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.