Today the Minnesota Senate will be voting on marriage equality. There is a high likelihood that it will pass, and my lovely state will finally move forward into something slightly more resembling equality. I’m pretty excited about this, I think understandably, but occasions like this always make me stop and wonder why marriage equality is the huge push in the GLBT agenda. Obviously there are political and historical reasons for this: most of the people who organize this movement tend to be upper middle class and white, and the largest form of discrimination they tend to experience is marriage inequality. But in the larger picture of things, is it really useful to be focusing on marriage?
Many of the arguments that the right uses against gay marriage is that it will break down traditional family structures, and allow kids to be raised in different ways. They also are worried that it will destroy traditional gender roles, and leave us with a genderless society. Now to both of these things I say YAY. First and foremost, any family structure that allows for nurturing and caring of kids is a good family structure. Or even one that doesn’t involve any kids but just involves people caring for each other. Multiplying family structures is a great idea, because then people won’t feel frickin’ guilty for trying to appeal to different sources of help or building a family in the way they can. But a genderless society sounds even better! We’ll never get rid of the concepts of gender unfortunately (or at least I don’t think so) but the idea that we could allow for more fluidity, or the idea that both men and women could create identities that are both “masculine” and “feminine”, or the idea that people could be somewhere in between the two extremes of gender is great. People are suddenly not constrained by stupid arbitrary rules. People can go where their talents and interests lead them. Oh most beautiful of days!
But here’s the problem: marriage is not a particularly radical act. Getting married is about as stodgy and status quo as it gets. Continuing to create the family structure of two parents+children doesn’t really do a whole lot to expand the possibilities, and continuing the concept of pair-bonding with a single other person as your main form of commitment and connection doesn’t do a whole lot to multiply our conceptions of gender. The term gay even relies on the idea that there are two genders and you have certain relations to people based upon their gender. Marriage doesn’t do a whole lot to undermine a lot of the crappy structures we have in place. Particularly, it continues the idea that the government should reward those who choose to get married, which is a perfectly arbitrary thing to do. It continues to suggest that we can have only a single primary relationship in our lives and that it should be privileged above other relationships. And it continues a tradition in which women have been delightfully oppressed for centuries. LOVELY!
So while I think that marriage equality is a step in the right direction for society as it is now, and because it will make some people question things like the structure of family and the nature of gender, I hope that someday marriage will not be seen as privileged over other types of relationships, and that we can create a multitude of kinds of families and relationships that are viewed equally. I would love to one day see a family made up of a grandmother, a mother, and some children be treated equally to a couple who chooses to never have kids which is treated equally to a poly trio who adopted which is treated equally to a single individual who has many close friends. All of these are valid life choices and can probably lead to fulfillment and support in its own way. And I also hope that someday the labels gay and straight become fairly meaningless because gender is no longer our dominant form of identification. Maybe I’m red-head sexual. Who knows?
So kudos to MN for moving towards marriage equality, but for the rest of society…let’s try to be a bit more imaginative in our rebellion shall we?