And the Bland Played On

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Who could have imagined that the course of the gay movement would come to this: a popular queer band forced to issue a musical fatwa against its own kind in the form of a song called “Ban Marriage:”

I was late getting to church on the morning of my ceremony

Stayed up too late the night before from fingering foreign dirty holes in the dark

As I began to walk the aisle the congregation looked behind

But I continued past the pews and met my angel in a suit with a smile

And as I looked him in the eye I heard my best friend cry

That we aren’t fools to fall in love but let ‘coupledom’ die

Ban marriage, ban marriage . . .



When I first heard this catchy tune by the pre-eminently perverse group of Toronto malcontents otherwise known as the Hidden Cameras, I thought it was a call for the dissolution of marriage in general. After all, as the very cornerstone of our civilization, marriage is the ultimate conduit of control of its citizens, both symbolically and in realpolitik — control of sexuality, control of social order, even, as feminists once routinely argued, control of women. In my new movie The Raspberry Reich, the leader of a left-wing terrorist gang declares, "Bourgeois marriage is nothing more than licensed prostitution!" It was a credo that was taken at face value in the seventies. Now it’s greeted with a derisive laugh.

    When I read the lyrics of “Ban Marriage” and realized that the song was not simply against marriage but same-sex marriage, I had one of those vertiginous modern moments, the kind when you realize that the goalposts have been shifted so far from the original playing field that they might as well be on another planet. Instead of spending our time creating alternative, potentially liberating social and sexual configurations, like all good homosexual activists once did, we’re we’re trying to opt into the most conservative institution known to mankind. Welcome to the twenty-first century.


The model that gays are buying into kind of takes all the fun out of being a homosexual.

  For homosexuals, it amounts to something like an identity crisis. It’s forcing at least a few of us to examine our philosophy of homosexuality, a phrase that may sound oxymoronic to some but should be in everyone’s vernacular. Or to put it in Freudian terms, what do homosexuals want? Do we really want our sexuality to be legislated, regulated and monitored? That’s essentially what marriage entails. Gays are buying into a model that implies not only a certain social conservatism — a capitulation to social conventions and decorum — but a sexual and moral propriety as well.

    That’s why every mainstream gay movie and TV show — from Torch Song Trilogy and The Birdcage to Queer as Folk and Will & Grace — always ends up being about marriage and child-rearing, while popular gay advice columnists like that neo-conservative, monogamous adoptive father Dan Savage promote assimilation and domesticity. It kind of takes all the fun out of being a homosexual.

    Where did it all go wrong? Let’s not forget — you kids might want to look it up in your history books — that there once was a sexual revolution. In the ’60s and ’70s, sexual experimentation and the questioning of traditional roles were practiced openly and unapologetically, even by adventurous members of the middle class. But this kind of sexual anarchy wasn’t just restricted to the bedroom. As Godard said in Numero Deux — le cul, c’est aussi la politique: the sexual is also political. The gay movement was about liberating oneself from the shame of secrecy, but it was also about in-your-face sexual expression, about expanding the boundaries of sexuality and consciousness.

    For the gays, it didn’t last long. AIDS forced the gay movement to shift focus to a narrow set of political imperatives and chill, at least for a little while, on sex. The oppressed have become the oppressors, and they’ve learned well from their masters. Against the historical backdrop, it’s easy to view same-sex marriage as no less than a betrayal of the early roots of the gay movement. "I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype," says Carol Kane to Woody Allen in Annie Hall, and so must the modern gays, who seem to have no problem being represented in such Stepin Fetchit shows as Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy as bourgeois, shallow, materialistic and vain, obsessed with appearance and conspicuous consumption. It all smacks of a desperate longing to be accepted and assimilated, a reductive image palatable to the masses. It’s odd that the government isn’t eager to welcome gays and lesbians into the fold of legally sanctioned unions: it’s a neat way of controlling and domesticating an unruly minority.

    My personal philosophy of homosexuality, based on an appreciation of difference and non-conformist behaviour, a celebration of gays as outsiders, rebels, even prophets, may be terribly démodé, but at least it has the quality of being romantic. There’s nothing romantic about marriage (though the dual income, spousal benefits, and tax breaks do come in handy).

    Yet there may be a few fissures in the blissful façade of gay Stepford domesticity. Recently, Canada’s only openly gay Member of Parliament, Svend Robinson, was caught shoplifting a $50,000 diamond engagement ring for his life partner of ten years, Max

So much for gay legitimacy and acceptance.

Riveron. Like a gay episode of I Love Lucy gone terribly wrong, Robinson, a member of the socialist NDP party, confessed on national television. Tearfully, he announced his retirement from politics with his Ricky at his side, calling the incident "utter irrationality" and citing stress as a contributing factor. Yes, marriage can be very stressful. Just ask Lucy.

    Why a socialist MP known for championing aboriginal rights, civil liberties and environmental concerns would covet a diamond ring that cost more than double the yearly salary of his average constituent — well, it’s an open question. (You know how the institution of marriage drove Lucy crazy: she was always buying beyond her means and trying unsuccessfully to hide her indiscretions.) Whatever the reason, the Canadian press had a field day. Christine Blatchford, a tabloid journalist now writing for the Toronto Globe and Mail, wrote snidely of Robinson, "It was rather like having your favourite hairdresser in the House of Commons. You could be sure that even in the closed, cruel bubble of official Ottawa, there was a guaranteed quotient of fabulousness." She went on to identify him as "a certain kind of gay man – melodramatic, theatrical, and let’s be blunt here, even a bit of a flamer." Subtext: he was decorative and entertaining. And this from one of Canada’s most respected (and slightly left-of-center) daily newspapers. So much for gay legitimacy and acceptance.

    The Robinson incident may be an anomalous blight on the shiny new image of gays as well-adjusted, lawfully wedded members of the bourgeoisie, but its symbolic significance is considerable. Further, the patronizing manner in which the mainstream press covered the incident may indicate that attitudes toward homosexuality aren’t quite as advanced as gay newlyweds might hope.

    As of this writing, the status of same-sex unions is still up in the air, held up by state versus federal politics, intense lobbying, court appeals and questions of constitutionality. It may even become a wedge issue in the upcoming U.S. election. In Canada, gay marriage eventually might be watered down into the civil union structure ratified in Vermont – full benefits and responsibilities for same-sex couples, but stopping just short of legal status. Many gays, however, seem to want the whole enchilada: not only legal sanction but also the ceremony of veils and tears, the honeymoon, monogamy and children. Same-sex marriage has already become a cottage industry: gay wedding expos, books and magazines are flooding the alternative markets, propping up what looks like a gay marriage circuit party. It might be amusing if it weren’t so perverse.

    Although I support the notion of homosexual couples receiving benefits and having children if they wish (preferably outside the realm of identity politics), the eagerness of many gays to participate in the rituals of the masses smells like nothing less than bourgeoisification to me. Listen to the Hidden Cameras. Ban marriage!


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©2004 Bruce LaBruce and Nerve.com