Defense of Gender Act Goes Down, But We’re All Still Missing the Point!!

Most people believe the current gay marriage debate is about whether gay people can legally marry.  In actuality, nowhere in the US does sexual orientation have any bearing on marriage legality.  A gay man and a lesbian could waltz up to any justice of the peace in this country, in any state, wearing matching rainbow leggings, carrying pride flags instead of flowers, and tie the knot, no questions asked.  Constitution upheld, fabric of society unscathed.

The truth is, Proposition 8, DOMA, state marriage amendments, Chris Christie’s veto in NJ, the Pope, the protests, and the two major Supreme Court opinions received today aren’t about gay or marriage at all.  They’re about gender.  The act struck down by SCOTUS today might more appropriately be called DOGA –  the “Defense of Gender Act.”

If the introduction of “gayness” into marriage was really what folks in California, and elsewhere, wanted to prevent, then why do we allow the many mixed-orientation marriages that occur all over the US, many of them involving children?  If “gay marriage” isn’t about gay people getting married, then what is the “profound redefinition of a bedrock social institution” Mr. Cooper, legal counsel defending Proposition 8 (the  California same-sex marriage ban) was debating with the supreme court justices?  Mr. Cooper’s argument wasn’t about gay people at all.   He repeatedly referred to “redefining marriage as a genderless institution.”  Mr. Cooper was arguing a case for upholding the gender binary.

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Love is For Everyone – A Poem in Honor of Marriage Equality

My big, fat, feminist wedding.

While I continue to work on my treatise on gay marriage (and why it’s really all about gender, and not gayness or marriage), I thought I would post this poem I wrote for my partnership ceremony in honor of the marriage equality battle being waged this week.  It, as well as most of our ceremony, was meant to highlight our desire to create a conscious, feminist, non-hetero-normative union, rather than a marriage in the traditional sense.

Even back then, before we really knew just how queer our union really was, I think we felt like we were getting away with something, even above and beyond our extreme unease at getting married when so many others couldn’t.  Thinking now about bisexuals getting just highlights the absurdity of making marriage dependent on gender.   Anyway… more on that soon.

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My “It Gets Better” To America

Marriage Equality is on the move!

Too many times throughout history, people in economic distress, feeling hopeless and scared, have chosen hate over love, broken the bonds that should have held them together, and turned backward instead of moving forward.  Too often under stress, human nature propels us to choose the false promise of a quick fix, rather than slogging through the difficult work of true progress.

This week, Americans made a different choice.  Ironically, despite all our disappointment in Obama for not delivering the hope and change he promised, after our collective reckoning with how hard and slow change truly is, we chose hope anyway.  We chose the vision of a society we create together, where freedom is truly shared, rather than lies and false promises based on sketchy math and reactionary social positions.  Rather than returning to historical practices limiting reproductive freedoms, to the view that men are the most capable of making choices about women’s bodies, we said no to moving backwards, and yes to equality.

We said no to Minnesota’s attempt to limit the definition of marriage to one man, one woman.  For the first time in our country’s history, citizens went to the poles and affirmed the rights of gay couples to marry.  In Maryland, Maine, and probably Washington (in every state, in fact, that posed the question) citizens voted for civil rights. The same country that after September 11 passed laws based in hate, to ascribe second class status to queer citizens, and that allowed irrational, self-destructive foreign policies to prevail, said no to war-mongering and yes to common sense.  We said yes to love, yes to fairness, and one vote at a time, brought gay people closer to full participation in our democracy, with the rights and privileges those of us perceived as heterosexual enjoy.

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Babies’ First Pride, Mama’s First Pride

My "Pride" Tank

Today my babies and I shared our first Gay Pride event together.  I ordered them onesies with rainbow-colored dragonflies on them, and “To Thine Own Self Be True” printed above.  As for me, I wore a tank-top with the pansexual flag and the words “no limits” written over it.  It was the most “out” I’ve ever been.

I was wondering if I was going to feel very exposed, walking around advertising my queerness like that, or even just being there.  The thought crossed my mind a few times that I might run into someone I know, and would essentially be outed.  However, I noticed a major difference in my thoughts about being outed since a mere month ago when I was outed on Facebook (Outed by Mark Zuckerberg and The Huffington Post).

When I was outed last month, I felt intruded upon – like I wasn’t ready for it and didn’t know what to expect.  In the last month, I have had both negative,and extremely positive coming out experiences, and I think it’s made me feel more ready.  The thought of being outed today felt strangely benign.  Not only did I not feel exposed, I didn’t even think about whether I would or should until later in the day when we were sitting at an outdoor restaurant, and I saw a colleague of mine walk by with a Pride shirt on.  This was my thought process:

-Oh, it’s ‘so and so’ (open my mouth to call out to her).

-Wait, do I want to do this?  I’m at Pride.

-Who cares.

-Wow, this is cool.

-Wait, what is SHE doing at Pride?

By that point she was gone.  Okay people, yes, I hesitated, but it was cool, that it felt so natural to just call out to her.

Last summer I was driving through New York City during Pride.  New York’s marriage equality bill had just passed and there was a feeling of pure exhilaration in the air.  We drove past a car that had shoes tied to the back like after an old-fashioned wedding.  Someone had written “We Got Marriage” on the window.  I remember feeling so, well… PROUD.  But I also felt strangely restless, like I was in a cage.  I wanted to get out of the car and DO something, but I didn’t know what.  Last summer, I admitted to myself I felt envy that I wasn’t THERE at Pride.  In retrospect, I realize it wasn’t so much about being THERE during Pride, as it was about BEING there during Pride.  BEING me.  BEING queer.  I wanted to be out of the car because I wanted to be OUT.

Pride was cool.  I love the vibe when a bunch of queer folk get together.  But the thing I loved most about the day was connecting with friends and just BEING queer.  At dinner, we talked about whether we were gender variant as kids, when we knew we were queer, and whether we were bullied for it.  I felt proud to be queer.  I realized Pride is not about walking around wearing nothing but a rainbow flag, proclaiming one’s identity on a loudspeaker, walking in a parade, or dressing in drag (not that those things aren’t fun too :).  It’s about creating a safe space to proudly BE.

While we were all talking, I looked down at my babies.  By this point, my daughter was wearing a rainbow-colored dress because she vomited on her onesie in the car on the way.  I thought about how they were already at Pride at age 1.  They wouldn’t have to go through any of the things we had.  The bullying for being gender variant.  The feeling that we couldn’t talk about who we really were.  The wishing we had known sooner or wishing we had been honest about who we were sooner.  The fear of even exploring our sexuality because we had been so brutalized.   For some of us, just starting, in our thirties, to work it all out.

If my kids turned out to identify as part of the queer community, they would never have to find it like we all did, they would already be here.  There will be “no limits” to how they can identify, like my shirt said.  Even if they aren’t queer, I hope this community, and this way of BEING will teach them to wave whatever flag makes them feel proud, and indeed, be true to themselves.  I will make sure they will never question whether they can proudly BE, and be loved at the same time.

Copyright 2012,, All Rights Reserved.





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To the Queer Kids of the United States: Amendment One is a Form of Bullying

Originally Appeared on, also appears on

This letter is to all the queer kids, the gay, lesbian, and bi kids, to the young adults who identify as transgender, genderqueer, pansexual, and/or androgynous, to the questioning kids, to the kids who were born intersex, to the high school and college kids in North Carolina and around the country.  This is to the elementary and junior high kids who are gender variant.  This is to all the kids who don’t fall neatly into the categories of “man” or “woman” or whose sexual and/or affectional orientations aren’t exclusively toward someone who falls into the opposite neatly-defined category.

Yesterday, a group of grown-ups voted overwhelmingly to use constitutional powers in the state of North Carolina to define marriage as between “one man and one woman.”  These were no doubt many of the same grown-ups who for much of last year were all riled up about bullying in schools and teen suicide.  As you probably know, the state had already used its constitution to ban “same-sex marriage.”  Apparently it was not enough to stop gay folks from marrying, the voters of NC felt the need to be absolutely sure there would be no way you would share equal rights, through civil unions, or any other measure.  Instead of democracy being utilized to protect minorities against hostile majorities, in this case, it is being used to legalize discrimination.  If this was really about marriage and its meaning, why not stop at a marriage ban?  This is bullying pure and simple.

When I was in high school, there was a rule that in order for a same-sex couple to attend the prom, they had to appear before the principal, “explain the nature of their relationship,” and get permission.  According to wikipedia, bullying is a form of “aggressive behavior,” involving “intimidation or coercion” that is often characterized by an “imbalance of power.”  Our school administration had more power than students, and was coercing same-sex couples not to attend the prom by setting up an intimidating situation.  What high school couple, gay or straight, would feel comfortable having to explain “the nature of their relationship” to the high school principal?  Grown-ups can bully kids as well as other kids.

That was 16 years ago.  I would like to think that if your school principal made rules at your school blatantly intended to bestow certain privileges on straight kids, and outright deny them the queer kids, grown-ups would be up in arms, civil rights lawyers would be on call, petitions would be circulating, and youtube videos would be going viral.  What if the football coach decided to require you to be straight to be on the team?  What if the criteria for being on the honor roll necessitated being cis-gender?  What if the graduation requirements included “gender normative behavior,” clearly identifying you as “male” or “female?”  Adults would never stand for other adults bullying you in this way and stomping on your rights.  And yet… haven’t they?  Denying crucial rights of being able to protect yourself and your future family sets up a series of intimidating situations.  These scenarios, like not being able to come to your partners aide at the hospital, facing loss of rights to your own children, and financial discrimination, are meant to coerce you into gender and hetero-normative behavior.

Amendment one is bullying, pure and simple.  It may not send a kid to the brink of severe depression, or worse, the way daily threats and slurs by other kids could, partly because, as young people, your peer group is so critically important.  However, amending the constitution of a state to make sure you will not have rights that straight people have adds to an atmosphere of coercion and intimidation.  Any grown-up who doesn’t see that is kidding themselves.  Perhaps when they cast their ballots yesterday, North Carolina’s adults weren’t thinking about gay kids sitting in their rooms contemplating whether it’s preferable to live in this world queer or not live in this world.  Perhaps they were picturing other adults who those voters imagined could weather that emotional burden.  Perhaps they were not thinking of human beings at all.  Perhaps they think that by passing this law they will somehow prevent or contain your queerness, but we know that’s as absurd as thinking keeping you ignorant about sex is going to stop you from having it.  Eventually it is going to occur to you that our society is bullying you.  The emotional toll of living in a society that would amend constitutions to deny you rights and the inevitable outcome that will have for some of you will be blood on the hands of those grown-ups in North Carolina.

I know what you’re thinking queer kids.  How are they even going to figure out which relationships will count as “one man and one woman?  Will transmen count as men?  Where will the line be drawn?  Will full gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy be necessary to be considered solidly within one or the other gender?  Or will natal biological gender stand no matter the steps one has taken to change one’s biological sex?  How will a natal woman who identifies as male but doesn’t have a penis determine who he is legally permitted to marry?    Thus, does this law actually also require one must be cis-gender to marry?  What about the almost 2% of North Carolina’s population who were born intersex and thus don’t fit biologically into male/female categories?  Will they be allowed to marry anyone?  No one?  What about the folks who identify as genderqueer, androgynous, neither male nor female, or both male and female?  Will these folks be able to marry?

I don’t need to tell you the answers to these questions, because you already know.  The answer is they don’t know.  The answer is many of those grown-ups who are so enraged about kids being bullied don’t even know these identity categories exist.  Perhaps they’ve never sat and talked with someone who is suffering the torment of feeling her gender identity does not fit with her biological body?  Perhaps they’ve never considered that male and female might not be neatly defined, discrete categories for everyone in society?  Perhaps some of them are themselves transgender, gender variant, or were born intersex, but feel you should live your lives in silence and conform to gender norms as they did.  Perhaps they believe by stopping you from marrying, they can force Pandora’s box closed and never have to wrestle with any of these questions.  But they can’t, because of you.

This is not one of those letters apologizing for the bigotry and ignorance in the world you are about to inherit.  It is a call to action and a recognition of your tremendous power.  The balance of power may lie with the bullies now, but that is going to change.  Many of you voted and advocated against this amendment yesterday, and many more of you will be voting soon.  You young people are overwhelmingly more likely than your parents and their peers to support equal rights.  You are thinking outside the gender binary and questioning traditional notions of identity with language and ways of being that are not even on the voting public’s radar yet.  As more parents demand rights and respect for their gay and gender non-conforming kids, and as you all become increasingly empowered, your voices will become louder.  Through natural demographic shifts your numbers and the numbers of your allies will increase.  As you continue to use the internet and social media, tools you utilize better than any of us, that power imbalance will start to shift, as you become more and more visible.  So if you are feeling bullied today I want to validate that feeling and say that yes, you are being bullied, but it is not forever.  It gets better.  You are going to fix this.

Copyright 2012, All Rights Reserved.

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