In the past two years, the issue of gay marriage has dominated the scene of queer struggles. Some of us are actively supportive, others, grudgingly supportive, and more others who rail that yet again, queer struggles are being monopolized by assimilationist, middle class versions of normality and family: “We are the same as you, except for in bed.”
Some supporters of gay marriage point to the economic benefits of marriage. Working class and poor queers need marriage to help alleviate their poverty; immigrant queers need marriage to get US citizenship. I agree. Yet, let’s not forget that many queers will never get married because of their suspicions of state institutions. Granting gay marriage doesn’t guarantee that immigrant spouses get visas or are free from ICE harassment. Also, around us we see families for whom marriage has not helped alleviate the race and class oppressions that they face everyday. While it may be true that gay marriage does benefit some immigrant couples, oftentimes this comes as an afterthought rather than a decisive theme of gay marriage struggles. It is undeniable that the struggle for gay marriage has been dominated by white, middle class queers who support the Democrats and are ashamed of those of us who don’t fit in their status quo.
One may see gay marriage as a reform to be won to open up space for more gains for queer liberation. Indeed, if gay marriage was simply a tactic within a broader strategy that integrated class, race and queer struggles, perhaps it wouldn’t cause so much anxiety among radical queer circles. In the absence of a broader strategy and vision however, all our hopes get pinned on this one struggle and the questions become stressful, burdensome and intense: Are we betraying our roots? Are we fighting for the society we envision through this struggle? Exactly what is this broader vision of queer liberation that gay marriage is a reform toward?
That the issue of gay marriage has dominated and overshadowed other important discussions that should be had among queer radicals shows that there has been a lack of strategy and vision of queer liberation that integrates anti-racist, anti-patriarchy, class struggle and anti-ableist perspectives. While academics have churned out thousands of books on queer theory, spinning our heads dizzy with abstract lingo, those of us on the ground have not similarly churned out our own theory and practice of queer struggles. This is not to say people have not led successful and important campaigns around queer liberation. However, the strategy and vision has not been clearly articulated and insufficiently theorized for it to be replicated and generalized in different places and conditions. The result is the domination of liberals, with their pro-capitalist, liberal racist, ableist, “tolerate us” ideologies.
The limits of middle class ideology
One glaring question is: Where is the working class in our strategizing and vision of queer liberation?
What kind of politics has defined queer liberation in such a way that has led to the erasure of the working class, which composes the majority of US society and the world?
Most queers are workers. That means the queer struggle is also a class struggle. Why hasn’t it been seen as such?
How do we organize as workers to demand queer liberation? Who are our friends, and who are our enemies? Will the union bureaucracy or the rank and file lead the movement?
These questions lead us to examine how middle class politics have dominated queer organizing. This domination has led to the erasure of working class and poor queers. This is not simply a coincidence.
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