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Wednesday, September 03 2014 @ 01:59 AM CDT

A Valentine’s Day Fight Worth Having

Queer

For straight America, Valentine’s Day is another commodity of capitalist exploitation and schlocky holiday greeting cards. Men shell out cash for flowers and chocolate; women drown in spinster social stigma if they’re alone. Heteronormativity affects more than the heterosexual, though; LGBTQI folks get sold the same restrictive vision of love: a diamond is a girl’s best friend, after all, whether you’re a lesbian or not. 

A Valentine’s Day Fight Worth Having

By Dr. Zakk Flash

For straight America, Valentine’s Day is another commodity of capitalist exploitation and schlocky holiday greeting cards. Men shell out cash for flowers and chocolate; women drown in spinster social stigma if they’re alone. Heteronormativity affects more than the heterosexual, though; LGBTQI folks get sold the same restrictive vision of love: a diamond is a girl’s best friend, after all, whether you’re a lesbian or not. 

The commoditization of relationship and romance isn’t a new phenomenon – marriage was, and is, often arranged depending on financial footing and social caste. These Church- and Government-blessed arrangements have been a ticket to larger Western culture: a nuclear pact consisting of a breadwinning father figure, a homemaker mother figure, and two-point-five children.

But outside the economics of love – rampant consumerism and the rigid boundaries of traditional gender roles – lies an opportunity to express love in ways that are actually meaningful. Queering up the discussion of marriage has been beneficial for society as a whole, leading to examinations of patriarchy and dominance within straight relationships, as well as queer ones.

 

The National Cathedral in Washington, for example, announced on the 9th of January that it’d begin performing same-sex marriages. Rev. Gary Hall, the dean of the cathedral, told NPR in a recent interview that, with the change, marriage rites for all couples were being assessed for a more modern understanding of equality. He said that the prayer book carried with it “the vestiges of a patriarchal society” and that gay and lesbian couples serve as an example by “hold[ing] up the possibility of an absolute equality and mutuality in marriage.” 

While I’ve expressed disdain for institutional arrangements sanctioned by religious and governmental “authorities,” this sort of straight talk on gay rights fleshes out the larger narrative on heteronormative society. The tide is turning on antiquated historical, economic, and cultural traditions. And it’s coming from the bottom up.

Real, permanent change can only come from the bottom up. If authoritarian institutions felt they could continue oppression without consequence, they would. Reactionary riots have already begun in France over marriage equality measures; over 1,000 priests have signed a document saying that gay marriage could signal return to ‘centuries of persecution’ for Catholics in England. These people understand that power comes from the streets. We must as well.

Our struggle must necessary be a radical one. Healthcare and tax benefits shouldn’t be based on marital status. Pinkwashing imperialism by repealing DADT or allowing gays into the CIA doesn’t change the fact that the military is often tyranny packaged as freedom. Relationships shouldn’t have to be sanctioned by anyone other than the people committing to one another.

If we can force an examination of patriarchy and heteronormativity in the cathedral where the US Presidential Benediction happens, we can address other issues that affect queer folks – funding for public health, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, and youth homelessness.

Love is an essential component of social justice. Even symbolic victories in fighting against structures that degrade it are important. I know of no better way to show love than to fight.

_________________________________________________________

Dr. Zakk Flash is an anarchist political writer, radical community activist, and editor of the Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA). He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

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