I’ve been critical of the failures of the same-sex marriage movement before (see “I Don’t Want Marriage, I Want Equity”) and the single-minded isolationism that it has driven into the contemporary LGBT movement toward (see “Yes Marriage, No Justice”).
Now I’m just angry and sad, even though it appears as if Washington is going to expand its domestic partnership law. But regarding Maine (and California last year) I’m not even going to tout the usual “loss for the same-sex marriage movement is a loss for us all” line that I’m sure a lot of people will be saying today, because I don’t believe it anymore. How I really feel is like Dap at the end of School Daze, and the same-sex marriage movement is debuting as Half-Pint. WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!
If the campaign to support same-sex marriage wants to win, it needs to revisit the roots of the LGBT movement, not continue down its current path. In this spirit, I offer five things that need to change in the LGBT movement, and specifically the same-sex marriage movement.
1) Re-engage on issues that affect everyone: If you want people to care about your issues, care about theirs. It’s really hard to get anyone to think about same-sex marriage in anything other than the most abstract terms when household incomes are declining, and people are losing jobs and healthcare.
2) Engage in meaningful dialogue about racism. People of color are not another “issue” for LGBT organizations to include, they’re people and communities. Stop treating racism clinically and start treating it holistically. It’s not enough to say that as Queer folks, we care about racism because some of ours are people of color. The LGBT movement needs to change its racial analysis from an interpersonal perspective to a structural perspective.
3) Change the face of the LGBT movement. White folks are everywhere in the leadership and visible positions. ‘Nuff said.
4) Go back to the basics. Stop believing in the power of celebrity endorsements and multimillion dollar fundraisers. President Obama won not because Oprah said he’d be a good president, but because he did a significant amount of fundraising from individuals across the country. And this fundraising became a communications vehicle for his campaign that allowed his campaign to meet people where they’re at. Do we ever hear about what the LGBT community is doing in the rest of the world except when it wants to talk about same-sex marriage?
5) Live young, be young, lead young. Young people in the United States face a myriad of challenges, whether they’re gay or straight. By understanding these challenges, partnering with the next generation of youth leadership, elevating youth leadership in the movement and caring about the issues that tomorrow brings, the LGBT movement will make friends and allies that can help carry our concerns over the next 40 years.