I found myself standing on the outside of the marriage equality celebrations yesterday. Feeling very British. Feeling like we achieved this years ago… even if it was called Civil Union. Feeling like it doesn’t matter anyway. None of this is going to affect me. Not now. Even so, the SCOTUS announcement seemed to make many people very, very happy.
Rainbows decorated everything, The Whitehouse, important monuments, even this WordPress admin page. I am gay, I am the rainbow. This celebration is all for me and people like me. Why then… did I not want to weep, why didn’t I want to cover my profile picture with a rainbow gauze?
300 white gays and lesbians marched up Commercial Street in Provincetown. Chanting and singing and weeping, behaving like they had been emancipated, that they were finally free. I peeled off the main drag and sat with straight people watching a tribute band as part of the Portuguese Festival. I wandered the Clam and Lobster Bake tent. 700 lobsters getting boiled alive. Gallons of clam chowder, a ton of roast potatoes. The two worlds only meters apart… one oblivious to the other. No less relevant.
Apparently, many people had been waiting for this moment for a very long time. They had been waiting for marriage for all. They hash tagged everything with #lovewins. People expressed themselves emotionally on social media. They had never dared think that marriage for them would happen in their lifetime. Some had felt ‘shame’ all their lives because marriage was not an option. They felt like ‘crying’ because they could now get married. White folk told me they no longer felt like ‘second class citizens’. Some people are leaving town, driving five hours, so they can enjoy NYC Pride. They want to enjoy the full experience of what it means to be ‘equal’.
The sham of equality.
As I sat with the poor working class Portuguese, watching their faux rock band, their children dancing, their elders tapping their feet. I wondered what marriage had brought these people. This patriarchal conceit. The women are still paid less than the men, the opportunity to work several jobs still cannot yield them a decent wage. A block away people who can afford multi million dollar homes, overlooking the water were celebrating their ‘freedom’. White people who would never know what it feels like to be observed suspiciously, to be threatened daily by the state, people who I heard sneering at the poor.
My brush with the closeted gay Nazi last week had unsettled me. I confided in Michael C my worst fears for our community, that we may be witnessing a schism. Powerful white gay men and their right-wing agenda… and everyone else. Let’s be clear, those white men who are now white trans women are just as likely to adopt the rhetoric of the new, gay right.
Michael assured me that the boy was anomaly. I want to believe him.
The two white gay men who hosted the fund-raising event for gay baiting Ted Cruz in NYC an anomaly? The anomalous gay men who tell me they are socially liberal and fiscally conservative? The HRC with their Chevron sponsorship is an anomaly? The corporate appropriation of gay pride… an anomaly. In the UK, openly far right UKIP supporting gay men and women march in the Pride Parade. And astoundingly, the white gay movement thinks nothing of stealing from the black and PoC movement.
These are not isolated incidents. This is a trend. This is the future. Over the rainbow there is a pot of gold.
When I was a child I felt no shame for being gay, as I have said many times before: coming out was an act of social terrorism. At 13 I thought to myself, “These people hate me for something I cannot change. Therefore I will devote my life to punishing them. To shoving this down their throat.”
I did not look at my mother’s wedding ring and hanker after a white, lace dress. I looked at her ring for what it was: a shackle, the key to her own jail cell. I was thrilled that I would never aspire to wear one. I refused to attend weddings. Being gay meant that I could write my own rules, that I could love whomever I wanted. If marriage wasn’t an option then we would rise above these social tyrannies.
Never did I think to myself: my life would be so much better if I was married. I never felt excluded from life. I did not sit on the side lines cheering… whilst others fought on my behalf.
I was happy that being gay afforded me opportunities that my heterosexual peers could not… or would not enjoy. The opportunity to be free of social convention. Of course, those like me… used the inequality argument, that we were forced by the state to be different, to our advantage. When I made the decision to tell everyone I loved men, confirming what they already suspected, I knew immediately that I was not alone. Men made themselves known to me. But, even then, many gay men disappointed me. Scared, bitchy, bullied, parochial, lacking curiosity.
I wanted to make people aware of our difference, our struggle, I wanted to hold my lovers hand in the street without it becoming an act of rebellion.
In 1984 a group of artists made a performance called Pornography: a Spectacle for the publicly funded ICA in central London… we talked openly about the men we loved and the sex we were having, it was incredibly successful, filling the theatre with like minded gay men.
Think about this. In 1984, we were performing a publicly funded play about gay sex less than a mile from the homes of Margaret Thatcher and the Queen.
We were revolutionaries.
Now we are not.
I am forced to consider the unthinkable. Was my gay life worthless because marriage was not an option? Would I have made different choices if marriage had been available to me? Would I have met a man and settled down, applauded by my heterosexual peers? Would there have been more men interested in the same scenario? The heteronormative dream of marriage and children?
And what now? Will the quality of gay lives change? Will homophobia become a distant memory? Will religious organizations embrace us? Can queer people of color expect to be treated differently by white gays? Will women get the support they need from gay men to achieve equal pay and opportunity?
Yesterday, I felt happy that the war was won. But, I did not feel like the victor. It was not my war. It is not my war. The gay party has moved on. They are on the inside now. I am still on the outside. For the time being I am going to sit here quietly with the dispossessed. Those who others hate for no reason but for the color of their skin, their gender identity, their poverty, their uterus, their immigration status.
These are my people now.