Here’s the text of a speech the Avengers delivered at a rally at the 2011 Twin Cities Pride Festival. Enjoy!!
How many millions do we, as a community, have in our pockets? Where we choose to spend it is a reflection of what we think is important. When I think about where I give my money, I try to think about what is going to support the most people. Work that alleviates poverty, provides access to healthcare, gives someone who is homeless a bed to sleep in…these things seem really pressing, really widespread. We can spend money trying to get marriage….and we can spend money trying to get safe hormone access.
Both are worthwhile, but what does it say about us as a community when we are willing to give thousands upon thousands of dollars to get marriage? It’s not going to provide jobs, housing, a meal to eat. It does not systemically change how poverty and racism attack the most vulnerable of the LGBTQ community.
We’ve got some deep concerns about how we are fighting this fight and where it’s going to leave us.
I worry that we are letting ourselves be derailed by the radical right. They have brought this fight to the forefront. They have set the terms and timeline of the debate. It feels like they’ve said jump and we have said how high. This work leans heavily on the language of “one true love,” the vision of coupledom and hardworking, loving, stable, set of two people who are in love and want to be together forever…language that was taken from the radical right in the first place. The pro-marriage movement, from all corners, feels like it’s affirming a vision of us that feels an awful lot like what the radical right upholds as worthy of social and governmental sanction.
Not only are we allowing the radical right to set the terms of this engagement, so to speak, I see this amendment’s connection to the right’s general push for privatization. Winning marriage equality in order to access our partner’s benefits will be an empty victory if the benefits we seek are no longer there. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is one piece of a much larger, coordinated campaign to eliminate public services, programs and resources such as welfare, public education, affordable housing, HIV-AIDS research and treatment and many other services. You can see this going on right now in the state legislature.
Having to play defense against neoconservative politics has forced us to narrow our vision so much so that all we see is accessing social benefits like healthcare and recognition of our family members through marriage. We need to widen our vision, removing marriage as a bottleneck to accessing social benefits, and work toward healthcare for all and way different means of establishing who is family to us.
And beyond marriage, what about all the people who do not fit the mold? What about freaks like me? What about all the people who don’t want to hold up a loving forever couple as the norm and the goal…instead who want to advocate for something completely different and larger…something that gets to the root of what we thought the LGBTQ community lived for, “the liberation and safety to be who you are and love whomever you love however you do that best.”
Now who is the marriage equality fight serving? How much are we prepared to spend, both in terms of money and time, on getting marriage? There is a reason the marriage rallies and literature and commercials and leaders are overwhelmingly white and middle-class. I know that losing the marriage battle has indirect losses, and therefore winning would get us indirect gains. For example, we see an uptick in anti-LGBTQ violence and hate speech in places where these marriage bans pass. But the problem is the culture of violence, not the marriage ban per se.
And what’s next? What is waiting in the wings while the bulk of the movement chases marriage? Are all the people who are excited to get marriage equality and willing to give their time, energy and money to marriage ready to help the folks in the LGBTQ community for whom marriage doesn’t make one whit of difference?
Who’s with us on getting safe and equitable healthcare for transgender people, for funding indigenous two-spirit communities whose land we stand on today, for working to end police brutality? Who here, having signed the petition against the marriage ban, is going to show up this Tuesday morning at court at 9am to support Chrishaun MacDonald, a transwoman of color who is being jailed and charged with murder for defending herself from racist, transphobic and sexist attacks at a bar last week?
The people who are standing on the sidelines of marriage with every bit as much need for their queer issues are seeing the headlines, the dollars, and the movement energy running toward marriage and, I have to admit, it’s disheartening and makes me anxious.
As a matter of strategy, we offer two points. The first is, what if we didn’t try to buy our way towards marriage equality? What if we didn’t expect OutFront Minnesota to do all this heavy lifting and leading? What if everyone who wants to donate toward marriage equality instead decided to personally visit 10 elected officials and 20 neighbors? What if sweat equity got us marriage equality instead of dollars? That’s movement building. That’s relationship, hard work, personal investment. That leaves us with incredible resources already in place whatever the next struggle is. And it leaves the money in the coffers to provide humanitarian services.
The second point is, a bombastic question, what if we just let them have it? What if we just let the radical right have their marriage equality ban? Yes please, go vote against it when the time comes, but in the meantime, what if we just said, fine, work at it, spend your dollars, make your hate visible and naked in front of everyone. What positive, amazing movement could we make with all the energy we have when we set our own timeline, our own framework, our own priorities? Think of what we could create with all that love, relationship, money, time and energy.