Thanks to the historic legislation in NY, marriage is on the minds of many queers these days, mine included. This is not an easy subject for me to breach. I don’t want to take away from the joy that many couples are experiencing right now in NY. But simply put, marriage isn’t something I can celebrate. I have a complicated relationship with the institution, specifically because up until a few days ago, I was married. Yep, that’s right…I was part of the heteropatriarchy.
As I’ve said before, I love and respect my ex and don’t regret my relationship with him. I do, however, regret getting married. While I was married and even now that it’s over, I was guilt-ridden over what I felt to be an abandoning of the gay community. I had always said that I would never get married until everyone could marry. But fear and uncertainty led me to grasp at flimsy reasoning and I broke my promise. I wanted the safety net that marriage offered.
As my queer identity became more formed and my sense of self grew stronger, I began to feel immense guilt at the hetero privilege I was enjoying. I was angry that I had not looked at marriage through a more critical lens. I was disgusted with myself for entertaining the delusion that simply being who I was, a queer feminist, would somehow change the institution of marriage. It would be different, I had insisted to myself. But it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. An institution built on government-sanctioned ownership of women will always be inherently patriarchal and simply being a part of said institution is not going to change that. I had to admit that I was fooling myself.
As my ex and I worked our way through the divorce process, I grew to hate marriage even more. The power that the government held over this very private and painful aspect of my life sickened me. I breathed a sigh of relief the morning the judge dissolved our marriage.
Obviously, I cannot remain unbiased when it comes to the issue of marriage. However, personal experience aside, I still would not be a supporter of the gay marriage movement. As I have followed the gay marriage debate from the time of Prop 8, I’ve read more and more radical critiques of marriage. The more I read, the stronger I feel that marriage is ultimately the wrong goal for the queer community. I don’t believe that as a community we need to focus so much energy on a right that only affects a portion of us. The gay marriage movement as a whole assumes that every queer person wants to get married, wants to assimilate into hetero culture. I, for one, do not. I’ve been there and have no desire to go back. The proverbial shades have fallen from my eyes. As a radical queer, I don’t want to pretend that I’m the same as Mr. and Mrs. Jones next door because I’m not. My values are very different. I don’t want the government involved in my love life and I don’t need a piece of paper to sanction my relationship. I would rather fight for the benefits of marriage to be open to everyone and more importantly, for job security, housing security and safety for queers.
I think we are wasting valuable resources on the fight for gay marriage that could be better spent on programs for homeless gay youth, LGBT elder care, safer school campaigns, better access to health care and other vital services. Additionally, I think the higher goals should be to work to redefine the concept of family and distribute the importance placed solely on married couples to other relationships as well.
Additionally, Against Equality has a great resource section on the marriage equality movement. Beyond Marriage, referenced on that site and others, seeks to expand the current marriage debate, insisting “No movement thrives without the critical capacity to imagine what is possible.”
I wish I had been introduced to these ideas years ago and that I could have had the insight to see beyond marriage. The important thing is that I have that vision now and am prepared to join my fellow radical queers in fighting for it.