by Holly Fetter, ’13
You’ve undoubtedly seen an onslaught of red squares in your newsfeed this week as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national LGBT rights organization, has encouraged supporters of marriage equality to display their politics via their profile photos. A red and pink version of the ubiquitous HRC logo has been consuming Facebook alongside many creative reinterpretations, including my personal favorite — the Tilda Swinton one. (Is it a political commentary? Is it a meta meme? We may never know).
I have the ‘greater than’ symbol, as a symbol of solidarity with all those whose relationships and models of community and care are excluded from the state’s recognition of marriages, and a statement that our queerness neither begins nor ends at assimilation. Marriage is not a ‘first step’ that has the potential to launch more conversation; it is, right now, an eclipsing step, that has overdetermined LGB politics in the US and erased much of the history of queer resistance pioneered by people of color, low-income queers, and trans* people.
—Alok Vaid-Menon, ’13
The “inequality” sign strangely feels a bit anti-coalitional, anti-solidarity to me; having critiques of the institution of marriage does not keep me from supporting the fight for marriage equality. I chose to change my profile picture to the equal/equality sign, instead of the greater than/inequality sign, because while I have my critiques of the institution of marriage, and have even personally boycotted marriage since starting college, I actually feel the fight for marriage equality quite deeply. I do not believe that the legalization of same-sex/same-gender marriage is the absolute, end-all, solution to discrimination of gay/queer folks, particularly here in the United States, but I cannot turn my back on my heritage, culture, and traditions as a person of Mexican upbringing — marriage is a big deal, and I find myself feeling compelled to honor and respect that. Regardless of my personal opinions of the “marriage equality movement”, I recognize that marriage is a very important aspect of many people’s lives, families, and cultures, and I strongly believe that their desire to enter into marriage should be legally permitted, accepted, and celebrated.
— Monica Alcazar, ’13
My current symbol is text that says ‘End White Supremacy’, which neither precludes nor excludes the possibility of marriage, but is an attempt to point to how whiteness and its investment in state-sanctioned relationship models (that preclude other interdependent relationships from accessing basic rights) play out in the HRC-backed marriage equality movement. Also, the pink and red colors are a simple way to bring forward the political conversations we want us to be having, hence ‘white supremacy’.
— Janani Balasubramanian, ’12
I chose to use the increment operator, “++”, for my profile picture. I chose not to use the red HRC equals-sign symbol because 1) I am skeptical that HRC has been/would be interested in being accountable to a significant portion of lgbtq people, and I am skeptical that HRC cares about not being useless, 2) marriage equality is only a subset of full rights equality, and 3) focusing on rights equality will not get us to where we need to be. I chose not to use the red greater-than-sign symbol because, although I agree that marriage equality is narrow and non-inclusive, I am not yet sure that it will be counterproductive. I’ll be glad if AFER et al. finish this fight now, so that more people will start to focus on addressing everything else that needs to be done. Anyways: in C-style programming languages, the “++” operator increments an integer variable by one, which is the smallest possible change to that variable. Similarly, marriage equality is an incremental step, and we’ll need to follow it up with much more progress, because so much time, attention, and resources have been diverted from other pressing needs into the fight for marriage.
— Ethan Li, ’16
If we push only for marriage, then instead of achieving liberation from an oppressive puritanical society, or changing American society to be more open/embracing of ALL queer lifestyles, then not only would we be further confining ourselves to arbitrary social institutions, but we would continue a horrible legacy of exclusionary politics for many within the queer community for whom marriage is not and will never be an option. That is the main reason I prefer the greater than sign, because we as a queer community and as an American society deserve to have “greater than” just marriage. We deserve a society that is validating, that does not demand conformity and is open and embracing of nuanced goals and lives, especially when it comes to sex and love, and we will not achieve that if our only goal is equality through marriage.
— Erika Kreeger, ’14
Same-sex marriage does not and will not ever mean full equality for LGBTQ people. Treating marriage equality like a ‘fix-all’ for LGBTQ rights is a rather juvenile approach, to a much larger problem-like discrimination trans* people and the almost complete lack of representation of QPOC (queer people of color) in huge organizations like the HRC. And I get that guys, I get it. I chose the equality symbol, because marriage equality is something that my heterosexual and cis friends and family members can deeply relate to. Creating conversation around same-sex marriage is a good way to begin conversations about more deeply rooted problems. I chose the “equal” sign, because most of my conversations were with people who don’t understand the larger issues facing the LGBTQ community-and by engaging in conversations about same-sex marriage I can widen the dialogue to discuss the larger issues facing our community.
— Brianne Hunstman, ’15
You won’t find me protesting gay weddings with the Westboro Baptist Church, but marriage equality is not a priority to me and to many other queer folks. There is no doubt that a good ruling would make a huge difference in the lives of committed, monogamous single-sex couples and their children, and I hope it does. But I want my sympathetic Facebook friends to dream of something greater than assimilation, to dream of a society in which monogamy is not privileged and gender is not policed. I chose a “>” rather than a “=” to remind them that there’s plenty of queer politics beyond the prepackaged viral messaging of the Human Rights Campaign.
— Adam Detzner, ’14
I chose the greater than sign because of the fact that the same sex marriage equality movement is not inclusive of queer people of color; the “greater than” sign, in my view, is calling for more than that — more than the marginalization of people of color in a movement that obviously will continue to impact them regardless of the decision that is made in court. It is asking people to recognize who’s voices are being heard and who’s voices are being ignored in this primarily white cis male led campaign for “equality,” or ticket into one of the most dominant and patriarchal legal institutions of the western world. Let’s build each other up, rather than resort to clambering on top of one another’s oppression.
— Giselle Moreau, ’16
I chose to use the = sign as my profile pictures because I wanted to stand by two principles that are important to me: justice and equality. I find out outrageous that marriage equality would even been a issue up for discussion, yet I acknowledge that we don’t live in the perfect society that perhaps we would wish we did. I’m also cognizant of the fact that there are a lot of other seriously important things that need to be taken care of outside of marriage equality for the greater queer community, yet because this is the issue that’s on the political table right now, I find it more efficient to collect our efforts in support of the matter at hand and then move to other important issues once this seriously overdue dilemma has been resolved.
— Zoey Lema, ’16
I couldn’t decide for a long time which symbol to choose. I want to do the sign for equality but it doesn’t represent really important issues that face queer people and are ignored by only discussing marriage, which in itself is used as a normalizing institution, in the gay rights movement. But just doing an inequality sign seems a little petty for me, and maybe a little bit of activist elitism. For places like my hometown, granting same-sex marriage is a big deal and will open up a silenced issue to more discussion, and I hope pave the way for future, more needed change. So I choose to combine the two symbols and reflect my own contradicting opinions and my hope that, whatever happens, discussions like these will help everyone move forward, whether they are starting at a place where gay means deviance and sin, or in the knowledge that marriage is a supporting structure of harmful, unnecessary norms.
—Tess Dufrechou, ’16
So, what do you think? What image did you choose (if any), and why?
Holly Fetter is a senior majoring in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.