The recent Prop 8 decision by Judge Vaughn Walker was greeted with great celebration in mainstream gay and lesbian circles. Defenders of gay marriage have been lovingly quoting entire sections of the decision and drawing some strange conclusions. For Jennifer Pizer, Lambda Legal's "marriage project director" the decision proved that "being gay is about forming an adult family relationship with a person of a same sex, so denying us equality within the family system is to deny respect for the essence of who we are as gay people."
Those of us who have been gay or queer without marriage might wonder: Really? I mean, really? That's the essence of who I am? Somewhere inside me is a married person just waiting to spring forth into my "essence?"
The fact that a major gay organization like Lambda Legal even has a "marriage project director" startles us because we thought that such organizations have always, in their totality, been a "marriage project." The same is true, of course, for the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the myriad groups out there with "Equality" in their names. All of them have been so relentlessly focused on gay marriage as the ultimate mark of "full equality" that they have cast aside any concern for the numerous issues facing queers today: homelessness, especially among queer youth; a rise in HIV/AIDS rates; a lack of protection in the workplace as workers and as queers; a devastating lack of health care that has driven so many into bankruptcy... we could go on. Gay marriage has sucked away vital resources from these issues.
The problem is not simply that marriage is validated as a cultural norm but that it has, in lockstep with the intense neoliberal privatization of the state, become the biggest guarantor of essential benefits. as the legal scholar Nancy Polikoff points out, the United States is unique in the industrialized world in this regard. We have lost count of the number of our friends who have been compelled to marry, despite their dislike of the institution, for the basic right to health care (and we know, of course, that not everyone these days even has such care guaranteed through employment).
In such ways, we see that gay marriage, by asserting marriage as both a formative social experience and a mandated way to live or die, is anything but a simple call to "full equality" (and we cannot help wondering what "half" equality might look like; is it like milk--is there, perhaps, such a thing as half or 2% equality?) The fight for gay marriage ensures the expansion of a neoliberal state that puts the burden of life-ensuring benefits like health care onto the already weary shoulders of individuals.
For all these reasons, we are Against Equality.
So here we come, charging out onto the open road with our new anthology, Against Equality: Queer Critiques of Gay Marriage, to provide a much-needed antidote to the mainstream gay movement. While what feels like the entirety of the gay and lesbian movement is marching in unison towards some vague notion of equality, the Against Equality collective has been quietly assembling a digital archive to document the critical resistance to the politics of inclusion. This pocket-sized book of archival texts lays out some of the historical foundations of queer resistance to the gay marriage mainstream alongside more contemporary inter-subjective critiques that deal directly with issues of race, class, gender, citizenship, age, and ability.
The book includes fierce pieces from Kate Bornstein, Eric Stanley, Dean Spade, John D'Emilio, Kenyon Farrow, as well as regular Bilerico contributors Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Ryan Conrad, yours truly, and many more. The book also comes with a set of postcards designed by the wonderful artists Chris Vargas, Beth Slutzky and Liz Kinnamon.
We will begin our tour in Portland, Maine on October 2 with a head-to-head community dialogue between anthology editor Ryan Conrad and Connecticut Judge Jeffrey S. Busch (he sued CT for the right to get married and won). From there we work our way south to Washington DC doing book launches, panels and community dialogues using our work as a jumping off point. On October 9, we make our way to Chicago for an event with anthology editor Ryan Conrad and contributors Yasmin Nair and John D'Emilio. This event will begin the weeklong mid-west loop of our tour. This winter we also hope to reconvene our book tour shenanigans on the west coast for a few weeks.
To order copies, keep up with all the events we have planned, and/or to invite us to your city/town/university/bookstore/community space etc., find us online. As you can see, Digger, our intern, is already busy but he's not afraid of more work!
Yasmin Nair is a member of the Against Equality Collective. Her work can be found at www.yasminnair.net.