Rachael Blansett: "The Marriage Inequality Movement"
Michigan has proven to be a disappointment for the development of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) movement. A federal judge decided last Wednesday to move the vote to a trial on the topic of same-sex marriage which is yet another limitation to many gay right activists and those LGBT couples who seek to have their love recognized by the state. And the reason for my phrasing of the last sentence is to emphasize the importance of what the term “family” means and why marriage is an inherently oppressive institution that religiously, economically, and fundamentally dictates who is allowed to achieve that illusion of “family.” Historically and culturally, we have really pushed this idea of the nuclear family and living up to the heteronormative standard, meaning: one man and one woman uniting in holy matrimony then producing two children and a dog where they will live in a nice, middle-class, suburban home with a white picket fence.
Now, this is not meant to disrespect the marriage equality movement, however, the passion enveloped in fighting for marriage equality tends to water down the subject of trans* rights and various other issues affecting the LGBT community. For example, the Human Rights Campaign—a huge advocate for same-sex marriage—and trans folk share a tense relationship due to the fact that the HRC have silenced trans voices and have dismissed their needs in the past. The reason I bring this to attention is to address who the fight for marriage equality is helping. This is not to imply that trans folk should not be granted the right to marry, but for many trans individuals, the process for the state to even recognize their identified sex is lengthy, expensive, and difficult let alone to recognize the fact that they may want to marry as well.
Not to mention that due to the ignorance of trans rights, this ultimately leads to discrimination in the workplace, housing, and in society in general. From this discrimination, we see a rise in police brutality, drug usage, homelessness and resorting to sex work in the trans* community. The lack of discourse about poverty and abuse is apparent among the world, so it should not be surprising that this is not acknowledged among the majority of the marriage equality movement, but this should not be accepted.
And the sad truth is that almost all of this discrimination is instituted by our own perceptions rather than reality. Currently, in the state of Michigan, it is perfectly legal and acceptable to fire—and not hire—an individual for being perceived as “gay” in the workplace. Govenor Rick Snyder claims to be focused on employment and creating jobs, but would instead like to remain passive and silent on the issue of LGBT discrimination in the workplace. In New York, police officers have arrested individuals from the perceived notion that carrying condoms implies that you are involved in sex work. And due to legal acceptance in many states to discriminate against trans folk, a myriad of sex workers happen to be trans*. Or we can even look at the fact that being “gay” was—and in some capacity still is—perceived as a mental illness or can be cured with therapy or some type of religious intervention seeing as some still perceive this as a condition and being less than “normal.”
The point is that when the fight for marriage equality (that will only benefit a small portion of the LGBT community) is at the forefront of the movement, the mass majority of the public tend to be ignorant of other issues affecting the livelihood of the LGBT community. In order to achieve pure and unadulterated LGBT liberation, we have to be cognizant of of everyone that falls under that category—and yes, that includes the “T.” So, perhaps in light of the marriage equality vote being delayed, this will give LGBT activists time to focus on other just as important issues afflicting the community.