Sunday, May 18, 2008

Open Forum: Queer Liberationist or Gay Assimilationist?

There are two opposing political viewpoints when it comes to advocacy and than of course there are a variety of more moderate middleground opinions that fall in between the Queer Liberationists and Gay Assimilationist camps.

Gay Assimilationists - This ideology is to make gay/lesbian people seem like average, normal everyday citizens in the eyes of the general public. They want to make the case that gay families deserve equal rights and recognition and they want what everyone else wants: a house with a white picket fence and 2.5 kids. Some Gay Assimilationists are not inclusive of Bisexuals or Transgender people because they feel these groups hurt the gay rights movement. This is not the case for all Assimilationists and many seek to include all LGBT people and create a sense of assimilation into the general society. Gay Assimilationists often seek to advance their agenda through corporate sponsorships and see getting big business and government on their side as a way to advance equality. The assimilationists strive to paint the LGBT community as being no different than the heterosexual world and just want to fit in. They want the rights to marriage, the rights to adoption, to serve freely and openly in the military. Part of achieving these means, Gay Assimilationists seek to tone down the sexual aspect of gay pride, they feel that sexuality is one component of gay relationships and seek to emphasize much more the loving, financial, community, and faith based aspects of LGBT relationships.

Queer Liberationists - This camp of political theory views gender and sexuality in non-conformist ways. They do not apologize for the differences of Queer individuals and do not seek to "fit in". They embrace the idea of "We're Here, We're Queer, Get Used to it!" and believe society must change to accept them rather than they change to mold into hetero-normative society. Queer Liberationists are often but not always concerned with Queer issues as they relate not only to LGBT people but also to capitalism, anti-militarism, sexism, racism and other aspects of social justice. They are less concerned with same-sex marriage, adoption, and don't ask don't tell. Many times but not always they are against the institution of marriage altogether, feel gays are liberated from the idea of raising kids, and are against gays serving in the military because they are anti-military to begin with. Queer Liberationists often disagree with the idea of corporate partnerships and having big business and government intervene in LGBT issues. Queer Liberationists do not seek to hide their sexuality and gender expression, they seek to embrace it and encourage what has conventionally been frowned upon as inappropriate.

These are two diametrically opposed political camps. Most people have various opinions that don't fall so heavily into one party or the other. Where do you lie and what are your thoughts?

30 comments:

karen said...

This is a very interesting discussion. I've never really thought about it like this, but I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle on all of those points. Great post. Very thought provoking.

Judith said...

I tend to fall into the liberationist camp, but with caveats. I do think ideally sexuality should be a non-issue, but I don't think that means we should all be the same. I think the idea point would be where people recognise that there are many diverse genders and sexualities and people respected each other - sexuality, in other words, being "not a big deal." But we're not there yet, and so I think it's important to focus on the places where our freedom/privacy/etc is lacking, rather than just saying oh, we're a part of society and no different from anyone else.

Seth said...

Easily liberationist. I get where people on the other side are coming from, but historically it seems like assimilation only leads to it being twice as hard for the next group in line to get fair treatment because the establishment just gets bigger. Working toward mindset which is accepting of differences seems like the way to go if we want it to be easy for anyone (and not just our particular group) to get treated decently.

Les said...

What both these camps have in common is rejection of the identities of other people.

Obviously, some queer people do want kids and it's no favor to queer liberation to make that more difficult for them.

And, equally obviously, some queer people are just, well, queer and can't conform to gender-normative roles, because they're too butch, too nelly or too trans.

If your plan for achieving rights demands that other people disappear, well, your plan is fundamentally flawed. If some of us are too weird to have rights, then none of us really have rights. They're at the whim of straight people who get to decide if we're adequately conforming. Or, alternately, while we're out bringing about revolution and freedom to people who don't necessarily want it, people with day-to-day needs are left hanging out to dry.

missnomered said...

Mostly liberationist. However, adoption is an important issue to me - as I'd love to adopt kids when I'm older, especially kids who have disabilities or have been abused. I'd be a radical hippie mom, though, hardly a "typical" parent.

Queers United said...

All good points! "What both these camps have in common is rejection of the identities of other people." Les I could not agree with you more which is why I don't really subscribe fully to either viewpoint. I see the benefits of fitting in and also being who you are as equally important. I see embracing sexuality while also not flaunting it to be important. While I totally understand some people have no desire for marriage, adoption, etc I think we gotta fight for those rights for those who do want them. I also feel that we live in a capitalist society and if achieiving equality and recognition means partnering up with big business who advertise at pride and donate millions to our causes, lets capitalize on that. This coming from a socialist lol.

Jacky V. said...

I definitely lean toward the liberationist "side" but yes, rights to form family are important. I echew most of the dominant paradigns of Western politics, am a lefty, etc.

Kate said...

RE: post on bisexual_world
http://community.livejournal.com/bisexual_world/1390478.html

I would think that someone posting on a bisexual forum would know better than to polarize any issue. While its an interesting idea, ts never that cut and dry. Also, you don't explicitly say what the 'gay liberationists' stance on bisexuality is... though I think you're implying it... except that you can't say that they support bisexuals because we all know that is wrong. Just look at the lesbian feminist literature.

pfriedma said...

I don't think you can really find anyone that really feels comfortable being pigeonholed into one of these camps. Like sexuality and gender itself, where individuals sit in their stance on rights (whether GLBT or otherwise) is a continuous spectrum. There are plenty of individuals, myself included, that identify with other labels before their sexuality, and plenty that put it first, and plenty that put it dead last. My personal opinion is that defining yourself solely by your sexuality, tends to be self-deprecating since you've basically defined yourself by your sex life.
I'm often puzzled by people that don't realize that within the gay community there's a fair degree of pressure to "not act straight" or conversly "be straight acting" and really, the thing both of these have in common is ACTING. People should be themselves.
There is a lot to say for sexual expression - and not just in the gay community. Heterosexual people in the BDSM community often feel uncomfortable talking openly about their sexuality in the same way that homosexuals once did. I don't think it's really fair to anyone involved to say that one group is for assimilation and one group is for liberation.
I think it's better to say that there are two main issues to tackle. One is LGBTQ rights as they relate to our treatment as second class citizens. This includes things listed in the assimilationists. These are the issues that are sex-blind. It shouldn't matter what you do consensually in bed. You're a citizen and deserve the same rights as others.
Then there is the issue of sexual expression in the country. This is NOT a LGBT issue. It happens that a lot of LGBT people are politically active in this arena but the ability to talk openly about sexual practices considered deviant of the norm (and, ideally, make them seem less deviant), homosexual or otherwise, is a completely different issue.
By lumping both of these as "gay causes" you isolate a lot of allies. The gay couple that just wants a family feels that the guys in chaps and jockstraps are hurting their chance. The guys in chaps and jockstraps feel that settling down is something for the breeders. The straight BDSM community feels alienated because there is anti-heterosexuality from the guys in chaps and jocks... it's a clusterfuck mess.
It's said that you must make progress in small steps. If you try to reach for everything at once, inevitably you will miss something, feel discouraged, and loose your footing.
GLBTQ rights take time, and tackling every issue at once by the same groups probably wont help.

kirkjobsluder said...

I think it's a stretch to put queer liberation (or as I encounter the term, radical queer) folk as implicitly anti-adoption, or anti-children. If anything the radical queer recognition of multiple forms of family structure is arguably more open to children.

whispers-loudly said...

Based on your description of Queer Liberationist, they sound very superficial and seem to represent everything that is wrong with American society. It's hard to believe people would actually expect our entire society to change because of a one small group's point of view. I wouldn't consider myself a Gay Assimilationist, but it seems that they actually have a game plan for improving the life of the average homosexual. On the other hand, Queer Liberationist seem to be caught up on the differences between homosexual and heterosexual, and fail to see the bonds that ties us together. Just because there are some stupid, bigoted, straight men out in the world that doesn't mean they are all bad.

Anonymous said...

Neither of the above, and I don't think you have the right to expect me or anyone else to put ourselves into your pigeonholes.

One person can want different things at different times of life--many young adults don't want the restriction of a single relationship. Those in the 30's might want to start looking for stability. Some people are monogamous (I say this from experience). Some people are not--I see friends who are happy with multiple lovers. If you're going to oppose the dominant paradigm, why not, for pity's sake, start by doing away with the notion that people are stereotypes?

You can classify people into smaller and smaller categories, but when all's said and done, Walt Whitman had it right: "In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less, and all the good or bad I say of myself I say of them."

We are all more alike than different. We're here, let's cheer.

zoe said...

I guess I'd consider myself both. I want nothing more than to get married, settle down and have kids, and not have to feel like I have to defend my choices to either straight or gay people. So in many ways I am an assimilationist. However, I understand and respect that that doesn't apply to everyone. But I don't think that the gay liberation should be exclusive to gay people - just like there's lots of queers who really want the cookie cutter life, there's lots of straights who don't want it either. So, what we really need is a more open society that accepts everyone; people don't need to be queer to express their sexuality openly, and those who are queer who want adoption and marriage should be able to do that too.

Adam G. said...

While it's important to make sure we are not marginalized by our sexuality by having to hide it (a' la the assimilationists) it's also important to make sure we are not marginalized by our sexuality by offending everyone with it (a' la the liberationists). It's all very well and good to say "People should accept everything about me and I shouldn't have to hide who I am," but there is "hiding," and then there is "hiding."

I am an assimilationist. I do not actively seek to hide who I am. If someone asks, I will tell them if I feel inclined to do so. However, a lot of what the queer-liberationist camp wants to do, and wants me to do, makes me cringe. My privacy is important to me. It's nobody's business who I sleep with or how I identify unless I choose to let them know. Granted, a lot of people know that I'm in a gay relationship, because I mention my partner on a regular basis and I expect people to treat me the same as a straight man mentioning his wife, but why should I have to treat my sexuality as if it's inherently non-conformist or "out there"? I dislike the picture that the queer liberationists try to paint of my sexuality, I don't identify with it, and frankly, I think it's actually very childish. Yes, I'm here, and yes, I'm queer, but you know what? The people I care about are already used to it, and the rest of the nation doesn't really matter to me. If they never get used to it, I don't much care - but the liberationist attitude of "We're gonna be IN YOUR FACE and DANCING NAKED IN THE STREETS until you shape up and ACCEPT us" is counterproductive.

kirkjobsluder said...

Ahh, yes, the mythical queer liberationists who think that all straight people are bad, think that straight people won't benefit, and dance naked in the streets.

The point of radical queer politics isn't acceptance by the larger community. It's about establishing safe spaces where we can express our sexuality and/or gender variance without being censured or bashed. It's about having literature and art that expresses the triumphs, joys, and struggles of living with heterosexism, and also playfully pranks and satirizes heterosexist assumptions. It's about recognizing even with all the sturm and drang, we are a community and culture and not throwing out that baby with the bathwater of discrimination.

kirkjobsluder said...

Dancing naked in the streets, is jut gravy ;)

naohai said...

Maybe smack in the middle, or more likely none of the above. I view both of these camps, as described in the article, as being in fact birds of the same feather. While their specific goals diverge, the fundamental goal in each case is to censor the expression of diverse individual desires and goals in order to achive some social-engineering priority. It is no more "liberating" to tell the nice nested lesbian couple that they ought not to marry-- as is their hearts' desire-- because it's too heteronormative, than it is to tell bisexuals to keep quiet because people think we're a bunch of sluts and that might interfere with the campaign for marriage equality.


My own life contains a blend of "assimilationist" and "liberationist" traits. Being unapologetically and actively bisexual, (ethically) non-monogamous, and gender deviant, I'm one of those people who supposedly makes the nice normal gay people look bad. I do, in fact, think that it is ultimately not the government's place to regulate marriage as distinct from other civil contracts, and my wife and I have no particular plans to get a legal marriage even though we now have the option. Heck, we don't even share the same house. That said, I'm taking a fairly conventional career path. I'm a libertarian, not a socialist. I believe in the need for a strong defense force (emphasis on the "defense" part) so am not per se anti-military. I wear a wedding ring and we're throwing a big party to state our commitment to each other. And so on, and so forth.


My real orientation on these issues is towards respecting the fact that what works for one may not work for others, and that there is nothing wrong with that. People with picket-fence dreams are no threat to me and I have no interest in playing out someone's revolution through my own personal life. We all deserve to be treated with dignity.

kirkjobsluder said...

It's profoundly frustrating to me that most of this discussion has involved people claiming a middle ground free of stereotyping, while stereotyping both sides to a silly degree.

Radical queers bleed the same shocking shade of crimson as everyone else. And we put on our pants one leg at a time, whether those pants be jeans, chaps, or business-casual.

xiangwei279 said...

Interesting Theory of Assimilationist Versus Liberationist. I think both thoughts are equally important in improving the lives of queer folks. In any issue on the periphery of society, you need the people who are slowly pushing the envelope (i.e. Assimilationist), as well as people who are more extreme, way out of the societal bounds to remind society what's this all about (i.e. Liberationist).

It's sort of weird how minorities always have to convince the majority that "we're the same, but different" a lot of the time. It's more like "DUH, obviously we're different, that's why we're called MINORITIES, but damnit don't we deserve the same things though we're different?"

So yea, I'm happy we've got both schools of thought around. And me? I always see this issue with analogies and I like to question how some others think... Example, women are different from men, but they deserve the same opportunities etc. Or in general men are physically stronger than women; however, does that mean that any man is stronger than any woman? (Or insert religion, race, nationality etc) heh. something that the dork i'm trying to convince is a part of, would be best.

Sierra said...

Hello there, I'm Sierra, I live in Michigan.

To be, I think that I would probably most agree with Gay Assimilationists, but I also love how the Queer Liberationists refuse to change for society and want to embrace their sexuality and be able to show it off freely.

How I see it, I think that gays/queers, bisexuals, and transgenders should be accepted to society as any other person, because of course, they aren't different in a negative way, just their sexuality and maybe how they express some things.

I think that they should all be allowed to be married to the same sex, be able to adopt children, go to the military if they want to, etc. In a nutshell, they should be allowed to do anything straight people should do.

But I think that while they do that, they should also be able to express themselves 100% freely. Because that's in the ten commandments, freedom of speech, freedom to express yourself, etc. As long as they're not hurting anyone, they shouldn't get criticized or get emotionally, physically, or mentally hurt in any way for being themselves, just like an person shouldn't.


So honestly I agree with both sides.

laura-seabrook said...

I actually find this a false dichotomy. My experience has been (as a transsexual) a 'token inclusion' in either camp.

Grace C. said...

My belief is that gays and lesbians will not be fully liberated until assimilation is a viable option. I am all for increasing the menu of options for gay people, and unfortunately, gays people are still foreclosed from certain things that straight people take for granted, such as marriage, adoption and serving openly in the military. Those options are not on the menu for gay people, and it's about time they are.

When gays have the option of truly fitting in, the gays who don't want to fit in can can still choose not to fit in and reject all things they consider "heteronormative." (P.S. I hate hate HATE that word...)

More here.

Anonymous said...

Why the either/or? Is there not any room for diversity within the Queer community? Plenty of us don't want kids, don't believe in marriage or monogamy, don't conform to traditional gender definitions, etc. Great! And plenty of us do want kids, do believe in marriage, are quite happy in traditional gender definitions, etc. Great too! Other than the fact that we are women, my wife and I (yes, I feel the term "wife" accurately describes what she is to me) pretty much resemble the traditional, white picket fence, 1950s version of a couple. Though, perhaps unlike that model, I'd say we pretty much have equal "power" in the relationship. One day I hope to be happily raising babies while she goes out to work. I certainly don't feel I'm "conforming" or "assimilating" or what have you --- I'm just being me. Let's all just appreciate the diversity within our community and be whoever it is that we are. That sounds truly liberating to me. :)

Anonymous said...

To me this is a political argument. I would side with the most radical position because I've seen how utterly devastating middle-class values are to the queer community. Getting married and having babies are not acts of revolution. They are buying into the American Dream which is also a fantasy based on materialistic values and gender rigidity. There's a reason why the major LGBT neighborhoods are dying in American cities, and that's because queers are becoming straighter than the straights. Queer identity is first and foremost anti-establishment. If it isn't, then we're all back in the closet.

inde said...

I fall somewhere in the middle.

I must say that I'm learning a lot from this site. I'm adding you to my blogroll. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

"assimilation" is just a slow move back into a closet. Perhaps a bit bigger than the old one, but still a place where part of us is hidden. it's shameful that the vibrant gay culture is dying so we can "fit in" and listen to bad music, wear boring clothes and hang out in lame straigt bars where nobody compatible is flirting with you. not to mention how gay pride has gone from a cause that gave purpose to a lame 20 dollar fleecing so we can suck down brand x beer and get hotboxed at tents run by corporations who's only interest in us is our money.

Why should we long for communities that will conditionally accept us when we can build our own community that will love us for who we are.

Lauren said...

Since when did we divide ourselves into "political parties"?

I don't like the Queer Liberationist's theory because they aren't concerned with basic human rights for gays. I don't like the Gay Assimilationist's theory because our lives, like it or not, are lived somewhat differently and our culture is different; we simply don't "conform," just like lots of other minorities.

What ever happened to the idea of "one united front" against homophobia and discrimination?

Anonymous said...

The way you describe it here sounds like more of a class/generational difference than a difference of philosophy.

For practical reasons, people who have mainstream jobs and would lose them if they adopted a confrontational stance *can't afford* to be "Queer Liberationists" - at least, not openly, unless they are academics.

I suspect that a lot of people take the liberationist perspective in college and then compromise later because of this.

Try explaining queer liberation theory to a supervisor or an HR person in a mainstream job that is not in a very progressive state, and you'll see what I mean.

I would love to be more of a Queer Liberationist. Since I need health insurance, don't have a trust fund, and am not a professor, I don't have that option.

Allan said...

That's probably why cod created Queer Gold (seniors), who have more time and liberty to prioritize differently.

Anonymous said...

Proudly anti gay rights movement.

While I agree that nontrans gays and lesbians deserve full citizenship, I think that they need to grant it to transfolk first.

After all, empowering hate and exclusion is not something I can condone. And if nothing else, 4 decades of gay and lesbian history has taught me that the nontrans LGB types will flush transfolk down the toilet in a heartbeat to get some small crumb for "themselves."

Don't even get me started on queer (nontrans LGB) racism.

That said, the nontrans LGB crowd isn't immoral and undeserving because of who they love, they are because of who they hat3 and exclude.

A little housecleaning would go a long way with this queer, but I ain't holding my breath.

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