Justin Bond Soho House 2009

Yesterday opponents of gay marriage celebrated a decisive vote in the New York State Senate, where a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage was defeated 38 to 24.

DOMA, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Prop 8, etc., etc. are all still alive and kicking.   Gays in the USA face a bleak, uphill struggle for basic civil rights and as unpalatable as it is for me to admit this to my largely straight, female audience we only have ourselves to blame.

My friend Peter Tatchell the UK gay rights activist wrote to me recently when I asked him what gays in the USA should be doing – or what they were doing wrong said,

“It sounds most depressing in the US. But they have to sort it out.  The only really serious LGBT direct action group in the US is the radical gay Christian movement, Soulforce (part of the LGBT Metropolitan Community Church). They focus on challenging homophobic churches. If they could apply their direct action tactics to the wider LGBT civil rights struggle, they could be very effective.”

After Maine, many gay rights activists speculated that lawmakers around the country would be wary of supporting same-sex marriage legislation. While a CBS/New York Times poll show that support for gay marriage is growing, Maine served as a reminder that most Americans still oppose the idea. According to a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 53 percent say they don’t think it should be legal.

We are left these options: education through the marketing of GAY (I would rather spend millions on marketing than lawyers), coalition (as in Harvey Milk’s preferred method) or (my personal favorite): DIRECT ACTION.  This means that where ever we face inequality, homophobia, hate crimes or murder we act decisively in huge numbers and demonstrate at the location of any of the above-much like we did at the Mormon temple in Los Angeles after the Prop 8 ratification.

People are getting angry, look at Justin Bond’s (popular award winning radical performance artist) recent twitter response to the New York state No vote.  I think he perfectly articulates what a growing number of us feel.

“From now on “friends” can’t let “friends” hang on to the delusion that they are compassionate if they idly watch their henchmen run the show.”

“As if by saying they care it makes it true. FUCK THAT! Stand up to the bullies in your churches, on your streets, in your government.”

As usual it’s the men who face descrimination everyday simply by putting on high heels and make up who are VISIBLE enough to take a stand.   The trannys who fought at Stonewall were the bravest because they had nothing to lose.  It’s funny because the preferred ‘drag’ of contemporary gay men is the greek muscle warrior-however most of them are too apathetic to fight.  Ironic?

There are a huge number of silent gay men who simply sit around and passively wait for change.  They do NOTHING to make change happen apart from making endless excuses and apologies for their apathy.  I had a long email chat with the erudite, gay Mickey Rapkin senior editor at GQ magazine who expects change though quiet lobbying.

I wrote:  Things ain’t changing whilst people are being dignified.  Does direct action scare you? Does risking your life for what you believe in appeal to you?  Are you ready to smash windows?  Ask any European and they sneer at the US gays for being meek, for not fighting.  What happened at Stonewall changed things.  What needs to happen is not going to be comfortable.

He was dead against any kind of direct action.  Upon further enquiry his ideas about marriage differed wildly from mine.  He said,  “No one is forcing you to get married.  Marriage is about economics, not religion. It’s about tax breaks. That’s something Republicans should certainly understand.”

Let me make it very clear what I think about marriage.  If marriage is our aim then marriage is a commitment between two people vowed before God.  Vows that include monogamy, honesty and love.

Many gay men that I speak to think that marriage is merely a contract and not a bargain made with each other before God.  I believe in the sanctity of marriage.  If marriage is simply, as Mickey says, a contract then a civil union will do just as well.

Are we gay men ready to look at our sexual conduct?  Our morals?  Are we prepared to commit?

I don’t blame Mickey Rapkin for being frightened.   In my opinion he is simply deluded.  The government and the church rely on his muddled ideas and complacency.

There are others in the community who get momentarily excited about change but they too fall by the way side.  When I interviewed Perez Hilton earlier this year he was excited about the march on Washington but what happened to his enthusiasm?  Again, I read what he writes on twitter and there is little or no follow up.  He has millions of Twitter followers that he can marshal to influence politics like he does record sales but he does nothing consistently.

All I know is that I watched in awe at Peter Tatchell marched all over the UK wherever there was injustice and took direct action. He made things very uncomfortable, not just for the government but all the complacent stay at home gays who would rather watch TV than engage with real choices.

Direct Action is the next logical step.