Friday, April 3, 2009

Go, Iowa!

Now that it's not just on the coasts, perhaps the legality of gay marriage will move beyond straw-man arguments comparing it to incest, bestiality, and polygamy. Probably not, but if things continue to go well in Iowa, it could just happen.

There's a peculiar Midwest version of "progressive" vis-a-vis homosexuality. It basically goes like this: "We ain't too fond of what them folks is doin', but so long as they're doin' it in their own house, who cares? I don't want nobody comin' into my house and tellin' me what I can do. Besides, I got to know a couple of those fellas, and they ain't like the ones always up on FOX News." It's not exactly welcoming the gay community with open arms, but this attitude is more prevalent than you might think. It often only pops out when the speaker isn't around too many other people. In fact, it goes hand in hand with that idea - so long as you're not too loud about whatever it is you're doing, it'll slide. You don't make change in Iowa by making waves. You make it by getting to know one person at a time, conversing, even arguing, but actually getting to know an individual. That's one reason change takes so long in the Midwest.

This is in many ways a disappointing reality for my gay friends and for myself. It would be great if things moved at a faster pace. On the other hand, things do change there.

Every once in a while I'm asked (seriously or rhetorically) why gay rights even show up on my radar. I'm straight. I've been married for nearly six years. Not my fight, etc. I have a number of gay/lesbian/bi friends, which is personally reason enough. I want them to be happy, and if marriage (and more specifically the rights accorded by marriage) increase their happiness, then I want them to be able to get married. The personal reason isn't quite enough, though, for an extended defense. So here's the most basic level by which I justify gay marriage: I don't like hypocrisy.

If the reason for marriage is the production of children, then childless couples should no longer be considered married. If the reason for marriage is love, then anyone who loves regardless of age or sex should be able to get married. If the reason for marriage is legal rights, then we should treat marriage as a business partnership consisting of any number of consenting adults. I'm only half-facetious about all this. The serious part - marriage as we treat it in the US (and many other countries) is equal parts religion, social standing, and business transaction. We get married because we are brought up in communities that teach marriage as an ideal representation of love (love being the highest gift of the divine). We get married because we are brought in communities consisting of couples. We get married because it affords us legal and economic opportunities. These three categories are not mutually exclusive, and that's part of the problem.

There are two paths that I see as the least hypocritical approaches to marriage. I know that one of these will never, ever work out. The other one simply allows two consenting adults, regardless of race, sex, or gender, to be married.

If you've reached this point wondering what all this has to do with poetry, since I ostensibly put this blog out there as a (piecemeal) poetics - politics can be poetic (see notes on hypocrisy), and poems can be political (anything from Yeats to the Beats). Gender concerns crop up in my poems for a number of reason. But again, the big one is that I don't like hypocrisy in my poetry, either. I was one of the few spoken word poets to never issue a poetic call for revolution while at Revolution Cafe. It's not my style, and I don't think a real revolution is the way to go. So I'm not going to insert that kind of languge into my poems merely because the audience will agree with it. I'm going to pick at holes, point out bits of history, and slowly develop a relationship. Then I'm in your house, and you're perhaps in mine. Then we can really talk.

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