Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What is This Going to Cost Me?

My housing situation seems resolved for Midwestern Funky Town. After thinking about it, I opted for the place that fell within 85 percent of the things that I wanted rather than searching again. The last 15 percent was mostly about the ten minute drive to my new campus. I had hoped for a place within quick walking distance. Allegedly, though, buses also connect my new domestic space to my new work place (and I will reclaim my car from Texas).

I am generally excited about my new job. My new colleagues are all super smart and seem genuinely friendly. My new university has a long history of lefty politics (the mirror opposite of my former Texan institution, which had a long history of lynching). MFT will also be a very livable setting. My new rental house will be comfortable.

Political events over the past week, however, reminded me that this move is going to cost me more than the price of bubble-wrap and a security deposit. Leaving the Bay State also means leaving the one place in this nation where queers are guarantee absolute equal treatment under the law.

The Massachusetts legislature took less than half an hour to kill a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage on June 14. Given this vote, radical Christians will have to wait until 2012 to attempt to inject their hatred into the state’s constitution.

We all know that marriage is not the issue that I imagine as the queer community’s priority. On the contrary, I think that we all (queer or straight) should be interrogating and questioning the viability of this civil statute and the purpose we want it to serve. The marriage industry alone makes my stomach turn. I have always thought it is an inexcusable waste of money and resources for any couple (regardless of sexuality) to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single day’s event. So, when I hear gay couples talk about going to a “cake tasting” where they will decide which $5,000 confection that they will order for their special day, I want to puke. They should be saving that money for their future. Divorce lawyers aren’t cheap.

Nor do I think that Massachusetts is some sort of utopia. Racism, economic injustice, and homophobia are still major problems in the Bay State. Plus, their Mexican food sucks.

All those caveats aside, the fact that Massachusetts thwarted radical Christians’ belligerent tactics gives me more faith in this state than any other (even my beloved New Mexico). I can’t help but think that I am trading my basic civil rights for my new job.

Like 25 other states, the voters in my future state were given the opportunity to make their hatred of gays part of the state constitution. Additionally, nineteen other states have laws that explicitly prohibited same-sex couples from being married. This leaves New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Rhode Island as the only states that have never explicitly passed a measure or amendment against queer people in the past ten years. New Jersey, Vermont, and Connecticut have attempted to side-step the issue by offering civil unions that provide some of the basic guarantees formerly associated with marriage. Only Massachusetts, however, guarantees all its citizens full equality under the law. One state out of fifty.

The United States is leaving its queer population in an impossible situation (as are many other nations (I was very sad to see Colombia bow to a Catholic Church that is run by a former member of Hitler Youth. That, though, is another entry)). In this country, we queer people are not free to navigate the nation or pursue our best economic interests without necessarily thinking about how it might impact our basic civil rights and standard of living.

Marriage is just the most visible and discussed issue. Really, the problems cut deeper. Queer people can’t expect that they will receive fair and equal protection under the law in all parts of this nation. Indeed, I am much better off going to my Midwestern state, even with its anti-marriage laws, than I would have been returning to Texas. No job was worth my living there. Texas, after all, has a governor that explicitly suggested that gay people should leave the state and live elsewhere. This open contempt for men like me resulted in his reelection.

The media circus has given the false impression that same-sex marriage is somehow more important to queers than police brutality or employment discrimination. In many places in this nation, it is still unsafe for a queer person to live their life openly.

One thing I hear a lot is how great queers have it today compared to years past. While I generally agree that things are better, it is shocking to me that some think that equality has been achieved. Okay, I grant that I am not being strapped to a table and given electroshock therapy. True, true – That’s better than it would have been sixty years ago. On the other hand, I am still not guaranteed my basic rights as an individual, either. On the contrary, when given the opportunity, the majority of heterosexual Americans have shown time and again that they wish to preserve their special status in the nation and ensure that queer people are treated as less than human (either through their indifference or by directly voting against gays themselves).

As a citizen of this nation, my sense of safety should not vary from one location to the next. Nor should my basic rights be determined by the whims or prejudices of local voters.


naladahc said...

Wow. The very first issue of Wonder Woman I ever remember getting when I was a kid.

It was also my first introduction to Jay Garrick and the whole golden age stable of characters.

Anonymous said...

You're right about the Mexican food. The Northeast tortures us with icy weather, no sun in the winter, and HORRIFYING Mexican food. I miss Hatch green chiles.

I don't miss Texas. At all. Some time ago, some Texans tried to secede. I would have been fine with that.

Anonymous said...

Well, there is some hope in your new state--at least for Mexican food, if not for gay rights.

Yes, it has been disappointing living in this state and seeing progress elsewhere, while things regress here. The conundrum of whether to go seek greener pastures or help the cause at home is excaberated by the poor job market here too.

But, we will welcome you, and in reality we need folks like you.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't have said it better. What I find most troubling is the way the right-wingers fighting for the amendment have framed their argument as an issue of "democracy" and *their* right to vote. The first time they tried to push an amendment through (introduced by state legislators, not through a petition like this one), I was up at the state house and their signs were all a la Jerry Falwell: "Homosexuals are possessed by demons," "Your lifestyle is unnatural," etc. Scary, but at least an ordinary person can see how crazy they are. Last week they just had a bunch of green signs that said "let the people vote"--so it's easy to see how a reasonable person could be sucked in to thinking that this can and should go on the ballot.

Earl Cootie said...

As Terrance at the Republic of T often and ably informs us, marriage equality is about more than having our $5000 cake and tasting it too. And as Sarah, above, points out, the religious right just continue trying ways to appeal to Joe and Erma Heartland without showing their truer, uglier intent. But making same sex marriage illegal is only the first step. They won't be happy until we're sufficiently beaten and demonized and, if not eradicated, then at least put back in the closet. (And then they'll find someone else to blame for their unhappiness.)

And who cares if it's the most important issue or not? We can multi-task. We don't have to stick to one issue at a time. Equality is equality. It doesn't come with optional freedoms.

Charles CĂ©leste Hutchins said...

When California passed it's anti gay marriage law, a judge interpretted it as being against gay unions in general (which is how judicial precident works, and is not an error, alas) and invalidated ALL second parent adoptions in the state. He put a stay on the order and it was eventually overturned, but it was really bad news, since second parent adoption has existed for many years. Some couples were no longer together and others were widow(er)s, both of which would have made it difficult or impossible to re-adopt the kids in question. So anti-gay marriage laws can be very reasonably interpretted to wipe out any civil protections enjoyed by gay couples or go further and be used against gay relationships in general. Judicial precident + bad laws = big problems.

As to cake costs, friendly divorce costs about $4k in legal fees, each (if you get a smart lawyer like mine). But with my liar ex (who told many lies) . . . arg. I'm glad we cheaped out on the cake. Anyway, best life savings I ever spent extricating myself from that mess. What was I thinking marrying her??!

tornwordo said...

I laughed at the mexican food part. So true! I can only offer up Canada's judicial system, which when presented with the evidence, found that basic rights for straights had to be the same for gays. No change will really happen on the equality front in the states unless the Federal Government and Supreme court change their stance. I still can't get over the fact that I can't import (you know what I mean) my legal spouse to the states because he is a man. This "right" is only granted to straight married couples.

Anonymous said...

As Les says above, interpretation of these laws are the key. Not only did the voters in your future state add an anti-gay marriage amendment to their constitution, but that has been interpreted (so far) to include the elimination not only of civil unions, but even domestic partnership benefits.

Fortunately MFT University has found ways around it, but the fact that they even have to look for such ways reinforces your point.

Roger Owen Green said... - NYS passes a one-house bill allowing gay marriage. Know that it won't pass the Repub State Senate any time soon.

Yeah, I know that the marriage issue is not primary with you, but I'll tell you why I think it's important, here, now: the pull quote for one of the opponents. "It's a direct challenge to the way I was brought up." Precisely. See the cover here: Just as integration, miscegenation, women's rights weren't the way people were brought up. The issue, to use a sports metaphor (I know what a jock you are), moves the ball.

Anonymous said...

Totally. Depressing. I talk about this a lot with a French friend and a Dutch friend, and we often ask ourselves this question: Why are Canada and Europe becoming more progressive on equal rights for straights and gays while the U.S. feels like it's actively picking up speed as it moves in the other direction? When I think about this, it makes me feel hopeless and sick. Because the bottom line, I feel, is that the majority of the people in my country are either stupid or crazy or both. How can we turn the U.S. around?

I see your point about marriage perhaps taking the focus away from other important issues. But marriage does confer an incredible amount of legal benefits and responsibilities. And as post-er "les" points out, it's not just about your legal relationship to your spouse. Although that's a big enough reason on its own that two adults should be able to marry if they choose. You could do it without a wedding. Or chose not to do it at all. But having the option does seem like kind of a big deal (But then, I'm married, so obviously it IS a big deal to me).

Bill S. said...

I was going to comment, but find that pretty much all I have to say is that I agree with what you say. Which is less a comment than an affirmation.

I feel you regarding the Mexican food. Since I moved to FL from Detroit, I have been horrified by what passes as Middle-Eastern food here. The hummus is like dry paste.

GayProf said...

Naladahc: My first issue of Wonder Woman was no. 269.

Glenn: I miss green chile everyday. Sigh

I would like to start an underground railroad to liberate queers from Texas.

Marlan: I hear that my soon to be state has a growing and vibrant Mexican community.

Don't misunderstand me, I am generally happy to be going to MFT and Midwestern University even if I am sad to also be leaving Boston.

Sarah: The logic of a majority who hates a minority being entitled to vote on that minority's rights baffles me.

Earl: I didn't intend to undermine the hard work that has gone into securing same-sex marriage in MA. Nor do I consider it irrelevant (it's just not where I would have started).

Les: My own breakup makes me see the value in marriage laws. If our relationship had legal standing, it would have been easier to obtain arbitration in its dissolution. This would have helped, for instance, in my not continuing to pay mortgage on house where I no longer lived. It would have also fairly divided the debt (though Liar Ex never acknowledges it, much of my debt went to our joint living (especially during grad school). Most of his debt went to entertaining himself or buying himself toys (like new computers). Legal standing would have checked Liar Ex's unending self-centeredness and basic greed. What was I thinking getting in to a LTR with him???

TornWordo: Canada seems so much more enlightened -- except Alberta. sigh

Alan: Yes, I am happy that my new university has been fighting the good fight. They have not yet, though, found the way to reach the voters of the state.

ROG: I am not opposed to the fight for marriage. If it draws attention to inequality, that's great (though in most places in the nation it seems to be resulting in re-enforcing inequality). Jason has a good list of other issues that MA needs to address here.

Cuz of VUBOQ: It does seem like the rest of the world is moving in one direction and the U.S. (and Mexico) is being dragged in the opposite direction. Alas, though, the news from Colombia really depressed me as well.

Bill S.: Clearly you don't understand how much I need affirmation. Affirm me! Affirm me!

Anonymous said...

Marriage may not be the number one priority, but it's still a pretty nice thing to have so long as it's the only way that straights and gays get certain rights. Plus, since it is so visible an issue and is publicly regarded as a milestone, it could be considered a signal for what's to come. If a nation is happy with gays getting married, it's less likely to argue about gays getting other less visible rights. (That seems to be the case in the UK now)

'The media circus has given the false impression that same-sex marriage is somehow more important to queers than police brutality or employment discrimination. In many places in this nation, it is still unsafe for a queer person to live their life openly.'

This might be due to the visibility issue. Grant gay marriage legally and ta-dah! Gay marriage exists and there are lots of events the press can cover and they can photograph Elton getting married to David. But put through anti-discrimination legislation and discrimination will not automatically end. For example, despite their legal rights, there are lots of queers in the UK still uncomfortable about coming out in the workplace. You can't simply legislate away the homophobia; it takes much longer for the legislation to take real effect. Anti-discrimination legislation doesn't provide such good photo opportunities as gay marriage either. Consequently it's ignored more.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but it sounds awfully convincing to Joe Shmoe who's never experienced real inequality before. Just tell him his rights are being infringed upon by those nasty homosexuals and he'll be up in arms. It's the same logic as those poor, embattled campus conservatives being attacked for their views.

I'd like to get a dog I could train to attack conservatives, but I'm not sure I could train the dog to recognize them. Do they have a particular smell? (Bullshit, perhaps?)

Mike said...

Sure, Mexican food in Mass. sucks. On the other hand, Mass. also has other terrific ethnic restaurants: Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern, Portuguese, etc.

I really wish gay rights were more an issue of national scope, but maybe the small battles in Mass., Vermont, New Jersey, and California can drag the rest of the country along.

dykewife said...

you see, that's why you need to move to canada. i'm sure there are universities who would love to have you teaching and researching and such. add to that equal protection under the law. though not specifically stated in the canadian charter of rights and freedoms, the canadian supreme court has specifically stated that sexual orientation is not to be used as a reason to deny rights to any citizen.

provinces also have their own charters and saskatchewan's charter specifically mentions sexual orientation as category that cannot be discriminated against.

i find it infinitely worrying that, though the united states is purported to be such a basteon of freedom, that their own supreme court has specifically denied people their rights as citizens based only on their sexual orientation. this is especially true considering that united states has had it's constitution and bill of rights for a very long time. canada's is only 25 years old.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad things are working out well for you there so far. God knows you deserve a break.

Incidentally, I might e-mail you later, since your institution is one of the places I'm thinking about applying at this winter.

Margaret said...

What a wonderful, and spot on, post.

But right now I am obsessed with the fact that you *always* pick an absolutely apt Wonder Woman comic book cover. You have a real gift (and obviously, extensive knowledge of the WW ouevre)!

Anonymous said...

I must ask - have you tried east Boston for Mexican Food? Chelsea? East Somerville...Mattapan?

I'm not Chicana, so I'm gonna defer to your judgement and all, and I have heard the ubiquitously judgement that NE Mex food is totally unacceptable should check out the Mexican-American beantown-spots for Mexican food,,,,

GayProf said...

Baron: You make a good point about marriage and its media potential.

Sarah2: Conservatives smell of fear.

Mike: Sadly, I think that radical conservatives enjoy trashing MA and San Francisco as areas of the nation that are allegedly out of step with everywhere else.

DykeWife: I think when a nation starts out with slavery being "a-okay," it sets a nasty precedent for keeping basic civil rights limited. Plus, we never had Pierre Trudeau. sigh

Chad: I am happy to help if I can.

MaggieMay: It's a gift . . . and a curse.

Boricua: Most of my Mexican-food attempts have been in East Somerville. They did not impress me.

I rarely have been to East Boston. The times that I have gone have been with a Colombian friend. As a result, we usually eat Colombian food. That has been tasty, but (obviously) nothing like Mexican food. Given I have no basis for comparison, I leave it to him to decide its relative merits.

I am open to suggestions, though, if you have some good places in mind. There are also some Andean places that I have been eying recently... As Mike points out, Boston has lots of good food. I just wouldn't say Mexican is one of them (so far).

Steven said...

It was interesting to note your discussion about wedding costs. I saw a newspaper article recently about a husband and wife who went the easy way for a wedding and didn't spend more than a few hundred dollars.

I haven't been much of a proponent of the marriage debate as I think we're jumping the gun when there should be more achievements with basic human rights, including ENDA. Though many states are achieving their own forms of ENDA.

Anonymous said...

I'm a long way from being done with processing my thoughts on the end of this decade and something long equal-marriage push in MA.

I'm from Boston, and I remember watching a news clip of a State Senator knock a young gay man down the steps of the state house, during one of the demonstrations in favor of the first, and failed, attempt to get sexual orientation added as a protected class in state civil rights legislation.

I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 years old - and that moment is my first memory of dreading the possibility that I was gay.

I'm certain that the nationwide torrent of campaigns for state constitutional amendments to "protect marriage" gave some other young queers their own introduction to that fear. And I'm equally certain that I'm going to enjoy talking with young queers whose childhood memories include seeing people celebrate this victory...regardless of all of the political ambivalence I share with you over the value of marriage as a personal and political goal.

I appreciate this post and your other thoughtful posts on the evolving political/social condition of queers - and I wish I had the wherewithal to pontificate on the central point of your post rather than on Mexican restaraunts - but I don't so...

I recommend Tacos El Charro in Jamaica Plain to you. I do this with the understanding that I've never met anyone from the southwest or west coast of the US who hasn't said that Mexican food sucks in MA.

Still, this is an old community institution, good people - and to this naive puerto rican palate, good food.

Tenured Radical said...

N and I just went to see the Lesbian Attorney, who is lead counsel on the CT marriage case going to the state supreme court. She is putting together a package of documents for us that approximate marriage. If we don't leave the state. Neither one of us approve of civil union or marriage, and I do think we are passing on civil union (at least for now) because of the documents Lesbian Lawyer is drawing up, and because we have some crucial benefits (health insurance) through Zenith.

My question is: why is this a gay-straight issue at all? Why can't people simply designate another person as immediate family and have it respected in all 50 states? OK, I know why, but really , I do think that is the equality issue -- anyone being judged competent enough by the state to decide who is the person or persons that they trust most in the world. Get romantic love and ht fiction of family out of it.

Happy Gay Pride folks!


Anonymous said...

Why is WW with the Golden Age Flash on the cover of what looks to be about a 1980-era book?

(The substance of what you've written having been thoroughly chewed over...)

Elizabeth McClung said...

The US is currently in an anti-gay position that was unthinkable 10 years ago - Forget Will and Grace, where will you find gay individuals represented in TV much less society. I still cannot even understand the arguements against hate crime laws (though since the Senate still hasn't been able to get a "lynching bad" law through EVER - I supposed I shouldn't be surprised) - the whole, all crimes are hate crimes is such a privilaged statement that it only reveals ignorance of a) ever being a target of hate crime and b) the diversity of what is criminal (like gay flirting was in Ohio until a few years ago - I guess that was a love/hate crime). Yet this seems to convince a majority of people - honestly...what is in the drinking water down there?