Campaign for Change
U.S. Plans Against Venezuela
Washington, Democracy & Haiti
U.S. & the Somalia Invasion
No New Nukes Victory
Korea, America & War
"Anti-Terrorism" Law Expansion
Rehabilitation of Bush
Honeywell Lock Out
The "Golden Rule"
Lawrence S. Wittner
Beyond Gay Marriage
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
Sense & Sentimentality
Savage Imperialism 3
How to Create Jobs
The Pick Up Artist
Bread and Puppet Theater
Zaps - 02/11
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Beyond Gay Marriage
Over the last five years, same-sex marriage has been a predominant issue in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Fights for same-sex marriage rights have succeeded in a few states, leading some to believe that the gay community is winning its battle for acceptance. But many in the LGBT movements for social justice question whether gay marriage is the most critical issue for their communities.
This is a particularly pointed question in California where pro-gay marriage groups spent over $43 million to oppose Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage, despite the fact that domestic partnership in California provides almost the same benefits that same-sex marriage would.
A recent study done at Hunter College shows that the majority of LGBT people actually consider economic discrimination to be the number one issue in their lives. Lisa Duggan, New York University professor of social and cultural analysis, has pointed out that queer white men are the most likely to be coupled whereas black lesbians are the least likely to be coupled, thus demonstrating that marriage will benefit gay white men more than queer women of color. So, why has gay marriage became such a key issue for the LGBT community?
Economic & Cultural Trends
Dean Spade, an assistant professor of law at Seattle University, suggests that the way the gay community came to prioritize marriage reflects a broader shift in politics away from an approach that looks at larger structural issues. "In the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, there were a lot of questions being asked about what oppression is and how to solve it. People were thinking about how policing, in general, impacts black communities in the U.S. and the ways in which militarism is a part of U.S. imperialism abroad, and how that reflects in the domestic arena.... As movements professionalize and upper class people...set the agenda, a shift happens towards an individual rights framework."
Duggan believes that the focus on the individual and the family come from a similar economic root. "The kind of social supports that were put in place between the '30s and the '70s have eroded since the '80s," she observes. "If you have fewer services and fewer benefits provided by your employment and fewer services provided by the state, the slack gets taken up by private households. All these costs, as they're cut away from the state and corporations, [get] moved to the private household. There's a strong ideological push to make family, marriage, and the private household the proper, moral place to do this kind of social support." But most people are unaware of this connection between gay marriage and economic issues.
Priya Kandaswamy, an assistant professor of women's studies at Portland State University, argues that government policies that punish single mothers and promote a heterosexual two-parent family were enacted to control the lives of people of color in particular, and are part of a larger political and structural shift that the mainstream gay movement is unconsciously incorporating into its politics.
"In the mid '90s, when the U.S. welfare system was dramatically reorganized, the image of single, black mothers with bad family values was frequently invoked to justify cutting assistance to working class people in this country. So, when the same-sex marriage movement takes up this same language of 'good families are two-parent families,' i.e. families that have a certain kind of economic status, they are implicitly reinforcing our assumptions about what it means to be in a single-parent family or a family that is not as economically well off."
These government policies, Kandaswamy argues, were similar to the Christian right ideology, which "constantly invokes the idea of marriage as foundational to the family and to the nation. It's striking when gays and lesbians start to use the same language and says a lot about who they are trying to appeal to."
Race and Class
Some believe that it is the race and class divisions within the LGBT movement that lead to single issue policies like gay marriage.
"The landscape of LGBT organizations is pretty polarized," says Duggan. "There are national organizations—basically structured around private fundraising—which have prioritized marriage equality. They don't have constituencies, they're not grassroots, they don't mobilize. And, they tend to be dominated by prosperous white people. Many grassroots organizations, usually locally based, have a different structure and different politics.
"In New York City, queer groups predominantly made up of people of color, such as the Audre Lorde Project, Queers for Economic Justice, and FIERCE, tend to prioritize around poverty, racism, immigration, health care, retirement, and violence on the street," Duggan observes.
Critics of the gay marriage movement believe that it has taken funding away from other critical needs for queer people. Leslie Ewing, who worked from 2004-08 at San Francisco's Lyon-Martin Health Care, the only freestanding community clinic in California providing health care specifically to trans, lesbian, and bisexual women, notes that she was often unable to get funding for issues affecting poor lesbians and transpeople from the same funders who were happy to fund gay marriage. "As a queer community, we have to look at issues that affect all of us, not just some of us," she argues, "and not just issues that are lucrative for fundraising."
Brian Bassinger, executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Housing Coalition, which works with homeless and low-income people with AIDS, claims that "the gay marriage movement took the air out of the AIDS movement, as well as the funding. While we as a community were fighting for gay marriage, the governor decimated the state's Office of AIDS."
When Bassinger heard that $43 million was spent on Proposition 8, which he feels was "such a narrow agenda for such a small part of the population," he was livid because "at the same time, they were cutting $85 million in HIV/AIDS care in the state of California. They eliminated funding for housing, including residential care facilities for the chronically ill." But the response in the LGBT community was negligible.
Bassinger and his partner are both HIV positive and on disability funding. If they were to get married they would lose their SSI and SSDI benefits. And his situation is not uncommon.
"The majority of people with HIV and AIDS in San Francisco are living in extreme poverty," says Bassinger. "There's this mythology that gay men are wealthy. The reality is that gay men living in poverty are twice the national average. We are poor. And poor people see marriage equality as a middle class and upper class issue."
Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a long-time queer activist who now works in housing rights in San Francisco, argues, "If we as a movement are not going to be fighting for housing, jobs, food, and basic essentials like health care, then I'm not sure what we stand for as a movement. According to a study done by the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, in conjunction with the National Coalition of Homelessness, 45-50 percent of homeless youth in America are queer or trans," Mecca points out. "In San Francisco, the number is considered to be about 30 percent. Now, those numbers are way above what is considered the percentage of queers in the population, i.e., 10 percent. And that's scary. I think that that should be a wake-up call for our movement, but it hasn't been."
Making the LGBT Tent Bigger
Spade is not convinced that the mainstream LGBT movement is really concerned about the survival and basic needs of queer and trans people in California. "If they were," he argues, "their top priority would have been to deal with the violence against queer and trans people, immigration detention in California, and the massive criminal punishment system in California. As the racial wealth divide grows in the United States," he continues, "you'll have an agenda that's going to benefit the people with the most privilege. And the vast majority of the people are certain to be left in the same or a worse position because they don't even have solidarity with other people in their community anymore."
Kenyon Farrow, executive director of Queers for Economic Justice, a grass-roots group in New York City, believes that the queer community ought to be focusing on issues that would go a long way towards protecting the lives of queer and transgender folks. "I absolutely think housing for poor, homeless, and low-income queer folks is a huge issue for us, as is doing anti-violence work. HIV/AIDS is still a huge issue and [perhaps] more broadly, the question of what the healthcare reform package means to the LGBT community."
Kandaswamy believes that if mainstream lesbian and gay organizations are interested in working towards racial justice, they need to take on issues like the criminal justice system. "They should think about the fact that people of color—including queer people of color—are incarcerated at incredibly high rates in this country," she says. "They need to think about racist immigration policies and racial disparities in economic security in this country. Racial justice is not about bringing a few people into an organization to represent the interests of queer people of color. It's about being willing to do political work that betters the lives of queer people of color in all dimensions of their lives."
The consensus among marriage equality critics seems to be that if we had taken the $43 million spent on the failed Prop 8 effort and invested it in a broader LGBT social justice movement, we could have sustained a change for all kinds of vulnerable people, such as preventing new HIV infections among young African Americans.
Some argue that, although gay marriage does not benefit many in the LGBT community, focusing on it has reduced homophobia for all queers. But as Joseph DeFilippis, former executive director of Queers for Economic Justice, points out, "When homophobia is your only target, its removal will only benefit people for whom it was the sole issue. If you're homeless and a person of color, or a person of color who is an immigrant and queer, getting rid of homophobia doesn't change the immigration battles you face or the racism you have to contend with or your struggle to pay for your apartment."
To DeFilippis, the focus on gay marriage isn't just a difference of opinion, but the result of an underlying racism, which he believes can take many forms. "Sometimes you're aware of being racist but most times you're not," he says, adding that institutional racism is much more potent. "What it means is that you are completely ignoring certain people's lives, their issues, their agendas, and taking money away from what affects their lives."
One can only hope that some day we will have an open dialogue about what the agenda should be for all LGBT people. When it happens, one hopes that the voices of the poor, the disabled, the feminists, and the queers of color will be heard, so that we end up with an agenda that is more reflective of the progressive politics that ignited the Stonewall riots and led to the modern gay liberation movement—a movement that seems very far from where we are today.
Lisa Dettmer is a producer of the "Women's Magazine" program at KPFA in Berkeley, California. This article was written for Race, Poverty & the Environment and is based on a radio documentary produced by Dettmer and Elena Botkin-Levy. Special thanks to the Astraea Foundation and Making Contact for their support.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.