Marriage Equality: Don’t Let the Good Become the Enemy of the Perfect

It’s about damn time. The rest of the United States finally caught up to the libertarians on June 26 when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.  It only took 43 years but it looks like the authoritarian right is losing influence, as young people grow increasingly skeptical of power structures. Let’s celebrate this victory accordingly and appreciate the justice achieved by so many Americans who can now marry.

But let’s not allow the good to become the enemy of the perfect. Elizabeth Tate reminds us, “The very act of calling it ‘gay rights’ erases the identity and experiences of everyone else within the queer community (gay is only one identity and marriage equality does not help bisexual folks, transgender folks, and many others.)”

We mustn’t dismiss the identity of some marginalized groups when discussing or fighting for other, related marginalized groups, even if they are both mentioned in the same, common acronym. The acronym “LGBTQIA” encompasses a wide subset of oppressed minorities; boiling it all down to merely one letter of the acronym when others are suffering in their own distinct ways is counter-productive.

Tate also reminds us that too much focus on the important issue of marriage equality can overlook other issues facing the LGBTQIA community. Police abuse is a life-threatening problem that disproportionately affects the trans community, especially trans people of color. While the Stonewall Riots were largely fought by people of color, Tate points out the face of the LGBTQIA community in the mainstream is often reduced to a “a gay, white, cisgender man.”

Meanwhile, according to the 2013 New York City Anti-Violence Project National Report on Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities, “Transgender people were 3.32 times as likely to experience police violence compared to non-transgender people… Transgender people of color were 2.46 times as likely to experience physical violence by the police compared to white non-transgender people… Transgender women were 2.90 times as likely to experience police violence compared to overall people reporting violence… [and] transgender women were 2.71 times as likely to experience physical violence by the police compared to overall people reporting violence.” When looking at non-police violence, according to the prior year’s report, “73.1% of all anti-LGBTQ homicide victims in 2012 were people of color,” and “53.8% of anti-LGBTQ homicide victims in 2012 were transgender women.”

The mainstream narrative that Tate is criticizing is characterized by privilege. As cis, middle class, liberal America pats itself on the back for a job well done, the part of the queer community that doesn’t fit the stereotypical, mainstream image that you see on the news and in TV shows is completely left out of the conversation, despite being increasingly at risk of violence.

While the legalization of same-sex marriage is important enough for Obama to shine rainbow colors on the White House, the fact that, “even though transgender immigrants made up only one of every 500 detainees, they accounted for one of every five cases of sexual assault,” isn’t important enough for him to give an undocumented transgender activist as much as a courteous response. The hero, Jennicet Gutierrez, fights for a marginalized, oppressed group that doesn’t fit liberal America’s mold so she gets booed and shamed by the elite, privileged members and allies of the liberal queer community, including the President himself.

This most privileged human being on the planet is willing to dine and party with his friends at the taxpayer’s expense for Gay Pride month, but isn’t willing to a damn thing about the fact that, “Of 104 immigrants who told an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officer that they were afraid of being put in detention because of their sexual orientation or gender identity between October 2013 and October 2014, 81 were placed in detention anyway.”

Radicals interested in real change, knocking down oppressive power structures, and liberating marginalized groups should share Tate’s approach and “congratulate every state and politician that passes same-sex marriage,” but also acknowledge that, “40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, trans folks are brutalized and imprisoned, and healthy people can’t save a life. There is too much at stake to focus on the altar.” Let’s celebrate the victory in legalizing same-sex marriage and unceasingly and unapologetically continue the fight for complete a total queer liberation.

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