Saturday, November 7, 2009

Queer Culture Vs Gay Marriage: A union made slightly left of heaven?

Our Queer Community is often a “community” in the loosest sense of the word. We are grouped together because society views us as different from them. But we are also very different from each other.

Perhaps more than any other “minority” group, Queers can struggle to find common ground. Gay boys are boys, and they like boys. Gay girls are girls, and they like girls. It’s elementary. We couldn’t have less in common – except straights look at both of us funny. Bisexuals? Straights and homos look at you funny. Transsexual / transgendered / intersex? Everyone looks at you funny.

When it comes to Queers, not being “straight” is all we have in common (and sometimes not even that). Our rainbow spectrum is broader than the human eye can discern. All too often we straddle the border between “Community” and “I stand with you because the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

So how do we define Queer Culture? Well, it involves a lengthy process of wrangling, a little leather and a lot of finess. And all too often you squeeze the rainbow too hard and little queer skittles pop out.

Queer Skittles of Doom.

Queer Culture – not gay culture, or trans-culture, but collective Queer Culture – clumps GLBTIQs together and stamps a sticker on our foreheads which should read: “Manufacturing processes differ for each product. Similarity not guaranteed.” (And warn in fine print, “Contents may settle in transit.”)

The definition of Queer Culture is, paradoxically, that it defies definition.
Each letter in our acronym has its own tribal culture. The Gays have a dance: Disco. The Lesbians have a haircut: The “Shane” (FYI, “fashionable mullet” is an oxymoron). Rainbow families have a diet: organic gluten-free veganism. With a side of bran.

Within each tribe are further sub-cultures: Bears, Butches, Genderqueers, S&Ds, Drags, Divas, Bois, Twinks… It’s list-alicious. How then are we expected to fit cohesively under one (albeit colourful) banner? Like trying to present a world’s worth of indigenous people as one cultural group - just because they are all “indigenous” and some of the men wear skirts – it’s impossible.

When you give up on lifestyle groups, there’s still the matter of relationship structures. The “Q” gets a real work-out here. A straight-identifying woman raising a child with two gay men – Queer. A trans-man in a hetero-normative marriage? Queer. A lesbian sleeping with a man? Queer. And they’ll suspend your union card.

Relationships grey things up in the Rainbow Nation. Monogamy? Check. But also check monogamous-open partnerships, non-manogamy, primary-partner polyamoury, multiple-partner polyamoury and the dedicated few who remain whores non-partnered individuals.

Then comes families.

I think queers have a clearer, more-informed view of what makes a “family”. We alone are brought up knowing that love is not a genetic certainty and blood is not thicker than water, because our families could, at any moment, abandon us for being who we are. I personally have a brother, a sister and several mums. But in the eyes of the law, I am an only child with a single mother. Any Queer would understand my family structure without question, because we know what it’s like to make our own families. The average non-queer is stumped: “You’ve lost me – start again. And slower this time.”

Queer families are chosen, built, planned and fought for. We blend, we adopt, we claim, we seek and we adapt. We come together. We are Fam-i-ly.

What’s my point?

A WordPress blog address was posted on my Facebook page recently. It’s called queerkidssaynomarriage. Yup, you read that correctly. It’s a group of Queer kids raised by Queer families who believe the “gay marriage agenda” is undermining the foundation of Queer culture. It’s very well-written and makes cogent arguments on some very important Queer-centric and wider Humanitarian issues. I read it, then I read it again, and then I considered it, mulled, ruminated and finally did a little Walking Man, because don’t we all miss the early 90s? (No? Just me then?)

I became increasingly alarmed by this new twist on an old argument from a different camp.

So, let’s talk gay marriage. Don’t groan at me.

When straight people tell me they don’t agree with gay marriage, my response is simple: “Your mum wants gay marriage. She rates me.” Not mature perhaps, but it gets the point across. When homos tell me they don’t want to get married, I tell them, “That’s fine. When you can legally get married, don’t” - and then I swallow the urge to bite them. See, I may not want to get married right now either, but damned if I’ll let anyone tell me I can’t. Them’s fightin’ words.

But this blog had me alarmed, because of this: Take the distilled central argument, “Gay marriage would destroy Queer Culture”. Now, replace the word “Queer” with “straight”. Sound familiar? Okay, try instead replacing “Queer Culture” with “Sanctity of Marriage”. Ta da! Haven’t you heard this argument somewhere before?

Let me reword it for you. “If Queers have access to equal rights and recognition under the law for the purpose of marriage, it would ruin our community; it would tear apart our families and bring about the destruction of our society.”

The alarm you now hear is actually the cackling laughter of Rev. George Pell and Tony McClellen as they toast each other over a dinner of roasted puppies.

No, they have no connection to this site - as far as I know it is the genuine thoughts of a group of passionate, rational queers. And therein lies my issue.

The argument that including gays in the institution of marriage will discriminate against non-manogamous queers and therefore undermine Queer Culture creates, by its very nature, discrimination. If you say inclusion (“conformity”) is the antithesis of Queer Culture, you disenfranchise a large section of our community that wants – and has every right - to put up a picket fence and grow some gaybies.

To say “conforming” to a “hetro-normative institution” will tear our community apart, is divisive in itself. Queers have no more right to tell each other than cannot get married than “straight” people do, and by doing so, I would argue they are not being subversive, they are unintentionally conforming to a hetro-normative, exclusionary ideal.

To claim that fighting for – and winning the right to marry would then take the fight out of our community, reducing us to “normal” and “average” plebeians happy with the “status quo”, and so we should instead fight against marriage and stick together and fight larger issues… is a lot of times to use the word “fight” in one sentence. And also logic so convoluted that it broke my brain. Now there are memories of my childhood I will never get back. Thanks, interwebs!

As Queers, we are inherently different from the societal “norm”, but we are also different from each other. This can make it hard to stand together and there are many things we will never agree on (except the universal truth that boobs can be awesome.) But subversiveness and individuality are not traits unique to Queers, nor are they inherent. The average queer may be queer, but they can still be average.

Wherever you stand on the idea of gay marriage – rings in hands or running from the altar – there is something we can all agree on: Discrimination sucks. It sucks, and it blows (see also: your mum). Where there is discrimination, we must fight it. If Queers want to marry, then they should have that right. A gay marriage will not undermine a straight marriage, and it will not make me any less of a raging Queer.

Who we are and the way we each chose to live is what makes us unique little butterflies; denying us the right to make those life choices just reduces us to second-class. And there’s nothing “sexy” about that. Repression and apartheid might start a fire in a group of people, but it takes passionate individuals to flame it to an inferno.

The blog is right: we, as a culture of Queers, should be fighting for the “big issues”, just as we, as individual humans, should be fighting for the big issues. But I do not accept that social and legal exclusion of a group of people based on their difference to a larger group of people is a small issue.

Queers should have the right to choose to marry. We should fight for that right. And then we should work on creating world peace, one shag at a time.


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