The Feminist Closet
A student asked me this a few weeks ago during a question and answer session about Crimson columnists. Now, I am a queer woman of color, and my column shows it. Logically (dear God, hopefully), queer friends would have no problem with a column like mine. Straight ones, however, might.
The first time I saw the trailer in an actual movie theater, I was pleasantly surprised to see a mainstream movie with a queer protagonist. I remember wishing that this film had come out when I was in high school; young Becina could have used this.
One of my classmates asked this during our sexual education unit in eighth grade. Our health teacher replied that most couples might kiss or talk. By that point in my life, I’d seen enough rom-coms (read: averted my eyes through enough PG-13 almost-sex scenes) to understand that sex could be fun for certain people. But, looking back, I can see how my classmate missed that and interpreted it as a boring activity solely for reproduction. Not once in our entire unit were we told that sex could be pleasurable or why anyone would want to have sex outside of baby-making.
It’s been nearly two weeks, and I’m still disappointed and hurt by the hateful rhetoric that “ex-gay” speaker Jackie Hill-Perry spewed at Harvard College Faith and Action’s Doxa meeting. While I’ve heard plenty of pastors, church-goers, and even non-Christian people say that homosexuality is sinful, hearing that message from a black woman who looks like me made it hit a little closer to home. It hurt even more to know that we have similar interests: I was intrigued to learn that she’s also an advocate for racial justice, a cause that I’m extremely passionate about. Initially, I had the smallest glimmer of hope that she might talk about racism within the church instead of how I and the rest of my community are inherently broken. But alas, it was not to be. During her speech, I heard nothing about racial reconciliation and far too much about “loving,” “Biblical” ways to ostracize BGLTQ people.
Which is part of the reason why June 26, 2015 was a life-changing day for me. As a queer woman who’s considering marrying another woman, the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality opened doors for me. And beyond guaranteeing the right to marriage, the Supreme Court ruling made national news, increasing visibility of LGBTQ+ people and issues. One study showed that the passage of marriage equality in individual states led to a decrease in the overall teen suicide attempt rate and an even greater decrease among the lesbian, gay, and bisexual teen populations in those states. Marriage equality has had a quantifiable positive effect, even on populations not immediately affected by the ruling. Clearly, it’s an important step forward.
Before I continue, I want to point out that I am speaking from a privileged position because I’ve never been seriously concerned about the logistics of marriage. Marriage equality came about when I was only 16. Unlike many before me, I won’t have to move to live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, and I won’t have to worry about whether my marriage will still be recognized if I move to a different state. Because of the efforts of the movement that began decades before I was born, if I do decide to marry, the process will be a lot smoother than it was in 2014.
Having discussed all the wonderful parts about marriage equality, it’s important to realize that marriage isn’t the end-all-be-all of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. It never was, it never will be, and any suggestion that it is is naive at best and detrimental to the movement at worst.
Unpacking the institution of marriage reveals its roots in heteronormativity and sexism. The history of marriage includes traditions of women being passed around like property from their fathers to husbands. Even seemingly sweet gestures, like the groom asking the bride’s father for her hand in marriage or the father walking the bride down the aisle while the groom stands alone and independent, all reinforce women’s dependence on men while men remain independent and authoritative.