My Dream Wedding

When I was a kid, I never fantasized about getting married, or having a wedding, or keeping house with a husband. I didn’t get it; I literally could not imagine myself in a romantic relationship with a man. I figured I’d just have a female friend as a “roommate-for-life,” basically, and we’d adopt kids together. (And yet it was a total surprise to me when, at 15, I realized I was gay!)

Somehow, though, it feels like the last year or so I’ve been trying to catch up on all the wedding-fantasizing I “missed out on” as a kid. I find myself mentally planning the perfect, patriarchy-smashing wedding. Generally my partner is Doctor-Who-as-played-by-Lucy-Lawless-in-a-tuxedo or some such similar fantasy spouse, since I really don’t want to be getting married any time soon! No, really; I don’t even want to date for at least another year.

But I somehow can’t help thinking about what kind of dress I’d like to wear (something ridiculously sexy!) and what kind of cake I’d prefer (the jury’s still out on that one– but it’ll be something nerdy, for sure.)

It might be because I’ve been thinking a lot more about where my future is headed, lately, whereas before, I always sort of “knew”: I am in school, and next year I will also be in school, and after that I will still be in school. Only now, I’m not in school. I know I’m going back to school, but I’m thinking more about what will happen after that, where I will live, what I will do.

And I’m especially thinking about my Canadian citizenship. Should I move to Canada? When should I move to Canada? Should I become established in my career first, build a resume, and then move, or just head straight for where I want to end up? The family I know best is in the United States. (Probably because that’s where I am; I would know my Canadian relatives better if I moved there.) My history is in America. Does my future need to be in America, too? I’ve always lived in the Midwest or the South; what if I just moved to New York or someplace in California? Mostly the desire to expatriate is a nebulous feeling that I am painfully out of place in the States. Mostly.

But I could get married, in Canada. One hundred percent, legally recognized everywhere, no oops-we-take-it-back or only-in-this-state, but really, truly married. Which is tempting. I could have a big party. My parents might even publicly say that they’re happy for me. We could have crab at the dinner; I love crab.

This is about when I start having second thoughts, where I ask myself, “Why the hell do I want a wedding, anyway? Marriage has been a tool of the patriarchy for centuries! I don’t need to have any part in it!” I always sort of appreciate it when straight folks opt out of marriage, challenging all our cultural ideas about its necessity. I especially appreciate it when they do so as a symbol of solidarity with the millions of gay folks in America who don’t have handy Canadian dual citizenships to buy them access to the institution.

Except, of course, that I’d like to have hospital visitation rights for my partner, and all the other very practical benefits of marriage, not to mention the official recognition of our relationship as real and important, all of which which straight folks “living in sin” tend to get regardless of legal status, but which gay folks are often denied, also regardless of legal status.

I’m tentatively thinking that, in a perfect world, after the great feminist revolution or whatever, we might do away with the current conception of marriage altogether, but in the mean time, in the world we live in now, it’s not fair to exclude people who want to participate in marriage’s assorted messed-up-ness from doing so.

So… what? Gay folks should all opt into marriage and straight folks should all opt out? Huh? Where am I even going with this??

Maybe I shouldn’t post this when I’m still so conflicted, but the thing is, I really don’t know. Is homosexuality a sufficient “subversion” to “justify” playing into as patriarchal an institution as marriage? Or do I need to ignore the confusing longing that I find in myself, and throw my hands up at all marriage? Which extreme will move us towards the revolution we need? Or, what would the “middle ground” even be?

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14 Responses to My Dream Wedding

  1. dirtyrose says:

    I do know many LGBT people who are out and out against marriage of all forms and explain that as their reasoning behind not supporting gay marriage. I disagree with the abolition of all marriage, because I think it’s a personal step of commitment between two people who love each other, and I would like to see it exist in a state where it could simply be seen as that commitment (no political agenda, for example). But I do understand how the abolition of marriage can be perceived as a great step toward equality – for some people, again, not me.

    While I respect that position, though, I think it’s also a little unrealistic for the times in which we currently live. The status quo may be changing, but it’s hardly fast or hard enough to jump from “hetero marriage only” to “no marriage for anyone.” Such an abrupt shift is the kind of thing that society pushes right back against, and has for hundreds of years. At this point, marriage does hold significant impact in social, legal, and political spheres, and it is probably more viable to strive for equality on “their” level before we start talking about bringing that level back down to the ground floor.

    If that makes sense.

    That said, I’d now like to be incredibly superficial and say that I am so, so sorely tempted, if I ever get married, to wear a (slightly) toned down version of Jennifer Connelly’s ballgown from Labyrinth down the aisle.

    You may now commence pointing fingers and calling me girly. 🙂

  2. eloriane says:

    That would be an awesome dress! Me, I’ve always wanted to do that white Marilyn Monroe dress… it’s like it’s perfectly engineered to flatter my figure.

    I think what we really need is a separation of church and state, marriage-wise. In my post-revolution Utopia, the government would allow any people to sort of sign up as “in this thing together” to get whatever visitation rights, joint tax benefits, adoption rights, and so on that they wanted. Which would also mean, say, a woman and her mother saying “we’re in this together” to raise a child, in addition to romantic partners saying “we’re in this together” to get a mortgage together.

    And then marriage would be, well, whatever you wanted it to be. If someone you acknowledge as a marrying authority says you’re married, congrats! You are! Which means Catholic priests can marry people, and pagan priests/priestesses can marry people, or you and your partner can just marry yourselves without anyone else declaring it, and that expression of commitment means whatever it means to you and the community you got married in. But if you want it to mean anything to the government, you’ve also got to nip off and sign the “in this together” paperwork.

    Which is I guess the long way of saying that marriage wouldn’t be gone, but it also wouldn’t be connected to this legal change in status unless you wanted it to be.

  3. dirtyrose says:

    Ab. So. Lutely. I wish that someone would beat it into our collective heads that marriage as a civil state and marriage as a religious sacrament CURRENTLY EXIST separately in the legal system.

    Sigh. I would consider it a huge step forward if something that is already true was RECOGNIZED as true. How sad is that? It’s like someone wearing sunglasses calling the sky red and REFUSING to believe that, no, it’s actually blue.

  4. eloriane says:

    I had no idea they were separate, actually. That’s really good news, though! I wonder how best to clear up the confusion?

    I feel like calling two separate things by the same name (i.e., marriage) is just asking for people to conflate them, especially since marriage is a religious word. It would help if the government contract had a different name from the personal ceremony, though I think it shouldn’t be called a civil union, since that’s sort of already entering people’s vocabulary as “like a marriage, but gayer.” We’d want a word that didn’t have that kind of cultural baggage, something that sounded like only a legal change in status. Haha, a merger?

    I’m also under the impression that currently, assorted clergy have the authority to marry people not just religiously, but also in the eyes of the government; it’s efficient, I guess, but it muddies the waters. If you have to go meet with a totally separate person in a totally different place to do the government part of things, it’s less likely to feel like all one thing!

    This actually reminds me of a funny story from my parents– my mum’s a Canadian citizen (dual now), and my dad’s American, and they met in Canada. They got married in 1980, and the wedding was a hassle, they were exhausted, and so on, but they got through it, saying, “None of the little things matter, as long as at the end of it, we’re married.” However, five years later, when my mum wanted to immigrate to the U.S., they couldn’t find any proof of their marriage license! They actually forgot to get one! The story ended well, since the church had a record of their marriage, so they were able to get a license and back-date it so that mum would qualify and all that jazz, but I’ve always found it funny that they spent five years without being “really” married, and couldn’t even tell the difference.

    They got the benefits of the “commitment ceremony” aspect of marriage– the cultural validation of their relationship, the celebration of their love– which follows quite naturally from a personal marriage ceremony, but they also, I am sure, got a whole lot of the benefits of the “government contract” aspect of mariage– joint taxes, health care, who knows what else– without actually getting married legally as well. Which is one of the key inequalities at work here, I think.

    Actually, it goes back to what I said earlier– they got “all the other very practical benefits of marriage … which straight folks “living in sin” tend to get regardless of legal status, but which gay folks are often denied, also regardless of legal status.”

  5. hysperia says:

    Hi. I found you in a round about way that I honestly can’t remember now. I hope you don’t mind my comment here.

    Just want to say, I find that the focus on the rights of gay men and lesbian women to participate in traditional marriage and traditional families tends to silence feminist critiques of both those institutions. I don’t want to engage in a battle with my brothers and sisters over their rights to participation as I absolutely believe that everyone should be entitled to whatever privileges and rights are bestowed by legal marriage and the legal regulation of the family.

    But I do think that feminist concerns get submerged here. Legal lesbian unions have different implications than gay unions simply because they involve women and women are oppressed once over and often twice and thrice by race and class positions. So, for various reasons, legal unions have different outcomes as between gays and lesbians and their children and I find that those differences are simply submerged these days. Actually, there are negative implications for low-income gay men as well – all of that simply disappears when the conversation is simply about the right to marry. Low income couples are actually better off without legal marriage in terms of income AND benefits and if you can’t eat or get medical care at all, you might not care that some of your brothers and sisters are entitled to their partners’ employment pensions.

    At some level, I see the push for equal marriage rights as almost selfish. But I come from a different time I guess, when my feminist sisters wouldn’t take something that wasn’t available to the least of us. That might be an unfair comment and, if you see it that way, I hope you’ll forgive me. Obviously, I feel passionately about this issue. For me, feminism is about changing the world, not joining up to particpate in the same old economic and power relations.

  6. eloriane says:

    hysperia,

    Your comment is certainly welcome here, although I wonder if you have read all the comments before writing your own. I certainly have nothing nice to say about the traditional institution of marriage, and that’s one of the many reasons I am highly conflicted about my own awkward position of almost having access to the institution.

    As I said above, I think there’s a legitimate need for people to be legally recognized as “in it together” for the purposes of owning property together, raising children, handling each other’s health care, and so on, for as long as those institutions exist, but I’d like to see all of the cultural baggage, especially the religious tradition, stripped away. I sure as hell don’t want to have anything to do with traditional marriage, which offends me as an atheist and as a feminist! For me, at least, the marriage discussion is not just about equal rights, but also about reforming an institution that needs it.

  7. hysperia says:

    Yes, I did read the comments. I THINK I’m saying something a bit different and maybe not saying it clearly or well. It’s not the religious aspects of traditional marriage I’m talking about. I’m so far away from religion that I can’t even participate in those conversations anymore. But it’s not just religion that makes marriage and the family traditional. It’s law. For the most part, I want law off my body AND off my relationships. But what I’m really trying to say here is that sometimes, and not necessarily here, these conversations focus on individual needs and wants, even if conflicted, but about collective ones – and they’re not necessarily served by achieving marriage rights. In fact, they’re often submerged.

    Also, I just don’t see how to “reform” marriage. For me, that’s like talking about reforming patriarchy. So, in part, I just don’t get that. But honestly, I have no intention of offending. I do find it difficult to have these conversations though, without that happening. So, please forgive me if that’s the way my comment affects you or anyone else here.

  8. eloriane says:

    No worries, we’re not easily offended here; I just wasn’t sure I got what you were trying to say. I think I see a little better where you’re coming from 🙂

    In terms of the law, my major qualm is with the history of treating women as property, and the way it merges identities (usually erasing the woman’s!). I’d like to see a totally different legal system that didn’t contain those ideas to replace the current system. But I can see where you’re coming from in terms of not wanting any governmental involvement in relationships, and not seeing marriage as reformable.

    Mostly I think we need a replacement institution because there are certain practical benefits currently being offered by marriage, and if we wanted to maintain them, we’d need a new system legally conferring them on people. But I think in terms of a totally perfect world, most of them wouldn’t be necessary.

    For example, being able to sign one’s spouse up for one’s health insurance– just go to universal health care, and we don’t need this! Or for hospital visitation rights, or adoption rights, or similar– just stop limiting eligible people to “married folks only,” and there’s no need for gay folks to get married to get access. Why can’t anyone I want to see visit me in the hospital? Why do we have to be blood-related or married? And allowing only married couples to adopt is discounting more than just gay folks, but also would-be single parents, and even just committed friends.

    I think it’s probably easier to reform marriage than it is to reform absolutely everything else, but it’d be a better world if we did the latter. And probably neither will have happened by the time I want to settle down– which is what prompted the navel-gazing in the first place.

    Anyway, I don’t know if that actually addressed any of your thoughts or not– but I’d be glad to hear what you think!

  9. hysperia says:

    Yup, you got me. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Basically, we agree I think. How nice! Hee hee.

  10. eloriane says:

    Haha! How nice, indeed!

  11. Keori says:

    eloriane, what I hear you saying is that we need to reform how we legally define FAMILY in this country, and the world at large.

    This is the exact fight we’re having in Hawaii over the Civil Unions bill. DPs (called Reciprocal Beneficiaries here in “Paradise”) aren’t considered a declaration of legal kinship. A conjugal gay couple is not established as a family, and an interdependent pair of family members who are already legally kin by blood get even more benefits reserved for married conjugal couples. Conjugal gay couples still don’t have access to family courts, inheritance, or the 1138 rights and protections allotted to other married couples. And, to be fair, blood kin who are NOT married who need those protections don’t have them, either. RBs as they are written right now don’t close the gap; if anything, they WIDEN the divide.

    The law needs a new definition of “family” to allow for various and sundry ways of defining next of kin, legal kinship, and people who are interdependent. Right now the only ways to do so are through blood ties, or declarations of marriage or adoption. This is why gay people are fighting so hard for marriage. It’s not because we all want the traditional oppressive system of one person being property. It’s because there is no other way for a conjugal adult couple to be legally declared kin.

    • Crowfoot says:

      I can’t speak for eloriane, of course, but I wanted to highlight this bit, a very very good point I think:

      The law needs a new definition of “family” to allow for various and sundry ways of defining next of kin, legal kinship, and people who are interdependent.

  12. eloriane says:

    I definitely agree, and that’s what I was sort of trying to get at in my earlier comments with hysperia– that’s a better way of putting it, though. More concise. 🙂

  13. […] Christian Fundies Listened To Me! Well! What interesting timing. Just when eloriane and I were both thinking about same-sex marriage (ok, I was mostly scrunching my eyes shut and […]

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