Last night I went out to my neighborhood queer bar, the White Horse Inn, to see the East Bay Kings put on the most kick-ass drag show ever. It was not only the runup to the enormous Pride festivities in San Francisco, but also the farewell performance of Neil Down, who is seriously out-of-control fantabulous.
The mood was raucous and joyful, bolstered even more by the presence of a young couple celebrating their wedding, which had taken place earlier that day.
Now is the time to talk about my mixed feelings about gay marriage. I mean, of course I support it, since the alternative is to oppose it, which would be...wrong. But I cringe at the sheer volume of resources that have gone into fighting for marriage instead of, say, health care and other rights that should not be dependent on relationship status. Sometimes I feel churlish about that—and, as someone who did actually once use straight privilege to take advantage of the easy path to relationship legitimacy that marriage offers, more than a little hypocritical. And sometimes I find radical arguments against the support of gay marriage unrealistic; in practice, it's not like we're actually going to get a more just society for queers or other marginalized folks without an intermediate step like marriage rights. And the resources being used for the marriage fight would not be available to agitate for affordable housing, a living wage, or universal heath care; those issues have, for the most part, a different (and less wealthy) set of supporters than the marriage equality movement.
But when I read this account of California businesses preparing to extend the wedding industrial-complex to same-sex couples, the relationship between marriage, assimilation, profiteering, and consumerism was made crystal clear. The revulsion I felt upon reading about grooms shopping for "the perfect diamond" as if a hunk of compressed carbon extracted by one of world history's most damaging industries can validate a relationship, and companies poised to offer "organic framboise ganaches, Russian River honeymoon canoe trips and Gay Palm Springs hotel packages with rose petals, Champagne, [and] two souvenir pillows embroidered with the couples' first names," made arguments like Gay Shame's newly resonant.
But being part of a crowd of baby dykes, low femmes, genderbenders, and assorted other queers cheering madly for the stylings of the Kings and also for the pair of early-20s women sitting at the side of the stage, one in a white spaghetti strap dress and the other in a dapper white suit, the issue felt even more complicated. I couldn't help but feel moved by the historic nature of the moment, and the emotional connection between social institutions and cultural acceptance within, among, and between communities. Yet another example of the kyriarchy in action (h/t to Sudy for introducing me to this term). But does rejecting the kyriarchal forces that have made marriage equality such a priority (and some would say a necessary one) mean rejecting the powerful beauty of witnessing moments like this? I hope not. But I can't say I know either way.