Marriage as Heedless Pursuit

By Dominic Schuler '11

"In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions. I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

This was said by Maine Governor John E. Baldacci when he signed LD 1020, An Act to End Discrimination in Civil marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom, last spring. He also noted in an interview that his decision to sign the legislation, a decision he firmly backs as the “right decision”, may not be final. Governor Baldacci signed a measure allowing a referendum in November, after voters mustered enough signatures to put the measure through. As we saw in California, the Maine gay marriage law is now in the hands of voters.

Next week, we may find out if this story plays out differently. I think there is something to be said for learning from Proposition 8 in California, and it seems that this is exactly what the community has done. Counter- ads to the opposition began in September and were well-received- check one out here! First TV Ad Spot: "Sam Putnam"

I thought that this was an interesting and important issue to blog about, but I also want to note that I believe there is an overemphasis in the queer community today concerning marriage. Yes- equality is important. No- denying people basic rights based on any identity isn't right.

But considering the numerous other structures in which access is still denied queer people, marriage should not necessarily be our first concern.

The good people fighting this struggle are necessary- this struggle is necessary. But marriage is an inherently sexist, racist, and classist institution and I, for one, have some difficulty placing it at the top of my priority list. Furthermore, marriage is still highly focused on an idea of a nuclear family unit that risks alienating members of the queer community who marriage does not serve, or who have little interest in the institution. Simply changing the idea from one of a mother, a father, 2.5 kids and a dog to one in which the 2.5 kids can have two mommies or two daddies? Not that big of a switch. The working structure of marriage cannot be solved by granting access to an institution that is still riddled with problems- that is merely a 'quick fix' and I urge caution against mistaking victory in the fight for gay marriage as the signal to 'lay down our arms'. Rather, we should see the problems inherent in marriage as a call to arms, and we should remember that with every such victory, someone is silenced.

Humorous Interlude

By Logan Rimel '10

Because I tend to talk about serious, heavy topics when writing blog posts, I figured there was room for a bit of levity. How best to inspire laughs on a queer blog? Why, Eddie Izzard, of course!

Eddie Izzard is a British actor and comedian who is also well known for being a transvestite. (An “executive transvestite,” to be more precise.) I love that he’s out there, talking about his identity and experiences in a way that is palatable to mainstream America.

Here’s a clip of Izzard talking about his identity, growing up, and considering a military career: Eddie Izzard Transvestite

The Miscellany News - Panel discusses evolution of Vassar queer life

Vassar Miscellany News covers Interrogating Mythologies: Queer Life at Vassar since '69

Unpacking Gay History Within the Black Community

click to enlarge

Mormon Missionaries

By Logan Rimel '10

Recently, while checking the queer and political blogs I regularly read, I clicked on a banner ad for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly referred to as the Mormons) offering a free Book of Mormon. As a religion major conspicuously lacking said holy text, I decided that this opportunity was too good to pass up. I filled out the information and promptly forgot about it.

About a week later, I received a call from two young missionaries working here in Poughkeepsie. They wanted to schedule an appointment with me so that they could drop by, give me the book, and discuss their faith. I’ve now met with them on two separate occasions, discussing everything from the validity of the Bible to the testimony of Joseph Smith to (my personal favorite) queer identities, particularly within the Church.

For anyone not familiar with LDS doctrine (and I must confess, I am not nearly as well-versed as I should be. That was part of the reason behind requesting a Book of Mormon in the first place), the family is considered the central unit. It is through our relationships with our families that we learn how to love God and, eventually, to become like Him. From this position – the family not only as God’s prescribed plan, but as how one attains salvation – the LDS Church can be very difficult for queer members.

In my most recent meeting with the missionaries (two very kind, amiable, and intelligent women about my age), I brought up the fact that I was queer and did my best to explain my identity – how I view relationships, the people I date, the way orientation and gender identity combine to give me my perceptions of the world. At the end of my brief exposition, one of the women said, “So…like, homosexuality?” It was then that I realized we were speaking different languages.

Sometimes I forget, you know? I forget that the terms “gender binary,” “genderqueer,” “nonmonogamous,” and a thousand others are ones I use freely here, but sound like Greek to many others. I am privileged to be at Vassar, a privilege few others experience. As we discussed in the last Fruit Salad put on in the LGBTQ Center, the language that we have access to in institutions such as Vassar is not language that others necessarily are familiar with. The nuances of my identity are a result of my privilege.

The missionaries didn’t know exactly how to answer my questions, so they promised to do some research and meet with me again next week. I greatly appreciate the honesty in that answer and I’m looking forward to learning more about their perspective as they learn more about mine.

Gay Marriage: Cross-Cultural Concerns

By Dominic Schuler '11

It's no secret that in our country, the (mainstream) gay community is very focused around the struggle for marriage equality, hate crime legislature, and rights within the military. I think it is important sometimes to step back and look at what struggles queer communities internationally are facing.

While we featured the first gay couple on the 'Newlywed Game' last month, debate raged over the marriage of two Kenyan men in London (the first gay marriage in London) under the Civil Partnership Act. Religious leaders in Kenya described the union as “unacceptable and unnatural” and “un-African”, and expressed a sense of shame in their shared heritage with the two men. They also cited China's intolerance for queer issues.

Currently, Kenya is drafting a new constitution, which intends to invest in the interests of both majority and minority groups. Although British MP's urge for gay rights to be recognized and protected, religious groups have a large say in the matter and will shoot down the draft if it includes gay rights. Leaders stated that “the majority of Kenyans are against...anything to do with homosexuals and lesbians” and asked “How can a Kenyan marry another man when there are many women out there looking for men to marry them?"

I don't claim to know very much about Kenyan society, but I know that, growing up, I heard many statements similar to those in the paragraphs which precede this one in the American media (Fox news, for example), and it is interesting and, I think, important for us to recognize the similarities and differences in the struggle of queer communities for recognition in our society and others.

SexGames: Sexuality and Athletics

click to enlarge

Interrogating Mythologies: Queer Life at Vassar since '69

click to enlarge

Promises Deferred

By Logan Rimel '10

I’m on the email list for OneNewsNow, a conservative Christian new website. Today in my inbox I received an email with the subject “Christians on high alert over hate crimes passage.” Intrigued, (but also aware that my blood pressure was probably going to be on the rise soon), I decided to read on.

Putting aside the blatant lies, half-truths, and mental gymnastics that one would expect from such an email (The hate crimes bill will NOT mean that pastors who speak about homosexuality in an ill light go to prison. That’s a bald-faced lie.), I focused instead on one line from Matt Barber of Liberty Council. Barber says that President Obama will likely sign the bill since he desires to, “throw a bone to homosexual activists because they have been breathing down his neck...and this is a way to hold them off."

It was sort of disturbingly funny to find myself agreeing with Mr. Barber. President Obama has made promise after promise to the LGBTQ community during his campaign and first several months in office, yet does nothing to ensure that these promises are fulfilled. His administration has castigated and promised to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act while simultaneously defending them in court.

I, for one, am disgusted by this lack of leadership, but not exactly surprised. I just don’t like agreeing with Matt Barber.

The text of this email can be found here:

For an explanation of the hate crimes bill, go here:

Sexual Mafia

By Dominic Schuler '11

The Mafia (Cosa Nostra) is as an institution one of the top subscribers to ideals of 'machismo'. In a nutshell- organized crime is a go, but gay is a deal breaker. I found this interesting because of Robert Mormando, a Gambino family gunman, who broke the mafia code of silence-- omertà and confessed to acting as a government informer in his court hearing this week (regarding a shooting in 2003), but that isn't all he confessed to. He also outed himself in court, in an attempt to stress to the judge the higher-than-usual degree of danger he was putting himself in acting as a government informer.

I didn't find this case interesting because of a slightly self-interested court-mediated outing, nor because I was surprised to hear about a 'gay' in the Mafia (I'm sure there are more), but because of the Mafia's history in interacting with the queer world.

Before queer communities 'came out' from underground, laws prevented queer people from living easily in the mainstream world. For instance, throughout the 1950's and 60's, the FBI kept a list of known homosexuals (due to the 'Lavender Scare'- we all know those gays are right up there at the top of the list of risks to national security) so that bartenders could avoid breaking the law by having more than three homosexuals in their building at the same time- and this law seems almost sane and non-arbitrary in comparison with others!

During that time period, the Mafia ran a host of gay bars and night clubs, including the Stonewall Inn, interacting profitably with what at the time, was another underground, highly controversial community. Although queer culture has run more into the mainstream these days (I'm glad that law is off the books, because I've probably broken it more times than I can count!), the Mafia still interacts with many openly gay lawyers and businessmen.

I think that these seemingly opposed ideals stem from the divide between what is 'business' and what is 'personal'. In any event, the Mafia (and the military, for that matter) would probably do well to leave sexual preference out of their membership criteria.