Wedding rings by Rebecca Zemans.
Like many of you, I woke up yesterday morning to find my Facebook news feed a sea of red equal signs. By 9 a.m., 26 friends had changed their profile picture to the tweaked Human Rights Campaign logo to show their support for marriage equality as the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments; I can’t justify the time it would take now to calculate how many times that number has multiplied.
I also woke up to a notification in my inbox: “You’ve been tagged in five photos.” I knew without clicking that the images would feature me in one of two outfits: a spangly red-and-gold Gujurati lengha, or a short white dress with an illusion neckline and scalloped hem. Yes, I just got married.
[Privilege check #1: I was able to do this in the first place, legally and financially.]
And now the incredibly loving people who witnessed it aren’t hesitating to share photos online.
[Privilege check #2: Having photos of us and our wedding tagged online poses no threat to our jobs or safety.]
All this love-for-love on Facebook is jumbled up in my head, along with:
- the inevitable and innumerable parodies of and twists on the red equal sign (see Anna’s roundup)
- a few friends’ “assimilation does not equal liberation!” posts, this Beyond Gay Marriage post published on UrbanHabitat in 2010, and these resources, filed under “Marriage is the Wrong Goal“
- various things I’ve read about the HRC, including this recent “Friend or Foe?” post on The L Stop and this older one from TransGriot called “Why the Transgender Community Hates the HRC”
- and, in a way, with the loss of a dear friend this past weekend, a true civil rights leader who would have had far more eloquent things to say about SCOTUS and marriage than I do.
What follows is an attempt to untangle some of my thoughts. It might belong in my journal instead of online. But if you make it through, I would love to hear what you think and to know what else you’ve been reading that might help me make sense of things and be a good advocate and activist and ally – who happens to be married now.
Two weeks after my wedding, I’m sleeping better than I have in months. I wouldn’t wish insomnia on anyone, but I do believe everyone should have the choice to be a Wedding Planning Survivor. To get a crash course in event planning whether he has experience with it or not; to realize she’s losing sleep over small things; to be reminded constantly that she can’t please everyone; to weigh his outrage at the Wedding Industrial Complex against, um, his desire to own those awesome shoes or make “just one more trip” to the craft store…And to agonize over what for me was the hardest part of the whole process: deciding, within financial and space constraints, who to invite and not invite.
Because that’s the thing. Whether you choose to have a gigantic, state-recognized affair with a sea of people who crouch down and whisper “a little bit softer now” when “Shout” comes on, or you opt for a tiny ceremony in a courthouse where six treasured people witness your vows, or you throw a “partnership party” celebrating your commitment but skipping out on the marriage piece altogether…the thing about these monogamous-relationship-celebrating events is that—at least in my country and culture—they are a rare time, if not the only time, when people from all the different corners of your world can collide so dramatically in a way that you design.
That part boggled my mind all through the planning process: “That friend is finally going to get to meet my grandparents?” There were countless introductions I wanted to make between our families, mentors, and friends that night. I was a little unrealistic about the time I’d have to devote to facilitating these. But so many happened that I couldn’t have even anticipated. I’m still hearing from people about the connections they made: my cousin is singing the praises of my 826DC co-founder; my parents’ neighbor loved hearing my uncle’s jokes.
We just don’t get to create enough spaces like this. We can host dinner parties and convene retreats. We can plan family reunions and we can outline how we hope our funerals will go. We can think outside the box like my friend Emily, who’s planning a 30th birthday conference, or like my friends at Everybody’s Invited!, who create events and moments full of play, surprise, and adventure.
But considering geography, money, and culture, I have no expectation that there will ever be another day in my life when that many people I know and love—who represent larger communities I know and love—will be under one roof. And I really think gatherings like that can be magical and (yes, I’m going to go there) can change the world a little bit.
Via Facebook I learn that my young cousin tried Indian food for the first time and was surprised how much he liked it. I see pictures of my dad’s sister from Montana laughing hysterically at my mom’s Pittsburgh nephews’ jokes. Here are my best friends from study abroad dancing next to a group of A’s comrades from grad school. There I am talking with my father-in-law’s cousin, the one who picked him up from the airport the day he arrived in this country.
And here are some of my extended family members who might otherwise crack gay jokes without thinking about it, sitting one table away from some of my friends who happen to be gay. They’re watching those friends play a role in my ceremony. They’re wobbling with them on the dance floor.
[Privilege check #3: Those photos exist. All of those people trusted us and our families enough to come together. Privilege check #4: though not all were U.S. citizens as of the wedding day, everyone from “my side” felt safe and financially able enough to make the trip. I’m losing track of my privilege checks here. Which is…a privilege! META.]
But it’s so much more than the photos. I signed up for marriage and was rewarded with 1,138 federal rights. Guess who else should have those rights? My wedding guests who aren’t into marriage. My wedding guests who do want to get married but can’t in their home state. My friends and family who are defining “family” in all sorts of ways.
While I believe that everyone who wants to get married should be able to do so, I also recognize that committing to life with one partner is just one way we humans express love (or, shall we say, organize ourselves – since love is not a requirement for marriage). It’s not the end goal when it comes to achieving full social and legal equality for people who are “LGBTQ” or to respecting all families.
I want to live in a world where the GetEQUAL and COLAGE logos are as widely recognized as the Human Rights Campaign’s, or maybe one where those organizations don’t need to exist.
So I liked seeing the tweaked versions of the logo that have popped up since yesterday morning. And I liked this post from Spectra Speaks:
Will middle class gay white people finally face queer youth (of color) homelessness? Will male-identified LGBT activists ever prioritize addressing homophobic violence against women? What about the unjust incarceration of sex workers (many of who are part of the trans and undocumented community)? Will the marriage equality movement fight this hard, and this long for immigration reform, which affects binational couples and multi-status families like mine? I want equality for everyone. A favorable outcome today will get us closer to that, but I encourage everyone to make commitments (now) to continue fighting for those who have been marginalized by the LGBT movement long after we’re done celebrating.
And this blog post, The Future Bride Onesie is Coming for Your Children, that Andrea Grimes published on The Frisky today:
Being married — more than being partnered — is about being seen. By your family, by your friends, by your government, by your culture. Marriage is a validation. Marriage is arrival. Marriage is acknowledgment. Marriage is citizenship.
…I am all for same-sex marriage. But I understand it as welcoming more people into a conservative institution that exists largely to confer citizenship and social validation on certain groups of people. As a result, I am both for same-sex marriage (and all marriage), because I appreciate the cultural and social benefits of establishing family support networks, and against same-sex marriage (and all marriage) because I don’t see any logic in only allowing two people with pants-feelings for each other to legally define their families.
…And this tweet from Feminist Hulk:
Because I do care about marriage equality. But I also know it’s not the only fight. It’s ONE star—one very rights-laden star—in a constellation of civil rights and human rights victories I want to see in my lifetime.
And while we’re stargazing, I want to live in a world where anyone, flying solo or paired or grouped up, can bring together all the people they love, in honor of whatever milestone they want—a birthday or a family event or a regular old Tuesday—and dance and eat cake and feel such pure love and support beamed upon them as A and I did last weekend.
And I want to hear your thoughts. Please share them below. If you’ve made it this far, thank you.
Photos in this post: 35MM, March 2013.
8 thoughts on “Some thoughts about weddings”
Julia. This is so beautiful, and so right-on. You’ve captured my own ambivalence well. I think you should submit this piece for publication on A Practical Wedding, so that it gets even wider readership. (Also, just saw the professional wedding photos linked to on facebook: so much joy!)
Thank you, Anna! I always think of you in those “do I REALLY want to put this out there?” moments before I hit Publish. Thanks for making me feel more brave.
Julia, first, congratulations on your marriage! The pictures are beautiful. (And, congratulations on surviving wedding planning — no small feat!) I just wanted to drop a note here to say thanks for your thoughtful approach to marriage and weddings. Last fall Minnesota was the first state to reject a “marriage = man + woman” constitutional amendment, and as active as I was in working against it, I had all kinds of mixed feelings about it such as you’ve outlined above, not to mention that I am a member of a hetero non-traditional couple that is choosing not to be married. It is so rewarding to come across a thoughtful, helpful piece on marriage in which privilege is named and acknowledged. Thank you! (Also — hope all is well! Let me know if you’re ever in MPLS, I’d love to see you!)
Thank you, Alison! I actually WILL be in Minneapolis very soon – sending you an email right now. Hooray for stars hopefully aligning…
More links that might be of interest:
Ann Friedman’s Parties We Should Have Instead of Weddings: nymag.com/thecut/2013/03/parties-we-should-have-instead-of-weddings.html
LGBTQ Equality and Justice Beyond Marriage, by Ash McGovern:
That was a lovely read :)
Love you. Love this. Your day had so many of those “ohmygosh I can’t believe they’re ALL here TOGETHER and loving each other” moments for me too, and I am hopeful that every person gets to experience that fairly, equally, however they choose and with the person they choose.
This was so thoughtful. I agree you should submit it to be published more widely.