Cutting Both Ways

Cutting Both Ways

Subject: Marriage of

Mass Destruction?

Is the Massachusetts marriage decision really the weapon of mass destruction that will be used against the Democrats by the Republicans in the presidential election campaign? It doesn’t seem to me that this is all that good for George Bush either. All I hear the pundits talking about, however, is how this is bad for the Democrats. I saw this on CNN over and over again.

Re: Marriage of Mass Destruction?

Though they are publicly professing outrage over the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision to end the ban on same-sex marriage in that state, many right wing Republicans and, certainly, fire-breathers on the religious right, are quietly in ecstasy over this decision—and you can see that by reading the message boards of some of the far right web sites. They see it as a win-win for George W. Bush and as something, finally, for the administration to run on, something to fire up the troops on the right—now that Iraq is falling apart and the economy just isn’t giving the kick they want politically.

But the president is stopping short of voicing support for a federal marriage amendment promoted by conservatives in Congress just yet—even if he’s telegraphing tacit support to his right-wing constituencies—and for good reason. Though polls show a majority of people opposing same-sex marriage, only a small percentage of people (less than a quarter in most polls) want an amendment to the constitution outlawing marriage for gays. More people these days pick up a nasty scent when they see politicians targeting and scapegoating gays, even if they’re still uncomfortable with homosexuality. Let’s not forget what happened when Bush’s daddy let Pat Buchanan take over the Republican Convention in Houston in 1992 and allowed him to spew toxic, anti-gay cant: He lost the election. If this is a weapon of mass destruction at all, it’s one that could blow up in Bush’s own face.

This issue doesn’t have to be a nuclear weapon for anyone, and in my opinion if it’s used against the Democrats, it is because they will have allowed it to happen. All of the major Democratic candidates have opposed same-sex marriage as well the Massachusetts high court’s landmark decision. But they have also voiced their support for gay rights in general and for civil unions, and have spoken out strongly against the federal marriage amendment.

To anybody with half a brain, it would seem that some or all of them do support same-sex marriage but are afraid to be on the record saying that, which to me makes them look more feeble, and could be potentially more detrimental than simply standing up for what they believe in. Is the average person really going to decide to vote for or against one of the candidates just because he supports same-sex marriage as opposed to civil unions? Even if people oppose a politician’s support for same-sex marriage, that disagreement may well not so important to them that they will run away from that candidate.

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in particular comes off pathetically in all of this. Here he is, a supposedly stanch proponent of gay rights, running for president as a liberal trying to get the Democratic nomination and knock far-right George W. Bush out of office. Meanwhile, his position on this pro-gay decision by the highest court in his own state is not distinguishable enough from the Bush-supporting Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, who also quickly disagreed with the ruling, even if he went further by calling for an amendment to the state’s constitution. Kerry and the other candidates may think it’s safer to be opposed to same-sex marriage, but in the end they may be most vulnerable because of their mealy-mouthed positions.


Prince Charles, etc.

Re: your column last week about the New York Post calling the future king “Princess Charles” and gays using the pronoun she among ourselves: Is “she” really an unambiguous endearment when used between two gay men?

Although the “context” may at times make it more endearing than not, I would not categorize it as an endearment. The misuse of the pronoun cannot even be understood unless those using the phrase dip rather deeply into homophobia and self-hate. It means clearly that gay men cannot be who they are unless they define it by the abnormal criteria of society in general (i.e., a cross gender). Every time a gay man uses the pronoun “she” for a fellow gay man, he fortifies destructive societal stereotypes. Got it girl?

Re: Princess Charles, etc.

Oh brother—or should I say sister?—here we go again. I addressed this issue a while back as well, and I realize everyone’s got his (or her) own perspective on it. But yes, to me, there is nothing wrong with gay men using the pronoun, and, by the way, certainly nothing “abnormal” about being a cross dresser. Nor do I think it’s all about “self-hate” or destructive societal stereotypes.

One thing I agree with you on: It’s not always a term of endearment—sometimes it’s used in a more sassy, bitchy way, as in “Miss Thang better watch her ass!” But that doesn’t mean it’s about homophobia and self-hate. I will grant you that some people will use it in a misogynistic manner, throwing the pronoun at another gay man in order to demean him by comparing him to a woman. Straight homophobes do this as well.

But the case in point, which I think is indicative of how most gay men use these pronouns, was all about fun and, yes, endearment. I wrote that a gay web site used the headline “Is the Future King a Queen?” with amusement and irony among ourselves as opposed to the New York Post’s usage of “Princess Charles” as a headline clearly aimed at demeaning him. Words do have meaning, but meaning changes subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, depending on who’s using them.

Michelangelo Signorile hosts a daily radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio, stream 149.

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