A queer approach to the issue would question the norm of a health care delivery system that privileges those people who are willing and/or able to organize their lives into a traditional household
One of the major stumbling blocks for me around the marriage debate has been this idea that marriage will solve all of “our” class woes by extending tax breaks, inheritance, and health care to married queer couples. The reality is that while marriage will extend these benefits to those who have them, they do nothing for those who do not. In other words, people who do not have insurance or property to extend to their partners will still go without and people who do not make enough to qualify for certain tax breaks requiring marriage (or who are childless) will still go without those as well. Like other mainstream models of social change, the marriage movement has taken middle class status for granted from the foundation of its organizing outward. And when called on this presumption, the answer has often been to:
- point to the endless number of people who will benefit even if everyone does not
- point to the few ways everyone benefits
- simply change the subject to the larger issue of perceived equality
There are critical merits to all three of these arguments that cannot be ignored. Both in terms of hegemonic processes (ie perception) and actual gains, marriage equality does offer something to everyone in our community/ies from the smallest move toward being more equal under the law to the larger issues of being able to visit one’s loved one in hospital. make critical decisions about partner and child care, or take their body home should they die.
At the same time, the energy put into the marriage movement has left other issues out in the cold both in terms of social justice action and discourse. By focusing on middle class liberalism at the national level, the queer community/ies have lost the ability to examine radical social justice and put that radical social justice on a national agenda. In terms of health care, this has meant a buy in to a family based health care system that at this point only extends to people who have insurance and whose employers and wages allow for full coverage of families. It neither questions the sexism or classism at the root of “family health care” nor does it confront the homophobia and transphobia of the health care provided. Given that part of the queer community is represented by two female incomes of color, the least likely group to be insured or provided adequate care, especially when those women are transgendered, the queer community/ies should have been at the forefront of re-imagining health care reform from provision to insurance. And in so doing, we could have articulated a national platform that would ultimately have benefited not only our entire community/ies but also helped heterosexual groups like female heads of household, unemployed and uninsured, poc experiencing health care disparities, and trans women and men in het relationships. They “gay agenda” could have become the model for the “national agenda” and given our cause(s) more credibility with the people who continue to deny them as “special interest.” Instead, a middle class focus has left much of our community’s/ies’ health care needs unexamined and reduced are piece of the health care reform debate going on in Congress to HIV/AIDs funding. That marginalization has in turn left many in our community/ies ambivalent about gay marriage all together.