My handsome wuzband Susan and I are approaching our third wedding anniversary. Since we live in Minnesota, where marriage equality is but still a dream, we flew to Massachusetts to get hitched.
This morning we were remembering that happy weekend as we were musing over coffee about the California Supreme Court upholding Prop 8 yesterday and the fuss by some over the so-called usurping of "civil rights" by queer folk who are fighting for marriage equality. Our marriage is interracial. Given that when we were children, interracial heterosexual marriage was illegal in some states, our marriage is directly linked to civil rights and gay rights. Together, for us, civil rights + gay rights = marriage equality.
So when I fired up my computer, I was ecstatic when I twittered upon this great post - Black and gay -- and reclaiming civil rights - by Pam Spaulding, the blogger extraordinaire behind Pam's House Blend. Be sure to read the whole post, but she says:
As someone who is black and lesbian, it's tiring and absurd to encounter the argument that the black civil rights movement somehow exclusively owns the ability to use "civil rights." And the result of that is any challenge to this thinking amounts to stepping on the third rail.As a white person who lives in a family of African American people, I know that for black queer folk, racism from without and homophobia from within the community grapevines together in a way that is specific to the black gay experience. Marriage equality is one more step on the continuum of the fight for civil rights. To separate it further divides our queer community and further isolates black queer people from the larger black community.
There is no Oppression Olympics that requires a certain level of historic suffering by a group of people to be able to use those words. I refuse to cede them to anyone.
In the Bay State Banner, there is an article by Talia Whyte, "Black gay couples in Mass. mark marriage anniversary," that shows just how black gays, even prominent ones, have had to deal with the issue of being rendered invisible -- but how marriage equality in the state has begun to crack through the wall of homophobia within the black community there.
Pam reflects on this in her post:
In other words, there is no ownership of "civil rights." One can acknowledge the struggles are different, but the commonality is the need to eliminate discrimination under the law. It doesn't have anything to do with the bible, those words don't pass judgment upon one struggle over another.So back to our marriage, which falls in the cross hairs of this debate (stay with me, it all comes together). One of the most moving moments of our wedding day was an exchange between Susan and her mother, who had flown in from Iowa to see her "baby" (Susan is the youngest of five girls) get married. Minutes before the ceremony was to begin I noticed Susan standing aside with her mother, who was adjusting the handkerchief and tie on Susan's very fly suit, and saying softly "Oh my baby girl, you look so beautiful, I'm so happy for you. I love you."
In fact, Dr. King built his movement based on the teachings of Gandhi -- so who's hijacking what -- and more importantly, why does it matter? The argument is ludicrous on its face, yet the appropriation of "civil rights" is allowed to occur. It serves no one to do this -- and the reason is quite clear -- whites don't want to have the difficult conversation and chance being labeled racist for bringing it up, blacks who oppose equality for LGBTs toss out the race card to avoid the discussion. Those of us who are in both groups are continually frustrated by the task of having to take this topic on almost always alone.
That profoundly personal moment is captured forever in the photo below, complete with a weeping Susan (I'm sharing it with you all for the sake of the cause and with permission).
Please understand the context here: Susan's mom is a 60-something, middle class, pillar-in-her-community, church-going black woman. Yet there she was, stepping over the homophobia that is ingrained in her community (as is a discomfort with interracial marriage), to embrace the fact that her beloved daughter was marrying another woman, was marrying a white woman, and was about to do so dressed to the nines in a "man's" suit. My own father was not yet prepared to "step over" those facts (he's there now, but it took a while).
Later, back in Minnesota, we had an outdoor reception for our friends and family, and re-stated our vows to share that moment with the people we love. My two young adult children stood up for me, and my toddler granddaughter wandered in and out of the ceremony, totally stealing the show.
Our marriage. An ordinary story. Not political in the context of our everyday life. But political and revolutionary in the context of the struggle for civil rights in our country and our shared insistence that we live up to the premise that we all deserve equal rights under the law.