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    « Internecine Transgender Tribal Warfare Exposed! | Main | My '09-10 Holidaze Card For You »

    December 04, 2009


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    Sarah Dopp

    I love you, Auntie Kate. Thank you for having our back.


    I don't know that I agree with the assertion that the ERA would stand a better chance of passing these days. In fact, I think it has less chance of passing today than it did when it was first introduced.

    The fundies and pro-lifers will argue that it would make the right to an abortion a fundamental right. This alone (regardless of whether there's any truth to it) will keep it from passing in many of the 38 states that would have to ratify it for it to become law.

    Kate Bornstein

    Thank you, Miss Sarah, for always being there on the front lines. As to ERA, Alexa, you're no doubt right. It'd be hard to do. But I still maintain it's a more worthy fight, with higher stakes, and an ideal around which we can build coalition. Maybe, just maybe, that coalition would finally outweigh the fundamental right and those bullied by them. Kiss Kiss

    Angela Cooper

    Excellent, thoughtful essay, Kate.


    I agree with a lot of this letter, but the Constitutional analysis of current marriage would never fly. Marriage isn't solely in the hands of religious figures - you can get married by a justice of the peace, etc. Government-backed religious marriage isn't otherwise likely to fall under a 1st Amendment analysis anyway - it's not violative of the Establishment Clause, since it doesn't place religions over one another, or place religion over non-religion (non-religious people can get married by other means). And removing religious marriage from recognition could plausibly be argued as a violation of Free Exercise. Beyond that, this is the Supreme Court that allows things like the giant Ten Commandments to sit in front of the Texas capital - even if it were unconstitutional, it's unlikely they'd agree.

    What I guess this boils down to isn't that the basis of the argument is bad, but rather that we shouldn't even bother with the inherently discriminatory framework of the US constitution as it stands today. Fredrick Douglass made some very compelling arguments that the Constitution was not a pro-Slavery document, but it wasn't true to what the text of the obviously pro-slavery constitution intended. It took a war, several amendments, and a hundred years of civil rights fighting to really seize the rights he wanted. So that's why I agree with the rest of your article - we should focus on our fight for real civil rights, regardless of whether a musty old document written by dead men approves.

    Kate Bornstein

    Stuart... hahahahaha! Good points, all. So maybe the unconstitutional argument could only be made in some sort of Scopes Monkey Trial, but in yer heart you know it's true. I thank you for showing me how it's not very realistic. xo K

    Kate VW

    Thank you for this! I find myself trying to explain these same ideas to many people here in VT. This will help. :) I've also sent a lot of people to read this:

    p.s. I LOVE having the same name as you. xo


    Bravo, Kate, on leaving no freak behind! I do concur with Stuart on the constitutional analysis of marriage equality, but you make some great points.

    I don't think LGBTQ leaders made marriage the priority. In many ways, the marriage equality movement has been driven by grassroots activism rather than Gay, Inc., largely due to the anger over having same-sex marriage voted upon in California (removing a legal entitlement). That motivated a lot of complacent people to do something. So the movement is really the people using their voice... finally. There will be a learning curve for all of them to remember the other "others" in their quest. Let's just hope we don't take too long in the learning.

    I firmly believe we can fight the fight on all fronts, not just marriage equality. I'll continue to push marriage equality, ENDA, the repeal of DADT, Healthcare for all and any other issues as long as I have a voice to use.

    I can't seem to answer your questions though: "a) who needs the most help and b) what battlefront will bring us the most allies?" -- particularly the "who needs the most help" portion. Couldn't we all use an advocate?

    A Facebook User

    Thank you for this! I'm in total agreement with your premise that women (especially destitute women) are the largest group of folks who do not have equal rights. I also believe that the leaders of any group tend to be selfish and self-serving in their quest for more equality for their particular group, whatever that group is. But I'm not sure that fighting for equal rights for everyone is best served by concentrating that fight on any single group, regardless of how large that group might be. I think we as a society need to adopt a lot more ALL-inclusive approach to obtaining the same rights for everyone. Otherwise, we're just perpetuating the "Once I get mine, I promise to come back and help you get yours. No, really, I will!" frame of mind.

    On a side note, how can any government entity define marriage as being between "one man and one woman" when the terms "man" and "woman" have no real legal definition?

    A big old queen in Corona, CA

    Thanks for your perspective. It asks a lot of questions and provides answers to questions I haven't asked myself before. I don't know if it changed my overall opinion, only time and action will tell that, but it gives me a different sensibility to add in. Please keep providing your insights. It may not change the whole world, but it may change mine. Tom in Corona


    Cowards and bullies pick fights with people who are reluctant to fight. That is why conservatives picked the marriage fight--because it wasn't our focus and we remained reluctant to fight them on it. Be against the marriage fight all you want, that's the reason conservatives picked it--it's our weak spot where we're not united. They know it and we know it.

    And every issue we fight they will fight us by saying "It will lead to gay marriage!" Even anti-bullying measures for schools they argue "It will lead to gay marriage!" There's no way around it.

    What they really mean of course is "gay sex". Marriage is a license to have sex in a way that's considered not a sin. Once gays can get married, gay sex can't be considered a sin in of itself. And when that happens, well, there will be little justification for discriminating against gay or transgender people.

    They hate us for our non-heteronormative, non-gender conforming sexuality. And marriage is the ultimate symbol of heteronormativity.

    And when I get married, it won't be to conform to it, but to change it. Marriage is our Trojan horse.


    Hi Kate, this is a very interesting post though I have to admit I am more than a little confused by it (mostly I suspect I am just uninformed)...I hope you or some one else here might help me understand a bit more.

    Your first point confuses me because as I understand the law (which is to say almost not at all) every state permits civil marriages and the religious aspect is unnecessary and in fact has no legal merit without the license issued by the state.

    Point number two is a bit of an eye opener for me though- in particular it never occurred to me that marriage might be unfair to single people. Do you have any examples of specific rights married people receive that are discriminatory/unfair to single people? I tried googling this and came up with little on topic, most of it seems to refer to how it is unfair to unmarried couples, not single people. I also never considered how polyamory might fit into this equation- I am currently watching "Big Love" so this idea was easier to see, for example a second unmarried wife has no right at all, no property rights, no rights concerning health care of spouse etc.

    In point three you write "There's no reaching out beyond sexuality and gender expression to benefit people who aren't just like us," and forgive my ignorance here, what else is there besides gender and sexuality? I mean if there really was a just marriage law, a civil marriage law that applied to gays and heteros, males and females, wouldn't that cover all the bases? I understand there are all the other categories you mentioned like trans, bi, questioning, furrie etc, but how would they be excluded from a civil marriage (I don't mean civil union) ?

    In four you write "Marriage is a privileging institution. It has privileged, and continues to privilege people along lines of not only religion, sexuality and gender, but also along the oppressive vectors of race, class, age, looks, ability, citizenship, family status, and language." How does marriage as it currently stand, privilege religion, race, class, age, looks, ability, family status[what exactly does family status mean?], and language? I know that is an enormous amount to ask someone to explain, but I am sorry I just don't get it.

    In point five I think you hit the nail on the head when you speak of triage and the issues facing women and children. I would point out though that if you are going to speak about triage you need to be more forceful in pointing out women's and children's rights, health and safety are much MUCH greater issues outside of the USA. For example "1.4 million children die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation" and "On average, a woman somewhere on the planet dies in childbirth every minute. Three quarters of these deaths are preventable."

    Very very very few of these deaths are occurring in the USA.

    If we are going to advocate setting aside gay marriage perhaps instead we should be campaigning for greater foreign aid, especially since the USA currently devotes less than one percent.

    I don't think we should give up the struggle for equality and I don't think we as a nation can afford to.

    As an alternative, on the issue of marriage I just found this article which I think you and your readers might thoroughly enjoy. "Legitimize Bastardy!"


    Thank you for this! I echoed much about marriage and privilege to people in Oregon when we were going through that. I told them to fight for health care for all, not marriage, because that would be of more benefit to more people in the community. and yes, i also agree that the fight for marriage leaves out a lot of people on the fringes. unfortunately it seems as though those in charge at the big orgs (HRC, NGLTF, state orgs, etc..) are people like me: cisgendered, white, educated, owning class, etc.. just full of privilege. of course we want more and play our queer card as a way of down playing what privilege we have. *sigh* it does the movement a disservice, in my opinion.

    Emma McCreary

    They may not speak for you, but they speak for me. I want to be able to get married. Are you sure they don't speak for the majority of us? The majority of queer people are pretty normative and don't self-identify as "freaks" - they just want what everyone else wants, to be part of the culture we have, not change it.

    If you want to wave the "freak" flag, great, but that's not the flag most queers want to march under. Most queers, like most people, want to participate in the culture we have, not radically alter it. And we should have that right, to participate, like straight people get to.

    Why don't you fight for what you want to fight for and let us fight for what we want? Why make us wrong for wanting what we want?

    Patrick Egan

    Dear Kate,

    As you may be aware, Federal law does indeed already prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of employment (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964); applications for credit (the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974); housing (the Fair Housing Act 1968); and education (Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972). What many people (including, alas, many LGBT people) don't know is that none of these laws includes provisions for sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, only one federal law--the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009--actually explicitly protects lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. I understand the tremendous oppression faced by "genderqueers, polyamorists, radical faeries, butches, femmes, drag queens, drag king, and other dragfuck royalty too fabulous to describe in this short letter," but the fact is that if they are heterosexual, they currently enjoy more rights under federal law than do gays or lesbians.

    So I can't help but think that your suggestion that the priority of the LGBT rights movement should be to pass the ERA would still leave millions of LGBT people open to being fired, denied credit, housing, educational opportunity, and the rights to adopt kids and raise families. And unfortunately, such an effort would indeed "require millions of dollars and thousands of hours." Like any constitutional amendment, an ERA would need to be ratified by 3/4 of state legislatures. Of the 50 state legislatures, 14 (or 28 percent) are currently controlled by the Republican Party -- (see so pretty tough to accomplish.

    I guess what I don't understand is why you are posing this as either/or: that is, either marriage or the stuff you care about. Why not all of the above? And arguably, isn't that exactly what HRC, the Task Force, etc. are accomplishing right now? We've just passed hate crimes (which I would assume would address your biggest concern, which understand to be anti-queer violence), we just refunded Ryan White and got the HIV travel ban lifted, we're holding hearings on a trans-inclusive ENDA -- all while also by fighting for marriage where it seems feasible. Right now, it's really a full-court press on lots of agenda items, not just marriage. So what else, exactly, do you want the movement to work on that it's not already working on?

    Patrick Egan


    here, here. beautifully said auntie kate, thank you. I have often had similar thoughts, but have a tough time articulating them since sometimes it seems like that's so against the grain ... thank you, great letter. xoxo


    it causes me so much pain to be told over and over again that because i chose to get married, i must not think about or engage in other kinds of activism on behalf of other people, i must not experience new or different discrimination now that i am married, and i must not be an outlaw or a "real queer" anymore, if i ever was. it causes me so, so much pain.

    i have yet to see that in a manifesto. i have yet to see anyone even treat that as real or meaningful. i am trying so hard not to curl up around that hurt.


    I agree that the priorities and scope of the advocacy done by the major queer rights orgs are misplaced. I would however argue that, particularly because it's already rolling, the fight for Marriage Equality should not be abandoned, but seen as a stepping stone towards true separation of church and state (civil unions for all, marriage left to the churches). As for the rest of the letter, I am wholeheartedly in support of building a larger alliance w/ other discriminated-against communities, and think the ERA is ripe for another go in Congress. Bravo on a well-thought out letter advocating more inclusion of more than the norm.

    To those who argue that the queers who wish to not be labeled as freaks, or who feel like those who have married will be left out of this bigger community, I say that I, at least will welcome you with open arms. Embracing diversity is not about shutting out the middle ground, it's about including the middle and the extremes.


    One of the weak points of some parts of the community (and very much so in the city where I live, which is basically about 2 decades behind most Euro or US cities) is a tendency to focus exclusively on the most marginalized community members at the expense of the middle ground, who end up not supporting the community because frankly, it ignores their existence and doesn't really offer them a stake. Gay marriage I think has hugely succeeded in engaging this middle ground, which is important for the community as a whole.

    I agree with Calen but at the same time I do agree that enormous resources are going into a battle that really need to be refocused into areas such as ending gender and sexuality based violence, and general marginalization in education, at work and socially. While I do like the reclaiming of words like freak and outsider, I know a lot of people don't like this and are very paranoid about language. Keep up the good work, Kate, its brilliant.


    "Asexuals who have sex with no one but themselves"? Excuse me? That's a completely BS depiction of asexuals. Try AUTO-sexuals for that. Asexuals can, and do, have sex with a variety of genders and sexes- they can even enjoy it as much as a sexual- and plenty are celibate and don't even masturbate. Don't try to lump us into a cutesy little phrase unless you're making sure it's accurate.

    It only adds to all of the jokes about asexuals reproducing by budding as well as spreading misinformation.

    Asexuality is not experiencing sexual attraction. That is IT. It says NOTHING about the individual's libido, sex life, or anything else.

    Kate Bornstein

    Z -- My most sincere apologies. You're right. I've changed the asexual reference from what you quoted to: "…asexuals who have sex in whatever manner they define their asexuality." respectfully, Kate


    Thanks Kate, I've been trying to figure out my stance on this issue and you lay out a solid argument here as well as some good alternatives.

    norrie mAy-welby

    In Australia it was the fight our opponents gave us with the marriage ban in 2005, and it's the fight that rallies huge numbers of people who didn't get active about GLBTIQWTF issues except for this one. It's not the only fight, it's not my main priority in life, but it mobilises people and it's an important equality issue. I have very radical politics, but I like to work practically, and marriage equality is a good practical issue to mobilise on, even if there was a set back in one state in another country six months ago.
    It's not about self interest, it's about what children will be allowed to aspire to. Yes, think of the children, and stop society fucking them over with marriage inequality.

    Love Eggs

    VERY WELL SAID! Love you Kate :)

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