Take Five is an interview series asking people what’s up.
Gay Shame is a radical queer activist group that meets weekly at Modern Times Bookstore. This Sunday, June 27, they’ll be sulking outside LGBT Community Center in a Goth Cry-In. All media contacts identify themselves as “Mary.”
Mission Loc@l: When and how did your group form?
Mary: We began organizing as Gay Shame in San Francisco in 2001. Some of us were new to organizing, some of us had longer histories in radical direct action.
ML: Can you tell us about the upcoming Goth Cry-In?
M: The Goth Cry-In is a space for basking in our sadness around the current state of LGBT politics and the horrors of the larger world.
ML: What about radical queer vegan hippies? Can they join the Goth Cry-In? If so, do you have any suggestions on what to wear?
M: Sure, all are welcome! (As long as you are not a cop.) We’re encouraging everyone to break out their most dreadful fishnets and gallons of eyeliner so that our tears of sorrow over the corporatization of gay pride run down our faces.
ML: What’s your take on the current state of LGBT politics?
M: The current state of LGBT politics is a scramble for straight privilege via a rainbow of traditional Americana family values, like settler colonialism, free-market capitalism and good old-fashioned racism.
ML: Why are you against marriage equality?
M: Gay Shame believes that things like health care — which is argued to be a result of the extension of marriage rights to gays — should be available to us all. We also work to remember the long history of feminism, particularly women of color feminism, that has been critical of the institution of marriage as a racist, classist and misogynist institution. For Gay Shame, a queer identity is about challenging institutions of domination, like marriage and the military, not becoming part of them.
ML: How do you reconcile your anti-marriage stance with embracing cultural diversity, given that marriage is deeply ingrained in societies worldwide?
M: We would suggest that the struggle for gay marriage is not an incredibly universal cultural practice. And if we were truly interested in making space for the most people to have what they need to flourish in the world, we would be working against traditional institutions and building connections with people that make us feel love, joy, freedom and safety — which in many cases, as we know, is the exact opposite of marriage.
ML: Who are your local allies?
M: It really depends on what kinds of issues we’re working on.
ML: Let’s say gentrification and displacement in the Mission and Castro.
M: We have in the past worked with the Mission SRO collective and the Coalition on Homelessness.
ML: What were the Gay Shame Awards?
M: The Gay Shame awards were a way that we could pay tribute to the most hypocritical of our “community.” For example, in 2002 there was a fierce competition for the “best racist-ass whites-only space.” After all votes were double-counted, the Castro emerged as the winner!
ML: I’m really intrigued by how the language we speak reflects and affects our worldview. If you could reinvent language, what would it be like?
M: For sure, one of the most important things feminism has taught us is that language is a kind of power and that confronting power also means remaking the probabilities of language. For example, the gendering of language helps reproduce the fantasy of the binary gender system. Gay Shame supports gender self-determination in all its manifestations.
ML: What are your greatest successes?
M: Our survival as a radical queer collective outside of the nonprofit industrial complex is perhaps our greatest success.
ML: Why Mary? Why not Lucy?
M: Lucy does have a nice ring to it.
GAY SHAME PRESENTS GOTH CRY-IN
Sunday, June 27, at 2 p.m.
1800 Market (outside the LGBT Center)
Skulk in shame to grieve Pride. Sad songs, goth make-up booth and possible eulogy!