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That dweam wivvin a dweam

I know many Gentle Readers follow the marriage equality doings with some avidity; if you are one of them and haven’t seen it, it’s worth reading Edmund White’s CiF note over at the Grauniad.

I remember (he says, feeling old) the stuff he talks about, when he says Originally I was opposed to gay assimilation and targeted gay marriage as just another effort on the part of gays to resemble their straight neighbours. There was certainly a sense, in San Francisco in 1992, that marriage was the problem, not the solution. And, to some extent at any rate, it was a legitimate tribal thing: the push for marriage equality was from some conservative types who seemed a lot like the types who accused the more flamboyant queens of flaunting it. There was a ton of exclusionary shit going on, and there were people dying (I remember standing on the corner of Mission and Castro and thinking: half) and besides, there was no way marriage equality would happen anyway. So when Mr. White says he has evolved as well, in fact, so have I. Not that I was part of the excluded flaunters (I’m not even homosexual, to be frank) but that I sided with the flaunters in the tribal split against Andrew Sullivan and his ilk. Who were, as it turns out, correct—the push for marriage equality (and military equality) led to broader acceptance of homosexuality (and to a lesser extent, broader acceptance of bisexuality and transgender) even as it successfully gained many legal rights for many people. So there’s that.

But it’s Mr. White’s final statement I found really moving: I’ve started looking at him in a different way, knowing that we’ll soon be legally joined together; marriage is such a powerful symbol, it’s bound to affect even such reluctant grooms as us.

Marriage as an institution has some problems. OK, it has a lot of problems. There’s the patriarchy, for one thing. There’s fucked-up-ness about sex. There’s some financial shit, including bizarre insurance-related incentives. There are ways in which the institution of marriage works against communitarianism, particularly in child-rearing. There’s a crazy, destructive and rapacious wedding industry. There are the stories girls are told and tell themselves about the purpose of their lives being marriage, or even being a wedding. There are people who get trapped in loveless or even violent marriages, and the institution includes hindrances to escaping them. So, yes, there are problems.

And yet. Even acknowledging the problems, marriage is a strange and wondrous thing. The deliberate joining of people together to make an irrevocable family (for whatever value of irrevocable you wish to discuss). The sheer ontological status of it. Two people making one… marriage.

Perhaps it’s that my own marriage has been so good; direct experience of a thing does tend to trump institutional analysis. Or perhaps it’s just age, bringing me around to a tempered appreciation of an institution despite its flaws. After all, I had direct experience of my parents’ successful marriage (in its sixth decade now) long before I traduced the institution as a twenty-something bachelor, back in the San Francisco Nineties abovementioned. Or maybe it’s a tribal thing again, only as a married, suburban homeowner with two children and a lawn mower, I’m in the other tribe. I don’t think that’s it altogether—if you are flaunting it, keep flaunting it, you’re still heroes—but sure, that could be part of it, too. Or, maybe, it’s just that marriage really is that powerful, both as a symbol and as an actual thing.

I’m just saying. It makes me happy that Edmund White is able to marry his partner, and that the marriage means something, even to him.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

Awesome. :) A few months ago I was reading a book of interviews with gay porn writers that was done in the early 90s, and they referred back to that argument as well--I had completely forgotten that gay marriage was a) being mentioned when we got out of college and b) that there was a sizable chunk of the community that said No Way, we don't want that...

However, at the church business meeting I was at yesterday a couple of us were discussing Obama's statement and all that--one of my friends who is about 75 years old and living with her girlfriend definitely does NOT want to marry her partner, she thinks marriage is for the birds, a heterosexual model that needs serious re-working if it is going to apply to same-gender relationships; but she was ecstatic that he finally came out and SAID it.

And the grandmother sitting behind us whipped out pictures of her grandkids to show us, that her son and his husband in DC had begotten with an egg donor. Everybody oohed and aahed (and they were cute ;).

It was, again, awesome. :)


Look, i've got nothing against the flaunters --- they did, after all, lay the groundwork for a lot of things i take advantage of.

And you're right about the communitarianism problem, and it's a crying shame...

And you just said you've changed your mind, so what am i going on about...

But i've never been comfortable with the idea of having a relationship be a political statement. Maybe that says more about my politics than about my relationships (and also i'm totally unfairly brushing under the rug all the issues straight people have combating gender norms, and those are numerous too). But the flaunters don't fit my headspace at all --- i'd very cheerfully rather do whatever i'm doing pretty quietly, thanks. Freedom includes the freedom to be conventional in one's tastes.

So i definitely remember when the flaunters were the only game in town, and i am really glad those days are over, thanks all the same.


the only game in town

This is really important, something to remember about all of this—it's hugely important that Andrew Sullivan and his tribe have made a tremendous achievement in making homosexuality a much broader thing, culturally, than the boas/motorbikes sub-counterculture that seemed, for a while, the Way to be Gay. And it's hugely important not to mistake the Sullivan-esque idea of married, suburban household, 2.5 kids, PTO, Roth IRA, button-down life for the Way to be Gay, either.

Or the way to be straight.

The achievement is expanding the ways, not in changing them.

Thanks,
-V.


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