things to think about

today I am thinking about: getting co-opted
June 25, 2011, 12:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Yesterday was my favorite part of pride: the drag march. Hundreds of beautiful queer freaks take to the street, wearing whatever is most fabulous. Dressed to the nines, we parade across the city, from Tomkins Square Park to the Stonewall. There are drums, and horns, and merriment, and so many amazing outfits you just have no idea. It’s what I imagine pride ought to be all the time – a ton of people looking fabulous and taking the streets to show just how good it is. Who are we to feel so free? We’re fucking awesome is who we are.

This year it was particularly awesome. It was huge – everyone kept commenting how huge it was. A Japanese dance troupe came and joined us as we crossed 2nd Avenue. All the gawkers/tourists/normals were watching wistfully from their brownstone apartments and lining the streets. There were horns, a bass drum, and 3/4 of the people I love most in this city.

Every year, in front of the Stonewall, everyone comes together and sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The first time this happened, I cried. It was healing – standing in the street with my friends and community, holding each other, dreaming of a better world. And there, in front of the Stonewall, where everything started changing, where the brave and visible queers started fighting back; it was a powerful moment of remembering what it is to be free, not defensive.

This year, when we got to the Stonewall, there were news cameras all over. We knew we were fabulous, but we are rarely THAT fabulous. Photogs. Every major news station. We sang our song, we danced hard to a bike set of speakers, and we successfully held the street when the police decided the party was over. We went on and on, dancing harder and harder, everyone taking our pictures like they ought to…

And then gay marriage passed.

I am not a person who hates gay marriage. Frankly, I love it – I love anything that allows people to take care of each other. I don’t love marriage as the only option, and I don’t love marriage as the only goal of a movement, but I feel good about both marriage itself and the symbolic victory it (hopefully) represents. It’s not being able to sponsor your spouse for immigration, or having health insurance for everyone, but it’s something. (You should read this article for a better critique.)

But suddenly, there we are, the freaks, the queers, the drag stars, the dancers – and we’re being coopted into the marriage movement. Here I am, out on the wire, first Gawker, now the Miami Herald (I’m the one in green watching):

Fucking hot-ass queers dancing hard in front of the Stonewall.

Dancing queens - I'm the one in green on the side.

There is something that turns my stomach about this other march, this march about being fabulous, about taking space, about NOT giving in, being coopted into the best and most interesting pictures (let’s be real) of people celebrating marriage. The drag march isn’t about assimilation or striving to get married; it’s about accepting that one day a year – ONE DAY A YEAR – we can take to the streets in all our weirdness to celebrate not the right to get married but the right to be fabulous on whatever terms we want.

This person isn’t dancing because she can get married. She’s dancing because Beyoncé is fierce, because there was a vogue-off, because she was taking the streets in front of Stonewall in the name of a good party and the rights we choose to take that go way beyond marriage – the right, in fact, to be ourselves, without waiting for state permission.

I’m taking my sweetheart/girlfriend/partner/shmoo pie of 3 years home to meet my family in Missouri next week. I am so excited for them to meet her and for her to see the particular swirling insanity of where I am from, bad jokes, matching faces, cranky kibbitzing, and all. Right now, I am dreading the questions that suddenly are possible: are you guys going to get married? When are you going to pop the question? And I am dreading what it will mean to our relationship if we say no, not really – will people take our relationship, or care and love for each other, less seriously? Will they think we ought to break up if we’re not going in that direction? Marriage isn’t just about solemnizing a commitment; it’s a certain kind of ritual act that ends up invalidating so many other choices. Sunshine Sugardish and I might never get married – not because we don’t love each other, but because it just might not be where we want to go.

I wasn’t marching in the street yesterday for the right to be like everyone else. I was marching in the street for the right to be exactly myself, to have my relationships validated on my terms, to feel good about being the weird and complicated creature that I am with the weird and complicated relationships that I have, inside the large and sprawling family that I have built to hold myself that has nothing to do with solemnizing one relationship as the most important in my life. That large and sprawling family is what made all those pictures great and interesting. To have us co-opted in the name of assimilation is missing the point.

12 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Damn. Fucking. Right.

Comment by Chelsea

Word. Thanks for posting this!

Comment by Evelyn Lee Sempos

Beautifully written! ❤ Thanks for posting this.

Comment by Lauryl Sulfate

Wrong in every particular. Gallingly wrong. Am opting for this instead of a longer comment in case you don’t care to argue about it. But oh my god.

Comment by FPS

I’m interested in hearing what you have to say as a counterpoint, but I’m not really interested in arguing back and forth. Especially since this comment is so weirdly passive-aggressive.

Comment by arielariel

Not passive-aggressive. Quite sincere. If you aren’t in the mood for an argument, I’m not going to get up in your face about it, so that’s settled. But I think you should know there are queers who disagree very strongly.

Comment by FPS

For real!!

Comment by Buzzley

Buzzley Berkeley!

Comment by arielariel

beautifully said. had this conversation with my mom this morning. what will it mean to LGBTQ folks in same-sex relationships who decide NOT to marry, even though it will now be legal in NY (and I’m guessing other states will follow). will it further elevate marriage as the “ultimate” in relationships? i support marriage equality. it’s the status of marriage in general that i object to.

Comment by aimeett

This is a beautiful piece. Thank you so much for expressing what so many of us are feeling.

Comment by staci

Excellent! I hope the LGBTQ movement doesn’t die, simply because of marriage equality (like here in the Netherlands).

Comment by Ontboezemingen

Thanks for writing this. Your article sums up exactly what I was thinking on that night. I’m the woman in the center featured in the photo and I certainly wasn’t out there for gay marriage but out to reclaim the streets in the name of queer liberation and the freedom to be who we are.


Comment by Jessica Rechtschaffer

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