Mattilda: That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation

On February 3, 2005, Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore, spoke at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Mattilda is the editor of a 37 author anthology called, That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation.

Mattilda spoke on a variety of topics, including gay marriage and assimilation, challenging power, and the rejection of queer youth from established gay districts such as the Castro in San Francisco. I began recording as Mattilda was talking about a recent book reading in Atlanta, Georgia.

(31:41 minutes)

GAY SHAME is a Virus in the System. We are committed to a queer extravaganza that brings direct action to astounding levels of theatricality. We will not be satisfied with a commercialized gay identity that denies the intrinsic links between queer struggle and challenging power. We seek nothing less than a new queer activism that foregrounds race, class, gender and sexuality, to counter the self-serving “values” of gay consumerism and the increasingly hypocritical left. We are dedicated to fighting the rabid assimilationist monster with a devastating mobilization of queer brilliance.

Biotech, Gay Marriage and the Death of Western Civilization
Why Radicals Should Oppose Legalizing Same-Sex Unions

From Fault Lines Issue #5

By Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore

At one of the Reclaim the Commons protests, a speaker concluded a somewhat effective tirade against globalization and biotechnology by asserting that even though our numbers were small, this was only the beginning of a movement, and “things start in San Francisco.” Now, never mind that the demonstration in question was more of a hippy be-in than a challenge to global capitalism. And let’s assume that the speaker in question was not implying that the global movement against biotechnology started in San Francisco, since this would be as absurd as stating that imperial city-building started here. So, what, indeed, started here? Well, gay marriage, stated the (presumably straight) speaker, to a round of applause from the (almost entirely straight) audience and a few gasps from the queers present.

If anything, gay marriage is the ultimate genetically modified organism, combining virulent strains of nationalism, patriotism, consumerism and patriarchy. Gay marriage proponents discard lavender and pink for the good ol’ stars and stripes, literally draping themselves in Old Glory as the US bombs away. Let’s quote a promotional e-mail for Wedrock, a New York benefit for Marriage Equality that featured straight (and gay!) celebrities, from Court TV socialite Kimberly Guilfoyle-Newsom to major-label activist rockers Le Tigre. The e-mail finished by stating, “Get angry, protect your citizenship.”

If gay marriage is about protecting citizenship, whose citizenship is being protected? Most people in this country — especially those not born rich, white, straight and male — are not full citizens. The not-so-subtle demand to “protect your citizenship” evokes images of George W. Bush’s screeds against “enemies of freedom.” Gay assimilationists want to make sure they’re on the winning side in the citizenship wars, and see no need to confront the legacies of systemic and systematic US oppression that prevent most people living in this country (and everywhere else) from exercising their supposed “rights.”

To gay marriage proponents, “full citizenship” means attaining benefits long conferred only to middle and upper class heterosexuals, like tax breaks and inheritance rights. This is part of the larger goal of assimilation, as the issues of marriage, military service, adoption and ordination into the priesthood have become the rallying cry of a movement centered more around obtaining straight privilege than challenging power. A gay elite has hijacked queer struggle, and positioned their desires as everyone’s needs.

Sure, for white gays with beach condos, hedge funds and country club memberships, marriage might be the last thing standing in the way of full citizenship, but what about for everyone else? By the twisted priorities of the gay elite, marriage, military service and adoption are “queer” issues, but housing, health care and police brutality are not. This fundamental absurdity exposes the limits of simplistic identity politics, and the scary reality of what (gay) people do when they get a little bit of privilege: oppress everyone else and call that progress.

Locally, Castro residents oppose a queer youth shelter because it might interfere with “community” property values. Nationwide, gay business owners enact neighborhood “beautification” programs that require the wholesale arrest of homeless people, transgendered people, sex workers, youth, people of color and anyone else who might get in the way of a whitewashed gayborhood.

Even when the “gay rights” agenda does include real issues, it does it in a way that prioritizes the most privileged while consistently fucking over everyone else. This agenda fights for an end to discrimination in housing and employment, but not for the provision of housing or jobs; domestic partner health coverage but not universal health coverage. Even with the most obviously “gay” issue, that of anti-queer violence, the gay rights agenda fights for tougher hate crime laws, instead of fighting the racism, classism, transphobia (and homophobia) intrinsic to the criminal “justice” system.

Gay assimilationists have succeeded in clamping down on the defiance, anger, flamboyance, and subversion once thriving in gay subcultures, in order to promote a vapid, consume-or-die, we’re-just-like-you mentality. Of course, this serves the interests of gays with power, but what is heartbreaking and infuriating is that so many others follow along like zombies.

When, three months after the mayoral election, Gavin Newsom pulled the ultimate risk-free political stunt and “legalized” gay marriage, throngs of gay people from across the country descended upon City Hall at all hours of the day and night to toast Gavin Newsom as the vanguard leader of gay civil rights. Lesbian octogenarians Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon became the spokesmodels for the “movement,” and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence performed a beatification ceremony for “Saint Newsom.”

The straight left has been eager to jump onto the gay marriage bandwagon, even if it contradicts supposed left values. Marriage is still a central institution of patriarchy, right? But when Tim Redmond, editor of The Guardian and long-time critic of political spoilage, gushed about Newsom’s “revolutionary gesture” of giving back to the gays who got Newsom elected, one wondered if Redmond skipped Feminism 101. Indybay also continues to run endless pro-marriage fluff, and even the person who asked me to write this op-ed suggested that I downplay the idea of marriage abolition so as not to “alienate” readers.

Quieting the marriage abolition perspective furthers the media myth that there are only two sides to the debate: foaming-at-the mouth conservatives who think gay marriage marks the death of Western civilization, and rabid gay assimilationists who act as if gay marriage is the best thing since Will and Grace. Queers who oppose marriage are shut out of the picture, since we expose the gay marriage “movement” as a grab for privilege. Radical queers don’t want assimilation into the imperialist, bloodthirsty status quo. We want to transform gender, revolutionize sexuality, build community and family outside of traditional models, expose and defeat capitalist tyranny and dismantle hierarchies of race, class, gender, sexuality and ability. Marriage abolition is only the beginning.

Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore is the editor of That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, which is just now terrorizing the mainstream.

Get it while you can, and visit for insane national tour dates.

See Also:

Mary 4 Mayor: Pictures From Gay Shame Street Party Against Newsom

Crossposted at Santa Cruz Indymedia.