Congratulations, New York

It’s a pleasure to live here while New York made gay marriage legal.

I don’t think gay marriage is the be-all end-all of the equality fight (uh, does anybody? Maybe I don’t have to clarify that here), but I do think it’s an important symbol.

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about marriage and weddings lately … blame Offbeat Bride for being awesome and Style Me Pretty for their one-in-100 amazing inspirations. And my couple’s therapist, who is starting to help me have a vision of how a relationship could really last. But, more about that another time.

Congratulations to all who are getting (legally) wed, and thanks, New York.

Photo by Mykelle on Flickr

I saw this photo first on Twitter and think it is just stunning. I’m not really one for rainbow imagery, but I do love dramatic water.

Cynthia & Chris: butch/femme couple engaged!

I’m a week late on this news (but what can I say, this isn’t a news blog): Cynthia Nixon announced last week at the New York City Action=Marriage Equality rally that she and her girlfriend, Christine Marinoni, are engaged.

After hearing this, I did some searching for some photos of the couple, because, well, they’re butch/femme! (At least in adjective, if not in identity.) And they are so fucking cute together! I get touched in a different way when I see dykes who have gender that is similar to mine … I just recognize them and it really makes me happy.

It got me thinking a little bit about the celebrity world, and why it isn’t a bigger deal that Cynthia Nixon is gay – she’s a major star of Sex & the City! The film only came out last year, it should still be relevant. Reminds me that the 2009 After Ellen Hot 100 list just came out, and I was frustrated that there aren’t more a) butches or genderqueer folks (I count 5), and b) women who are actually out and queer, instead of women whose characters are gay on tv. I know this is kind of another topic, and I’ll follow up on this later (eventually).

Congratulations on the engagement, I wish you two the best.

cc6

    

[ Largest image from The Insider. Thumbnail image sources, l-r: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ]

Let’s Get Gay Married!

postcard-m

I’ve been wanting to write a post about the changes in gay marriage legistlation that have been happening in the US lately. I’ve even started drafting some notes. But by time I get back to writing it, I find that yet another state has put something new into law.

Suddenly, it’s like a domino effect: Yesterday, the Maine House of Representatives voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and now Maine; DC also passed legistlation to recognize gay marriages performed in other states (something New York and New Jersey also do).

postcard-mPlus, there’s Massachusetts, which was the first state to let gay couples marry in 2004, who is I’m sure just sittin’ back going, “Whut? What’s the big deal? Oh, gay marriage? Yeah, we did that like five years ago. You guys haven’t done that yet?” (Apparently Massachusetts speaks in a lot of slang.)

Oh, and Connecticut, which began performaing gay marriages last fall.

Not only that, but Nate Silver, genius statistician behind FiveThirtyEight (which kept me sane during the 2008 election, along with Dr. Maddow), developed a model to estimate when other states will follow suit and pass gay marriage rights: “The model predicts that by 2012, almost half of the 50 states would vote against a marriage ban, including several states that had previously voted to ban it.” He recognizes that there could be a backlash, or a paradigmatic shift in favor of permitting gay marriage, and these could be completely off, but it seems quite possible that they are at least going to be partly accurate. And seeing it all in print like that is just … thrilling.

Sugarbutch is definitely not a news source, really, but as long as we’re making some serious headway, I think it deserves mentioning.

Wait, what? Sorry, what did I just say? THE number one gay civil rights issue is … succeeding? I feel like I’m in a cartoon where I have to shake my head and it gets all blurry. Really?

postcard-mSo now we’re equal, right? We’re the same, we’re going to be treated with respect, 11-year-old kids aren’t going to committ suicide because they are being bullied, taunted about their sexuality? Harassment is over, workplace discrimination is over – oh yeah, nobody can get fired for being gay anymore, right?

And don’t even get me started with the transphobia and genderphobia – where genderqueer folks are getting murdered through blatant hate crimes. At least “surprise” is less of a defense these days.

I have issues with the marriage focus of the gay rights movement. I understand that marriage is pretty much the ultimate symbol of a legitimate relationship (in this culture & society), so I understand why it’s important to work for, and I understand that perhaps for many people, it will be an important symbol in the step toward acknowledging the legitimacy of homosexual relationships.

(I could go on here about other legitimate forms of relationships that also deserve governmental tax breaks, the normalizing and construction of monogamy, the question of where is the separation of church and state in this issue, the belief that marriage is the ceremony and civil union should be the legal part, that marriage is also a class and privilege issue … lots of people are having this conversation lately, it’s all been said before.)

postcard-mBUT: gay marriage is not THE END of the gay rights movements. It really hurts to read that gay advocacy groups are closing their doors because hey, we can get married now! There’s nothing else to fight for, is there?

Look, don’t get me wrong, I am SO GLAD that we’re gaining movement with the gay marriage issue. Thank heavens. Maybe we can now move on to some of the OTHER issues of the movement, like, oh, I don’t know, PEOPLE DYING.

Part of me wants to be snarky and say, “So you think this makes up for all that discrimination? Huh? Huh?” But hey, you’ve come around now, and that’s what matters. So: thanks, Maine. And thanks, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, DC, and all the other states who are helping make history, create change, support equality, justice, and validate all kinds of love.

Courage Campaign’s “Don’t Divorce!”


“Fidelity”: Don’t Divorce… from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Have you heard that Ken Starr — and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund — filed legal briefs defending the constitutionality of Prop 8 and attempting to forcibly divorce 18,000 same-sex couples that were married in California last year? The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case on March 5, 2009, with a decision expected within the next 90 days.

The Courage Campaign has created a video called “Fidelity,” with the permission of musician Regina Spektor, that puts a face to those 18,000 couples and all loving, committed couples seeking full equality under the law.

After you watch the video, please consider joining me in signing the letter to the state Supreme Court and passing this video on to your friends. The more people who see this video, the more people will understand the pain caused by Prop 8 and Ken Starr’s shameful legal proceeding.

On Love, Post-Election

How can I write about anything except politics right now? Obama, Obama, Obama. Fivethirtyeight had the projections almost completely accurate. I didn’t see too many major voting mishaps – aside from the long lines at polling places which, as we all know by now, are the new “poll tax.” Which is reassuring! In the last few days I kept hearing, “things are looking good for us, but remember: they cheat.”

So, thank the gods. I’m glad we all got to vote. I’m glad each of our votes counted. I’m so glad to see Obama victorious.

But … then there’s the gay stuff. Prop 8 in California, Prop 102 in Arizona, Prop 2 in Florida. Initiative 1 in Arkansas. Connecticut and Colorado were victories, but with the other four I’m feeling pretty defeated this morning.

I’m angry about this election. I am so grateful for Obama’s landslide win, don’t get me wrong. He ran a fantastic campaign and he did some incredibly gracious, beautiful things with the entire United States, in every place he visited – he wasn’t purely focused on the battleground states, he wasn’t ignoring the South just because it was a given that it’d go red.

But I’m angry about all the other propositions that passed. The literally millions of people who think that me, my relationship, my love, my orientation, my body’s wiring, my queerness is somehow a threat to them, somehow damaging to their way of life, somehow harmful, somehow detrimental to society, somehow bad and wrong and evil.

I take personal offense to these results.

It’s so hard not to. I try pretty hard to ignore the gay marriage activism that are going on in this country – ever since DOMA I’ve been only increasingly discouraged. I’ve written about this recently – my hesitation to think that the gay marriage fight is the end-all be-all of gay activism, that gay marriage is going to get us accepted into the “normal” club. Well, maybe I don’t want to be in the “normal” club.

But this time, I got involved. I got all crazy with 8 Against 8, I read every post Lesbian Dad kept eloquently writing, I researched the state of gay marriage in the US for weeks. I got invested. I named the puppy. I – in my liberal progressive hippie love-will-prevail idealist brain – was not prepared for such a defeat.

Gay marriage is going to revert to being illegal in California. Californians just voted to legally and specifically discriminate against a group of marginalized people. To explicitly and intentionally make us second-class citizens. Less than.

What about Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin’s widow, who just months ago made their more than fifty-year relationship completely equal, valued, valid, legitimate, in the eyes of California law? God I hope they had a good lawyer who put all sorts of forms and documents in place. How stupid and fucked up and time consuming and wasteful that Phyllis and Del even had to go through that, to do the research to figure out what rights and privileges, precisely, they were being denied because they couldn’t get married, and pay a lawyer to draw up the corresponding papers, and enter into a legal agreement with each other.

[It reminds me of If These Walls Could Talk 2, the first segment, with Vanessa Redgrave. Watch it, if you haven’t seen it. I guarantee it will break your heart, but kind of in a good way.]

I want to go back and study the history of interracial marriage – also called miscegenation, which is a great word I don’t know if I knew until today – and see how it was finally overturned. Was it state-by-state? So-called “activist judges?” Did this country watch as, one at a time, states added their own constitutional amendments banning interracial marriage? Were there Mayors who were radical enough to marry interracial couples anyway? How did it finally get overturned? I’ve never been much of a historian, really, I’m much more interested in what’s happening right now, in front of me, how this current system works – and of course it’s important to know where we came from to know how the current system works, but still, I didn’t understand history until I started studying the history of my people, the queers and gender-variants and radicals and revolutionaries.

But still, I don’t have a firm grasp on this particular American activist history, and I want to know how it worked before, because I want it to work again. Because maybe after I know one storyline’s success, I’ll be comforted. Because I’ll remember that it took hundreds of years to gain that particular right to marry, and then I’ll remember that this fight is young, that, despite our headway, there is much farther to go.

I know there is much to celebrate. Perhaps I am taking Obama’s win too much for granted. I know I have a particularly “biased” perspective because I grew up with activist parents in liberal communities; I spend my times in progressive activist circles and queer communities in big cities. There is a piece of me that is saying, “of course Obama was elected, how could it possibly be any other way?” But I said that about Gore and Kerry too, despite that Gore did win the popular vote (don’t get me started) and I’ve seen cardboard cutouts of people that have more personality than Kerry.

Clearly I don’t have a very good grasp on the reality of this country. On how conservative Republicans are capable of organizing people to vote against their own best interest in the name of “values.”

I’ve seen some posts around today already that say having Obama in office we are poised for a Federal lift on the ban on gay marriage, but honestly I don’t know if I believe that. Of course I’d like to think so, sure, but then there’s DOMA, and “37 states have their own Defense of Marriage Acts [and] … 27 states have constitutional amendments.” (source.)

Make that 30, as of November 2008: Arizona, Florida, California.

Times like these I wish I knew more about politics, and history. How can we lift these constitutional amendments out of the states? Do the voters have to vote again? Who can overturn DOMA at the Federal level? Do we need it to go through the courts, or through voting? Do we need certain Supreme Court members in order to have these things overturned? How do we get a Federal constitutional amendment that protects the rights of minorities?

We couldn’t even get something written into the Federal constitution that says that women are equal to men. Remember the ERA? Failed. Failed, failed, failed. It has been introduced in front of every Congress since 1982, and yet we still do not have anything official that says women are equal to men. Is that really so radical, so influential, that there is such opposition to it?

And correct me if I’m wrong here, I am not a constitutional scholar, but: I thought constitutions were for guaranteeing rights, not for taking them away.

Despite that I do understand what people say about the threat of gay marriage, I don’t really understand. I just don’t. Why? Why why why are we so threatening? On bad days – like this one, when literally millions of people voted against my very personal right, my very personal decision to get married – my heart fills up with emotion and I feel like a little kid after another kid yells, “I HATE YOU!” My eyes well up. I didn’t do anything to you. Just – why?

Here’s what gay marriage is: it’s commitment. Building a family, possibly taking care of children, or dogs or cats or hamsters or fish. Finding someone to share your life with. Taking care of each other. Being better together than you are alone.

And here’s what gay marriage is: love.

The simple act of loving another person. Maybe I forget how difficult love is for so many of us. Maybe I’m forgetting that love is often beaten out of us before we are even able to critically think about the world around us, just by nature of growing up in this culture. It really is revolutionary, isn’t it? Just the act of who I love could change the world, and is changing politics.

Despite my frustration at the horrible steps back that we are taking, there is hope. There is change happening.

Obama’s acceptance speech was especially moving. He slipped “gay” right in there with that long list of American identity descriptors – “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” – as if it belonged. As if it was no better or worse than any of those other things.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

(Full text of Obama’s presidential acceptance speech here, though I do suggest watching the video – he is such an impressive orator.)

I just have to keep remembering: let the soft animal of my body love what it loves. I can do that. I have to do that. I will do that, despite that my government says it’s not good enough. I know, I really do know, underneath it all, under the pink of my skin, in the nest of my heart, that it is enough – that I am enough – that we, my beautiful community, are enough.


UPDATE, 7pm EST: I know, I know, it’s not completely 100% official yet: the No on Prop 8 folks haven’t given up, and a recount has been demanded. But last count, Yes on 8 was ahead 400,000 votes. Not an easy thing to make up.

Legal Groups File Lawsuit Challenging Proposition 8, Should It Pass: “The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a writ petition before the California Supreme Court today urging the court to invalidate Proposition 8 if it passes. The petition charges that Proposition 8 is invalid because the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the constitution’s core commitment to equality for everyone by eliminating a fundamental right from just one group — lesbian and gay Californians.”

Also: There’s a protest rally tonight in West Hollywood: We Shall Not Be Overlooked. Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 7:00pm – 10:00pm, San Vicente Blvd between West Hollywood Park and the Pacific Design Center (647 N San Vincente Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA).

8against8: Ruby and Ami

Ruby & Ami, Seattle, August 2006.
Because along as gay marriage is outlawed, only outlaws will have gay marriages.

Some text by the ever-charming Ruby & Ami, from their website about their wedding (because they’re geeks, duh), Outlaw Wedding:

Ruby: I mean, have you ever been so, so excited about something that you couldn’t hardly keep it to yourself? Well, that’s what this is all about.

This is Ami typing, and I just have to say that I have found one of the most beautiful, smart, funny, challenging, compassionate, irresistible, warm and kind people on this earth. Her name is Ruby, and I’m going to marry her. Every day I have a little moment where I let myself be floored for a second by how much she brings to my life, how much I look forward to getting to see what happens next, and how impossibly lucky I must be to get this much out of life. Alright, alright, enough of the schmoopies- you single folk out there: quit ch’er groanin’, and get yourself to our wedding and get laid. We know the greatest people, OMG! There’s something for everyone in this event, my dearies. Let’s have a magical evening together!

Ruby here. Isn’t she great? That’s really how she talks to me — so sweet. We spend a lot of time grinning at each other. We argue about who’s luckier (and I know I’m right — it’s me).

PS – I hear they are having a baby! Congrats, Ruby & Ami!!

8against8: Stephanie and Denise


Photos from Stephanie & Denise’s wedding, Oct 11th 2008 in Yosemite.

They sent me that first one, the other two I swiped from their family blog, which includes this description:

Read by Denise, to Stephanie: “Our life is full of conversations spanning commutes and gazes spanning evenings. I’m a person of action. I try to show my commitment to you every day by loving you with everything I have, and I will continue this for the rest of our days.”

Read by Stephanie, to Denise: “To quote one of my favorite authors, ‘Today I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself: as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you.’ …And as we stand here this morning, I am overwhelmed by the journey that’s brought us to this moment, and honored to be your partner, your best friend, your wife, on the journey that stretches out before us.”

8against8: Clare and Jack

Clare & Jack, September 2008.

Says Clare: “I am wearing a vintage dress and hat from the 30’s (note the vintage strappy heels as well ;), my daughter is wearing a vintage dress from the 50’s and Jack in wearing a super-fly new suit (yum!) . We have some domestic partner benefits here, and we creep closer and closer to legalization every year In Washington state, but we are not legal yet. Hopefully it will move up the coast from California.”

8against8: Holden and Femme

Femme is my Gender and Holden from Packing Vocals

Says Femme: “It was August 21st 2004, and getting married? It was (and is) fucking fabulous! The best day EVER. We had a churchful of family and friends cheering us on which was incredibly special. The public statement was infinitely more important than either of us had realised it would be. We would (and will) do it again in a heartbeat. Of course, it would be wonderful to be able to do it legally.”

8against8: Did we vote on YOUR marriage?

From the creator:

This is a personal video I made showcasing some of the best video clips and images since gay marriage became legal in California.

In May of 2008, the Supreme Court of California ruled the state was unconstitutionally discriminating against same-sex couples by denying them the “fundamental right to form of a family relationship”: i.e. MARRIAGE.

However, in November 3 states, including California and Arizona will be voting on amending their state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. Florida’s ban would go further, and threaten domestic partnerships for unmarried couples, even if they’re heterosexual.

All of the images and video clips were from California… however, gay rights groups in either of the 3 states would surely appreciate any donation possible.

8 Against 8: 8 lesbian bloggers – 8 days – raising as much money as we can to defeat Proposition 8 in California. Vote NO on Prop 8!

8against8: Saving Marriage (documentary)

Saving Marriage film trailer:

About the film, from Saving Marriage (the movie) website:

Masschusetts is First

In a historic decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court makes that state the first in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

That puts Massachusetts at the front lines in a war now raging throughout America. On one side are those who believe marriage is a civil right that all couple should have. On the other are people who believe it is a sacred institution reserved for a man and a woman.

Both sides believe they are right. And both sides believe they are saving marriage.

The Political Firestorm

The court ruling allowing gay marriage causes a public outcry that pushes legislators to propose a constitutional amendment that would override the decision and take gay marriage away. Suddenly, the lawmakers find themselves enmeshed in a passionate debate pitting civil rights against tradition.

On the day of the vote, just a few feet from the legislative chamber, thousands of demonstrators from both sides pack the Statehouse to capacity, screaming and singing until they have no voices left. Thousands more spill outside.

At midnight, when legislators cast their vote, the gay marriage advocates suffer a crushing defeat, as the amendment is approved by a razor-thin margin. Gay marriage is one step closer to being made illegal again.

The Fight Continues

But there is still hope. To become law, the amendment must withstand a second vote in eighteen months. For everyday people, the political has become personal, and they intensify their efforts to defeat the amendment.

Two months later, and many months before the second vote is held, the court’s decision goes into effect. Gay and lesbian couples begin marrying all over Massachusetts, even though the pending amendment means their legal status remains in jeopardy.

Overnight, married gay couples become a reality, and people in this small New England state begin to re-examine how they view same-sex relationships.


I haven’t actually seen this film – if you’ve seen it, please do leave a comment and what you thought about it, or write it up on your blog and leave a link.

8 Against 8: 8 lesbian bloggers – 8 days – raising as much as it takes to defeat Proposition 8 in California. Vote NO on Proposition 8!

8against8: Tying the Knot (documentary)

This is part a series (2 of 3) of trailers & write-ups about documentary films about gay marriage.

Watch the trailer for the Tying the Knot documentary:

Reprinted from the Tying the Knot website:

When a bank robber’s bullet ends the life of police officer Lois Marrero, her wife of thirteen years, Mickie, is honored as her surviving spouse but denied all pension benefits. When Sam, an Oklahoma rancher, loses his beloved husband of 22 years, long-estranged cousins of his late spouse try to lay claim to everything Sam has. As Mickie and Sam’s lives are put on trial, they are forced to confront the tragic reality that in the eyes of the law their marriages mean nothing. From an historical trip to the Middle Ages, to gay hippies storming the Manhattan marriage bureau in 1971, Tying the Knot digs deeply into the past and present to uncover the meaning of civil marriage in America today.

TYING THE KNOT is a journey through 5,000 years of history with marriage in mind. Didn’t princes and princesses used to live happily ever after? Author EJ Graff corrects some myths and fairy tales that the Extreme Right has been spinning as of late.

For example, did you know:
• Marriage has been a constant battleground and has changed many times to reflect the values of society?
• Marriage had no religious significance even in the Catholic Church until the Middle Ages?
• Protestant churches have split a number of times over issues related to marriage?

Are these quotes from the 2004 Republican National Convention?
• “This sort of marriage is not in the best interest of children.”
• “God has a plan for marriage and this isn’t it.”
• “Allowing this kind of marriage will pave the way for all sorts of moral depravity.”

In fact, these arguments were made about marriage between a man and a woman. In TYING THE KNOT civil rights attorney Evan Wolfson tells the love story of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, who fought a long battle with the Commonwealth of Virginia for the right to marry. The year was 1962. Mildred was black and Richard was white, but their loving lives together were anything but simple.


I haven’t actually seen this film – if you’ve seen it, please do leave a comment and what you thought about it, or write it up on your blog and leave a link.

8 Against 8: 8 lesbian bloggers – 8 days – raising as much as it takes to defeat Proposition 8 in California. Vote NO on Proposition 8!

8against8: I Can’t Marry You (documentary)

This is a series (1 of 3) of trailers & write-ups about documentary films about gay marriage. There is a lot of information out there, a lot of activism happening around this issue, so much organizing. I’m getting overwhelmed researching it all. I’m trying to pass on the best stuff during this 8 Against 8 campaign.

I Can’t Marry You film trailer:

From the I Can’t Marry You website:

The 2003 documentary “I Can’t Marry You,” narrated by host Betty DeGeneres, explores same-sex marriage issues through the personal experiences of twenty gay and lesbian couples who have been in long-term relationships of 10-55+ years. Their poignant and powerful testimonies put faces to, and actual examples of, the painful impact of discrimination on our daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, parents, aunts and uncles, loyal friends, coworkers and tax paying neighbors.

This one-hour program features interviews with:
The twenty couples, their parents and children; Evan Wolfson, the prominent civil rights attorney of Freedom to Marry; John J. McNeill, Former Jesuit Priest and author of “The Church and the Homosexual;” Adam Aronson, of Lambda Legal; and the leaders of the New York Christian Coalition.

Filmmaker, Catherine Gray created this documentary to educate her own gay constituency about the importance of having these rights and to show us that gay and lesbian couples can have healthy, committed long-term relationships. She believes that education is the only way to affect change and win this civil right.

Gray shot the film in large and small cities across the country, including: New York City; Saugatuck, Michigan; Asheville, North Carolina; San Francisco; Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida. She felt it was important to represent diverse couples that vary considerably by age, ethnicity, religious and educational backgrounds.

Our film debuted in New York City at the GLBT Community Center to a sellout crowd.

“I Can’t Marry You” would not have been possible without the support of many individuals and organizations who gave their support, including: Human Rights Campaign, GLAD and Marriage Equality. Unfortunately, until the laws in our country change, marriage for same-sex couples is still a dream.

Buy “I Can’t Marry You” at Wolfe Video, top gay/lesbian-owned exclusive LGBT distributor of films, DVDs, and videos.


I haven’t actually seen this film – if you’ve seen it, please do leave a comment and what you thought about it, or write it up on your blog and leave a link.

8 Against 8: 8 lesbian bloggers – 8 days – raising as much as it takes to defeat Proposition 8 in California. Vote NO on Proposition 8!

Marriage is so gay*

Last week, I dreamt of my future wife.

That’s a strange thing to write down and admit, actually, especially publically; but I thought exactly that when I woke: that was my future wife. I still know exactly how she tasted, smelled, how her waist felt in my arms.

I’m not sure how I feel about marriage, really. My mom has always said I should wait until I’m 30 to get married, and thinks too many people get married too young. I don’t really think the government should have anything to do with my personal relationships, and I don’t think the government should value certain kinds of relationships over others – one man + one woman? What about a triad, a lesbian couple, co-habiting straight men? Who cares how people make a household work, as long as they do?

But: I do believe in commitment, in stating publically that you love someone, in gathering friends & family in a ceremony that celebrates and affirms the difficulty, the support, the community around a relationship.

Since I came to be aware of the inequalities of queer relationships in the eyes of the law in, oh, I don’t know, high school? middle school?, it has just been a given that I couldn’t “actually” get married.

“Whatever,” I told myself. “Like I would get married anyway. Like I want The Church + The State involved in My Relationship.”

And the activist circles I ran in were skeptical of marriage as The Gay Rights Issue: “There is so much to be done!” we argued. “Marriage is such an issue of privilege. What about hate crime legislation, discrimination policies for the workplace, queer homeless youth, AIDS, suicide rates, the drinking/drug problems in the queer communities? What about foster kids and adoption and simply BEING KILLED because of gender and sexual orientation? What about cissexism and trans advocacy?”

Unfortunately, the momentum of queer activism isn’t necessarily in the radical queer youth & college students – it’s with the money. And mostly-white mostly-middle-class homos have already decided what The Gay Issue is: marriage.

It’s a symbol, really: not just a symbol for normalcy, but a symbol for a relationship. And that’s what is at the heart of this movement, the heart of the difference in sexual orientation: the right and ability to choose whom we love, with whom we partner.

While my personal beliefs are still a bit more radical than that, I’ve studied the history of social change enough to know that chnage happens gradually, in pockets, a little bit at a time. I also feel like gay marriage activism is a limited scope – like aiming for the mountaintop instead of the sky – because it still defines marriage as two people, right, we’re still talking about working within the monogamy system here. So while many of our poly friends are going “rah rah gay marriage! And PS, what about us?” the gay marriage activits are kind of saying, “Shhh, we can’t talk about your issues right now.”

But then again, it’s easier to go little-by-little than to overhaul the whole system. It’s a classic social change model conflict – after observing a system of oppression, do we a) work from within it to attempt to change it, or b) throw it out completely and start over? My radicalism wants marriage to be thrown out. I mean really, what good is it? But I feel the same way about other institutions that seem to matter to some feminist theorists and reclaimists, such as Christianity. I don’t personally have any investment in the system of Christianity, so I can’t imagine going inside of it to fix and change the oppression and hierarchical marginalizing structures that are in place – but others do have that investment, and are doing the work to include women in clergy, to research the history of more women saints, of queer history in the church, etc. Lesbian and feminist priests and nuns and churchgoers – what they find in the practice must be worth the work of reclaiming and rebuilding, for them.

Actually, I can draw a parallel here: for me, it is language. I am a poet at heart and never cannot be. People ask me why I use language they deem offensive – dyke, fag, pussy, cunt, slut, butch, femme, queer – and I try to explain it is because I love these words. As if they were delicate glass boxes filled with mud, I pick them up from being buried in the compost heap and wash them, dig the dirt from their creases, make their silver shine, make them see-through again. I am invested in the system of language, even though within it -built into the very makeup – is a hierarchy that says certain people are better, best.

Which brings me to my next point: words. Of course “marriage” is not the same thing as “civil union” or “domestic partnership” – the words are different. “Beautiful” is not the same thing as “cute” or “gorgeous” or “attractive” or “stunning” or “elegant” or “handsome,” right? Those all have slightly different connotations, even if their definitions are overlapping and very similar.

I am a poet. I’ve worked hard to say that sentence. I eat words for breakfast and fall asleep with book after book open on my pillow. I theorize language and meaning and definitions and semantics, revive words that are suffering, influse love and equality and value where I can.

It doesn’t matter how many rights there are in a “civil union” or “domestic partnership,” they will never be marriage, because they are not the same word.

Period.

Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

It is the difference between fire, and a firefly.

Words are not some static, fixed thing. They are living, they have lives and evolutions, they are manifestations of the culture from where they come, in which they are used. We can change them. They do change and evolve and grow to suit the needs of culture – they reflect a culture, but they also shape a culture. A new concept, term, or phrase can define a movement, a change, activism.

Researching all this information about the state of gay marriage in my country recently has really got me thinking about my own future. I don’t come from a very traditional family, I’ve never thought I would have a very traditional wedding – bridesmaids, groomsmen, white dress, any of that. I’ve received some amazing, beautiful, moving photographs from queers over the last few days, and I find a part of me is craving to have some beautiful party, some celebration, where my love and I can costume up and wear cool clothes and be surrounded by our friends looking dashing.

So I have some ideas forming about what I’d do for my own ceremony. No real dealbreakers, just ideas that I like. Although I am really attached to the idea that our first dance would be choreographed – let’s hope my future wife knows how to swing. (Let’s also hope next time I’ll dream her phone number or URL, so I’ll figure out how to contact her.)


* I hate this common use of “gay” and not infrequently call people on it when I hear them say it. But the tension in this sentence – calling marriage “gay” – cracks me up. Kind of like the bumper sticker I saw at Little Sister’s Bookstore in Vancouver, BC many years ago, which read, “Straight people are so gay.” Hah!

8 Against 8: 8 bloggers – 8 days – as much money as we can raise to defeat Proposition 8 in California. Vote no on Prop 8!

8against8: Ariel and Amy

A couple photos from Ariel Levy’s wedding to Amy Norquist, as published in New York Magazine.

The accompanying article is The Lesbian Bride’s Handbook by Ariel Levy, and discusses Ariel’s process going up to the wedding, especially in buying the wedding dress.

And yes, this is kind of gratuitous eye candy, but I just adore that photograph of Ariel & Amy, they look so happy and so beautiful. (I also really love the idea of wearing a white suit at my own wedding.)

8against8 – 8 bloggers, 8 days, $8,000 – Vote NO on Proposition 8

8against8: Julie and Nikola

Your musical interlude during this week of activism against Proposition 8 is Comedian Julie Goldman’s music video “Commitment Ceremony.”

This so cracks me up. So clever, and such a subtle way to point out how commitment ceremonies are inherently unequal.

Comedian Julie Goldman married Nikola Smith in 2005 in Massachusetts, which, aside from California and Connecticut, also grants same-sex marriage rights.

(photo from Go Magazine)

… If you think Julie is hot and funny (and, uh, who wouldn’t?), also check out a great clip of her stand-up routine where she talks about shopping for her wedding.

8against8: Ellen & Portia

Not that this is news, but Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi married in August this year, and Ellen has, for the first time, been a bit political about GBLT issues on her show, taking out ads like this one above urging people to VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 8.

If you haven’t seen the video clips of their wedding that Ellen played on her show, I highly suggest it. It makes me really teary every time. They are so in love, and their moms are so sweet, and the wedding just looks stunning. As a Hollywood LA wedding should be, I suppose.

8against8 – 8 bloggers, 8 days, $8000 – vote NO on Proposition 8

8against8: Del & Phyllis

What a better place to start on the 8against8 activist week than to highlight the first lesbian couple to be wed in California after the state’s Supreme Court overturned the ban on same-sex marriage in May of 2008. In June, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were legally wed after being together for over fifty years.

UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy projected in June 2008 that about half of California’s more than 100,000 same-sex couples will wed during the next three years and 68,000 out-of-state couples will travel to California to exchange vows. (via Wikipedia)

Del and Phyllis met in 1952 and were founding members of the Daughters of Bilitis, the US’s first lesbian group, who also published a magazine called The Ladder (you can stop by the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn to see all the old issues of The Ladder). There’s a great video of Del & Phyllis speaking about the DOB on YouTube, please do check it out.

More information at their wikipedia page and also in the documentary film No Secret Anymore: The Times of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, which looks like it’s replayed on PBS on occasion. (It looks like the New York Public Library might have copies, but you can’t actually check them out. I’d really love to see this – if anyone knows how to get hold of a copy, please do let me know.)

Below is a video clip of their exchange of vows.

Del Martin is a bit of butch eye candy herself … there’s a sort of a sneer to her smile, isn’t there? I can’t quite place it but I can sense it. Del died in August 2008 in San Francisco, with her wife by her side. She was 87.

As a budding young activist and baby dyke, discovering the stories of Del and Phyllis were profoundly moving for me… I remember staring at their reproduced black & white photographs in lesbian history books and being profoundly grateful for all they had endured, incredibly sad for the bigotry they experienced, deeply moved by their perseverance and dedication, so relieved that I live in a better time – a culture that tolerates (if not occasionally celebrates) my gender identity, my sexual orientation, and even my history, where my particular subculture came from. There are so many scholars and activists out there doing work on the history of the queer activist movements in the US, and looking through some of Del and Phyllis’s stories always reminds me how recent so much of this history was made.

I know, I’m young, it’s true; I’m 29. I’ve been blessed to grow up in quite a gay-tolerant culture. I look at gay & lesbian activist history in the 50s and 60s and I see my own history, my own legacy, my own inheritance. I’m thrilled to have shoulders like Del and Phyllis to stand on, and to stand up for. I’m so, so glad that they were legally married before Del passed away, so glad they got to witness the beginnings of the legalization of gay marriage in this country.

This history isn’t over yet, though. This is a living history, history with a pulse and breath, with driving activism forces behind it. We are changing things – we already have.

8 Against 8 – 8 bloggers, 8 days, $8,000 – vote NO on Proposition 8

Vote NO on Prop 8

8against8 – 8 bloggers, 8 days, $8,000 – Vote No on Proposition 8!

This marks the beginning of 8 Against 8, where 8 lesbian blogs are writing for 8 days against Proposition 8 in California which would render same-sex marriage illegal and raising a goal of $8,000 to defeat the initiative.

Aside from me, the other 7 bloggers participating in this 8 Against 8 are Grace Chu and Grace Rosen at Grace The Spot, Lori Hahn at Hahn At Home, Kelly Leszczynski at The Lesbian Lifestyle, Dorothy Snarker at Dorothy Surrenders, Pam Spaulding at Pam’s House Blend, Riese at This Girl Called Automatic Win, and Renee Gannon at Lesbiatopia.

In addition to California’s Proposition 8 on the ballot in just a few weeks, Florida has Amendment 2 and Arizona has Proposition 102, both of which would amend their state constitutions to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Arkansas also has Act 1 on the ballot, which would forbid gay and lesbian parents – and any unmarried parents – from adopting children.

Every day during 8 against 8 I’ll be featuring some different things against the initiative. Donate some funds NOW, talk to everyone you know about voting in this year’s election (regardless of their location), urge your Californian friends and family and lovers to VOTE NO on Proposition 8.

8against8 – 8 blogs, 8 days, $8,000 – VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 8

brief celebreality moment

I can’t resist. I don’t go much for celebreality but I remember watching Ellen’s old sitcom, I remember what a big deal it was when she came out, I love that she’s got her own daytime show now. We need images, ya know? We need representations of ourselves.

(Also, I’m still a bit obsessed with Josh Radin. I even dragged the Muse to see him perform last month. I can’t believe they flew him in to perform that song, it was so lovely.)

Okay, you are now returned to your regularly scheduled Sugarbutch Chronicles.