Saturday, 6 December 2008

Alright! It's Cancer! You WIN!!!

Not so long ago my "Traveling Companion" and I were walking down the street and he pointed out a spot on his chest with an expression of grave concern. "I hope it isn't cancer."

"it's not cancer," I replied with what I would consider to be an air of certitude, "It's a pimple." -as it WAS a pimple.

"Oh no... It's been there too long. It's got to be something more serious. You're always looking at life through rose-coloreds... You can't make light of my situation in hopes that it will just go away! How can you be so cruel and insensitive!!!"

All this bickering and to-ing and fro-ing went on for awhile until finally I shouted in mock-exasperation...


At which point an elderly gentleman (isn't that a patronizing term) who was walking in front of us turned around and looked at me in absolute horror and revulsion.

Now, the reason I'm telling you this story is because for some reason it makes me think of the whole gay marriage/Prop 8 scenario that has turned into a great big pimple on the LGBTQ community.

First of all we weren't really arguing, we were just pretending we were an old married couple - our particular icons are Minnie and Roman Castavet from 'Rosemary's Baby' -because THAT'S THE WAY WE ROLL-play. Obviously, we take turns being Ruth Gordon.

We PRETEND we're an old married couple but in reality we could not be one -nor would we want to.

Over the years I've been asked to perform at various benefits and shindigs in support of "Gay Marriage" and I've never been able to do it. I find the urge to get married an understandable one. Most of our parents did it, our brothers and sisters do it, our friends do it and yet because we're same-sex loving people we can't do it.

So ever since the urgency of the activism spawned by the AIDS epidemic has died down it seems the entire gay movement has been hijacked by one major issue -this fight for marriage. It leaves me cold.

I've been so disappointed by the whole thing. Firstly, and maybe this is just me, I had much higher hopes for homosexuals. For some reason I believed that by being forced to live outside the mainstream and being told we weren't "normal" for all these years we would have gleaned a little wisdom or at least insight into how oppressive and simplistic "normal" really is. That, in fact, even the concept of normality is a farce and is not to be aspired to -only imitated as a safety precaution until one can escape to a less harsh and more loving environment!

Of course that utopian ecosystem is not always easy to find.

When I was a teenager I was teased and tormented for being a gender-queer fag (or in old-school lingo a "sissy cock-sucker") to such a degree that I was really acting out and my grades were suffering. I was, as are so many other young oddballs, miserable. Fortunately, the guidance counselor at my school suggested to my parents that we go in for family counselling. The shrink, who was basically an ignorant homophobic woman, said one thing that may have saved my life. "Your parents are planning to put you through college. As soon as you graduate you can get out of this town and you'll meet lots of other types of people and when you do you'll find some that are like you and you'll be okay. Just play the game, get decent grades and coast through as well as you can." I got it.

Looking back, I realize I was lucky because my parents -although not sensitive or open-minded in the ways I would have liked them to be- had planned on giving me a college education and for some reason didn't put up too much of a stink when I said I wanted to study acting in New York. Like I said I was lucky.

But even being in a theater program at a University who was surrounded by other LGBT students didn't help much. There was so much homophobia both external and internal -especially because it was a professional acting program and in those days, "You would never be a successful actor if you were 'openly gay'"! No, for me it wasn't until I moved to San Francisco and found a bunch of anti-assimilationist, radical queer, gender variant activists that I found a sense of wholeness and community.

I would imagine that most people wouldn't want to live the way we did. They might look at us and be entertained or possibly even inspired, but we would probably not be what they had dreamed of being as little children. I know I wasn't what I had dreamed of being as a child, but as I got older my dreams changed. I've always said, the truth changes, and what we believe to be true at one point in our life can change at another but at neither time is it a lie. It's just what we believe.

Which brings me back to marriage. Marriage isn't something created by God. In it's most elevated sense it is something that is born out of love and is a celebration of the union of two souls who pledge to share their lives in a very deep profound and meaningful way. It is a sacred spiritual covenant. But over the years it has become loaded with tradition and tethered to a hetero-centric religious establishment. Some religions condone same-sex marriage, some don't. That is the business of various religions and their followers. Religion is a choice.

Fortunately, in this country there is a constitutionally guaranteed separation between church and state. But for some reason marriage has been able to straddle both.

Until now.

As I said earlier, the idea of fighting for the majority of Americans to grant us the right to get married leaves me cold. And the reason is this. I believe in the separation of church and state. This entire struggle has, in my view validated a social, political and "spiritual" hierarchy which in the best of times has treated us with loving condescension and at the worst -as in the 80's and early 90's stood idly by and watched us die -sometimes actually taking glee in it.

Marriage should be left strictly to religion. Get married in a church, temple, mosque or synagogue, have a hand-fasting ceremony, do whatever you believe to be the right thing. If your religion is an oppressive one that won't allow you to do it in their church then you're going to have to search your soul and make a decision as to what kind of fucked up doctrine or dogma you want to place your faith in.

But in the meantime... Now that Prop 8 has been struck down by what appears to be a concentrated effort by tax-exempt religious organizations across this country it seems we need to be fighting for two things.

1) The repeal of tax-exempt status for any organization that uses that status to disrupt our democracy or affect the outcome of free elections by tax-paying citizens, effectively stripping our citizens of their basic constitutional rights- and by this I not only mean to create homes and families, but to have free and fair elections.

This prop 8 victory if allowed to stand can lead to numerous problems. Organized religions must be put in check in order for this to be a free, rational and peaceful society.

As members of a minority who have repeatedly felt the sting of their hateful oppressive tactics it is up to us to stand up to them and refuse them their power.

2) The word 'Marriage" should be stripped from all civil codes and laws. Let marriage be what its supporters believe it to be -a 'sacred' right. Then let's get on with fighting for 'equal rights' for all citizens of this country by giving organized religion its right to oppress its own believers -not us! We, and all people who choose to form a legal partnership should be demanding the government create a class of civil union that applies to all couples gay, straight or otherwise who seek to form a legal and binding partnership with equal rights and privileges afforded to all those who choose to enter it. The word 'marriage' should be stricken from the law books as it is unconstitutional and oppressive to minorities.

Once that is taken care of anyone who has a love and compassion-based spiritual community will be able to get married in peace and without government interference. PRAISE THE LORD!

Holy shit! I didn't realize I was going to go on such a tirade, but I'm so sick of giving these oppressive wackos our power. In California they are looking at some constitutional issues regarding "The tyranny of the masses", which is the terminology used when a simple majority of voters are allowed to take away the constitutionally guaranteed rights of a minority group. Eventually gay marriage will be allowed but at what cost? Even within the LGBTQ world queers are being subjected to the tyranny of the assimilationist majority who are wasting valuable resources fighting to be accepted by, or equal to, corrupt unloving forces.

In the same way that so many people across this nation were appalled by the waste of 20 million dollars by the Mormon church to propagate hatred on Proposition 8 -20 million dollars that could have been used for good- many of us have in the LGBTQ Community have been appalled by the energy and resources used by mainstream gay and lesbian organizations on a struggle to take part in the antiquated rituals of an oppressive majority.

My hope is that as we move onto the next stage of this battle we will do it with an eye toward progress that is beneficial to and respectful of the beliefs of all our citizens. Let marriage be what it was originally intended -a religious event. Get it out of our legal and tax system and usher in a new era of equality and enlightenment.

Christ I sound preachy!

and NOW for more important things............................


check out my song "The New Depression" on the music page. It's a recording of the first live performance of it EVER at Joe's Pub with arrangements and piano by Our Lady J, flute by Timothy Johnson, cello Allison Seidner and drums by David Berger.



Anonymous said...

yes. yes. yes.

what's the deal with marriage? who needs it? i just plant my flag in my man and call him mine and that's it. sure, i want some rights and shit, like the heteros have, but groom/groom, and all that wedding planner b.s.? nope. and frankly, i DONT want to totally assimilate. if it was up to me we'd still be wearing pinky rings and green carnations.


Anonymous said...

It may have been a rant but it was worth saying.

I am like you still scratching my head about the drive for gay people to mainstream gungho. Also the issue has proven to be very divisive in terms of race and economic status.

Matt said...

I like seeing the tag line "Don't like gay marriage? Then don't get one and shut the fuck up!" BUT, this is the best piece I have seen about the issue, in every way.

zantedog said...

Right on .
Miss US Liberty is like
faye Dunaway in Chinatown:"shes my sister and my daughter!"
But its church OR state. if you want it both ways , then prepare to meet that incestuous monster played by john Huston. he was probably a member of the church of latter day saints too.
Americans are still muddled in their democratic process."e pluribus unum" and "in God we trust".
But first comes democracy ( the horse), then gays rights (the cart), and not the other way around.
Countries that are established firmly on a democracy defined as the separation of church and state have been the most globally successful with gay legislation. Specifically, skandinavia, netherlands, Germany, france,UK, and also Spain and Italy have all guaranteed equal rights to gays and lesbians because God and State have nothing to do with each other.
The LGBT community should therefore focus more on this separation as the true guarantee of our legal rights. As Americans, we have sadly slipped away from being the models of democracy to becoming its buffoon. We still harbor illusions about religion as something socially advanced while a cursory survey around the world clearly demonstrates how the most desperate and poorly functioning societies remain the most religious.And the most prosperous with the best quality of life remain the least. As gays and as americans, we need to choose between church and state, and we need to recognize how the best quality of life exists only in a secular democratic society. That means in God we dont trust. Warren Buffett expresses a wonderful atheism in his business philosophy: " i dont invest in anything i dont know about". So lets not bank or invest in God: for marriage or for anything.

Holly said...

Love this! Such good suggestions!

Only - the origin of marriage isn't a loving union between two souls, it's a legal form of slavery: ie, a woman was sold to a man by her family. He'd take her off their hands, and they'd provide a dowry as an incentive to buy. Down to its roots, marriage has been an oppressive, commercial, legal institution, and your suggestion to make it a purely religious matter is delightful. Everyone else can be legal partners - a fresh new take on monogamy that isn't perverted by a history of oppression and violence!

Justin said...

Hi Holly. Thanks for pointing that out. My "TC" and I were discussing that aspect of marriage before I posted the blog and I almost included it. But for the sake of brevity and in order to make my argument more concise I left it out.

I'm very glad you brought it up. And let's face it that sort of thing is still happening all over the world.... the oppression and violence caused by the institution of matrimony is still an all-too-real ordeal for many, many women.

dadanation said...


an excellent tirade i must say.

and note -- i am not registering my belleek pattern anywhere nor do i even have a make-believe suitor that i can pretend to be coming to sweep me off my feel a la helen reddy in "delta dawn."

(i prefer her version to tanya tucker's any day...)

but i digress...

but given that the state-sanctioned contract (marriage) gives the couple specific benefits and rights and privileges, i think that denying two adults access to this partnership agreement solely because of their gender is criminal.

it's time we took churches OUT of the marriage business -- they are not really IN it for real -- i mean, if you want to divorce your spouse, you do not go to a church to do it, you go to court. the marriage license is a secular, civil document/contract.

the marriage license is no more a religious document than am i a good singer. we need to stop allowing religious institutions a free ride when the co-opt and lie about the true nature of marriage.

that being said, i really really really thought your post was pretty awesome.

hope you are well.

mike shriver

Nic said...

Bravo! Justin. While I am one of those "married" gays, I agree with you completely. As one who walked away from the catholic church at the earliest possible opportunity, I believe that civil unions across the board are the answer. Let those who "believe" have their stupid little word. I am not one who seeks nor even cares about acceptance. I am also not one to stand idly by while my birth rights are stripped away. This entire issue has never been about religion for me. Afterall, the church doesn't offer any legal rights. I just feel my husband and I are entitled to the same protection and guarantees afforded to any two drunks that can go to a chapel in Las Vegas and get hitched. I lost a lover to AIDS in 1988, thankfully his family was supportive and didn't pull any shit. Frankly, there are some in my husbands family that I can see trying to just come in and take whatever they want.
We need to focus on the tax-exemption issue as it relates to separation of church and state. One way to start would be to remove the word god from all currency. Anyway, I love your blog and look forward to each new one. Now I'm going to check out your website. Take Care Nic

ourladyj said...

i've got a cancer pimple, too! and that's one of the little things that gives me hope in marriage. i don't believe we can really understand the importance of a legal bind with someone until we're rotting away and need that health care that our partner is working so hard for. or the matter of protecting our rights when our partners die. i don't believe marriage is so much a young-love thing, as that's really a recent trait of the tradition. i'm more for an economic/social support structure of two beings helping each other out... i know that might sound conservative, but just because i'm a transgendered queer-loving godless-witchcraft-practicing artist doesn't mean i'm a die-hard liberal ;O
i agree with mike when he says we should take the church out marriage, as they weren't there for it in the beginning. and not all marriages were set up to enslave women! i encourage a wikipedia reading on the history of marriage. there you'll find that the church has been involved in marriage for a very short time, given the long history of this social (not religious) act.
give the church 'civil union blessings' that have no legal powers and let the people keep 'marriage' as we have (for nearly 4000 years!).

Anonymous said...

Those interested in the subject might check out Dean Spadeand Craig Willse's very concise and powerful statement "I Still Think Marriage is the Wrong Goal" and the ensuing discussion on the group's facebook page:

Also, the roman catholic church originally refused to officiate marriage ceremonies, which were originally legal codifications of the right of men/patriarchs to own their women, which law lies beneath the right to own African American slaves later in history. There is a long and varied debate in radical and lesbian feminists circles against marriage that is so little drawn upon in the "gay marriage' debate that it makes me very sad.

xox, ritalfonso

Nic said...

to agree entirely with ladyJ, except for the part about being transgender. I'm still a guy. For the sake of argument, I have nothing against trans-gender folk. I watched Veronica transform and it has been a wondrous thing. But I digress.

SigLNY said...

Great post. Of course I agree with everything you say except I think we need to recognize that marriage as a civil institution (not to mention a religious one) is not going anywhere. Period. Civil marriage is a cornerstone of Western Civilization for the vast majority of the population, even perhaps the gay population. For better or worse, it's pretty much here to stay. Which is not SO bad as long as we can make sure that it's not a bigoted, racist or homophobic institution. Gays should fight for marriage because that is the reality of the politics in the current cultural climate. Denying us civil marriage is the most piquant way that the mainstream marginalizes the dignity and equality of gay people. Should marriage be a civil institution in principle? Probably not. But, given that marriage is a fact of life, we need to demand our rights!

Holly said...

thanks, Justin! loving your blog!


Nic said...

Thank you sigNLY!

Nic said...

oops! sigLNY

Albie said...


Libertine said...

I am a non-monogamous heterosexual.

I believe that the government needs to get out of the marriage/civil union business altogether and get out of everyone's bedroom, straight and gay. I don't think it's the government's place to regulate, legislate, or promote any form of intimate relationship.

For those who would say "what about the benefits that come with marriage", I'd say that such benefits need to be granted on the basis of sharing a household together on a long term basis and not a sexual relationship, gay or straight, monogamous or non-monogamous.

That is, there are other family groupings who could use such benefits as much as those in sex/romance based relationships. Adult children living with elderly parents, parents living with disabled adult children, single parent siblings sharing a home, grandparents raising grandchildren, to cite a few examples.

Such benefits would be granted under a Domestic Partnership that would be based on sharing a household and the type of sexual relationship, if any at all, that existed between those involved would be entirely irrelevant and moot to the terms of the Domestic Partnerhips. Marriage would then be a private matter between those involved, as it should be.

I can't speak for others, but the idea of registering my intimate relationships with the government in the same way I register my car just doesn't get it for me.