i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Same-Sex Marriage: Whose Issue Is It Anyway?

over 11 million people in california took to the polls on november 4 & by a margin of less than 500,00 votes said yes to proposition eight. the ballot title of prop 8 was eliminates right of same sex couples to marry. prop 8 also adds a new amendment to the california con-stitution which says, "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in california." before it passed, same-sex marriage was a con-stitutionally protected right in california; a majority of the california supreme court justices affirmed this understanding of the con-stitution in may 2008.

some gay advocates blame black people for defeating this provocative issue. omg. black folk at fault: imagine that? out of the closet while hiding behind pink triangles, rainbow flags & white privilege the myth of blacks being historically homophobic continues to prevail at lgbt rallies across the country, amidst the blogosphere & around the idiot box. on a recent larry king live, hosted by the view's joy behar, among the 4 guests were a gay, white male who has adopted a child with his partner, alongside a black, male pastor who supports prop 8 as a moral obligation. folks on both sides spent $70 million on this issue, an issue george w. bush successfully used to polarize voters & steal the election in 2004. but you ain't heard it from me cuz i ain't one to talk.

is there a better way to spend $70 million? i'm certainly not an economist yet i have a few suggestions on how to spend $70 million wisely. we could start with the people in darfur. i'm sure they'd appreciate a dose of the patriotism doled out ad infinitum on talk radio. they need food, medicine & water. now. $70 million could help folks suffering from home foreclosures. $70 million could help bailout not wall street or the auto industry, but public school kids who have no after school programs, nutritional disciplines or recreational centers. $70 million could re-build our crumbling infrastructures, providing relief to an economy similar to the great depression. $70 million could benefit climate change, energy independence, green jobs, hiv prevention and/or veteran's benefits. shit...drop some cheddar on the folks at 125th street nahmean?

the dialogue on cnn was cordial, informative & polite, as behar sought to give folks equal time to share their perspectives. i was enraged when the gay, white male asserted same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue. he tried to compare it to the laws against interracial marriage (ruled uncon-stitutional by the supreme court in 1967) & the struggle black folk fought for in the 50's...as if (!) our struggle for hue-manity began in the 50's - or, as if/bcuz this issue should be as important to black folk as it is to lgbt folk: a litmus test for anti-gay initiatives or default heterosexism. my opinion? the white guy should be pimp slapped by a pimp named slick back, but as destiny's child sang, "my momma taught me better than that." the truth is i don't believe in violence, having idolized gandhi & king as a kid growing up on the south side of chicago.

several days ago comedy central's emmy-award winning host of his self-titled show stephen colbert stated 70% of blacks voted yes to prop 8, while 30% voted no. as a result of their mandate he said, "gays should boycott blacks," for not letting them experience marital bliss. ironically, the same gay, white male (syndicated columnist dan savage) who was on cnn's larry king live appeared on his show to further rally the cause of the gay movement. on the colbert however, he was a solo guest & his views remained the same. colbert tried to make vanilla of a chocolate situation. savage was a good sport.

a white man named savage is a scary proposition in & of itself...

the racism/white supremacy of the gay movement has no boundaries. the 'n' word was shouted at various lgbt rallies protesting the yes vote. emotional residue from obama's historical presidential triumph? where are the white gays & lesbians at these rallies who oppose the 'n' word proposition? why is there a whiteout from the media about the racialization of this issue? from my perspective this issue is a matter of self-determination. in 2008 black folk have more pressing concerns, among them alcohol/drug use, faith-based oppression, hiv/aids pandemic, illiteracy, mental illness, prison industrial complex, reparations, self-hatred, unemployment, violence, etc. no doubt, we got more issues than jet magazine but same-sex marriage wouldn't even make david letterman's top ten. real talk.

same-sex marriage is an extension of white male skin privilege. this issue, like most so-called gay issues, was framed by the same people whose ancestors enslaved african people on the shores of these yet-to-be united states in 1441. the gay movement - a lily-white, male movement which began around the time rosa parks & emmitt till fueled the civil rights movement - neva intended to benefit african-descended folk, or womyn. same-sex marriage neither addresses nor resolves the historic socio-economic disparities african-descended folk struggle with everyday (except oprah). same-sex marriage is more about equality & less about hue-manity. a gay man wants a str8 man to treat him as his equal. as a same gender-loving man i try to treat a str8 man as my brotha.

marriage is essentially a heterosexual model for relationships. this model is rooted in faith-based oppression manifesting itself in anti-black, anti-female & anti-homosexual perspectives. we've been colonized & socialized & terrorized to believe the heterosexual model is the standard for divine hue-man loving expression. yet, the divorce rate is nearly 50%. folks who embody the teachings of the bible, koran & torah have my profound respect. but they don't have a monopoly on universal qualities like balance, compassion, empathy, freedom, harmony, integrity, joy, kindness, love, peace, truth & wisdom.

i believe in fairness, justice & respect for same-sex couples. i should be vested in & have full access to the health care benefits, insurance claims, pension benefits, wills, i.e., of my partner, just as heterosexual couples do today - by virtue of the law & their unions. i deserve these rights not because of my sexuality, but because, as alice walker would say, we demonstrate loving kindness by trusting the absolute goodness of the universe. same-sex marriage is currently legal in connecticut & massachusetts. one day i may want to jump the broom. but for now, i'll use the broom as it was originally intended, to clean my dirty apartment.

1 comment:

Lorraine M. said...

Hey MJ,

I would have responded sooner to this blog, but I wanted a few days’ time and distance to think about what you’ve said here and how I feel about it. I don’t want to be flip in my response, nor am I looking for an argument. You’re entitled to your considered and considerable opinions, of course… But some of the things you say in this piece bother me…

Somewhere into “Same-Sex Marriage: Whose Issue Is It Anyway?” you say that you “don’t believe in violence having idolized Gandhi and King,” but you assert this directly after declaring that the white gay male interviewed on CNN by Joy Behar—the one who “enraged” you, who had the temerity to suggest a connection between the laws and social policies that prohibit gay marriage now and the ones that once prohibited interracial marriage before—“should be pimp slapped.”

I’m having a little trouble finding the spiritual philosophies of either Mohandas or Martin in that statement.

Mark, do you have any white friends? How do you talk to them about this issue—or about anything, for that matter, carrying this kind of anger?

It is a bitter truth that racism does exists in the so-called gay community as it exists in other stratums of society (since white gay men and women who have these issues come from other stratums of society), but the sweeping generalization that all white gays, or that white LGBT people generally, are racist, is as unfair and unreal as is the sweeping generalization that all African-Americans are ignorant homophobes, historically or otherwise.

Ah. You’re about to protest that you never said “all” white gays are racist.

No, you didn’t. You don’t say that, exactly. But that’s how this rant reads, Mark, it’s how you come across here. In particular I am struck by the resentment you express at the white gay man who insisted on calling gay marriage a civil rights issue and who even invoked the civil rights struggles of the ‘50s for racial equality as an apt comparison—yet there’s nary a word of complaint here about, say, the black male pastor on the same program who expressed his support of Prop 8 on “moral” grounds. What’s up with that?

Yeah, there’s been an awful lot of indignation expressed by white queer activists regarding minority support for Prop 8, and some of it—okay, most of it—has made me uncomfortable and more than a little defensive. And the reports of the n-word, of all incredibly ugly things, being hurled at blacks in the wake of the debacle—at black gays, yet, attempting to join protest vigils and marches—that enrages me; it is… well I was going to say “indefensible” and “unconscionable” and those are the right words alright, but somehow they really don’t say do, they? They don’t come close to describing how it feels.

Betrayed. That word comes closer.

Those fuckers, those craven, ignorant, hypocritical assholes. How fucking dare they?

And yet in calmer moments I recognize that the white queers being indignant and the ones hurling the insults are not the same people, not all of them anyway. I do not equate the gay rights movement with the white supremacy movement, not even a little bit—I am neither that cynical nor that fearful—and I think it’s wrongheaded (and self-serving) to do so. And though I agree that there’s been some presumption in the way white LGBT people have appropriated the black civil rights movement to explain or bolster the ongoing fight for gay equality, I do not agree that they are entirely wrong in doing so. There is indeed relevance in the comparison between the fight for gay marriage and Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that finally struck down this nation’s miscegenation laws.

I didn’t catch Dan Savage on either the Larry King or Colbert shows, but I have seen the interview he did with D.L. Hughley on Hughley’s CNN “Breaks The News” program and I think he was correct in his assertion that though the gay rights struggle is not “on par” with the civil rights struggle, neither is it mutually exclusive of it; important parallels do exist. (He described the civil rights movements of the ‘50s and ‘60s as “capital C,” “capital R,” “capital M” and the gay rights struggle as “lower case c,” “lower case r,” “lower case m.”)

Savage also made the point (all but ignored by Hughley) that the LGBT community is composed not just of white people but also black people, and other people of color, and they—we—were every bit as disserved by Prop 8 and other gay rights reversals. He is absolutely right, Mark. Whether or not you personally believe in marriage or agree with the concept of marriage, to have the legal right for a specific group of people to marry put to a popular vote and then denied them ultimately hurts us all. To be told, essentially, “We know we said you could before but now we’ve changed our minds; WE can have these traditions and legal protections but YOU cannot as on second thought we’ve decided that your relationships are not as (good/ normal/ serious/ important/ pick something) as ours” is cruel, unjust and hypocritical in the extreme. Consider that in Arkansas it is also now illegal for gay people to adopt or teach in schools—they didn’t stop at refusing gays the right to legally marry.

And marriage IS a civil right, at least as its enjoyed and understood by straight people. Not every straight couple considers marriage a holy union; of the ones who do, not all of them are wed in a church or invoke God in their marriage vows. Nevertheless, having applied for the license, gotten the blood tests, paid whatever applicable fees and having had the ceremony performed by whatever individual had state authority to do so, they are still married and they remain married wherever they travel or happen to reside.

As to the divorce rate—I’ve always taken that particular statistic as evidence of the various ill-considered and even self-delusional reasons many people marry, rather than as proof of the illegitimacy of marriage itself. I’ve often wondered, for example, how many failed hetero marriages were disguising queer lives, and would never have been entered into had gays and lesbians in years past been allowed to follow their true hearts and minds to marry the same gender partner of their choice. Some people, gay and straight, need to be coupled and there is nothing wrong with that. Some marriages, gay and straight, are roaring successes that anchor in profound and positive ways the families and communities that surround them.

And yes, of course, the millions spent fighting for (and against) gay marriage could have been used instead to feed the hungry, aid the sick and the destitute, shelter the displaced and rescue the persecuted—so why didn’t the pious Religious Right spend their considerable capital doing so, instead of using it to INCREASE persecution, funding a deliberately misleading and dishonest campaign meant to poison especially African-American, Latino and other minority minds against gays? In the face of this assault on what remains for heterosexuals certain unalienable Rights—you know, Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness—were queer men and women really supposed to just stand there and shrug? However ineffectual the LGBT response turned out to be, a response was required, and if it could have been accomplished without any need for fundraising no doubt it would have been.

I think it’s great, Mark, that as a “same gender-loving” man you endeavor to treat straight men as brothers—can we presume you include straight and LBT women in similar regard, btw? ;-)—however, I feel compelled to remind you that some straight men will NOT respond in kind, under absolutely any circumstances, in which case the demand (from your “gay” brothers and sisters) to be acknowledged at least as equal is right and proper.