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Davis, California

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Reimagining equality

Contemporary discourse often emphasizes a life trajectory in which individuals are born queer, bullied as teens, then become same-sex married — resolving all past struggle.

This view of a central queer narrative is problematic for many reasons.

By saying that everyone is “born” with a certain sexuality, society is treating queerness as a biological certainty that “can’t be helped.” This assumption relies on the concept that only identities which cannot be repressed should be allowed to exist. Instead of embracing sexuality and gender variation, our language often frames us as begrudgingly “accepting it.”

According to the Trevor Project, “LGB youth are four times more likely to commit suicide.” Because of this statistic, media campaigns trying to provide short-term comfort are sending out incomplete solutions. Within the “It Gets Better Project,” a dialogue is created that normalizes bullying.

“It Gets Better” also directly implies that society treats older, more established, members of the community better, which simply isn’t true. By not taking a strong stance against LGBT violence, or hate crimes of any kind, society is allowing silence to dictate action.

On May 17, Mayor Joe Krovoza and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi sent out a collaborative email about the possible campus hate crime that occurred on May 12. The tone of the email was very formal and although they said that “silence or indifference” is inconsistent with UC Davis values, they could not have been more taciturn.

They gave no details about what had occurred and no way for informants to identify the still unknown suspects.

They issued a plea to the student body, asking us to treat each other with “civility” and “respect,” but not with understanding or compassion.

These words are important. They matter to the victims of hate crimes and they matter to people who are frightened.

Lane Lewis, a 21–year–old international relations major, says that hearing about each of the recent Davis crimes “refreshes a sense of being unwelcome on this campus and in this community… (and) makes me feel scared and sad.”

Violence won’t just disappear and the future doesn’t just “get better.” Making the future safe for sexual and gender expression is hard work. Our community leaders need to be the ones protecting and informing us and, if they don’t, we need to break the silence ourselves.

The struggle for change won’t end without this, and it certainly won’t end as soon as same-sex couples can wear wedding bands.

Promoting marriage as being the principal inequality existing between peoples of different sexualities isn’t just incorrect, it’s also harmful. The existing dialogue perpetuates the concept that the norm is superior to the minority, and that marriage — an institution that often perpetuates heteronormative and monogamous ideals — is the only way to provide equality. The supposed umbrella term “marriage equality” leaves any relationships that exist outside of the narrow definition of a couple out in the rain.

Marriage in the United States exists as a static institution, tied down by legislature and archaic social constructs. Having equal rights is important, but if those rights simply allow people to exist under a faulty marital system, then no real progress is made.

According to Lane Lewis, we need to re-define equality. “There are lot more basic issues that marginalized communities have to worry about, like being able to walk down the street, being able to have their preferred names respected, being able to use the bathroom safely, being able to express affection in public, having housing, having jobs, having health care,” Lewis said.

Society’s concentration on same-sex marriage furthers the concept that assimilation is the key to progress, and that instead of challenging institutions, we must adapt to them — no matter how difficult that may be.

We shouldn’t be propagating this type of language; we shouldn’t tell teens that it’s acceptable to be bullied, lovers that their relationships are only valid if they come with a marriage license, or that sexuality isn’t a choice — because sometimes it is, and that isn’t a bad thing.

Right now, we are beginning to open a dialogue, in a society that is growing increasingly willing to listen. Let’s figure out how to create a future that doesn’t condone violence or ignore the importance of language.

If you would like to share a dance with KATELYN RINGROSE at Queer Prom, please email her at knringrose@ucdavis.edu.


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