Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Marriage Equality

I have been married. I got married before marriage was legal in Canada, and then again after it became legal. I have also been separated and am soon to be divorced. I will not marry again, for many reasons, not the least of which I'm not sure marriage, as an institution or as a practice, is something that I believe in at this point in my life.

But I have many, many friends in same-sex partnerships - both those who identify with a queer politic and those who do not - who have married, or who are about to marry. And I have many friends who reside in the United States who desperately want to win this right.

Marriage is a slippery topic in the queer community. There are arguments both for and against the usefulness of fighting for marriage rights - and here's the tricky bit - I agree with both sides.

I don't like the rhetoric that accompanies the fight for marriage rights.  I don't like the appeal to normalcy, or the 'we're just like you-ness.'  I don't like the emphasis on the traditionalism of the nuclear family model. I don't like the assertion that same-sex marriage rights is akin to real equality, because I don't believe, not for one single second, that this is the case.  I am also concerned about the reality that if and when we do win marriage rights across North America, the queers who decide to marry will receive more benefits and social capital and acceptability than those who choose, for many, many personal and political reasons, not to do so.  Marriage, in any of its forms (Gay, Straight, Queer, whathaveyou), is not without problem.

However, I also balk at the anti-marriage protests coming out of the queer community.  I understand (and even agree, as aforementioned) with many of their arguments.  But I also find them short-sighted.  Marriage *is* in fact important to some of our community. For many and varied reasons.  While I am clear that this is not the last, or even the most important struggle the LGBT community has in its way - it is important for many people, many of whom I love deeply.  The short-sightedness I find in the anti-marriage rhetoric is, quite simply, that it lacks a conceptualization of the heart.

This is a rhetoric that cannot speak to the overflowing and immense joy I felt at my ninety-six year old grandfather's witnessing of our love, then still not legal (though it mattered not one whit to me as I marched through my friends and family in my hussy red dress). It cannot speak to the joy I felt at the coming together of all of my family and friends, in celebration of love. (Moreover, it should be noted that we threw one hell of a party!).  It cannot speak to the joy felt by my moms, both of whom came out at a time when they could have lost custody of their children for being lesbians, when they married at the Unitarian church in Winnipeg.  It cannot speak to the tears in their eyes as their four grown children read a co-written speech about the trials and tribulations of how we all became a family. It cannot speak to their delight at watching their wee granddaughters (who flew all the way from Australia!) walk down an aisle carrying flowers for them.  It cannot describe the feeling of comfort felt by my siblings and I, as we sat on the porch drinking wine and reminiscing all night about the incredible and beautiful journey of our family, an opportunity we may not have had were there not a wedding to bring us all together. There is delight and joy and comfort in the coming together of community to celebrate love, however we might choose to do so.

We should not be so willing to dismiss the importance of these things, however intangible they may be.  Neither should we be complacent or mistaken about the fact that fighting for marriage rights is only one fight, amoung many, that faces our queer communities.  So as I join my voice to argue for marriage rights of my American friends, I also fight for the rights of those queer people who will build their families other ways.  I resist the notion of normalcy that those marriage debates are framed within. I raise my voice to speak for queers who are poly, or single by choice, or who resist the nuclear model in other ways.  I will raise my voice against transphobia, racism and sexism and ableism and poor bashing that is still so disgustingly prevalent in our communities and I will encourage others to do the same.

But I will also resist the either/or-ness of the marriage debates.  And maintain that the heart is such an important part of politics.

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