This afternoon I received a phone call from my father in which he asked me, his voice oozing excitement, if I had heard what the president said.
“Yeah, Obama endorsed gay marriage, right?” Apparently my nonchalance was apparent, as my dad wasn’t satisfied.
“Well, what do you think?”
Of course he asked me not only as his daughter, but as his queer, activist, blogging daughter, so I knew I had to give him a good answer.
“I mean, it’s great. But, you know… duh.”
So, perhaps not the most eloquent answer. But the concept is so obvious to me, I couldn’t help reverting to 14-year-old girl syntax to express how un-phased I am by the news. This isn’t youthful naivety, or political ignorance, but instead the internalization of my own ideals. Yes, I understand why it is big news when a highly visible political leader endorses something, especially something as controversial as ‘gay marriage’, or, as I like to call it, ‘marriage.’ But rather than sitting on our couches and feeling like the world is a better place now, we need to examine the larger problems at hand.
Larger Problems At Hand
1. Straightening the Gays.
In his statement, Obama spoke of his staff members “who are in incredibly committed, monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together,” as being worthy of marriage (lets make note of this as it brings us to the second Larger Problem at Hand). Obama, like many other politicians, is straightening the gays (this is also known as normalizing, but really I like my term better). As long as you’ve got a butch and a femme, a few kids, and a white picket fence, it’s all good. But god forbid you should have multiple partners, or be in a polyamorous relationship. Then it’s nope, sorry, no wedding for you.
As Tom Boellstorff wrote in his 2007 article “When Marriage Falls: Queer Coincidences in Straight Time,” the rhetoric of same-sex marriage equality “commonly celebrates that possibility as a means to normalize queer sexuality” (Boellstorff, 2007:227). In other words, gay marriage is just forcing queers back into the closet, unless they want to live a life idealized by straight politicians.
2. Authority of the State
Okay, so back to the bold…Obama gets to decide who is worthy of marriage? This is where I really get peeved. Straight couples have been allowed to get married since, well, pretty much forever (I’m drawing up memories of convenants and bride wealth from my years of Hebrew School), but now it’s up to the state to decide whether or not the queers can shack up? Tom Boellstorff talks about this too, arguing that using the rhetoric of “same-sex marriage” “concedes the state is allowed to authorize these forms of sexual and affective relations,” which just plays right back into problem number one, the authorization of the “monogamous, co-habitating couple with children, the nuclear family” (Boellstorff 2007: 232-233). So here we have it, the Catch-22 of Gay Marriage.
With all of that being said, as much as I want to smugly “thank” Obama for his approval of my lifestyle choices, he did take a big political step today, and the effort is duly noted. And maybe even appreciated. A little bit.
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