Freedom to Marry is a non-profit that works to “win” the fight for marriage equality across the nation. By this they do not mean dismantling the institution of marriage because it creates a privileged class of coupled people, who get tax incentives and visitors from non-blood relative in hospitals. They mean to spread marriage to gay men and lesbians. A conservative cause, but a cause none-the-less. (I might critique marriage and liberal politics later – as for now I will move onto the current situation.)
Freedom to Marry had a contest to grant three scholarships to attend Netroots Nation, a conference aimed at discussing how technology can be used to change politics. DC’s own Zack Rosen entered the contest and was one of the finalist. Rosen plans to use this opportunity to make connections and enhance his website The New Gay. Ten finalists… three spots… how to win? Well, Zack promises to post a picture of himself naked if he wins.
He won and posted nude photos. He wrote in his post:
“1. Gay men’s bodies aren’t shameful things.
2. Gay sex is natural and pretty damn fun.
3. No one ever won equal rights by keeping their oppressors comfortable.”
Of course, people are upset. Enter Zack Ford, one of the other winners and his blog post.
After detailing Rosen’s tactics, Ford comments, “he knew lots of gay men would do anything to see an erect penis, he offered an erect penis, and he got the votes.” I think this is a bit facile. Rosen’s tactics are not built off of the depravity of gay men, as Ford would have us believe. Instead his tactics were creative, interesting, and innocent. The naked body is not something sacred. I think Rosen is putting sexuality and politics together in an interesting way. We often separate the two to the point that it becomes scandalous when politicians have sex and the gay movement’s been desexualized. Instead of showing us some lame image of some white guy in a tie, he showed us his nude body with a paper-plate in front of his cock. Why should I not take someone who I’ve seen naked seriously? Gay men, such as myself, did not vote for Rosen because of the potential to see his cock (the internet is full of cock and no offense to Rosen, but cock’s look pretty much the same). I voted for Zack because he offers an alternative viewpoint and is not afraid of using queer politics. He offered an image of someone who wanted to get married that did not scream “assimilation.”
Next Ford writes, “More importantly, I think what he did was disrespectful to the other finalists, disrespectful to the organizations funding the scholarship, and disrespectful to the cause for marriage equality.” How? Does nudity offend these people? Yes, Rosen tactic’s work different, but he used an angle to spread a message. He got me, a guy who does not care about marriage to go to a website for same-sex marriage. Mission accomplished?
Ford then brings up the “ick factor.” The ick factor is heterosexist culture’s inability to digest the fact that GLBT folk have sex. He argues that we should avoid playing into the ick factor because it will diminish our ability to gain same-sex marriage. Is this the only cause? I’d like to think that changing the minds of heterosexists is much more important than gaining tax incentives or being more privileged than single people. The grossness of our sex is why we are abject. I teach and have students who freak out when two men kiss in a film. Same-sex marriage will not change this. People will still be gay bashed for holding hands. I’d rather confront people with the ick factor than pretend marriage will make people think that same-sex and transgender desire is not gross.
In the end, Ford makes a long and quite puritanical rant against promiscuity. Who is his ally in this crusade against promiscuity? A “teabagger.” Not the best of allies in the fight for rights. Ford is making the argument that Andrew Sullivan makes in Virtually Normal. Sullivan argues gay men are normal and that straight culture will accept us and validate us, once we show them how normal we are. This is assimilation. The price of being “normal” is rejecting people from the GLBT community who are not straight-acting, not monogamous, differently abled, transgender, transsexual, bisexual, economically disadvantaged, and/or a racial/ethnic minority.
This represents what I cannot stand about the GL movement. The prize is marriage. Only Marriage. Nothing else matters. The ends justify the means.
I’ll end with a quote from someone I usually disagree with, but she makes a point that extends into the current state of GLBT politics.
“Feminism is dying here because so many women who say they are feminists are collaborators and cowards”- Andrea Dworkin