Friday Philosophy: the inadequacy of inequality

In the interest of full disclosure:

I was married for twenty-four years, from March of 1969 until some time in 1993.  We got married because there was a pregnancy and there was going to be Hell to pay with the in-laws.  So I agreed to run off to Miami, OK, to get a quicky marriage…and to spend at least the next 18 years of my life raising our daughter, who was born in August of that year.

In 1992 I began my transition from male to female.  Lawyers were contacted.  Papers were filed.

I quote myself from Sexual Disorientation (poor form, I know):

Me:  Personally, I was married to a woman for 24 years.  Then I had a sex-change.  Now I cannot marry a woman.  Go figure.  Aren’t I still me?

Me, again:  Follow-up thought:  Then again, in many states, I can’t marry a man either, but such is life for transsexual people.

Debbie and I joined together in a New Jersey civil union a year and four days ago (see A Wedding).  We’ve been together as a couple since the last part of the 90s.

Observation:  They are not in the slightest treated equally in this society.

Oddity:  The heterosexual marriage was officiated by a justice of the peace.  The civil union was officiated by a Presbyterian minister.

◊  ◊  ◊

More disclosure:  I have generally been opposed to making same-sex marriage the centerpiece of equal right for GLBT people.  I’ve always thought that relied on the social equivalent of trickle down economics:  if we get marriage equality, then they can’t deny us equal rights in employment, housing, public accommodations and the like.  Wanna bet?

And I’ve always thought that it discounted those GLBT people who aren’t in relationships, like they didn’t matter at all.

My observation on this was that the divide between those who thought marriage to be of paramount importance and those who were ambivalent, or even opposed, to this as an issue was one of class.  Maybe that’s a discussion for some later time.

◊  ◊  ◊

But this is different.  This time, they aren’t trying to pass legislation to ban something that hadn’t existed before (well, except in the case of a few marriages involving transfolk, the destruction of whose legal marriages almost everyone ignored), this time they are trying to actually remove constitutional rights through a vote of the people…and through massive appeals to their prejudices.

There are those who believe that civil unions are the moral equivalent of marriages and that this is enough.  Those who believe that do not know how much of a failure at achieving that equivalency they have been.  That’s why I have added the video of the testimony at one of the hearings of the New Jersey Civil Union Review last year of the Reverend Alicia Heath-Toby and Sandra Toby-Heath above and Beth Robinson, founder of Vermont Freedom to Marry, at the right.  To quote Ms. Robinson:

The passage of time will not bring the civil union law to parity with the marriage law.

Separate is not equal.  Enshrining separation into our laws will not lead to equality.

One would think we would have learned that by now.  If the Republican mayor of San Diego, Jerry Sanders, can learn that,  to the point that he was brought to tears when he addressed it publicly, why can’t the rest of us?

But the likes of Jerry Sanders get discounted, because he, like me, spoke up in defense of his own daughter.

One would think that some of our Democratic leadership…anywhere, everywhere, but especially in California…would speak out forcefully about this.  But the truth is, most of them seem to be afraid.  Our current candidates apparently fear that homophobia is a larger driving force than all of their other stances on issues put together.

To that extent, we have ceded victory to those who hate us.

Most of our candidates have remained silent, but not all.  Some of our heroes are no longer running.

Haven’t we learned, at long last, that silence is complicity?  What we in the GLBT world have learned is that silence is to be expected, especially around election time.  And gods help us, election time is the time when we most need support.  “Just wait until after the election” has never been the path to happiness.  For every two steps forward we gain from the courts explaining that the word “all” is not supposed to be parsed to mean “some,” elections have too often proved to be the one step back.

This time it could be a giant leap backward.  This time we are talking about moving the bar.  This time we have being told by the people that GLBT people don’t deserve rights because we just are not good people, because our assumption of the rights and responsibilities of participants in this society diminishes that society.

It will take decades to undo the damage caused by the passage of Proposition 8.  And it won’t just affect marriage equality.  The chances of passage of any relief of our oppression will be monumentally reduced.

Some fluff(?), to bring this to a conclusion:

Diana Ross and Lionel Richie:  Endless Love

A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.

At the Edge


Love that lasts

as long at least

as this forever

standing too close

to the ledge


us from you

waits to see

if it will be denied


watching painfully

those intent

on pushing us off

barreling toward us

while everyone else

silently bears


That love

will not end

as we fall

if we fail

but I can’t help

but think

how failing

will diminish

us all

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–October 24, 2008


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    • Robyn on October 25, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Timi Yuro

    I was looking for something to add some more music and rediscovered this.  Maybe it fits.


  1. well said.  

    • AAF on October 25, 2008 at 12:35 am

    nothing wrong with staying with the one you love, marriage or not.

  2. …of civil unions vs marriage to the failure of “separate but equal” thinking.  It was never going to work in the educational system and should provide a lesson to those who cop out by supporting civil unions only.  And hopefully more judges will apply the unconstitutionality (is that a word?) of separate but equal as it applies to marriage rights.

    Am I correct that polls on defeating Prop 8 are starting to look much better?

  3. One would think that some of our Democratic leadership…anywhere, everywhere, but especially in California…would speak out forcefully about this.  But the truth is, most of them seem to be afraid.

    • Robyn on October 25, 2008 at 2:06 am

    …at the Orange.

  4. but it’s been awhile… I love your poetry!

    I’m sorry anyone in our country should still have to fight for equality. Thank you for not being silent.

  5. How difficult would it be to challenge Proposition 8?  California found a way to get rid of its duly elected governor.

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