Down with Legitimacy
Originally published in the San Francisco Bay Guardian
We all remember Gavin Newsom’s stunt four years ago, when he emerged from a tight election race with Matt Gonzalez, and promptly "legalized" gay marriage, sending his approval ratings soaring and guaranteeed him a second term. Back then, 80-somethings Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon became the first smiling gay couple to “marry” in honor of La Newsom, before then a politician known mostly for cynical anti-poor rhetoric (remember “Care Not Cash”?)
Now that the California Supreme Court has struck down the ban on same-sex marriage, everywhere we hear couples who've been together 10, 20 or 30 years (or six months), rushing to tie the knot and proclaim: "finally... it's... legitimate!" It's hard to imagine a more whole-hearted rejection of queer struggles to create defiant ways of living and loving, lusting for and caring for one another -- methods not dependent on inclusion in the dominant institutions of straight privilege.
Gay marriage proponents now declare that finally gays and lesbians are “full citizens” -- as opposed to "half citizens," one imagines, or -- gasp -- non-citizens! As Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducts the biggest raids in history, the gay establishment celebrates its newfound legitimacy. Sure, for a few of the most privileged, the right to get gay married might be the last thing standing in the way of full citizenship, but there are certainly a legion of impediments for the rest of us.
And let's step back for a moment and imagine what it means to be a "full citizen" of the foremost colonial power, bombing rogue states to smithereens, exploiting the world's resources, and ensuring the downfall of the planet. As gay marriage fetishists rush to stake their claim to straight privilege, who gets left behind? Oh, right -- anyone who doesn't want to follow an outdated, tacky, oppressive model of long-term monogamy sanctioned by a state seal. Want healthcare? Get married (to someone with a good health plan). Need a place to live? Better get working on a spouse with a house. Need to visit your friend in the hospital? Forget it (unless you're ready and able to tie the knot). Need to stay in this country, but you're about to get deported? Should've gotten married while you had the chance!
Want to define love, commitment, family and sexual merrymaking on your own terms? Honey, that's so last century -- this year it's all about matching platinum Tiffany wedding bands, the Macy's bridal registry, and a prime spot on the Bechtel float in the pride parade – now, that's progress! While San Francisco has a long history of sheltering dissident queer cultures of incendiary splendor, the rush for status within the status quo threatens to delegitimize everyone who isn't ready for the Leave It to Beaver lifestyle.
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (mattildabernsteinsycamore.com) is most recently the editor of an expanded second edition of That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation. Her new novel, So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, will tantalize you this fall.