I read in the news about a local minister and his partner being denied a marriage license and then arrested for peacefully protesting this injustice. Having said that, I remember the sad Election Day when Kentuckians were asked to pass judgment on the way someone makes love and who they decide to make their family life with. Kentuckians were asked to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. A major part of this problem is religion in the debate. Marriage is not, let me repeat, not a religious process. It is a contractual agreement to obligate oneself legally and financially to the care of another. If “traditional” marriage is between a man and a woman, then it also should involve the giving of goats and property from the families of the betrothed. This, of course, brings me back to the fact that marriage again was not a religious rite but one of contract and social status.
Why does this even bother me so much?
It does because everyone should be able to obligate himself or herself to the person of their own choosing. In the arena of human rights, how could the vote of a state with the illiteracy rate approaching 40 percent be trusted to make a fair or educated decision for a mistreated minority?
Hearing this news this week, it did make me question how we see our LGBTQ community in this nation. Immediately, I began to list entertainers who have been brave enough to be gay openly and have made a career doing so. My first thought was about Sylvester, one of my favorite gay performers, who not only lived OUT but chose to wear makeup and live in “female” clothing much of his life. When he was making music in the ’70s and early ’80s, male androgyny was coming down from its Studio 54/glam rock/cocaine-fueled haze. There was Bowie, Sweet, T. Rex and other mostly straight(ish) performers who co-opted looks from the gay club scene and attempted to bring them into the mainstream. Performers like Sylvester could not rely on a straight male following to further their careers. Straight people went to clubs and danced to his songs but thought nothing else about the struggle that must have been his life as a gay man.
I had the same thought about Rob Halford, who hid his sexuality from a very homophobic and hyper-heterosexual fan base (if wearing leather daddy straps and studs is hiding). I believe what I’m aiming at is that we love and adore the product given to us by those in the LGBTQ community, but when it comes to authentically accepting the persons, we struggle to let go of our phony religious and social hang-ups.
I am angry with this, and my argument is oversimplified for space.
While many of our greatest artists and performers have been gay, I do not believe it is fair for me, as a straight woman, to love only their art and support organizations or entities that work to deny these same individuals their rights to live as they see fit or, more simply, to live in the manner in which the rest of us take for granted without fear of rebuke.
I understand in my own life how even my rights are predicated upon legislation. I am an African-American woman, registered voter, educated in a public university, married to a white man. I understand that all of these pieces of my life were only made possible by the “grace” of someone else. It makes me angry that I have access to my life because of someone else’s benevolence. All of the things I’ve listed about myself should have been guaranteed in the same way they were for the land-stealing settlers who formed this idea of America.
When I listen to people whine about keeping their arsenal of weaponry yet in the same breath say that a lesbian or gay couple should be stoned for wanting to marry, I grow livid. We can’t have it both ways, America. Do we guarantee rights for everyone or continue to pick and choose who is worthy of accessing the rights that allow a human being to live and prosper in a society? We can’t have our LGBTQ community be performing monkeys who we only see on a stage but stuff in a segregated and discriminatory box when they are trying to live the way others take for granted.
Erica Rucker is a freelance weirdo, writer and professional wedding/portrait photographer at eElaine Photography.