karma row: gay marriage and anti-assimilationists

I was a little bothered by those raining on this year’s historic gay pride (in the US). All these anti-rainbow, anti-assimilationist posts, which I respect, but find disheartening. I’ve identified culturally as queer for 30 years, since my women’s studies days, and I’m quite partial to the anti-assimilationist position. I generally feed what grows in the margins and shadows, anyway. And more happy (gay) consumers, who may or may not be republican, drive gas-guzzler cars, or otherwise give a shit about anything other than their comfortable lives, and symbolic access to the mythic “American Dream”, do not represent progress to me. Just more potential robots feeding off the teats of the capitalist machine, unaware, or unbothered, by the fact that the mainstream media’s embrace of gay rights is based largely on its market value.


Clearly, true capitalists know better than to alienate or judge consumers, and keep morals out of the transaction. Its the ideologues who’ve got an agenda, and usually a righteous mission to justify it, one with an absolutist vision – insert bible thumpers here – that bring morality into the equation – insert corporate right-wingers, religious zealots, and all the other wealthy nutjobs whose strings are being played by a cold-calculating capitalist here. So believe me, I’m very cynical and kind of ick-ed out by how mainstream so many gay and straight folks I know have become, in large part as they chose to participate in that get married, buy a house/apartment, bear offspring, bourgeois nuclear family thing.

BUT there’s a spectrum of POVs, and its always taken those working from within and without the system to change it, I think. Ever heard of the Trojan Horse? Celebrating the supreme court’s ruling – a victory for civil rights!!!! – that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, and on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, is a beautiful thing!!! Its one damn weekend, and we can still continue to advocate for #blacklivesmatter, #abortionrights, etc. because in no way should what happened in Charleston, SC, be forgotten, nor should the protests, of which i’ve been part of, stop.

And maybe there’s an unexamined bias in some of these anti-pride critiques that stems from an Amerocentric (not a word, but should be) perspective that forecloses what Pride parades and rainbow flags mean to the rest of the world? Its easy to forget the utter bravery, the warrior-like resolve, required to carry that flag in places where homosexuality is still a crime.  Punishable by death. Places where people boldly and heroically risk their LIVES to be out and proud. As those at Stonewall once did. I was so touched, for example,  to see a friend, a longterm survivor of AIDS march today with veterans of the latter, though it was a pic of a Ugandan man striding down a dirt road, wrapped in a long rainbow cloth tied at his waist, that brought me to tears. Don’t forget Uganda just passed the most draconian anti-gay legislation, and despite the state sanctioned violence this man’s action could provoke, he marched anyway. So its important to remember rainbow flags aren’t just co-opted signs of capitalist-assimilation for everyone on the planet. For some, it represents solidarity with an identity so radical its met with murderous hatred. In Istanbul, parade goers were attacked by police with rubber bullets for fuck’s sake.

ugandan man

None of this is to suggest everyone who is gay, queer-identified, or allied with civil rights, should wave a rainbow flag around, but to say there’s no need to piss all over someone else’s celebration. Pride 2015, especially here in NYC, was momentous, and while I was not able to partake ( I’ve been hosting Turner-Prize nominated artists, Jane and Louise Wilson all weekend, in conjunction with a screening/talk they did for my show, From the Ruins…), I was there in spirit! Luckily, it seems the negative attitude didn’t register out in the streets.  But on Facebook I saw a LOT of it, and just felt the need to comment. As one friend counter-posted to all the ‘tude, and the implication that one can’t be Pro-Pride AND anti-assimilationist, “YES AND NO. We can feel both at once”, with the two following pics attached: