I listened to an interview with Tommi Avicolli Mecca and Paola Bacchetta as they remember the radical activism of the 1960s and 1970s. Mecca just edited a book – “Smash the Church, Smash the State” – that contains essays from radicals like Bacchetta as they recount their experience with the forming gay liberation movement and how that morphed into the acceptable gay rights movement. Bacchetta has some very harsh things to say about the exclusive fight for gay marriage – when the LGBT community is hurting on so many other issues. Mecca puts some numbers behind Bacchetta’s outrage. Numbers like 40% of the homeless youth in San Francisco identify as LGBT; similar numbers hold nationwide. Unemployment and poverty are quite common in the community. Yet, the mainstream LBGT organizations spent $43.3 million to try to defeat Prop 8 (and now they’re at it again trying to overturn it).
The shift from radicalism to mainstream happened in part because people wanted to feel “normal.” And the reformist ideas took hold in the LGBT community in part by getting media attention because they were more palatable to the rest of society than the radical parts of the community that wanted a different kind of society. It is quite an uphill battle to change deep-seated attitudes within society, especially couplemania! Radical groups that lived in truly democratic communes lost stamina, maybe exhausted from fighting everything. Even the radical Bacchetta is now a professor at UC Berkeley, though listening to her, at least her tongue is still pretty sharp! Mecca still questions everything, according to his website. So, maybe radicalism can be transformed without giving up the ability to critique oppressive social norms and institutions.
Of course, given my interest in “singles issues,” I began speculating what a radical singles movement would do. The gay liberation front started with Stonewall (at the time, it was illegal to dispense alcohol to homosexuals!). What splash could start a fight for equality for all and really mean all? Of course, Stonewall wasn’t planned. Singles are certainly not treated as badly as gays then (well, as far as I know at least). Yet, couplemania and matrimania are costing us a lot – both economically and emotionally. We spend a ton of money, for example, trying to find The One and then once we found him/her on the wedding… And lots of us, me included, have ended up in unhealthy and unhappy intimate relationships because we thought coupling was our only option. I do think that it’s time to create a new society – what we currently have isn’t working and it’s certainly not life-affirming nor sustainable. This new society would affirm all ways of relating not just certain types of relationships.
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