Gender and Capital
Queer people inherently threaten the structures that capitalism thrives on, and for capitalism to fall, these structures must also fall. Even in The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels mentioned how the family as an economic and political unit must come to an end. In fact, the state encourages marriage through several incentives that queer people were not welcome to until 2015, and even the inclusion of queer people in state-recognized marriage was a tactic to channel our desires into institutions that maximize the preservation and growth of capitalism itself by the continued reinforcement of the nuclear family—even if that family now has two dads.
Capitalizing on Queerness
Since social movements that demand queer liberation have begun to gain momentum, capitalists have changed their behavior in one of two possible ways. They either alter the system enough to simply encompass LGBTQ+ people into the pre-existing structure as long as the queer people they include still uphold the capitalistic norms of that structure, like the example mentioned above. Another prominent example of this type of queer inclusion is the revocation of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Capitalism makes just enough room for white, cisgender, middle-class gay people to feel included only to involve them in an oppressive system that, in the end, still enforces brutal heteronormativity, perhaps less on the individual level, but still greatly systematically.
The second way capitalism has changed to make room to exploit queer people in new and innovative ways is by allowing queer people protection only through the use of capitalism. This means that queer people will be tolerated only if they contribute to capitalism in some way either through the use of queerness for entertainment or simply as a way to get well-intentioned consumers to buy a product with a rainbow on it.
Like with most social issues, aiming for reform within an exploitative system is futile when it was built by those in power to oppress and disenfranchise others. Capitalism is a system that was built by cisgender, heterosexual men who use their power to oppress anyone who threatens their lofty position in society. So while reform is often the route discussed by those seeking change, reform within capitalism does nothing to break down the system of oppression that has isolated and exploited the queer community for centuries. The destruction of the gender binary and the capitalistic system of cis-heteronormativity are necessarily for queer liberation:
Moreover, while perhaps most of society has no urge to become “a dominatrix on the weekend,” it is fair to assert that most of society would benefit from the normalization, and even encouragement, of gender and sexual exploration free of the capitalistic pressures to spend all ones time producing and consuming with no room for self-discovery. A society free of the demands of capitalism is a society that is free to divide labor as it wishes or not at all. It does not rely on arbitrary roles to ensure social reproduction. It does not exploit the culture and talents of the disenfranchised for capital gain. It encourages honest self-expression.
- Sherry Wolf, “The Roots of Gay Oppression,” International Socialist Review, 2004, http:// www. isreview.org/issues/37/gay_oppression.shtml
- Tatiana Cozzarelli, “Queer Oppression Is Etched in the Heart of Capitalism,” Left Voice, 2019, https://www.leftvoice.org/queer-oppression-is-etched-in-the-heart-of-capitalism.
- Cozzarelli, “Queer Oppression Is Etched in the Heart of Capitalism.”
- Valentina Zarya, “Met Gala By the Numbers: Quantifying Fashion’s Big Night Out,” Fortune, May 07, 2018, https://fortune.com/2018/05/05/met-gala-cost-numbers/.
- Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex (AK Press, 2015), 16.
- “Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2019,” Human Rights Campaign, 2019, https://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender -community-in-2019.
- Karl Marx, “A. Idealism and Materialism.” The German Ideology. https://www.marxists. org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01a.htm, quoted in Tatiana Cozzarelli, “Queer Oppression Is Etched in the Heart of Capitalism.” (Left Voice, 2019). https://www.leftvoice.org /queer-oppression-is-etched-in-the -heart-of-capitalism.