Against Equality

Conrad, Ryan (Editor). (2014). Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion. Oakland, CA: AK Press.

This anthology is a republication of three previous anthologies into one volume. Against Equality is a collective founded by Ryan Conrad and Yasmin Nair in 2009 as a digital archive documenting queer resistance to the assimilatory politics of equality. The collective continues to collect up-to-the-minute political material, but made the decision to publish text anthologies in order to make these conversations accessible to folks who do not have access to the Internet (such as prisoners) or those who do not have the skills to utilize it.

Against Equality critiques and questions the rhetoric around gay marriage, military inclusion, and hate crime legislation, with incisive commentary by activists and scholars including Kate Bornstein, Dean Spade, and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (and many others just as important and brilliant).

Part 1: Queer Critiques of Gay Marriage pushes back at those who believe marriage is the most important fight in our community. Contributors argue variously that marriage is a neoliberal institution that only benefits capitalism; that focusing on normativity excludes other, more marginalized narratives; that spending time, energy, and legal resources on gay marriage means that actual life-and-death issues are being ignored; and that the desire for marriage equality is leading to the creation of a whitewashed queer identity that straight people can feel comfortable with.

Part 2: Don’t Ask to Fight Their Wars explores how military inclusion does not lead to justice. Essays discuss the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the DREAM Act, Chelsea Manning, and the politics of sending our most marginalized folks to fight on the front lines. The common thread in this section is that the emphasis on military inclusion is yet another way to construct a monolithic “acceptable gay” identity at the expense of those in the community who are poor, people of color, transgender, immigrant, single parents, and so on. This section also includes several subversive propaganda flyers.

Part 3: Prisons Will Not Protect You includes commentary on hate crime legislation, unjust imprisonment of queers, and violence against queers in prison and outside. Contributors point out the transgender people, people of color, and other marginalized groups are disproportionately arrested and put behind bars. Hate crime legislation does not stop hate crimes and often results in continued legal discrimination against queer people, since such laws do not differentiate between oppressors and oppressed. In addition, just like the previous two “hot issues,” focusing on conservative issues (in this case, policing) takes resources and attention away from more pressing issues, such as health care disparities and police brutality.

This text provides strong critiques of equality rhetoric. Essays are passionate and well-argued. Readers may agree or disagree with the content, but this material is important to be aware of—both for our collective history, and in considering political agendas and choices.

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About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, Librarian, Legend Tripper, and Queer Activist
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