Billy here. This weekend Spence and I are celebrating our first year of marriage. I do not necessarily support the institution of marriage. I believe it is by and large patriarchal hooha. I also believe that couples who choose to not marry or be in non-monogamous relationships should be allowed to love how they see fit without interference or judgement. How consenting adults choose to love one another is personal preference that should be supported and respected.
That being said, I believe that marriage equality is important because it represents a civil rights issue. In states where gay marriage bans exist, studies have shown that mental and physical stress is greater for LGBTQI people than in states where gay marriage is legal. This is about quality of life. In a country where the laws support our existence, whether or not we choose to marry, we are bound to flourish, because the option to live as we choose is the meaning of freedom.
I chose to marry Spence because I know down to the bottom of my soul that I want to be his committed partner in this lifetime and I want to celebrate that love every day. I want to be able to hold Spence’s hand in public, to be who I am and show affection without fear of retribution. Here in Portland, Oregon, this is mostly something I don’t have to worry about, but in most places, this is simply not the case. Even a radical queer, who may not believe in the institution of marriage, has something to gain with the momentum of marriage equality, because it represents a welcoming and acceptance of queer folk into the fabric of society. For me, even a trickster is a part of the fabric and even a radical, as the etymology of the word implies, represents a return to the very roots of what community means. Unless one romanticizes being an oppressed outlaw, this momentum is a good thing!
I would like to take a moment to hold in my heart all of those LGBTQI pioneers who have gone before me to help clear the path to equality in today’s society. I also want to take a moment to consider all the folks who live in a more hostile political environment around the world, who not only cannot be legally married, but who cannot openly be who they are without dire repercussions.
I want to give thanks for being in Spence’s life and to be living so incredibly well. Every day we eat fresh vegetables and eggs. We pursue art, literature and music. We are surrounded by loving friends. There is so much to be thankful for and so much more to do. When we went to get our marriage license in Albuquerque last May, gay marriage had just been legalized in New Mexico. I was touched by the number of other same-sex couples getting married with us in the courthouse. It felt like a magical moment in history.
Check out the It Gets Better Project! This is a beautiful project started by Dan Savage to encourage queer teens who are enduring hardships to love themselves with messages of hope from older folks who have been through the wringer. I thought as teenager, like so many of us queerdos, that if you were queer you literally wouldn’t survive past forty, whether the cause was drugs, HIV, suicide, or hate crimes. But when I moved out to New Mexico and met all the fabulous committed couples over forty, I learned that actually over forty is when the going gets really good! So hang on, young folk! I hit rough patches and sometimes it seemed like life was too sad, but I can say now, that it really, actually does get better, because this life is beautiful.
On April 28th, marriage equality went back to the Supreme Court. We await a ruling that could decide to legalize marriage for all of us nationwide. Even our president is behind it! Hats off to Ireland for being the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage through the popular vote. Of course, a majority rules method of democracy, as we know all too well, leaves behind the minorities until the majority decides to take heed…leaving the minorities to petition for their rights…
Also, hats off to the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska who joined 21 other tribes in endorsing marriage equality. Of course, and thank you, Netherlands, for becoming the first country in the world to gain marriage equality fourteen years ago.
Spence here: When I first met Billy in 2005, I knew I wanted him to be in my life, always. I felt an extraordinary love and power from him I cannot explain. (I still feel that sense when I look over at him today). At the same time, I had the funny feeling that we had always been in each others’ lives, past and future, as time is not so linear as we think. When me met in this life, however, I wasn’t sure at the time what all of my feelings meant, as both our lives were in a state of duress, but I knew for sure I wanted to know him and be close to him. For much of the early time, my heart skipped a beat when I caught glimpses of him and I would scarcely mutter things to him as I was very nervous, bumbling, and sweaty around him. With patience, time and distance, we became good friends. If someone would have told me we would eventually be married, I probably would have fainted.
I never considered myself the “marrying type”. I never had those fantasies of playing “house” when I was little–dressing up and walking down the aisle, (I always wanted to be the dog!) Although I was very committed to my previous partners, I always felt the entanglement of marriage as ownership and felt it was a sure path to losing ones-self. I am not sure why or how I learned this, as my parents are very unique and have held a healthy example of marriage for over 40 years! But I recall, even when Billy and I finally starting dating, after years of friendship, my saying “don’t expect me to marry you”. Ha! I was very head-strong, defensive and assuming, as he had not mentioned anything to that effect, and we had only been together a few months. (By this point he knew me well, so his response was to smile, roll his eyes a little and continue holding my hand–his patience, kindness and compassion continue to be boundless). Anyway, I always thought being married would mean forfeiting my freedom–not a freedom to date who I wanted, I didn’t care so much about that, as I have always valued monogamy for myself, but I guess I thought one would have to trade travel, being foot-loose, and general unconventionality for the rigors of boring stability. It also seemed a very “Grown-up” thing to do, on a road to a mortgage, kids, dogs and mini-vans. All of which I was convinced would stifle me–I have since owned two dogs and a mini-van, which have neither stifled me or contributed to my being “Grown-up”! I also didn’t think having my cake and eating it too would be possible–to find someone who actually liked being weird and wanted to celebrate a life-time of art, magic, learning and taking the barely visible, weed-filled animal trail! I guess sadly, I also underestimated how long I would live. I really thought the whole time I was growing up I would be lucky to make it to 30 years of age, and who would care if I did? When Billy asked me to marry him, under an eclipsed moon in the middle of a cold night, I did not hesitate in saying “yes!” I was surprised but also completely, pleasantly reassured in the fact that he felt the same about me as I feel about him and as committed as I feel. I also felt I was making another commitment to my own life at that moment–I finally felt like I deserved the good that was happening all around us, and the good that we were helping to create by being together.
Several years ago, as more and more states started sanctioning and subsequently banning gay marriage, I felt all that didn’t apply to me, even though I am queer person. I just figured I would never be married and who would want to participate in such an archaic, “straight” way of life anyway? But then I started seeing gay and lesbian couples come out of the wood-work–people who had been together 15, 20, 30 years, without the privilege, safety, celebration, benefits and community support marriage affords others. Finally, they were able to stand up in the open and show to the world how proud they were of their relationships. I had also never had the feeling of being so sure of my own relationship–to stand in celebration with my best friend for as long as we can, in this life or otherwise.
I love the project Dan Savage has started, “It Gets Better”. The sentiments of the videos, letters, school anti-bullying programs and positive messages for LGBTQ youth are so important and inspiring. I wish that I had had the abundance of support and resources offered to those today. It probably would have saved my family and I a lot of grieving years. But I am happy to be on the other end now and I am thankful for all the leaps our queer elders have taken before us to make way for healthier, more complete and proud lives.