February 27, 2013
The Threatening Face of Same-Sex Marriage
In February both France and the UK voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage. What took them so long? The demonstrations in France against same-sex marriage boggled the mind. What on earth could same-sex married couples do so differently that it would actually devalue heterosexual unions?
‘Marriage’ is a word that invokes a traditional image in my mind: a man committing to ‘look after’ a woman financially in exchange for sex on demand and a woman committing her life to every desire the man could possibly want (maid, cook, nanny, prostitute) in exchange for her personhood.
‘Same-sex Marriage’ also invokes an image. For the forward-thinking, it means two adults committing their lives to one another in an exchange of love, equality and shared hopes. For the backward-thinking it invokes an image of debauchery and a tearing-down of all that heterosexual married couples hold dear. So let’s examine the idea of what makes ‘marriage’ so sacred between a penis and a vagina but not so between two penises or two vaginas?
Prince Charles. Katie Price. Ashley Cole. Tiger Woods. Heather Mills. Anna Nicole Smith. Donald Trump. Lorena Bobbitt. Need I go on? What about ANY of these public marriages is so valuable or sacred? Cheating, lying, violence, publicity, money-grubbing… THIS is sacred? THIS is what the straights are trying to protect so fiercely? Even they can see there’s nothing left for us same-sexers to devalue within heterosexual marriage that they haven’t already accomplished themselves.
When I was 15 a heterosexual couple got married on television. The father of the bride spoke to the cameras and explained how this was the responsibility of every father, to save up his money so he could give his daughter the wedding of her dreams.
Mortified, I immediately marched out of the room in search of my father and informed him, “I don’t know if you’re saving money for my wedding or not but if you are, spend it.” My father was taken aback and said nothing and I realised in that moment that he hadn’t been saving anything for that eventuality. I was simultaneously surprised and grateful. The thought of looking like Angel Delight in front of family and friends whilst being the focus of attention was a horrific thought. I never pictured myself married. Never.
I’ve been ‘same-sex married’ since March of 2009. That’s four years of marriage without cheating, lying, violence, publicity or money-grubbing. Instead, there’s commitment, love, dedication, stick-to-it-iveness, passion, and shared hopes. We have weathered the storm of two different countries and cultures, moving homes five times (so far), financial instability, hospitalisations, legal battles and serious ‘baggage’ issues. We still love and care for one another deeply, remain committed and continue to take our marriage vows seriously.
Our wedding was small (I insisted). A couple of hours prior we went to pick up our marriage license and our wedding bouquets. We had two roses each—red for love; yellow for friendship. With four guests attending, we exchanged our vows in a grassy park surrounded by trees overlooking the Pacific Ocean on Canada’s west coast. Our wedding bands were Ring Pops, candy diamonds on plastic rings.
My mother toasted our marriage and, with love and sincerity, welcomed my new missus into our family. Our ‘reception’ was a meal at a local restaurant. When the bill came my father reached to pay for it. We protested but my father wouldn’t take no for an answer. He looked right at my new bride and explained: “your daughter only gets married once…” his elbow jabbing her ribs, “right!?”
One of my friends paid for the wedding commissioner, roses and rings as her gift to us and my parents paid for the meal so all told, our wedding cost us less than a tenner. We walked away from our big day without any debt, regrets or complaints about the food. It was a brilliant focus on our love and commitment to one another.
We have since wanted to have a similar event in England so that the close family and friends of my missus can also witness our love and commitment to each other. Thanks to the obvious approval of the same-sex marriage bill in both countries, perhaps we’ll actually get to celebrate our fifth anniversary by doing it all over again in England followed by a ‘legitimate’ honeymoon in France.
Being legally married to the woman I love on both sides of the pond is the kind of equality we’ve both been waiting for.
Sarah Schulman at Lesbian Lives 2013
Legendary queer activist Sarah Schulman has spoken out against the LGBT Center of New York City and its decision to ban her from a controversial book reading.
February 17, 2013