After much internal deliberation, I changed my Facebook profile picture this week, going with the Peanuts version of the red HRC equal sign (gotta love Peppermint Patty, Sir).
I’m not usually one to jump on such bandwagons—I don’t know if I’m trying to remain hip and aloof or if I’m apathetic, but I’m not a joiner. Typically. My whole life has pretty much been about not belonging, not joining, being outside/other. I’ve been going back and forth on gay marriage . . . not that I don’t believe that gays and lesbians should have the right to marry—we definitely should have that right.
I’m just not quite sure why, exactly, we want it. Oh, I know, I know—it confers upon us the rights that every person in an intimate partnership should have. I get that. I do. I want those rights, too. But do we have to get them through the institution of marriage?
Think about it. What’s so great about marriage? Besides the rights, I mean. And why should we have to rely on marriage to confer upon us basic human rights? Marriage is both a religious and a patriarchal institution. The fact that we have to buy into it in order to share birth, life, and death events with our lovers/partners/co-parents is just plain ludicrous. Insulting.
When I was in graduate school way back in the mid-80s, my girl friend at the time and I had a commitment ceremony. We planned to raise a family together. So we sat in a circle with some close friends, cast a pagan circle to the South, North, East, and West and promised to “love and honor each other’s growth and change.” A friend of mine at the time, a lesbian-feminist, a dyke if ever there was one, asked me why I wanted to get married. It’s just mimicking the patriarchy, she told me. Marriage is about women as property, she said. Women as chattel.
I saw our commitment ceremony then as sort of a fuck you to the patriarchy—which is sort of how I saw myself as a lesbian as well. As painful as being closeted and as hard as it was to be invisible as a lesbian, I got a charge from being a stealth lesbian, from flying under the radar. I feel kind of the same way about marriage now. I didn’t ever see myself as buying in to the patriarchy because we weren’t. We were taking a hetero ritual and turning it on, if not its head exactly, at least on its side, an action that felt subversive.
So much of my life has been lived subversively, on the down low. Under the radar. And for good reason—life above ground could be dangerous: emotionally, physically, psychically. I’m having some trouble letting go—I feel a bit like a mole just coming to the surface. Kind of pissed off about all of the noise and that it’s so bright up here, and annoyed that the rest of the world has decided that we are worthy of the attention.
I feel like “you know what? We’ve taken good care of ourselves so far, no thanks to anyone else. We’ve come together in crisis, we’ve marched bravely in the streets in spite of what the rest of the world might think, enduring shame and refusing to take it anymore. Who are YOU to think you can even debate my most basic rights?”
We have all the paperwork we need to guarantee our future together: powers of attorney, wills, joint ownership of the house. We have taken it upon ourselves to ensure our future, as much as anyone can ensure the future. So why, I asked myself, do we need to be granted the right to marry?
Why do we need a law? I have to say, it’s hard for me not to feel like straight and privileged culture is deigning to let us in, saying “oh, well, I suppose, if you insist, you can come and sit at the adult table with us grown ups, us normal people. Just, you know try to behave while you are here.”
So, I changed my Facebook picture to the red equal sign because, even after I had this internal rant with myself (now external—I know, I couldn’t keep it to myself, it needed air), I think that we need equality. Period. We are all different, but we are all equal and deserving of the same basic human rights, and apparently, we are going to have to continue to legislate the obvious because no one seems to be giving this shit away.
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“What’s so great about marriage?”