As the Supreme Court is set to hear another marriage equality case that could change things for the millions of LGBT Americans living in states without same-gender legal marriage, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is summoning supporters to flood social media with profile pictures filtered with a red equal sign. This gesture is meant to show solidarity and support for the moving tide towards equal access and protection under the law–in popular parlance, it’s a way of showing you’re standing “on the right side of history.”
But our-stories are deeply complex. Truth, justice, and equality aren’t realities that get told objectively in the fiction genre we call history. I, along with many others, am deeply indebted to HRC for many of the LGBTIQ legal victories of the last few years. And, HRC doesn’t have the best reputation with all LGBTIQ people. Like many organizations and movements, there’s a tendency to domesticate and whitewash LGBTIQ lives in order to make them palatable enough to the USAmericans with political privilege and control, so that some victories can be won.
The problem with this strategy is that it inevitably ends up saying that LGBTIQ lives and marriages are good, okay, and acceptable, because they are just like “your” heteronormative lives and marriages (this of course turns the conversation into an appeal to the power of straight people, because it is now framed as being addressed to a “you” that is other and in power). But the reality is that all heterosexual marriages are different. And so are marriages between people of the same gender. All our lives are different, and that’s a good thing. “We” don’t deserve the same legal protections under the law because we are just like “you.” If “we” were just like “you,” we would already have the same legal protections under the law.
We (all persons) deserve the same rights and protections under the law, because we are all persons. Amazingly, this is the very argument many political conservatives want to make about the unborn, but not about the incarcerated or immigrants.
So, since we are all persons, I’m simply making my profile picture one of me and my boyfriend, enjoying our lives as people. Because I think that’s the real message that “we” hope “you” will all get.
I realize, that living in a state that was one of the first (to ban and then later) to legalize same gender marriage, I have a whole lot of privilege that my dear friends and loved ones in other states do not have. I stand is solidarity with them as many of them turn their profiles red, in hopes that their lives will be shown the dignity, respect, and legal rights and privileges they deserve in a nation that is purported to treat persons equally under the law.
And, I stand in solidarity with all persons as a human being–with people who’s bodies and lives have been called illegal under the law, with people who’s skin color, or language, or economic status, or way of being queer doesn’t seem palatable enough to be made the poster children for equality. Homogenization of people to all be like those who hold power is never equality. Equality is when we are all queerly beautiful and can be treated with equity, dignity, and respect by those who are just as queerly beautiful in other ways.
I want equality under the law in USAmerica for all persons, and I want common human protections for all persons regardless of the lines of nation-states. Just as I want economic stability and provision–not just for me and mine, but for all persons–the human ones, not the global corporations built to provide for a few stock holders, while exploiting all the workers in their supply chains.
I’m not turning my profile red, because I believe that every human deserves to be seen and loved for who they are–no filters, no vying for places of power in order to write ourselves onto the “right side of history.” We don’t get there by declaring it so. We get there by living faithfully as persons who respect and love all persons.