This is a point I think worthy of lots of dialogue and so I hope we see it in the comments here as well as everywhere. The only surprising thing to me to come out of the Grammy’s event was a level of negativity within the Gay and Lesbian community itself, and as I’ve pondered this, I have come up with a theory, that for some, this is all about identity politics.
Gay Marriage as Identity Politics.
From the first wave of popularity for Macklemore’s song, there has been a rumbling of discomfort within the gay and lesbian community. He’s a straight white guy and how dare he make a song so popular about our struggle. Some of that same stuff reared its ugly head after the Grammy’s performance, but added to it was another level of celebrity bashing against Queen Latifah.
In every anti-same-love rant, you will never see a mention to perhaps the most beautiful part of the song, which is the words and vocals of lesbian Mary Lambert. She is as much a part of the success and power behind this sone as either Macklemore or Ryan Lewis, and both guys acknowledge that. The gays and lesbians attacking the song don’t. Why is that? I personally think it is a disservice to what equality is supposed to be all about when any LGBTQ person fails to recognize Mary Lambert’s incredible part in the success of this song and the success of the Grammy’s performance. Her role is undeniable, potent, and empowering.
There is some disagreement as to if Same Love is a gay marriage anthem or not, and those within the lesbian and gay community who discredit the song do so in part, because it isn’t. I don’t think the song ever meant to be. It is a song about Marriage Equality and you might say that’s the same thing as gay marriage it really isn’t. Not everyone in the LGBTQ movement is pushing for gay marriage. Groups like Even Wolfson’s Freedom to Marry and the American Foundation for Equal Rights are pressing for the bigger goal of equality for all. Here’s how to tell the difference. When the sexual orientation of the participants comes into question! For the Grammy’s event, scrutiny turned to Queen Latifah who wasn’t lesbian enough to deserve to participate according to some. This is from Robin McGehee’s Facebook page:
So, did they save the “Same Love” marriage event at The Grammy’s until after all the bigots have gone to bed? And, I will add to the chorus of those saying it is completely insulting to have Queen Latifah perform the marriages while she herself hides behind the closet door.
For folks like McGehee, there is anther agenda here: the right or wrong way to be gay and a part of the struggle for equality. For a long time, there have been rumors that Latifah was a lesbian, but she has drawn clear boundaries about what she would and wouldn’t discuss, it is considered the poorest kept secret. Like everyone knows she’s a lesbian but she won’t say so herself. McGehee isn’t alone, but I thought her use of the word “insulting” was interesting and why I’m using her for this example. The Grammy’s is pilling off this most amazing thing, and she finds it insulting because one of the participants isn’t out enough. For folks like McGehee, the issue is identity politics and the goal isn’t really equality, but rather gay and lesbian visibility creating this equality. For them, it is gay marriage by gay people and for gay people.Latifah’s involvement was insulting to whom? Only to those gay and lesbian activists who don’t feel like they themselves get enough credit. I’d put McGehee in that category. McGehee is co-founder of GetEqual, a grassroots activist group which has struggled to find a sound footing or strategy for success.
It was another Facebook friend, a woman I have tremendous respect for who fist chided Latifah as not being inclusive. Latifah had mentioned god, and that by nature excludes atheists. A valid point, but Latifah was just referencing lyric in the song itself:
Whatever God you believe in
We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up…
But her real motive I believe, was Latifah’s lack of outness. Have you ever experienced that? You are pissed at something and it gives you the clarity to find every… little… thing… wrong… with them? I personally don’t fault either the lyrics or Latifah’s reference to them. The Bible and those who claim to speak for God are the most vocal attackers of equality, so much so that even failing to see the Grammy’s, it makes them want to puke (see part 1)
We error when we attribute marriage as identity politics because we, the gay and lesbian community don’t own the issue. It isn’t our fight to fight alone nor we, the only who benefit. Framed as the ability to love whomever we love, makes this a broader issue that everyone must own. It is the continuation of a long line of struggles for real equality- a part of a continuum rather than an isolated effort.