Monday, May 28, 2012

I'm All for Equal Rights, But Would You Want Your Brother to Marry One?

The rapper 50 Cent recently endorsed same-sex marriage (via), though not without certain reservations:
So in process, we need organizations for straight men. We do. We need organizations for straight men in the case you’ve been on the elevator and somebody decides they want to grab your little buns. Times are changing. Those organizations are set up for at one point they were being attacked for those choices. Now its completely different. Obviously [homosexuality] is more socially accepted.
"More socially accepted" than what?  I know, I know, straight men are an endangered species, what with all these homosexuals sucking their cocks.  At least some of us aren't proselytizing all the time.  I appreciated Ta-Nehisi Coates's comment:
This is what I meant about the difference between being fine with marriage equality, and still being bigoted against gays. As sure as there were arguments against slavery that had nothing to do with an affinity for black people, there are arguments for marriage equality that still allow for bigotry against gays and lesbians.
But he hasn't quite got it.  A lack of "affinity" for people in any category isn't equivalent to "bigotry."  Arguments don't have a lot to do with it -- as I've argued before, a lot of the arguments for same-sex marriage are really poor stuff -- it's people's ability to hold inconsistent opinions.  As 50 Cent explained, "I don't have personal feelings towards it because I'm not involved in that lifestyle."  I think that's true for well-meaning liberals, especially straight men: there's an obvious appeal to abstract fairness in the notion of "marriage equality" that has nothing to do with their personal and very concrete discomfort about queers.  That discomfort keeps surfacing in fag jokes, remarks about having to "bend over" for Israel or China, and of course the all purpose "sucks."  (I have the impression that liberals worry about having to bend over for political undesirables, while conservatives worry about having unacceptable political positions rammed down their throats.) 

It's dreadfully picky of me to point this out, of course, just as it's uncool to call people out on their racist humor: Hey, they can't be prejudiced -- some of their best friends are gay Negroes!  Legalizing same-sex marriage will, I believe, have little effect on fag discourse, which is an immediate, real-life concern for many people, not all of whom are gay.  Bigotry won't be made to go away by lifting a legal barrier here or there: it has to be confronted and pushed back directly, fearlessly, and constantly.  And there's not much stomach for that in Liberal Land, not least because it would require them to confront their own bigotries.

I think I may have lost the link to one writer who criticized Obama's belated and opportunistic endorsement of same-sex marriage by arguing that the real credit for changing Americans' attitudes toward homosexuality should go to the activists (his word, though many of them wouldn't have thought of themselves as activists) who for the past forty or fifty years did the hard day-to-day work of being openly gay among straight people -- family, friends, co-workers -- often (especially at first, in the 70s) being derided by other gay people, and quietly refusing to be shoved back into silence and dishonesty about their, our, lives.  Just as the Civil Rights Movement was not about the high-profile "leaders" but about the ordinary people who put their lives on the line every day by resisting white supremacy.  That's really why the casual homophobia of someone like 50 Cent or the straight liberals who joke about picking up soap in the shower is so offensive: they are usually completely unaware of what ordinary people face and have faced in a bigoted society, but that's of no consequence compared to their hangups.