“Drug Users and Polygamists”

by Joy Brooke Fairfield, PhD candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies

I just got this email from HRC (of the “marriage equality sticker” fame) with the subject line “Drug users and polygamists.”  The nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group (and lobbying organization) was asking me to give them money to help beat Mitt Romney because he’s such a jerk that someone on one of his committees just compared gay marriage to drug use and getting married to multiple people.  The (now embarrassingly conservative) HRC is apparently horrified that this guy would put “gay marriage” (a GOOD thing) into the same category as drug use and multiple marriages (BAD things).  They’re attempting to use this “shocking” comparison to rile up their base and of course, get donations.

This was not okay with me.  So I called the HRC head office (in DC) at 202-628-4160 and asked for Chad Griffin, the president.  He wasn’t available, so I had a very pleasant conversation with his assistant clearly explaining that I was a radical queer from San Francisco who wanted to give them some feedback on their recent campaign.  I told him that it made me, as a sometimes drug user and long-time non-monogamist, feel alienated and excluded from their organization, which is ostensibly dedicated to the rights of people like me.

I told them that their comments were disrespectful to the history of queerness in the U.S, which has long been associated with both drug use and non-traditional relationship arrangements. Because of our renegade status outside of hetero-marriagability, queers have been experimenting with alternative families since before the “nuclear family” was invented. And drugs?  Come on! Many queers use drugs for self-medication in a culture hostile to our desires and sensibilities. Others use them for mind-expansion in a world with dreams too narrow for our wild imaginations. For much of history, queer people have been regarded by the mainstream as weird or fucked up; we should NOT be pushing such labels on others.

I also told them their email was out of touch with the future of queer politics. HRC needs to imagine life beyond the altar. After gay marriage is established (for those who are into a threesome with the state), I would hope that this increasingly-powerful lobby continues to press forward in causes that matter to queer citizens, like the decriminalization of drugs and the legalization of diverse forms of consensual human relationship.

In their email, they say that the GOP rhetoric is “out of hand.”  I told the assistant (in very polite and supportive language) that it was very important to me that the HRC rhetoric did not also get out of hand.

I urge you to give them a call too, if you agree. The mainstream “gay agenda” should know that we radical queers are out here, listening.

 

Joy Brooke Fairfield is a PhD student in Theatre and Performance Studies.  Her research focuses on intimate spectatorship and the queerness of collaboration, and she is fascinated by the intersections of the desiring body and the social order.

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8 thoughts on ““Drug Users and Polygamists”

  1. Queerios says:

    Hey Cate, good point. I didn’t get the email so I don’t know exactly, but from what I could see, the HRC didn’t flat out condemn drug users and polygamists. They just said that the marriage equality issue was irrelevant to drug use and polygamy.

    However, from what I could see, it seems that the author is unsatisfied with the fact that the HRC didn’t flat out embrace and defend drug users and polygamists. Personally, I feel like they didn’t do anything wrong or negative to the cause, because introducing them is irrelevant to the larger topic of equality.

    Joy, I noticed that the romanticization of drug users in the post played a prominent role. And also pointing out polygamy can be a positive thing. But I get the feeling that the GOP speech wasn’t lashing out against college students trying to expand their minds, or against a loving triad of egalitarian gender dynamics.

    Maybe it’s my prejudiced imagination speaking, but I think the GOP is referring to the people who sell meth cut with rat poison, and maybe a heavily patriarchal polygamous arrangement where it is one man with many subservient wives.

    It’s too bad they all get lumped together, but romanticization of an issue may be just as harmful as painting it in a completely negative light. Honestly, I am more concerned about the oppressed women in the world in non-egalitarian arrangements and the low-income people who are dying of poisoning because they can’t afford safe drugs and
    the innocents killed by drug cartels than I am of some open-minded drug-using polygamist being offended that the HRC didn’t mention supporting their lifestyle.

    • Hi Queerios! Didja get a chance to watch the video? I think it’s pretty illuminating. What is clear to me is that the HRC took a statement (that indeed held conservative prejudices) and took it out of context in order to get an emotional response from their supporters. And they did it at the cost of people who are also marginalized by society (drug users and non-monogamists). In order to scare up more money, they pushed to the curb BOTH “healthy” or “unhealthy” versions of those sub-populations (and I put those in HEAVY scare quotes, I personally don’t feel that it’s a binary) by further “othering” them. I too am concerned by the plight of people suffering from unsafe relationships and addiction issues, especially those supported by structural prejudice. I want to make it clear that my post here is not about being “offended,” but rather about holding an organization responsible for the discourse they produce. In this case I feel strongly that their language was furthering a divisive kind of politics, and I feel, as a member of their community, compelled to speak out.

  2. esqg says:

    The HRC has got out of hand. This is a transparent effort to make a few queer people look “respectable” by implying that other ways of not-being-socially-standard make someone deserve scorn, and contrasting with them. It’s been clear enough that they were doing this for a while.

    Of course the direct comparison of “LGBT” to “polygamist” is annoying; the conflation demonstrates such narrow views of what’s “acceptable” as will strangle most of society, and one could respond by pointing that out. Or just snark a clever tweet from @Crommunist:

    “If we let gay people get married, the liberals won’t stop until EVERYONE’S human rights are respected. Where do we draw the line?”

  3. Cate Roscoe says:

    I think the arguement that should be made (mostly answering your question Queerios) is that discussions of drug users and non-monogomy are irrelevant to the discussion of marriage. There are homo and hetero drug users and non-monogomists, and regardless of any judgement that may be put on either group, neither has anything to do with those who would like to committ themselves to each other as a married couple- and that is what the discussion is about. And while HRC is right to fight for marriage equality (cuz those who want it should have it), Joy is also right that it is only one issue related to equality and outcasting others is hardly going to promote equality. No one will be truely equal until all are equal.

  4. I understand where you are coming from Joy. I am more interested in facts than how an issue makes me feel. I know how it makes me feel but feelings can’t help win debates. What can I do to make a valid argument? Research, understanding and empathy are better tactics than emotional manipulation. Ultimately it is knowledge that will help the gay community win in this debate.

  5. Hey there, good question, thanks for asking. First off, here is a link to video of the actual statement. I think what riles me the most about the HRC’s tactic is that it relies on the same style of emotional manipulation that is used by Fox, CNN, etc. While the connotations of his comparison reveal his prejudice, at the heart of GOP Platform Committee Member Kris Kobach’s comment is an important conversation that politicians and citizens should have in the public sphere: What kinds of controls should the government have over the private actions of individuals? Clearly this question is key to current policy-making (I’m also thinking now about the extent of corporate privacy vs the controls on sexual privacy). I know it’s complicated, but the HRC could listen to his full statement and bring into question the GOP’s uninterrogated moralistic assault rather than waltzing away self-righteously with a sound bite as is typical for the media. His actual text is pretty interesting, he confesses that homosexuality, along with drug use and consensual polygamy, are social practices that “we [the govt? the GOP?] condemn even though they do not hurt anybody, at least directly.” Maybe we could talk about the connotations of that statement, maybe we could ask why the GOP is so afraid of gay marriage, maybe we could contextualize the kind of privilege that is being defended by their anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-working class platform. I think the country is hungry for more subtle conversations that critique rather than extend the media’s simplification of politics (honestly this is why many people love the Colbert/Stewart shows – satire is a powerful form of critique). I wish that the HRC could be a part of that deeper conversation. I have this prejudice that queer people are really smart and innately sensitive cultural critics due to their long exile from the power-structure of the status quo. I expect a more rigorous approach to discourse from them.

    IMHO (or IMNotSoHO) – The emotional manipulation of others towards your own end is one of the biggest pain-creators of our era. One reason I oppose the GOP is because I see them using that tactic constantly. The reason I have supported (in general) the HRC is that I think they have a different vision of how society could be. But this email, emotionally manipulating me and asking me for money, makes it pretty clear that I can’t trust them either.

  6. Queerios says:

    So I was wondering… Is the author suggesting a different response from the HRC? Either:

    a) Disagreeing with the GOP and saying we’re just like drug users and polygamists, but perfectly OK!
    b) Disagreeing and saying we’re not like drug users and polygamists, but drug users and polygamists are awesome!

    I’m curious which of the approaches the author would say is better than the current response.

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