Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Status Quo or Queer

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Status Quo or Queer

Article excerpt

IT IS ONE OF THE IRONIES OF HISTORY THAT TODAY THE mainstream of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender movement focuses more on bolstering traditional, patriarchal institutions such as marriage, family, and monogamy than it does on questioning their legitimacy. That this shift has taken place is undeniable: We are a people eagerly seeking the right to marry; clamoring to adopt, parent, and procreate; and engaging again in a spirited debate about sexual values and ethics. Now, understand, I want us to have same-sex marriage, I love the kids my gay friends and family are raising, I care about gay male survival in the age of HIV, and I want a sexual culture that is built on self-esteem. But I am a feminist, and that means more to me than reconstructing the patriarchy in gay drag.

Four epiphanies made me a feminist: first, the parallels between homophobia and sexism; second, the connection between sexism and gender rigidity; third, the feminist critique of the pathologies of the patriarchal family and feminists' hopeful message for queers that we could invent a different, healthier kind of family; and fourth, that gay sexual and personal freedom are linked to sexual and reproductive freedom for all women.

In her book Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism, Suzanne Pharr explains how sexism is enforced through homophobia in a culture in which women and men have unequal power and freedom. Men and women are required to prove their heterosexuality or risk the stigma of being labeled homos. Proving heterosexual manliness involves objectifying and conquering women sexually and boasting about it afterward. Proving female heterosexuality requires women to tolerate unwanted sexual advances by men or risk the consequences. (In the military the risk is being "reported" to investigators; in society the risk is violence.)

The second set of links connecting feminism and gay liberation lies in our critiques of gender roles. The experience of many transgendered people and the theorizing of feminists explain gender as a cultural construction. Our biology surely constitutes us, but it does not necessarily limit us to performing certain socially prescribed gender roles. A key aspect of homophobia is the persecution of gender nonconformists: The sissy and the tomboy are tortured on playgrounds.

Strangely, it is the Right that gets the importance of gender over biology, more so than many queers and feminists. …

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