Guest Post: Queering Traditional Marriage

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to interact with Carrie. Since well before I joined the Gender Across Borders team, and ever since, Carrie has literally had nothing but wonderful things to say to me, about me, and about Small Strokes. While the ego boost is always nice, it’s even nicer when it comes from someone as talented and devoted to the feminist cause as Carrie. Her post today about getting married and standing for marriage equality is so beautiful, I’m going to let it speak for itself. But I will say this: I truly believe in Carrie’s message here, and I believe even more in her and her mission to be an activist within the LGBT community.

Few political issues have shaped my life as much as marriage equality. In fact, marriage equality is largely responsible for my interest in political and social activism. In November 2003, when I was a high school senior living in a suburb outside of Boston, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized marriage equality. That day, for the first time, I realized that the fight for LGBT rights was bigger than my GSA’s annual involvement in the Day of Silence. It was bigger than standing up to bullies by walking down the hallways holding my girlfriend’s hand. I suddenly saw LGBT civil rights – the big things, like marriage rights and employment non-discrimination and protection against hate crimes – as something tangible, something that was actually being achieved in my lifetime. I saw a social justice movement that was relevant to my life as a bisexual woman, and I wanted to be a part of it.

That day, my views on marriage changed significantly. I saw marriage as more than a beautiful act of love or a symbol of lifelong commitment between partners – now it was a political stance, a radical act of love open to any couple, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The realization that someday, at least in my home state, I would be able to marry the partner of my choosing, no matter what gender that person might be, was huge. The world was full of possibilities.

Three years later, I started dating Anders, the man who is now my husband. Prior to that point, when I thought about my future, I had always pictured spending it with a woman – that was just where the bulk of my relationship experience and romantic feelings had centered. But once I met Anders, the gender of my partner didn’t seem as significant. We fell in love and knew rather early on in our courtship that this was the real deal. So, for the first time in my life, I started thinking seriously about what heterosexual marriage meant. Could I still be an LGBT activist and marry a man? If I read as straight to the average observer, would my marriage still be able to stand for the radical notion of love that marriage equality had come to represent in my mind?

Anders shares my passion for marriage equality, so once we got engaged, we were mindful of equality in both our wedding planning and in our every day lives. Incorporating marriage equality in our wedding was the easy part. In addition to cookware and table settings, we registered for donations to Freedom To Marry. During our ceremony, my maid of honor read from the bell hooks essay, “Love As the Practice of Freedom,” which is about how love should be a critical component in all social justice movements. And before the breaking of the glass (which was already queered by the fact that I, a woman, did the stomping), we included text linking marriage equality to the Jewish notions of remembering injustice to temper times of great joy and engaging in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) to make the world a more just place.

All of those actions were deeply meaningful to us, as well as to our LGBT and allied friends. But a wedding is only one day, and the gestures would have been empty if we did not consciously think about equality as part of our relationship on an ongoing basis. Try as I might, it’s hard to put into words exactly what that looks like. Certainly, we’re equitable with chores and finances, like any respectable Card-Carrying Feminist CoupleTM, but it’s more than that. It’s a mindset. It’s a way in which we look at ourselves, and the world around us, and think, “What do we want the institution of marriage to look like in 20 years?” Marriage may be one of the oldest human institutions in the world, but it’s also a living and breathing one, and it’s constantly changing. Anders and I want to help it change for the better. We want to make it more equal and open to the wide variety of partnerships we see around us all the time. And we do that by looking at our queer, interfaith relationship and honoring it, regardless of how others might feel about it. All partnerships matter, no matter what they look like and no matter the gender or sexual preferences of the partners. That, in my mind, is the true definition of marriage equality.

In June, I sat anxiously at my laptop and watched the live streaming video from the New York Senate floor as marriage equality was debated and, ultimately, legalized. My heart soared, and I thought back to our wedding day, which took place only six weeks earlier. I thought about what our officiant read just before I stepped on the glass: It’s important to Carolyn & Anders that their joined lives be part of Tikkun Olam, of repairing the world, and today, they stand together not only for each other, but for a world they want to see flourish. And I realized that the world we were talking about, the world we wanted to see flourish, is already coming about. Change is slow, but it’s happening. We, and so many other queer and allied couples, are helping to make it happen.

Carrie Nelson is an Editor and Founder of Gender Across Borders. Her background is in film production, and she currently works as a grant writer for an LGBT nonprofit organization. She lives with her husband, also a writer, in NYC. You can follow her writing and ranting about movies and feminism on Twitter.

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One thought on “Guest Post: Queering Traditional Marriage

  1. Bryan on

    I suppose I take it for granted how easy it would be to marry the woman I love. Some day though not too far away homosexuals will take it for granted how easy it is to get married. A lot of things will change once many of the old politicians and their constituents to die off and make way for the change. I’m up in the air about religion but I do know that Christianity got the definition of love down perfectly. It explains that love isn’t a emotion or a feeling you have about someone, it explains that love is how you treat someone and that you are to love everyone indiscriminately. As I write this I begin to understand that being sensitive, accepting, and tolerant of other people is not the answer, its treating every person with non judgmental love. Wow if it wasn’t for hypocritical Christians it wouldn’t be such a bad decision for faith.

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