Jul. 18, 2012 - Issue #874: Musician’s Survival Guide: Songwriters on Songwriting
More than marriage
There is more to equality than the right to marry
This week we're turning our gaze to the international scene, where some recent developments have left the queer world abuzz. You may have missed the very quiet announcement from our Internet overlords Google last week, who announced that they were embarking on a campaign to support gay rights across the globe. Called "Legalize Love," the initiative began in Singapore and Poland and "will focus on places with homophobic cultures, where anti-gay laws exist," with the goal of having nationally specific campaigns in every city in which Google has an office. When the campaign was originally announced, reports indicated that the campaign would advocate for the worldwide legalization of gay marriage. A spokesperson has since clarified that the campaign will instead focus on human rights and employment discrimination.
We're happy, right? One of the world’s largest corporations has come out swinging for the gay team and can use its clout to support grassroots activism in ways previously unimaginable. And certainly I am over the moon at the thought of how this news must have made homophobic bigots squirm in their own hate-juices. I'll admit that when I first thought that this campaign was focussed on gay marriage, I was deeply disappointed. I am not a fan of the gay marriage agenda. Don't get me wrong—I am pleased that I have the same domestic rights as anyone else. However, I have never thought that the push for gay marriage is the pinnacle of queer activism.
Let's talk about yet another report last week that came out, stating LGBTQ youth are massively overrepresented in the street-involved population. Gender is still not listed as a protected category in the Charter. Trans people still face huge hurdles in the health system. Yet when I talk to my American friends, they seem to think that the battle is over in Canada, that we live in a queer nirvana where every day is gay day. A campaign that only focuses on gay marriage allows more privileged queers to claim that the battle is done; they can tap out and enjoy their domestic benefits while everyone else still suffers. Now that Google has clarified their position, I am cautiously optimistic—we can talk about queer rights without talking about marriage! This feels huge!
My deeply cynical side is not entirely satisfied, however. Google is an American company; why is the campaign starting in Poland and Singapore? There is no real justification provided, other than to say these countries struggle with gay rights. Given how heated the conversation about gay rights is in the United States right now, and the fact that Google is still ostensibly an American company, I can't help but be surprised that the campaign isn't starting there. And while there are better and worse places for queers to live in this world, I am not going to buy the argument that the US is on the top of the list of best places.
Is this a case where they are trying to ignore the problems at home by focusing elsewhere? Western countries are notorious for doing this: by focusing on AIDS in Africa, for example, we can cast ourselves as benevolent saviours and ignore the thousands of people who struggle daily with the disease in our own backyard. I'm assuming, of course, that this campaign was initiated by head office. Perhaps it is the case that the campaign was developed in Singapore and consequently picked up by the entire organization. I guess we'll wait and see.
I hope my cynical side is wrong on this one.
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