Why I’m for same-sex marriage after I said I was against it. (With apologies to waffling politicians.)

A few months following my marriage last June, I wrote the piece below on my thoughts, both pre- and post-nuptial, about same-sex marriage. As a frame, I quoted liberally from pieces I had previously written on the subject–pieces in which I (often contentiously) took the minority position questioning why legal marriage was viewed as such a critical issue.  The article was submitted to a number of publications, but no takers. That’s rather unusual; not to brag but just about everything I write gets published somewhere, eventually. But I don’t think this will. There’s still something annoyingly politically incorrect–and possibly a little too honest–about it. So rather than let it collect dust in a drawer–or more accurately, on a laptop–I’m using it to possibly open up discussion and take a brief hiatus to get our snow tires removed and pick up the wood for our new deck.

Honestly, could I be any more married?

_______________________________________________

Why I’m for same-sex marriage after I said I was against it.  (With apologies to waffling politicians.)

For the record, I would rather stick glass in my eye than join the seemingly endless discussion of same-sex marriage. Even the term rankles me; it’s too sanitized, too devoid of any kind of power.

For whom the (wedding) bell tolls,  Joy Parks, Sacred Ground, self-syndicated column, various publications, 2004.

When I got married last June (ironically, my apolitical girlfriend—now spouse—unknowingly chose the 8th anniversary of the day same-sex marriage became legal in Canada), one of my friends suggested she buy me a set of forks as a wedding present. So I’d have something nice with which to eat crow.

That comment came as a result of several pieces I’d previously published stating that same-sex marriage was basically a bad idea. Obviously, I didn’t have the same issues with it as those who support DOMA. I resented that it warranted so much political energy and focus—actually, all the energy and focus of the gay and lesbian community for the past decade or so.

Besides, I wanted more for my people. I wanted us to be more creative, more daring, more inventive. I had watched protesters on the steps of San Francisco city hall whining about how much they wanted to be like everyone else. That idea scared me more than homophobia. I loved the fact that we were different.  “We” meaning both the Capital L lesbian community, and Lynn and I. I wanted the perimeters of our relationship to be bound only by our imaginations. We were too cool to be married. After close to 24 years, broken only by a few weeks separation—filed now in my mind as the time I went crazy—did we really need a piece of paper?

Part of my laisse-faire attitude towards same-sex marriage no doubt comes from living in Canada. In the last decade or so, as the United States has become more and more repressive, we’ve wallowed in our live-and-let-liveness, decriminalizing marijuana, legalizing gay marriage and most recently, voting a far left political party in as Official Opposition—which basically means runner-up in a multi-party Parliamentary system. No, they don’t have much power but they sure can make it miserable for those who do. Sometimes I think Canada’s motto A Mari usque ad Mare (From Sea to Sea) should be replaced by “It’s all good.”

Now, I suppose it’s very easy for me to write this; same-sex marriage is legal in roughly two-thirds of the country in which I live. Gay and lesbian couples lined city hall steps for at least a week or two before the novelty seemed to wear off. Then there was the first same-sex divorce, a lesbian couple whose legal marriage lasted barely five days. Once that story made the front page of almost every big-city daily in the country, the honeymoon was over. We could finally honor all those gay activists who have given so much, sometimes even their lives, by achieving the right to act as foolishly as straight people.

For whom the (wedding) bell tolls,  Joy Parks, Sacred Ground, self-syndicated column, various publications, 2004.

So how did a girl like me, who could write those lines above and mean them, end up a lesbian bride? When we started breaking the news, one of the first questions I was asked was who proposed. My answer?  Our lawyer.

Lynn had beset by uterine fibroids for years, but her annual ultrasound had revealed a spot on her left ovary that couldn’t be identified. After more testing, we wound up sitting in the waiting room at the gyno-oncology dept at the local women’s health centre, with me convinced they’d just put us on the wrong side of the room. We learned that she had a 30% chance of ovarian cancer; there was talk of colostomy bags and leaving cavities open for chemo slugs and other horrors. Lynn took it in her stride, with the belief that there was nothing to worry about until there was something to worry about. I was nearly catatonic until her surgery; actually until the moment her surgeon motioned me out of the hushed family waiting area and said the three sweetest words I’d ever heard. “It’s not cancer.”

In the lead up to the surgery, we got our affairs in order, writing our wills and establishing power of attorney over each other for both financial and personal care matters. The first question out of our lawyer’s mouth was “Are you married?” The second one was,  “Is there any particular reason why you’re not?”

While neither of us is often at a loss for words, he had thrown us. We repeated similar versions of the “if it ain’t broken” argument and finished with almost verbatim admissions that we’d never really thought about it.  Which wasn’t true. We had talked about how that wasn’t necessary, that we didn’t need a piece of paper, that our lesbian sisters who now lined up to marry were the joiners, the followers, the lemmings that we had consciously tried to steer clear of all our lives.

“Well, I think you should consider it,” he said, matter-of-factly. “You’d both of be in a much better position for government spousal survivor pensions. And you’ve amassed a decent amount of net worth in the time you’ve been together. The wills and power of attorney would protect you. But if a family member wanted to get nasty, you could still have a legal battle on your hands. You’d win, but do you need the hassle at that time? If you’re married, it’s cut and dried. What’s yours is her, what’s her’s is yours.”

I realize that saying anything that doesn’t support the majority line on legalizing gay and lesbian marriage is tantamount to treason and punishable by an immediate shunning. But I simply don’t understand why we, as a people, want anything to do with an archaic institution, historically based on ensuring the legitimacy of heirs. Has anyone looked at the divorce statistics recently? Are we really so arrogant as to believe we’ll do a better job with it? Check your u-Haul™ receipts before you answer that one.

For whom the (wedding) bell tolls,  Joy Parks, Sacred Ground, self-syndicated column, various publications, 2004.

I have a mother in her mid 70s, who thinks the world of Lynn and would never try to take anything away from her. I’m not close to my sister. While she might bitch about Lynn getting everything, she wouldn’t have the guts or initiative to do anything about it.  But Lynn’s siblings  had tendency to believe they were entitled to something when an aunt or uncle died. They talked about money all the time, something that still makes me uncomfortable. I was brought up that finances are a private matter and it stuck. Sometimes they seemed envious of our relative comfort.  If something happened to Lynn and they ganged up on me, I wasn’t sure I’d have the strength to fight.

On the drive home that night, Lynn said, “Maybe we should think about getting married. Just something small. For the legal reasons. I’m all for screwing over the government for the pensions. But I want to do it after the surgery. When there’s time.”

That, romance fans, was a marriage proposal.

On the first weekend following the surgery that Lynn felt well enough to go to the mall, we picked out matching rings. Two weeks later, we met at city hall on our lunch hours to purchase our license and book a wedding chamber.  Weekends, we shopped for outfits and modeled them for each other. My coworkers threw me a shower the day before the ceremony and Lynn came home with a card and a roll of cash, gifts from her staff.

If nothing else, the tired prejudices and the old ugliness that have been unearthed in the public discourse that surrounds the same-sex marriage issue should prove to us that in our willingness to tone down our rebellion, to act in ways that would afford us tolerance, we have achieved nothing. Nada. It’s time for a change in tactics. We need to be more renegade, not less, we need to celebrate our deviance, not hide it under matching white wedding grounds.

 From “Why I don’t want to marry (and why I don’t want you to either)” in First Person Queer, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007

On a sunny Friday in June, we stood in front of my best friend from high school and his lover of many years, and laughed our way through a solemn ceremony that would legally bind us together, guided by a purple robed officiate who got our sense of humor. It was, according to my witness, who recorded it all on his iPhone, the most fun wedding ceremony he’d ever been to. After dinner at a local steak chain, Lynn and I drove home, my pointy shoes tossed into the back seat, the button on her pants undone where her incision was swelling.  We were married. It was my turn to put the dog out.

The next day I told my mom. She was happy, and I think a little relieved. I was finally “settled down.” At nearly 51. Over the following week, Lynn told her own siblings. Her sister cried, shocked and a tad upset that she’d been left out of things. Her younger brother wanted photos.  Her other brother, the one in particular that I was never sure of, said, “I guess this means I’m no longer in the will.”

“You never were,” she said and hung up the phone.

“Son of a bitch” she said, shaking her head, saddened that our suspicions were proved correct. “I guess we did do the right thing.”

One of my reasons for originally criticizing same-sex marriage was that as a good Marx-influenced feminist, I felt marriage was about property, not love. I still believe that—and to tell the truth, that’s exactly why we married. I don’t need the government’s permission or blessing to love or spend my life with this woman. But under the circumstances, I’m quite willing now to use the marriage laws to protect my home and property, the things I’ve worked for all my life. Which means we’re married for the legal reasons it was invented.

We’ve been married for nearly a year now. I often forget and check the “single” or “common law” boxes on a form, then remember and have to scratch it out. We still consider the day we moved in together our anniversary, which hits the quarter century in September. We wear our wedding rings when we feel like it, despite our neighbor’s warnings of bad luck should we ever take them off.

Happily, nothing else has changed.

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