They say that every little girl dreams of her wedding day. I didn’t. I dreamed of spaceships and faraway planets, about eking out a life on deserted islands, about robots and post-apocalyptic worlds and deep-sea diving. A wedding wasn’t a dream come true for me. Not like the first time I strapped myself into SCUBA gear and slipped into another world.
While I’ve changed a lot from that little girl who dreamed of outer space and deep-sea exploration, I’m not much different in many ways. I still dream of exploration and discovery. Every time a plane I’m on takes off I’m still secretly thrilled. And though I don’t get to dive as much as I’d like, I still soak up everything I can learn about the places I’ve never been. I still have lazy daydreams of Mars.
I was never a girl who dreamed of her wedding day. And while I can’t say that I’ve never daydreamed about promising to share my life with someone I love, getting married is still not the first thing on my bucket list. As a poly person, especially, it seems like the kind of thing I’d have to put an inordinate amount of deliberation into. How could I make a promise to one person knowing that it meant I could never promise the same thing to anyone else? How could I ask a partner to hold me above all others?
I’m not a woman who dreams about marriage. Sharing my life with my chosen family? Splendid! A great big party to celebrate the love that we share? Spiffing! But I’m not sure that marriage is for me*.
It still matters.
Whether I or you choose a particular thing or not there is something immensely important about the freedom to decide. Choosing to have children or not, to pursue a particular career or hobby or not. I’m immensely aware that, say, the freedom to choose a career is something that was for far too long circumscribed by gender. And that it’s still often circumscribed by class. Whether I want to be a carer or a chemist, to have no children or a dozen or just one or two, the ability to decide the course of my life can’t be overvalued. We have this one life. It’s the most precious thing we will ever have.
Choosing to share your life with another person or people is one of the most important things that any of us will do. We are what we think and feel, what we do, and the networks of people within which we live. Society isn’t something apart from all of that. It’s the sum of many smaller interconnected people and networks. It’s part of us. We’re all part of us. And whether we as a society value the ways that people choose to follow their hearts and live their lives matters.
Neither ‘tolerance’ nor ‘acceptance’
It is immensely important to me that my society can value what I- a childless, unmarried woman- contribute. It is immensely important to me that those choices are valued equally with the choices of others to have and raise children, to devote their time to caring for others. Sure, we can all just go ahead and do the things that we want to do regardless of the opinions of others. But the vast majority of us care what others think. Whether we like to admit it or not, the opinions of others matter to us. We do crave validation and respect. We don’t want our lives to be met with sidelong glances.
Even if I choose not to marry, being able to do so regardless of the gender of my partner(s) has huge symbolic value. Denial of marriage equality isn’t just saying that I can’t access a particular contract. It says directly that my society feels that there is something missing, something inferior about same-sex relationships.
Whether I choose to marry or not, I will not accept the profound insult inherent in this.
I want to know that even if I do not choose to marry, my relationships are valued equally regardless of the gender of my partner(s). I want to know that I live in a culture that does not merely tolerate or accept the love that I feel and the relationships that I build, but celebrates relationships regardless of gender. I want a culture that values everything from the tongue-tied nerves of giddy crushes to the sweet familiarity of years of devotion. I want a culture that celebrates what partnerships bring to our lives- love, support, joy, knowing that someone is on your side whatever you go through, deep understanding, working together for mutual happiness, strengthening ties, caring for others and so much more. I don’t want a culture that tolerates that. I want one that thinks it is bloody brilliant.
Marriage equality doesn’t mean that every person in the country celebrates love equally. But it means that enough people do that we have collectively decided to make a point of enshrining equality in our laws.
And that? Whether you or I or the person next to you marries or not, and whatever the gender of the person or people they love? That matters.
*of course, because I wrote this I’ll probably be merrily skipping down to the local city hall before you can say “eat my words”. Which is what you get for writing things on the internet.
- A Terribly Polite Homophobe (considertheteacosy.wordpress.com)
- When I Can’t Argue Inequality: Homophobia and vulnerability (considertheteacosy.wordpress.com)
- Equal Marriage (slideshare.net)
- In Pursuit of Justice In The Name of Love (gaygirlrevolution.com)
- Gay marriage bill ‘will ensure equal treatment’ for same-sex couples (itsjustawholeloadofjd.wordpress.com)