perspective. We are emphasizing the need for queer people of color leadership only to counteract the assumption we repeatedly hear from white liberals that communities of color are somehow more homophobic and are therefore backwards and need to be “saved” through some sort of neo-colonial White Gay Man’s burden. (incidentally, we’re not trying to flip the script and say that queer people of color need to save white folks by dominating them either; our goal is for everyone to get free)

    I hope this helps clarify where we’re coming from and I’m sorry this debate has been frustrating.

  • http://www.yasminnair.net/ Yasmin Nair

    As for the essentialising, I’ve pointed it out a couple of times, but here it is again:” However, these critiques have not necessarily been able to generate an alternative grassroots movement which can seriously take on the demands of those queers who are marginalized–queer people of color, trans folks, working-class queers, queers with disabilities, and third world and immigrant queers–from all of the above approaches.” I’ve picked apart the problems with these kinds of broad statements throughout my comments, as is clear in my comments, which you can and should read again.

    Here’s what I find ultimately frustrating and why I don’t think this site, as well-meaning as it is, is really set up for meaningful dialogue: You’re asking us to refer to the rest of this website for evidence, and for us to see where you’re “coming from” (“[i]f you check out other posts here on Gathering Forces you’ll see we’ve done a lot of work around immigrant rights and Third World solidarity in various communities of color;” “[i]f you read through Gathering Forces postings I’m sure you’ll see that we’re aware of these contradictions and discuss them extensively” ) to prove that you are X, Y, and Z.

    Yet, you’ve clearly not accorded AE that basic courtesy. Instead, you make it clear, over and over, that you have simply not read the book or really engaged with AE in any substantive sense.

    As for “I do think we need to read AE’s book and consider your work more carefully before making any more substantive analyses or critiques of it,” Yes, I agree. And no, AE is not the only “intellectual tendency that critiques Gay Marriage” but you are required to substantiate your claims, such as those about us being separatist or your feelings that we’re holier-than-thou etc.

    Let us be clear: we are not complaining that what has been written is an attack on AE. Both Ryan and I have been seriously and viciously attacked on numerous occasions (check us out on The Bilerico Project, for starters) – and our standard response to attacks is to either ignore them or, frankly, at least speaking for myself, to play with the attackers until I get bored.

    If we had thought this was a standard attack, we would simply have ignored it, since it’s not a response that appears on any of our blogs. Instead, the two of us came on here in a sincere attempt to engage with Wen and others precisely because we saw all of you, with whom we were not familiar, as our possible fellow travellers. Let us also be clear on this: we’re not here to complain that our feelings have been hurt or that you need to like us or our politics. But, come on, it’s not too much to ask that you actually read somebody’s work and actually engage with them before you begin painting them with such broad strokes as “queer separatists.”

    What’s really ironic about all this is that the AE collective committed itself to this self-funded (i.e. Ryan’s credit cards), time-consuming, self-motivated publishing and discussion enterprise *precisely* because we felt that we wanted to do more than simply slap some essays online and leave it at that. We took on the serious commitment of actually publishing a book (did I mention the three free postcards as well?) and keeping the cost low and making it a portable size AND going on tour to meet with various groups of people *precisely* because we knew that the book would serve as a manifesto of sorts, a launching-pad for exciting discussions and actions, however contentious and impolite, in the real world. We saw and heard about a real hunger for the textual portability of the ideas and actions we’ve all been working on for so long.

    And then this website comes along, filled with people we thought would be interested in exactly that kind of INFORMED conversation, and instead we find ourselves in a frustrating set of conversations with people who readily admit to not even having read the book and who make snap judgments about the entire project based on misreadings of a single discussion in a single town.

    This has been one of the most frustrating conversations I’ve had about AE ideas, but it’s all the more reason why I’m really glad that we’ve been touring and will continue to tour with the book. My advice to you, on this website: next time you use terms like “queer separatists,” consider the history of such terms (which we respect) and consider how accurate it is. More to the point, next time you take on the work of a group, read the work first – I still don’t see Jomo or others being able to identify what they find so arrogant, holier-than-thou etc. about us.

    To everyone else: I’ll end with one more shameless pitch to everyone to buy – and read, read, read – the book:

    http://www.againstequality.org

    And check out our website for details about our Spring tour. We’ll be in Canada, the west coast, and bits of the Midwest and east coast as well. We’re always looking for more opportunities to meet with and talk to people about where AE’s work can go and how – so drop us a line if you’d like to bring us to your town. And, of course, look out for Volumes II and III, on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Hate Crimes Legislation.

  • http://forademocraticuniversity.blogspot.com cg

    I would like to bring the question back to Mamos’ point in (1); What does it mean to build a movement that takes critiques of gay marriage (made by U/S members, AE, and a very large number of militant queer organizations and collectives in the US and abroad) and try to understand the complex relationship queer folks and other people living in non-normative families have to marriage. One major critique I have had of marriage broadly is that for poor folks on certain forms of state assistance, marriage can actually reduce benefits. I organized for a while with people receiving SSI and SSDI in congregate living facilities, who were in love but could not get married because their benefits would significantly decrease. I have often wondered, what would a “non-reform reform” look like that doesn’t necessarily demand recognition by the state, but allows people to recognize commitments to each other through social or religious institutions and communities of their choice withOUT needing state involvement at all? I think that this has been a productive (if abstract) way that I have tried to think through queer relationships and other non-gender normed partnerships.

    But the strategies that Wen and Jomo raise go far beyond what I have critiqued myself on as “narrow” queer demands, without dismissing the fact that not being able to freely love and create family affects every other aspect of your life, whether you want it to or not. A strategy for queer liberation needs to consider very seriously the real oppression queer folks face by being shunned from families, religious communities, entire countries…for their sexual, romantic, love, and domestic relationships. The idea of being against equality (again, that MANY groups and individuals put forward) I think negates that these oppressions, whether we practice polyamory or monogomy, or whether we like religion or not, are part of people’s everyday experiences, and can’t be separated from struggles over housing, the workplace, citizenship, etc. As Mamos wrote, we are not simply making up these experiences; many of us have these feelings of oppression, exclusion, and even being pissed off about lack of equality ourselves, and have discussed the complexities of these feelings at length with our communities.

    All of this is to say, I am very excited about putting forward and beginning to work on these crucial struggles, and maintaining a strong queer liberation stance. It is what we simply need to do to survive…building a positive image of our world that is militant and revolutionary is necessary to beat back the daily homophobia, heterosexism, white supremecy, and patriarchy we all experience many times a day. I look forward to hearing about folks working on these types of struggles around the world; I know that Wen and Jomo are not the first ones to insist that queer liberation means fighting in broader layers of the working class and oppressed folks, and breaking down the notion that queer folks aren’t also immigrants, people of color, poor folks, and disabled folks, so hopefully this blog post and our broader conversations in our lives and organizing work will pull some of these struggles to the forefront so that we can learn from the positive, militant, and radical spirits of those others in struggle.

  • BLU

    I would argue that the queer rights movement is in a position of power right now similar to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s however I hope we can be as inclusive as possible in the rhetoric we use because similar to that movement who was inclusive enough to use the talents of a gay man, Bayard Rustin, but not inclusive enough to include gays as a marginalized group who should be advocated for as well, I would hate to see the similar repetition of movements doing the same things over and over again

  • BLU

    For instance look how many things intersect here http://www.austinhomeless.org/ but where is the issue of homeless youth due to their sexuality?

  • BLU
  • Daniel Tay

    This is way to much authority. This process would take away rights’ from pretty much everyone. While I agree that LGBT are being discriminated against, people have the right to say what they wish.