Class Bigotry and Marriage Politics

So, a pizza joint in Indiana rushed in to say, “We’d love to discriminate against gay folks!” and the shit hit the fan. What I’m particularly interested in, here, is not just the backlash, but the class-based aspects of it. It’s not enough to call these folks bigots, as they are, but in many comment sections two themes come to the fore. First, such folks are accused of being small-town rednecks. In other words, class-based insults become primary weapons. The second aspect is the oft-heard, “I don’t know any gays so tacky as to serve pizza at weddings.”

These are both based in class-bigotry, which is endemic in the cultural politics of LGBTQ life.

I don’t want to spend too much time on the “redneck” insult. Instead, I’d like to focus on the idea that gay folks are hip and stylish, and that we’re too “classy” for pizza. All of this is bigotry.

First, one of the key stereotypes of gay and lesbian folks is that we are economically privileged. This comes from two sources, really. The first is a media and political movement that focuses on putting affluent (white) gay men and lesbians into public positions. The spokespeople, and spokescouples, of the movement are almost always economically privileged. This presents an image problem, where working-class and poor LGBTQ folks are simply erased.

The second source of that stereotyping is marketing “data.” Consistently, gay marketeers put out information about the “economically privileged” status of gay and lesbian consumers. The problem, though, is that this data is selective. It’s not about gay and lesbian populations, but a subset of privileged gay and lesbian consumers. These are not the same thing, despite the best efforts of marketers (and anti-gay bigots) to conflate them.

These efforts create stereotypes in the minds of both (privileged) LGBTQ activists and community members and the rest of the public. These spokescouples and the “Say Yes to the Dress” folks become the public face of where gay life intersects with the wedding-industrial complex. Stylish, well-off gay folks do their best Martha Stewart imitations, and working-class gay folks become invisible. Not only are they invisible, they become less than.

“I don’t know of any gay folks tacky enough to serve pizza at a wedding reception” is class bigotry, pure and simple.

Stop it.

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