Harvard LGBTQ Students' "In The Making" Photo Campaign Shows That Marriage Equality Doesn't Solve All Our Problems

The movement for LGBTQ+ rights has primarily focused on marriage equality, the premise seemingly being that granting people within the LGBTQ+ community the right to get married to their partners will signify ultimate equality. But students are seeking to expand the conversation with Harvard's "In the Making" photo campaign. The campaign tackles various issues LGBTQ+ folks face that aren't solved by marriage equality, like cissexism, religious intolerance, health care, stereotypes and preconceived notions ("but you can't be gay if you're an athlete!"), a severe lack of racial justice and representation, limited narratives in the media, coming out, not coming out...the list goes on and on.

But is there a problem with fighting for marriage equality anyway? Shouldn't I, a queer Pakistani woman, want to be equal to all those heterosexual, white, monogamous couples who get married, reap the benefits of capitalism, and have pretty, nuclear families? The problem with holding up marriage "equality" as the ultimate goal is that it aggressively disenfranchises those who don't fit in with the traditional mold of marriage. Because marriage equality promotes domesticity, consumption, privacy, and an allegiance to the U.S. nation-state, those who can't or don't want to seek legal marriage — undocumented immigrants or non-citizens, people who don't practice monogamy, some trans and gender non-conforming people, and people in non-traditional family units — are inherently excluded from marriage and therefore, its "benefits."

Holding up marriage equality as the end-all, be-all for LGBTQ+ people basically says "You have to be married to deserve civil rights, your marriage has to fit a very specific criteria and be done for a specific reason in a specific way, and it's not valid if it doesn't fit into a heteronormative framework." So it can actually be said that the singleminded-focus marriage-equality movement is a step back for many queer lives because it actually promotes their complete erasure.

Though discourse about the problems with the marriage equality movement do exist, they're oftentimes limited to radical, queer spaces. This is one of the first times a discussion surrounding the issue has broken out into the mainstream in a way that, instead of just theorizing, features actual, tangible lives and experiences of people affected. Check out some of these powerful photos from the campaign and find more at the project website. You can also support In the Making and the organization's mission by donating to the Indiegogo.

Images: Courtesy of In The Making Project