Essays On Gay Marriage Controversy

At a forum on same-sex marriage held in the late Nineties at New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans­gender Community Center, several architects and engineers of the initiative to single out the legalization of marriage as the principal—indeed, the only—issue of consequence for the LGBT community argued that the legalization of same-sex marriage was an essentially conservative undertaking.State-sanctioned marriage would tame an impassioned bunch of outlier renegades.The assimilationists have won, with state-sanctioned marriage as the very mortar cementing the bricks of the wall of convention that separates us from ourselves, from one another, from all that is unfamiliar, strange, challenging, and thus from learning and growth.

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It is not my place to judge my success, but during those years my self-declared goal was to make a stone weep, because maybe the weeping of stones would bring about change, real change—would make us understand that we have no future in the rape of the world, that we have no future in dividing and subdividing into nations and clans and fortified mansions with manicured lawns and access codes, that we have no future except through love.

Leaving my last class of the semester, I encountered a student so lost in her texting, so oblivious to the living, breathing, gorgeous, fragile world, that had I not stepped aside she would have collided with me.

For me, veteran of the AIDS era of terror and anger and heartbreak, her oblivion precipitated the past into the present.

Not even Dante could have devised a punishment so perfectly suited to the crime: the use of a weapon, to quote Cornel West, of mass distraction; a device that, by robbing us of our need to remember, facilitates forgetting.

Though I lived in San Francisco at the time, I did not join the ACT UP activists who blocked the Golden Gate Bridge; I stayed at my desk.

Words, grammar, and syntax were my tools—small, stainless-steel wedges I would use to split readers’ breastbones so that I might tenderly lift out their beating hearts and display them to themselves, fully conscious, before restoring them, with equal tenderness, to their chest cavities and sewing up the wound.The cocktail that turned HIV from a death sentence into a manageable illness was perfected in 1996; the assimilationists moved the battle for state-sanctioned marriage to center stage in national politics during that year’s presidential election.In those early years, proponents presented same-sex marriage for what it was: a right-wing initiative whose goal was to enable the Republican grandparents of Peoria to feel comfortable inviting their grandchild’s same-sex lover to holiday dinners.My students were fascinated by Wojnarowicz’s raw frankness.One student, a father of two, wrote that I had not provided enough context for the book, teaching me that this history-changing event, the brutality and horror of AIDS, was more foreign to my students than the Vietnam War, no matter that the disease is still among us, no matter that his ignorance will become his children’s ignorance, which may lead them to be the next generation of HIV-infected.He dismissed my observation as irrelevant, saying that such audiences always skewed male.But within the year the spin was changed, as evidenced by my encounter a couple of years later in San Francisco’s Noe Valley with two young, white, conventionally attractive lesbians, who brandished a clipboard and asked whether I was willing to sign a petition to “legalize love.” In two years, the pitch on same-sex marriage had gone from presenting it as a ticket to the status quo—the ultimate insiders’ club—to a way to enable otherwise conventional people to feel they were participating in the romance of revolution.In my students’ curious, discomfited eyes, I understood that I might have been showing films of creatures from another planet, so foreign was this notion of working together to achieve change.And perhaps to them we were creatures from another planet—acting up, fighting back—so beaten down are they in the face of constant, implied threats of lifelong unemployment from universities and corporations, so balkanized are they by social media, so overwhelmed are they, in their early twenties, by the student debt with which we, their elders, have saddled them so as to leave them no time for introspection or collective action.How can we read our politicians’ and university presidents’ drumbeat emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) at the same time that they defund the arts and humanities as anything but pressure on faculties to train a docile pool of drones?Deans and professors promote the humanities as a training in critical thinking, but critical thinking leads to criticism, the last student activity university administrations want to encourage.


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