Censoring Joy

the lesbian prototype?Celebrations last week for the legalization of same-sex marriage in California were joyous indeed. It was marked as a great triumph for couples like Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who have been together since 1953, and who were first to be married in California under the new law. In any situation where the press meets sexuality, however, the question of choice arises: why Martin and Lyon? What does a ‘normal’ gay marriage look like, anyway? We might optimistically think that the choices surrounding the publication of images of potentially controversial material are not spelled out in such explicit terms, but in this case, at least, we might be surprised. Interestingly, it has been from proponents of gay marriage that the most blatant censorship has come. Presumably out of fear that images of “guys in gowns” might scare off even more liberally-minded Americans, yet unsure of what gay marriage might spell for the norms and values of the state, leaders of the California gay/ lesbian community have been underscoring the importance of self-censorship at same-sex marriages. Jack, from Feministe, explains why she isn’t celebrating:

That’s right, folks: no camp here. No gender non-conformity, either. And definitely no guys in gowns.

Why? Because the marriage equality movement is largely predicated on the notion that us queers are just like “everyone else,” meaning mostly white, mostly middle-class or up, gender conforming monogamists. You know, the non-threatening queers. The rest of us should apparently find a nice closet to go hide in for a while, lest we threaten the rights that are apparently meant for the more upstanding, respectable members of the LGsomeotherlessimportantletters community…..

Because that’s the way to push for equality – by privileging individuals and couples and relationships that are the most tame, the most palatable, the most marketable while shunning those who stray a bit too much from Middle America’s ideas of propriety. Has it ever occurred to these so-called movement leaders to say, “You know what? It doesn’t matter what the people are wearing, or how they define their gender, or whether they’re picket fence aspirants or not. We all deserve the same rights by virtue of being human beings.” Nah, because that would be too hard. Not only would all the nice, normal gays and lesbians need to wait around until the government and the rest of American society decided that the freaks were human, too, but those same nice, normal gays and lesbians might have to confront their own prejudice and acknowledge their own privilege. Gasp!

This case raises some interesting questions from a WhatSorts? perspective. Does political action that increases the rights of some diverse groups have to come at the expense of others? For the sake of transpeople and others not conforming to the straight/gay binary, I should hope not. But cases like this strain that hope, for this writer at least.

For the rest of the story, and some interesting discussion see the whole shebang here.

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