Just being gay is not a political programme

Reflections on Mardi Gras 2001

  • Andreas Speck

London's gay scene is preparing for Gay Pride on 30th June. Again a big commercial party in Finsbury Park - lots of music, lots of drugs, and … a little bit of politics, just enough to still call it a demonstration. This year Mardi Gras will highlight gay partnership rights, the last big issue that remains open after gays won over the British government on the issue of gays in the military. But what is all this about?

Clearly, the mainstream gay scene doesn't have anything to do with social change anymore. The roots of gay liberation - the Stonewall Riots, unfortunately not really non-violent - are long forgotten, even denied. Now they just fight for our right to be trained to kill in the military, to take part in deporting asylum seekers as gay police officers, and now to copy the patriarchal model of marriage. It seems the mainstream gay organisations want to equalize our situation by picking the worst sides of the heterosexual world and making sure we too get into all this shit.

Although partnership rights might be useful - certainly some legal recognition of other forms of partnerships makes sense - I don't quite understand why there should be anything special about gay partnerships, and why there should be a special law. Rüdiger Lautmann, a German gay researcher, sees gay marriage as the "Trojan Horse", which should be smuggled into the fortress of the patriarchal world. But the question is, what is smuggled where? Isn't it just the other way round? Isn't gay marriage the Trojan Horse, which is smuggled into liberation politics?

What is much more needed than gay marriage is a fundamental rethinking of partnerships - be they gay, lesbian, straight or whatever - in a direction that expands partnership rights to more than just two people who happen to have sex with each other.

What about communities of more than 2 people? What about friendship circles, where people don't live with each other, but are prepared to take responsibility for each other? What if I have sex with lots of people (or even just one person), but my closest relationship isn't a sexual one? The old model of marriage just doesn't make sense any more.

What becomes more and more obvious is that to organise around a so-called gay identity means organising on a quite shaky ground, and ignoring power relations among gays. Why should a gay capitalist be any better than a straight one? Doesn't he fire his gay employees in order to raise his profits? Why should a gay police officer be any better than a straight one, when both arrest and deport asylum seekers, or are ready to beat us at a demonstration (May Day 2001)? Maybe in the close future gay rights organisations will campaign for our right to be members of the National Front, to put their liberal approach to the extreme? It's time to leave the "rainbow coalition" and to look out for more useful partners in new queer networks: all those opposing marriage and patriarchy, and other groups excluded from mainstream society. This isn't always easy, but who says that social change is an easy thing to achieve. And it is still easier than standing the 10th boy band at Mardi Gras.

Andreas Speck is on the staff of War Resisters' International.