Butch Mama chum representing along SF LGBT Pride route, June 27, 2005.
So, where did we leave off, from Mommy wars, the lesbian episode, part 1? Ah, yes: how it comes to be that spawning kids, or adopting them, or any other parental variant, manages to be both radical and conformist and transformational of queer politics all at the same time. And also: shouldn’t one path be the right one, and another path be the wrong one? In the yawning maw of time that opened up since part 1 (okay, a week), several gals, in their comments, eloquently made the point I was going to make in part 2 here. Which (when stretched and pulled to a buncha more words) goes a little something like this:
The playgrounds of today are the streets/courtrooms/what-have-you of tomorrow. In other words, quiet yet ultimately consequential changes occur when something so innocuous as a suburban school begins to see more same-sex (sure: even monogamous, middle-class, nuclear, racially normative) parents ferrying their kids to school in mini-vans. It’s not the big, Civil Rights Act-scale change, but hell’s bells, we need change everywhere, people, in the streets, in the urban centers, in the rural outbacks, and yes! yes! even in the suburbs. As a survivor of the suburbs, yay verily I say unto you we need change especially in the suburbs! And while I don’t believe that switching the genders or sexes of the heads of otherwise nuclear households drives a stake in the heart of nuclear family units generally, apparently the anti-gay marriage/family contingent thinks so, and this is what cedes the whole issue back to the larger one of queer civil rights. I also believe that the larger-scale change is facilitated by a hundred smaller shifts. Drop by drop is how an iceberg begins to melt. Yes, an unfortunate metaphor this Global Warming Weather summer, but it can’t be helped: it’s a true fact.Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to sit around and wait for change at a glacial pace. But I believe it all works together, the slow drip-drip-drip setting the stage for the dramatic moment, triggered by you name it, when a huge-ass chunk of iceberg drops off. You could explain this with notions like the butterfly effect or systems theory or whatever you like. But the point is all things are interrelated, and all movements in the direction of more love, rather than less, work toward the good, sez me.
I’m with Gramsci. And he said our work is more a war of position than a war of maneuver. I will resist the morbid temptation to parse left social theory here. (Eek! The horor, the horor! After which I would wind up with more than my knickers tangled up in a knot, with paper clips in my hair and ink stains all over my person, fingers all slashed-up with paper cuts, the cat, the dog, and the kid all buried under crumpled up pieces of paper, my framed portrait of Karl Marx frowning down upon me disapprovingly in that spooky, the-eyes-are-alive, scary movie kind of way. I left grad school for a good reason, people, a good reason.) I will, however, say that in a nutshell, I read that strategic distinction as one between slower, infiltration-y, long-haul kind of battles and the more large-scale, dramatic battles for which the smaller ones actually prepared the ground. More to my point, and I do have one (thx, Ellen), is that in order to keep up the long haul work here, I think we need to let people follow their hearts, even as we YELL IN THEIR EARS about the political and social consequences of what some of us might believe to be their retrograde impulses.
Coupla more chums working the crowd along the SF LGBT Pride route, June 27, 2005.
While we’re at it, we might also consider the merits of interval training, wherein bursts of intense activity are supported by intervening periods of lower intensity activity. Works for distance runners. And we have a distance to cover. Take your pick: the strategy can apply to one’s own work, over a lifetime, or over the larger corpus of movement change, or even the different ways that various of us apply our energies toward social change at the same time.At the second Empowering Women of Color Conference at UC Berkeley in 1987, poet/playwright/activist Cherríe Moraga asked the audience, “How many of you here, ten years from now, will still be activists?” I took her challenge deeply to heart, and also laid it directly next to the burn-out I was beginning to feel even then as a campus activist. How to manage the long haul, indeed? Her question has haunted/inspired me over nearly two decades, and I have given a lot of thought to the matter of how to keep up the good fight. At times it’s not easy, but lately, finding inspiriation for my public-sphere social change work in the very stuff of my private-sphere fulfillment has been extremely invigorating. Since now the most precious aspect of my private sphere is about the future, and that’s what long haul social change work is about. Parent upon parent before me has made this connection, and now I get it.
I might note to us all, in closing, that sister Cheríe spawned her own kid, and wrote beautifully about the process of becoming her kind of mother, in Waiting in the Wings. Let’s be sure to add her name to the lengthy list of revolutionary change agent female parent gals, the lesbian sub-list.
Anyone want to add some more? Maybe your own?
[Update, October 16, 2006: Prime, hyper-current e.g. for the Hetero/Non-denominational sub-list: MomsRising.org]