Unholy Matrimony: A Lesbian’s Quest for Marriage
I am head over heels in love with my girlfriend. We’re perfect for each other. She’s stubborn, sarcastic, nerdy, hard-working, brave, beautiful, and hilarious. She’s a wonderful dog parent, an excellent big sister, and makes the most amazing grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had.
While marriage isn’t for everyone, and definitely shouldn’t be the only focus of the gay rights movement, I’d like to marry her one day. I’ve given her a not-quite ultimatum that if her wanderlust heart calls her to move us both out of state, she has to marry me first. That definitely seems rational, considering that gay couples traveling out of state and out of the country face a lot of scary, uniquely annoying issues. While even a legal U.S. wedding between us wouldn’t be recognized everywhere, and there are places where we could be imprisoned for being gay, a marriage certificate definitely offers us a level of protection that a domestic partnership does not.
I, like many other girls, grew up daydreaming about my perfect wedding. Weirdly enough, even with my misguided celebrity crushes like Lord of the Rings era Orlando Bloom and (don’t judge me) Lance Bass, I never saw a husband. I envisioned maybe getting married in my great-aunt’s secret garden, or in the middle of a cobblestone street in Paris, or on horseback on a mountain right by the beach. I was around 12 when I finally realized why I never wanted to marry a boy. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to get married, it was because I wanted to marry another girl.
Those daydreams became more beautiful, more vivid, as my crushes shifted and suddenly I was marrying Clea Duvall or Liv Tyler or Molly Ringwald. Sometimes I was in suits, sometimes they were. Even then, it felt wrong. I felt like those daydreams were sinful or weird or dirty. While my mom wasn’t particularly religious, I was raised in Southern Baptist churches and was told explicitly from a very young age that liking the same sex was wrong and bad.
I eventually left the church, and I have since established a very unique and wonderful connection with higher powers and spirituality. My girlfriend, similarly, grew up Catholic and is still connected to her spiritual roots but we’ve both made peace with our own spiritualities.
We want to get married. So I started doing research. I am bewildered by how many wedding traditions are explicitly for straight, cisgender couples. Even the playful smooshing of the wedding cake into the bride’s face was originally a tradition in which the wedding cake was broken over the bride’s head to ensure fertility. Since my girlfriend and I plan to have an absurd amount of dogs and I am infertile, thanks to my endometriosis, I’m not really concerned with fertility.
Having two brides in a wedding has brought up so many questions. Who is going to carry whom over the threshold? Who’s going to wear a dress? I want to wear a suit and a dress. She might want to do the same. What will the ordained minister say? I now pronounce you wife and…wife? Partners for life? Official Gal Pals? The challenges of planning a gay wedding go on and on and on. Even my straight friends who have gotten married have had massive planning issues. Being both gay and only kind of religious and really, really specific about our interests just complicates it further.
On top of that, the complications that come with homophobia, especially where we live in the South, come into play. I know for a fact my father would never come to the wedding, let alone walk be down the aisle. I’m not even sure if I’d invite him, because what if he did decide to come? Some of my family didn’t even blink when I came out, they were totally unphased. Some of my family followed it with a blank stare and a “well, we love you but we don’t accept your lifestyle choices, so we’ll pray for you.” Some just flat-out disowned me.
There’s a myriad of family complications that come with planning an event like this. Do I invite family I know won’t attend? Should I invite family I think might attend but will definitely be uncomfortable the entire time? What about family who will come and be polite, but I know in private they condemn my way of living and actively pray that I magically turn straight?
What about finding venues? I think I might want an outdoor wedding, but what about my friends who have always dreamed of being married in a church? Since discrimination is still very much legal against gay couples, there’s no way to know if I could even find a church or minister that wanted to marry us. It’s extremely disheartening to know that businesses have a right to refuse to take my money because of who I fall in love with, based on “religious freedom” to do so. The same bible verses that got thrown at me in Christian school and made me suicidal because of how different I was are now being spoken at conventions by lawmakers in my country, demanding that businesses have the right to refuse me.
Movers and shakers
It’s easy for my straight friends and family to forget exactly how dangerous it still is to be LGBTQ in this world. As a white woman, I am dramatically more protected than my friends of color. The violence against trans women, especially trans women of color, is horrifying. One in every 2,600 trans women is murdered every year. Five states in the U.S., including Georgia, where I live, do not have state hate crime laws, making it much easier for perpetrators of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes to get away with their violence. Study after study has shown that LGBT people are much more likely to face police brutality and violence, so even when we are victims of crimes, we are less likely to report those crimes to police.
There are a ton of organizations and activists working every day towards a future that is safer, brighter, and more open for LGBT people. Raquel Willis, activist and writer, is an inspiring voice for a generation of movers, shakers, and world-makers. Without trans women of color, I wouldn’t even be able to write this article about planning a gay wedding.
Liberators like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera paved the way for LGBT rights during the Stonewall Riots, but are continually erased from history. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project helps poor and at-risk LGBT people of color get access to housing, hormones, legal protection, and supportive communities. SAGE USA is an organization created for the protection of LGBT senior citizens and the elderly, an often-forgotten community that paved the way for me to be able to hold my girlfriend’s hand in public. Lambda Legal works tirelessly to preserve and fight for rights for all LGBT people in all kinds of situations.
This world can be scary and sad for a lot of reasons, but I am continually inspired by my friends, my comrades, my peers, my teachers, and my chosen family. We work, we sing, we dance, we write, we cry, we fight for equality. We make films, we write poems, we create. Janet Mock said it best in her book, Redefining Realness:
I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.
So here I am, a twenty-something millennial, a lesbian, a writer, a mentally and chronically ill advocate. And I’m in love.
One day, I’ll marry my wife.
We’ll figure out who gets to walk down the aisle first later on. Maybe we’ll arm wrestle for it.