Sunday, October 24, 2010

A one-question interview with Sassafras Lowrey

Mattilda: You recently edited Kicked Out, an anthology of stories by current and formerly homeless queer youth (including yourself) -- one of the dominant themes in the book involves the chosen families that youth create in order to challenge, undo, and survive the violence of birth families and the trauma of living in a world that often wants queer youth to die or disappear. I’m wondering if you think that the current focus on marriage within national gay organizations detracts from funding for queer youth services, and also perpetuates the vulnerability of chosen families.

Sassafras: I’m horrified by the way in which we as a community have shifted to being very single issue focused, and that single issue is marriage. I get frustrated when I look at the millions of dollars that our community has pumped into state after state in losing battles. Every time I hear about the financial cost of fighting for marriage, I think of how many beds that would buy in shelters for homeless queer youth, and quite frankly hw many lives we could have saved by allocating our priorities and resources differently. 40% of homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBTQ, this is an epidemic our community cannot afford to ignore.

On a theoretical level there is the argument that approving gay marriage will make mainstream cultural more friendly to queer youth. But that only works abstractly, and doesn’t address the immediate needs faced by our kids this minute. I challenge anyone in the community to go have a conversation with a homeless queer youth and come back and tell me we need marriage more than they need food, shelter, or just a supportive ear to listen.

As queer folks we have a powerful legacy of building our own families and knowing that family oftentimes has zero connection to blood connection. On a very personal level without created family I wouldn’t be here, and neither would most of the other people who shared pieces of their stories within the Kicked Out anthology. For current and former homeless LGBTQ youth, created families are often a lifeline to survival.

I worry that with our push for marriage, that we will lose sight of one of our most important skills – building family. Our queer families do not need government recognition to be real. I don’t think there is anything I can say that will cause the gay rights movement to suddenly wake up and stop fighting for marriage, my only hope is that we can raise other issues like LGBTQ youth homelessness to equal levels of outcry and support.

(And, in case you're curious about the discussion on this post over at the bilerico project, you can view the comments here -- be prepared, some are interesting, and some are, um... "interesting.")

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