Thank you to my friend Jennifer Lockett for inspiring me to write this article. Just a week ago, John Lawrence passed away at the young age of 68. Lawrence became famous for standing up to the criminal system in Texas in Lawrence v. Texas, the now famous court case that ended sodomy laws in the United States.
Of course, sodomy laws have been used to police and discriminate against gay men since the 16th century here in the United States, thus marginalizing a certain population and publicly vilifying gay men. More pathetically, these sodomy laws were used to support and reinforce the existing horrifically inequitable race, class, and gender power structures. Yes, sodomy laws were enforced to ensure the stability of a white heterosexual power system.
The victory that was Lawrence v. Texas for the LGBT community was monumental, but we must not delude ourselves into thinking that striking down sodomy laws was going to end homophobia or institutionalized and systematic and systemic discrimination against LGBT people–lest we forget the intersections of oppression and how violence and discrimination are disproportionately applied to LGBT people of color–all to support a milleniums-old white heterosexual male power structure, or white I like to call WHMP. Before many of you get offended by the word “wimp,” I would point out that I am reclaiming it for the Queer community and using it as a pejorative for white heterosexual males who abuse their power to sustain their own. We have to look no further than the current pledge by the Republican presidential candidates to see the limited impact of Lawrence v. Texas.
By no means do I want to minimize John Lawrence or the courage he displayed in taking injustice to the US Supreme Court. Lawrence’s courage did manage to stop making it a crime for gay men to have consensual sex at home. Just a very important side note here: sodomy is not gay sex! While sodomy has been used for centuries to depict and vilify gays, the actual sex act of anal sex is just as prevalent among heterosexuals. In fact, there was an exponential rise in heterosexual sodomy during the Bush administration; the rationale was that anal sex still allowed young women to retain their virginity for the Lord.
As humans we owe a great debt of gratitude to John Lawrence and his legacy for civil rights for the LGBT community. Even the very homophobic and misogynistic Justice Scalia admitted in his dissent of Lawrence v. Texas (yes, Scalia would like to retain the sodomy laws–big surprise): “The logic of the Lawrence decision supported a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”
TSM will be publishing many more stories on the intersections of oppression and the policing of gay sex, as it is used to embolden and secure white heterosexual male dominance.
Click here to see the full NYT article on John Lawrence.