Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentines Day Challenge

Valentines Day is the most overt expression of heterosexuality in our culture. The assumption made is that your sweetie is a member of the opposite sex. All of the commercial cultural products are aimed with this assumption in mind.

So as I picked up my obligatory card and gifts for my sweetie, from me and the cats and dogs, hmm, I wondered; what about gay and lesbian couples?

I saw no cards for Mary and Alice or Adam and Steve. No his and his flowers or her and her chocolates. And then I came across this posting at Alternet;

We in the gay and lesbian community understand coming out, but I've found that coming out isn't easy for some heterosexual folks to understand. They still think, but WHY do you NEED to come out?

To answer that, I have a challenge for you: This Valentine's Day, don't indicate to anyone all day what the gender of your sweetie is. Evade. When people ask, "What are you doing this evening?" Say, "I'm having dinner with a someone special," or, "My partner and I are seeing a movie." Some people will assume that the person you reference is of the opposite sex. Some people may think you are in a same-sex relationship. How do you feel about that? How do you think gay and lesbian people feel?

Since I regularly use the term 'my partner' rather than wife, I understand the phenomena. Though in the labour movement and in other progressive circles this term is used more often than the term husband or wife so I am used to it being sexual orientation neutral, and being an acceptable practice.

I used partner long before it was socially acceptable, being an anarchist and coming as it does from the anarchist tradition of Free Love referring to ones lover as companiero, companion,comrade, or close friend, showing that we are partners not property of each other.

Mollie Steimer and Senya Fleshine
Anarchist activists who were in their 80’s at the time of these interviews (both are now deceased). Steimer, defendant in the celebrated “Abrams Case” (one of the most important civil liberties cases in US legal history, it was the first important prosecution under the 1918 Espionage Act. The Supreme Court upheld the convictions of Steimer and her comrades, Jacob Abrams, Samuel Lipman, Hyman Lachovsky, and Jacob Schwartz, for giving out leaflets protesting American intervention in Soviet Russia.). She was deported from the United States to the Soviet Union in 1921.

There, she met Senya Fleshine, then secretary to Emma Goldman (also an immigrant to the United States, he had not been deported to the Soviet Union, but had hurried back when the revolution broke out. He participated in the historic attack on the Winter Palace, and was acquainted with the Ukrainian anarchist general, Makhno.) . Steimer and Fleschine became “companieros”, and lived together for the next 60 years, although several times separated by war, revolution, and imprisonment. In 1923, they were both deported from the Soviet Union for their anarchist activities and protests against authoritarian rule. They lived in various places in Europe (mostly in Paris), until Nazism forced them to flee to Mexico in 1940, and where they stayed until the ends of their lives. Senya became a nationally-known photographer, assisted in his photographic studio by Mollie, under the name of “Semo” (orSenya-Mollie).

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