“jenny’s wedding” & why i am not entirely happy about the legalization of same sex marriage

“What do I want? What does everyone want? To get married.”

This is Jenny’s response to her father in Jenny’s Wedding when he asks her what she wants. It’s an intimate moment between the two of them. She expresses her true feelings. She simply wishes to be heard and accepted.

The moment is sweet. I find the message sweet, as well. Saccharine, to be precise. Because the truth is, even as a queer woman, this answer does not fit me. Perhaps it does for most, or many, female bodied folk that have a preference for females (in addition or instead of males). But I remember feeling near traitorous for not embracing this as a main platform idea of many LBGTQ groups. Back then, I had no words to describe why. I just felt…left out. Now I realize it’s because I felt pressured to engage in a social norm because society told me it legitimized my relationships. Not because I chose it freely for myself.

And I don’t know when this shift happened, but somewhere, to me, it felt less like, “Let’s give some people the basic rights that anyone else has,” and more “Queer people have real relationships, too, so they should be able to show the world through marriage.” As if we didn’t get enough of the message that marriage meant a relationship was real. That marriage is what everyone wants who is “serious” about love and romance.

Marriage isn’t for everyone, so please, let’s stop acting like this is the, or even a, defining moment for the LGBTQ community.

Marriage has never been, to me, that ultimate beacon of light. Just the other day, my partner’s ex wife asked me, “Why don’t you get married?,” in an actual gentle tone. It surprised me. Why would she- the woman who went to absurd lengths to get rid of me, including lying to her children, presumably to get them to force me out- encourage me to have a “permanant” attachment to him (assuming she was sincere in her words)? Of course my parents asked me (I say this knowing that not every parent asks the question, and thanks so much for that!) But I think she’s just still genuinely confused. For her, marriage is everything.

I didn’t jump for joy when marriage equality became reality. I did not experience elation. Or much of anything. I kind of felt like this (Reporter: “You seem excited [about gay marriage passing]!” Gay man: “Do…do..we seem excited?”).

It’s nice to get the rights that every other couple has had since interracial marriage became legalized. But the fact is it doesn’t help all of us. Even when it does benefit some of us (like myself), I still don’t like how it’s seen as the One Twue Way. I don’t like anything being the one and only way to do something.

And what of the queer community in general?

I’ve had conversations with friends and strangers alike. I’m not the only person with the LGBTQ community who’s felt squicky over the pressure to make marriage the priority on the “gay agenda.” (Is that what the gay agenda is…?)

When I speak to my friends or when I listen to what people are saying, marriage doesn’t always fit their stories. I may be wrong, but non monogamy seems to be the norm, rather than the exception, in the gay male community in particular. Not only that, but many- not all- have agreed with my nagging suspicion that the messaging of the marriage equality movement seemed to advocate for queer folk to be more like straight people.

“If you marry, well, it’s not living in sin. You see, if you don’t legalize this, than what choice do they have but to live these outlandish lifestyles where they have to sleep around without the sancity of marriage? Having massive orgies. Deviant sex parties. Let them marry.” Leaving off the unspoken, just like straight people.”

None of the bullet points in my self-created gay agend are, “Live a life that is more like straight people.” As a bisexual woman, I am attracted to a larger percentage of the population. I love that about me. The numbers alone are in my favor, why would I limit myself to only half of what might fulfill me?…and I could on and on here, but I’ll save that for another day.

I never got swept away in the movement, and, frankly, a large part of it is that I don’t think every queer person wishes to get married. Certainly I’ve never felt it necessary (though I do like the idea of a wedding and a white gown!)

Perhaps it’s merely the idea of marriage that I would want to change, not the structure.

I may be too harsh against marriage. Against the good that the leadership of the queer community is striving to achieve. I’ll be honest, I rarely am impressed by the little bit of an “agenda” they usually have, but whatever. It’s not all about me.

Perhaps marriage, too, isn’t merely for the straight, white, monogamous folk anymore. Maybe it’s not about sexual and romantic exclusivity. Maybe marriage is more inclusive than I feel. But if this is the case, then let’s talk about it openly. Let’s not pretend the institute of marriage is a moral superiority or sacred. Let’s have movies where the open marriage is merely a background description, not the focus of the film; or the plot is a love story that culminates, not in a church wedding- with all the implications of the legalities behind it- but a handfasting. A wedding of two or more people, after all, may truly be spiritual.

At any rate, we need much, much more than Jenny’s Wedding. We need more than two women in love should marry. Because maybe they should. And maybe they shouldn’t.

Or, in other words, you can’t do anything without offending someone– including myself. I can’t seem to leave anyone off the hook, can I? Ah, well. Take me or leave me, right?

It’s just something to think about.

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