When accepting the Human Rights Campaign’s Ally Award, actress Anne Hathaway issued a compelling statement: “Love is a human experience, not a political statement.” Although I agree with her in theory, the reality is that love for same-sex couples is, in fact, a political statement.
Today, same-sex couples in 31 states do not have the same privileges (over 1,100 legal rights) as their heterosexual counterparts that come with obtaining a marriage license. For same-sex couples, the legal legitimacy of their love is literally being decided, debated and determined in the political world, as states continue to vote one-by-one on legalizing gay marriage.
In 2012, David Cooley, the owner of a prominent gay bar in West Hollywood, The Abbey, closed the bar to heterosexual bachelorette parties. Cooley summarized his decision stating, ‘That might sound overdramatic, but for the most part, straight women who throw bachelorette parties at gay bars aren’t considering the political context — the fact that they are celebrating their impending nuptials among a group of people who aren’t legally allowed to get married.”
I agree with Cooley.
In the past two years, there have been huge wins across the country for same-sex rights. But the fight for full equality is not yet won. The issue of hosting heterosexual bachelorette parties in gay bars was a hot topic throughout social media in 2012, but since legal rights have been achieved in some states, this issue seems to have been forgotten.
This past weekend, I was reminded of the significance of this situation as I vacationed in Vegas. Not surprisingly, I saw dozens of bachelorette parties. Women wearing white and costume veils were seemingly everywhere: in hotels, casinos, walking down the strip and in gay bars.
Hosting hetero bachelorette parties in gay bars is highly debated within the LGTBQI community and I have heard opinions on both sides. Some adopt a more-the-merrier attitude and are weary of seeing exclusionary, especially when asking for inclusionary rights themselves. Others, however, have voiced feelings of exploitation, disrespect and discrimination.
What is the relationship between a political fight for the right to marry and the cultural freedom to celebrate a party in any environment? For me, the connection is safety — or the lack thereof. Despite momentum, same sex couples are not guaranteed equal treatment and safety when they venture out into public. Completely safe environments are limited. From the Lakewood pastry shop to a Pennsylvania bridal shop to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that recently passed in Mississippi, it’s evident that same-sex couples today still experience discrimination.
Gay bars are safe. This is one environment where I can always be me and out with my partner without fear. When I attend a gay bar, it is to feel safe — to let loose, dance and to have fun. I am an activist and have been writing, donating, canvasing and volunteering to secure marriage equality for years. As committed to this movement as I am, and because of the personal significance of this work, the work is emotionally taxing. Seeing a heterosexual bachelorette party in a gay bar reminds me that I am a second class citizen. I no longer feel light and carefree; rather, I feel burdened and heavy. The safety bubble from the oppression of the hetero-centric world that I live in bursts.
There are certain privileges that come with being heterosexual and being able to marry a partner is one such privilege. I remember these privileges; I used to date men. For heterosexual individuals, love is simply a human experience. Currently, they do not have to file a lawsuit in order to obtain the legal rights that are denied to them. I hope that someday my love and the love within my community will be as simple as a human experience. To me, this sounds ideal. For now however, my love is a political statement.