Jasmyne Cannick Doesn't Give a Fig About Gay Marriage

By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com June 19 2008 12:00 AM ET

I separated
myself from the marriage movement some time ago. Not because
I'm about as close to getting married as Hillary is to being
president. Not because wearing white has a way of
adding 20 pounds to my already voluptuous frame. No, I
left the marriage movement after the realization that
even though Blacks are at times persuaded to be willing
participants in this country’s homophobia
hysteria -- and even though Blacks and Latinos have at
times found themselves being played against each other by
the Right -- both the Black agenda for civil rights and
the fight for immigrant rights speak more to
what’s important to me as a lesbian than
fighting for gay marriage.

I agree with the
basic principle that gay and lesbian couples should be
allowed to marry each other. The way I see it, as long as
we’re being taxed like everyone else in this
country, we should be extended the same benefits,
rights, and privileges as everyone else. That has never
changed for me. What did change for me was my
willingness to actively engage myself in a struggle
that's been from the beginning, and continues to
be, elitist. Plainly put, the gay marriage struggle is the
perfect example of white gay America’s
“superiority complex” in action. And
before you scream that I’m a racist, I’d
encourage you to step outside of your whiteness for a
moment and take a look at the marriage movement
through someone else’s eyes.

Coming into it a
bit naïve, I bought into the gay rights movement
without giving it a second thought. That marriage was
the end-all and above all other struggles. But it
didn’t take too long for me to figure out what
was going on and how.

Now, I must have
missed the vote on what issue should gay America take up
as its number 1 issue. Because had I been in on that
conversation, I would not have supported making gay
marriage the end-all issue. Nor would I have supported
the adoption of a strategy to achieve marriage that did
not include any meaningful input from minority lesbians and
gays. From the outset, this movement has been about
obtaining marriage for the white gay men and lesbian
women who were also willing to fund it. Bottom line.
Everyone else has just been along for the ride. And like
with every civil rights movement since the 1960s Black
civil rights movement, the leaders of the marriage
movement boldly adopted its language while reciting
quotes from Black civil rights leaders on national
television and in newspaper articles. They figured if
it worked for them, surely it will work for us.

Not thinking
about how Blacks would take that message, they forged ahead
on the backs of the Black civil rights movement without ever
instituting any of its core principles. So when Black
ministers popped up on those same national television
shows and in those same articles condemning the gay
rights movement, Blacks were immediately labeled homophobic.

Enter the Black
same-gender-loving community. Our worth in the gay civil
rights movement, whether you choose to believe it or not,
amounts to our willingness to be used in photo ops and
carry their message of marriage to Blacks, putting
aside all other issues. That’s it. Those of us who
have been willing to do it have been rewarded handsomely for
our time.

Some time ago I
wrote an article where I stated that even though the
Black community can at times be homophobic, I’d take
my chances with homophobic Blacks rather than
racist gays anytime, and today that’s even more
true. Almost everyone I know is concerned with the economy,
the price of gasoline, unemployment, whether or nor
they can pay their mortgage, rent, and car note, and
universal health care. Plainly put, regardless of
sexual orientation or citizenship, most people are more
concerned with those domestic bread-and-butter issues that
have taken center stage everywhere -- that is,
except for within the gay civil rights movement, where
it has been full speed ahead on marriage.

And even though
Blacks and Latinos are often successfully played against
each other, when you get down to it, they are both fighting
for the same thing, a way to provide for their
families. Which is not to say that gays aren’t
using marriage to do the same, but these days I’m
more interested in fighting for health care for all
people regardless of marital status. Capisce?

Coalition
building has never been gay America’s strong suit, at
least not where Black America is concerned, and that
includes within Black gay America. Basically,
there’s been a lot of talk but very little walk. A
perfect example of this is the fact that West Hollywood is
all aglow with brides and grooms spending insane
amounts of money in preparation to walk down the aisle
of holy matrimony after the California supreme court ruled
that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

However, directly
due south, there are gays and lesbians trying to figure
out how to rob Peter to pay Paul, squeeze blood out of a
turnip, and make money grow from trees. Marriage,
while they may be interested in it, doesn’t
come before the basics -- rent, food, bills, etc. But those
aren’t the gays who are on the evening news
celebrating. And those aren’t the images of
gays that most Blacks see. What they see are images of
wealthy white men and women to which they connect to a group
of white people who used the 1960s civil rights
movement as a blueprint to spearhead their own.

In the coming
months leading up the general election where an initiative
has qualified for the California ballot that would ban gay
marriage, Blacks and gays will undoubtedly be pitted
against each other by conservatives. They are going to
try and use the Old Testament and fear to call for a
short-term partnership to ban gay marriage in
California—conservatives and Blacks as frenemies.

To the extent
that any of this matters to me enough to say anything, it
will be to point out to my brothers and sisters that
historically, neither white gays or white
conservatives have ever been known to have the best
interest of Blacks at heart. I will gladly remind Blacks
that at the end of the day, what I do in my bedroom
isn't going to impact their lives, but the
conservative policies that are often pushed by the same
people asking them to support the marriage ban will. I will
be more than happy to explain that while I am a
lesbian, I oftentimes have more in common with my
heterosexual sista than I do with my white counterparts
and that we shouldn’t be in the business of
discriminating our own because there are Black
same-gender loving folks that are going to be affected
by the ban as well.

The days of me
pushing the agenda of folks who have not been able to
demonstrate the capability of thinking outside of the ring
are over. I have decided that I’d much rather
focus my time and energies on movements and with
people who want to build meaningful coalitions to effect
change for all and not just a select few.
That’s the movement I’m married to.

Cannick is a Los Angeles-based writer, blogger, and
activist. Her work has appeared in the
Los Angeles
Times and Ebony magazine. For commentary on
this story, read

Gay
Marriage Isn't Racist
by James
Kirchick
.