What has been called by some as “a true Christmas miracle,” gay and lesbians can now “officially” get married in the state of Utah. Yet, despite this supposed “fight won against evil,” to quote a Facebook friend, is there anyone else feeling a little conflicted by the events of this past week? Now that homosexuals can be legally recognized as good citizens of society, a question of concern arises: What (or better yet, who?) is being left behind (or out) as dykes and femmes join the ranks of matrimony?
As a native to Utah and raised in the Greek Orthodox church, I generally feel like an outsider, finding friends among the “freaks and geeks,” minorities and intellectuals who often walk the line of conscious schizophrenia: publicly conforming to fit in (whether for professional or personal reasons) and attempt to retain a sense of identity in contrast to the mainstream cultures in Utah.
However, as a gay man, I can’t help but to feel, on one hand, pride as the newlyweds can be recognized by the state as licit (especially for legal and financial reasons), yet on the other, a little queasy by all the glamorization of “improved” gay identity and the commodification of queer lifestyles being taken to a whole new level, particularly in the media by our own kind: gay activists and LGBT organizations.
No longer is it enough to belong to the “upper-class” gay-male order by having a defined six-pack, a large penis and an aesthetic taste “for the finer things in life” (one simply need to join any gay dating app to see the representation of ideal-types). Now the upgrade includes being adjusted enough to fit in a legitimate marriage, to walk, hand in hand, down the aisle for the Mayor to marry you and share on Facebook, as hundreds of your friends “like” your picturesque moment, showing that even in Utah, “Love will prevail.” The result of such climbing the social ladder, per se, is the loss of something important: diversity and difference. Like the varied ages of heterosexual women who come into my salon and express in an almost justifying tone, “Oh … I’m not married,” when asked whether or not they are dating anyone (even if they are in a healthy relationship), marriage has become the ultimate signifier in normalcy.
Many of my single female friends feel pressured to get married, raise a family, and take care of their hardworking husbands because, let’s face it: Bitch better look good as her man shows her off at the holiday parties. But in truth, this social pressure encourages young people to get married and find themselves either getting a divorce in their 20s and 30s or worse: feeling stuck in a relationship in which they can’t escape … “I do it for the children.” As Jean-Paul Sartre said: “L’enfer, c’est les autres.”
I’m not saying that marriage is a bunch of baloney, but whether we are conservative or liberal (or neither), we need to become a little more critical of our celebrations and our criticisms. Ironically, both sides of the party line miss this point entirely.
In reading what Utah State Senator Stuart C. Reid wrote, stating the “massacre of marriage endangers the Republic” (Have you actually read Plato?), gay marriage does not equate to some actual massacre (way to be a little dramatic there), but in fact, from an economic and even religious context, gay marriage can greatly help strengthen the so-called “Republic.”
First, think of all the new businesses that could spawn from this: wedding planners, catering companies, reception halls, jewelers, even lawyers. As a young business owner, I’m learning how to think more capitalistically, although this is not my natural orientation to do so. In fact, a couple of years ago, one of my favorite professors in college suggested I take my philosophy degree and go to law school and specialize in gay divorce (I’m still highly considering this!).
Second, I would imagine the majority of the same-sex couples in Utah who are raising children, given their own upbringing, would be heavily influenced by the LDS church. That means that “straight” children of gay and lesbians parents could go on LDS missions, get married (in the “normal” way), even vote Republican and raise a family of their own in the same good ways the conservatives want the world to be in their own utopian sentiment. If you think about it in a long-term investment, what you could do is build bridges with all the homosexual parents who want to “return” to the church and raise their families with the same metaphysical ideology that supposedly builds a strong “family values” system. I mean, if you want to talk strategic politics: Hegemony is much more sexy with lingerie than with leather. Not that I’m against leather fetishism or anything.
The real problem is not whether gay or lesbians should be recognized by the state as legally married (anyone who opposes such human rights, even under “moral standards,” to quote Reid, are the worse kind of fascists because they are so embedded in rhetoric that, while pulling the bricks out from the base of the Republic, they are pointing their fingers in the opposite directions); however, the real questions of concern are:
1) The greater civil rights issues for minority individuals and families in our state, not just homosexuals. There are much bigger problems to face than someone wanting to get married … I don’t know, like air pollution;
2) Recognizing that marriage is not about “love,” to the quote the liberals, or “family values,” to quote the conservative, but property rights and protecting one’s assets (is this not the very foundation of our free society, to quote the great Ayn Rand: “Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual”);
3) With gays and lesbians being able to legally marry now, fewer and fewer populations live outside the standard norm of the marriage establishment where queer becomes absorbed into approved. (As Barbara Smith was asked as a black, lesbian feminist during the Civil Rights movement: Are you black enough? Exchange Black for Gay, not fitting in this new identity will further isolate individuals and even mixed families who wish not to participate in wearing rainbow flags or following a traditional trajectory of parental dynamics), and last;
4) The commodification of gay identity, where the “building bridges” hegemony homogenizes homosexuality into a new gay lifestyle … I can’t but help to think of Stephanie Coontz’s book, The Way We Never Were … gay and lesbians couples now modeling their relationships, not on something new, which they have the opportunity to do so, but on a nostalgia for our parents’ and grandparents’ narratives. To quote Coontz: “Contrary to popular opinion, ‘Leave it to Beaver’ was not a documentary.”
Although I’m sure I’ll never hear the end of it for quoting him, I think Karl Marx said it best: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.”
If we have not learned anything from our histories, we either need to study them more or at least remember: Usually those opposing human dignity are viewed retroactively as assholes and those who organize around all the hype often contribute further to social problems. What is generally missing during times of social change is an open-communal critical discourse about the way things could be better for all people, otherwise this whole gay marriage project will just become another bread and circus show.
Nick James is an internationally recognized DJ, former SLUG Mag columnist and the proprietor of Jouissance Salon & Drybar.