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Is Tina Kotek really that rogueish?

Tina Kotek’s partner Aimee Wilson wipes away a tear as she sit with Rep. Kotek at the SB2 session.

I generally enjoy the calling out of those locals who, while they may not technically be criminal, certainly have enough explaining to do to qualify them as questionable. That’s why I’m a fairly faithful reader to The Willy Week’s “Rogue of the Week” column. But this week had me a little floored.

I’ll get the the actual argument in a second but firstly I want to address the naming of Tina Kotek as the ever-smarmy rogue…This is where our activism starts to move away from productive self-critique to counter-productive infighting. When we challenge each other we grow, but when we off-handedly insult each other we spend more time defending ourselves than pursuing our goal. Tina Kotek is perhaps our biggest ally in the Oregon Legislature. I’m sure she’s far from perfect but she works harder for LGBT politics than National level Democrats. While a snippet of an article like this Rogue may not be that big a deal she is still a person whose feelings can be hurt. Yes, politicos of all kinds have to be tough, but when you’re attacked on a personal battleground as big as this, and by those that are supposed to be supporting you, I bet it stings. I’m more of a sensitive artist type than hard and jaded Congressman but this would have knocked the wind out of me.

Secondly, let’s look at the argument itself. I have to agree that semantics are more important than many people give them credit for. The way we use and shape language greatly affects cultural attitudes and associations, colloquial usage and connotations can turn a word like “queer” from a nasty slur into a powerful tool of self-identification. Words have history and power. I just don’t think these warring terms do.

Tina Kotek playing kissy face at the Capitol with her partner Aimee Wilson

Clearly “marriage” is more powerful than either “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships” but the voters already said no. I don’t think this fight is over but it is not the one directly in front of us. And I can see the frustration in a constantly changing set of definitions, which seems to be one of the concerns voiced at Blue Oregon. But both these terms are fairly new to an American lexicon. While both may be loaded in their association with gay partnerships I really don’t see either one as more boundary-pushing or hetero-placating than the other. Neither one has the cultural currency to really rile, for better or worse. Marriage does. So if we’ve come to a place where we’d like to see ourselves get some rights before we push on to getting ourselves full equality (i.e. marriage) I really fail to see where taking a lash to Tina Kotek’s language market research does us any good.

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