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Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake

It’s a cold day in Chicago in November 2008. But I’ve got my resentments to keep me warm. Of course there’s the abiding resentment of the right wing, but there are two things that are even worse than Mary Gallagher. One, there’s actual weddings, which I admit, are just awful… and two, are the progressive opponents of gay marriage.

There are several species in this ecological niche, including the heterosexual married feminist who talks to me really slowly and carefully, enunciating each syllable as she tells me that marriage is really really problematic. What's she is really saying is that she can finesse the contradictions but I can't. She is also talking to me in that way liberals always talk to people they disagree with; like you are really stupid.

Then there are the queer species. They don't talk to me quietly and slowly but instead scream, as if I had suggested that evolution is just, well, a theory... They don’t even scream in complete sentences…it’s words hurled at me: heteronormativity, homonormativity, assimilation!

One might guess from this description that the speakers would be freegans living in squats under the Williamsburg bridge, but in fact, they are often professional homosexuals. Frequently, tenured professors living in a large and tolerant city by a large body of water where it's relatively easy to be queer. They have preminum cable, they have second homes. I mean, in these cities, and I lived in one, the religious right uses hair products and loves lady gaga.

As a tenured professor with a mortgage myself, I think I can't really pull off being unassimilated.

Listen, I have been called a lot of things in my life – a garbage artist, a child pornographer on the floor of the US Senate, I’ve gotten death threats mailed to my home that say: “I know where you live, I have a gun, I’m coming to New York this summer. PS Jesus loves you.” So being called “heteronormative” really doesn’t have that same sting. But really it’s as with the lovely jerks who brought us Prop 8, nothing makes me more eager to get married than people telling me I can’t, or I shouldn’t. For the movement.

And we’re afraid. Me too. Not just of the religious nuts but we’re afraid if we can get married… um, we'll be like them... You know. Straight. You don't say it in mixed company, but isn't this what's hiding behind the word heteronormativity... The couple is at the center of heterosexual life, but at the center of gay life, there's been friends, community, the chosen family; coupling but often no couple. Will this all disappear?

There’s a debate happening on the left and it’s charged and contradictory and all it needs is a mirror ball.

So I teamed up with the fabulous Moe Angelos of the Five Lesbian Brothers, who said, "Sure, we should have the right to get married." But why would any gay person want to get married, she had no clue. And Megan Carney, Chicago-based director and writer whose work focuses on theatre as civic dialogue. Megan’s been in a relationship with the same woman for ten years, but still says, “We’re not the marrying kind.”

We started working on that we hoped would be a blatant rip off of Tony N Tina’s Wedding but reworked in the style of Augusto Boal and Tribe 8. We don’t agree about marriage, our opinions change hourly, but we do agree, there must be cupcakes. And we insist we can have our cake and eat it too. As I came to this project, I wanted these contradictions and collisions to take form, have voice. That was the starting point. And of course, I wanted to bring in camp... wanted to turn the voices arguing, the conflict I’d invited, and with the limpest of wrists declare: “Let them eat cake!”

Holly Hughes has received international recognition for her performances. She is a 2010 Guggenheim Fellow, the recipient of 2 Village Voice Obie Awards, a Lambda Book Award and numerous grants from the NEA, while in another part of the forest, she has been denounced on the floor of the US Senate, and singled by the late Jesse Helms as an example of everything that is wrong with this country. She is the author of three books: Clit Notes: A Sapphic Sampler, O Solo Homo: The New Queer Performance (with Dr. David Roman), and the forthcoming: Memories of the Revolution (with Alina Troyano). She is an Associate Professor in Performance at the University of Michigan.

You can learn more about her here and here