As Pride month comes to a close, it’s time we take a moment and consider the path down which our social progress has taken us.
We are under assault, as Amy Siskind points out in the cover story of the Los Angeles Blade, and so we must rely on the resilience that has always sustained the LGBT+ community. That requires an honest assessment of where we are now on the road to equality and how it is affecting us.
There are some important cultural questions we should be asking ourselves.
Can we really preserve our otherness? Do we want to? Is marriage equality really the zenith of our movement? Does the traditional (heterosexual) definition and institution of matrimony fit within queer culture? Or does it inhibit queer culture?
In the essay, America’s Outsider, Audre Lorde said, “Somewhere, on the edge of consciousness, there is what I call a mythical norm, which each one of us within our hearts knows that is not me.”
Marriage equality may have created a queer “mythical norm.”
Marriage equality is based on a heterosexual paradigm that influences our notions of equality. The LBTQ+ community has borrowed heterosexual ideals that center around the image of that “mythical norm,” which Lorde described as “white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, and financially secure.”
If I were to describe the “mythical norm” of marriage in 2017 it would follow Lorde’s description closely. The only difference is that it now includes gay: gay male, white, thin, and young.
Lorde calls the norm mythical because it implies that the norm is unconsciously made up and influential. It’s the new ideal, the “mythical norm” that is imposed on us by degrees.
Mythical implies that equality could have been achieved in a different way.
While marriage equality grants us equal rights, it creates a normative image of what a couple should look like. Could queer love still be different or even better?
Our community has always been defined by its otherness, our differentness, if you will. Marriage equality assumes the heterosexual tradition is the correct model of civility and decency and abandons aspects of differentness.
For many of us who identify as queer, it feels as if there is little choice.
In today’s LGBT+ community, the plus sign denotes the outsider. It expresses underrepresentation and focuses on the needs of the most marginalized among us.
The story of the marginalized community continues to be about oppression. And while we all feel an existential threat from the Trump administration, we have not spent enough time examining how some in our movement have given up the fight because they believe we have achieved full equality now that we can get married.
We have so much more to fight for.
Age, disability, ethnicity, economic status, and sexually transmitted disease are still stigmatized. We need to recognize differences in our community. We also need to recognize the way we describe differences in the LGBT+ community. While the LGBT+ community struggles to bridge the gap between the us and them, we should also bridge the gap between the us and them from within.
Addressing the challenges from within the LGBT+ community will make us more resilient.
The LGBT+ community still has a chance to create its own path.