If this post makes sense to you, it will probably make sense to you, so I won’t bore you to death with the history of the marriage equality question here in Australia. But if it doesn’t make sense, please do some Googling and work out what’s going on here.
If you know me, however, you will probably know exactly how I feel about “gay marriage” and the various/attendant legal and social ramifications. So you will also know that as a woman, as a bisexual woman, as a feminist and as a person who just feels like life is too short to wait for the Liberal Party to approve your motherf*cking lifestyle choices, that I feel like most heteronormative, patriarchal, capitalist institutions can go screw themselves. I don’t want to waste my time on this any longer, I am too tired having fought to be a person in the world to wait for a wedding to tell me I am real and that the people I love have made my life purposeful and kind and worth living. I’ve never considered marriage equality the paramount political issue impacting my queer life, but it seems it is the order of the day, and I do enough tilting at windmills to resist weighing in.
But rather than make you wonder why this is even irritating me right now, I just want you to know how angry I am that we just don’t stop with this nonsense. Jeebus, even Buzzfeed knows you’re boring. Marriage equality already. Violence and inequality continue the world over, and this marriage business is #oldnews.
If you want to care about the ways in which people in Australia experience their lives as members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer community, there are a lot of important issues to care about and I would encourage you to consider just a few.
But let’s just stay with marriage for a moment. As a person who has had loving and kind* relationships with people who have regarded themselves as both male and female, I have been honoured to have a couple of those people ask me to share their lives with them via that institution, and to once have considered it very, very seriously. Mostly, however, people have asked me to consider one more day in the company of our mutual imperfections, and I have asked them the same. I acknowledge that I can only spectate on what a marriage looks like from the inside. I wish I could be more expert in my opinions.
But I’ve watched the preceding arrangements (courtship, love, commitment), I’ve watch ceremonies of weddings take place, and sometimes I have been privileged enough to see elements of marriages transpire in the everyday. I’ve watched them flourish, fail, flounder, nourish, devour and delight. It seems like every day I experience some element of marriage, its symbolic power, its fortress-like structures, its panopticon joys, its curious every-day-ness, and the people who are permitted to engage in them. I sometimes think of the woe that is in marriage. And once, I thought I knew what I felt about my own commitments. And I pay my deep respects to those who continue to cement loving relationships of purpose and care without those institutional permissions and sometimes in spite of them.
I’ve tried to rest easy with the fact that I care about substantive not formal equalities, and I can only contribute so many energy to things that are beyond me right now. But today, for some deeply heartfelt reason, I feel so much sadness that in Australia, where it is no longer illegal to be a “gay” person and where so many changes have been wrought over time to equalise the legal treatment of people in Australia with regards to the oh-so-sexy issues of tax, super, health insurance, welfare/government support, immigration, citizenship, that we seemingly cannot find it in our hearts to move away from the smallness of spirit that denies marriage equality.
Because that’s what it is. Small. Of mind, and of heart.
Right now, in Australia, if I find a great woman who wants to share her life with me, I can “do” a lot of the things that a “regular” couple can do. I can go out with her, have sex with her, have a child with her, own property with her, nominate her on my piddly superannuation, have a horrible break up, have mutual debt, make spiteful property settlements, be mean about our children and their child care arrangements, organise our last wills and testaments, get a group discount on a funeral plan, try to find a nursing home, and work out if Netflix is worth it just for Orange is the New Black. It’s not going to affect probably one thing in most people’s** lives in the greater scheme of things, except for those of our mutual/imaginary friends who need to tell us that two side mullets in a relationship is two too many. Life is not perfect, and many things may trouble me and said imaginary person(s) who love(s) me. I anticipate that. I look forward to it, in fact. That’s a part of being human.
Yet I still feel very sharply, in Australia, when I love a man, how differently that is perceived by my family, my community and society at large. At the political and symbolic level, marriage equality is at the heart*** of that matter because symbols matter, they feed us and eat us in equal measure.
Now I’m a grump at the best of times. Mostly, I feel that the world is a terrible place, that our cultures are in dreadful pain, that we are destroying the planet, that our systems are shot, that humanity is cruel and that existence is brutal, so – to be utterly frank – if a society like Australia cannot find itself even a smidge more compassionate to a relatively small number of people, who were (mostly) born here, who are adults who’ll (mostly) pay tax, and WANT TO PARTICIPATE in your team based activities/institutions, then I just don’t know what hope we have for dealing with some of our more urgent, pressing and diabolically iniquitous social issues.
For against that brutal backdrop, what kind of low, sad person looks at two**** people who find one another, who acknowledge how terribly ordinary and wonderful they are, who hope for more than life must surely give any of us, but who step up in front of those they love and respect and sometimes cannot stand (because weddings work that way), and say – against all the windmills I have tilted, I will tilt against our reality and banality to tell you that I love you, that I barely understand the person that you are and the person you will become, but I will take a leap of faith because we all ache for the rites of passage that come from commissioning our love to another, celebrating and being known and bearing witness to the flicker of our mutual existences, here, today, we start with just the possibility of knowing one person***** outside of our own selfishness, in the hope of being more compassionate to more than that in the end – who looks at that and says, “no, your love affronts me”?
Hurry up already. Don’t make me throw a brick through your window.
* I’ve had some duds too, but whatever.
** Tony, I’m talking to you here.
*** Pun so very intended.
**** Or more. Why not? Screw it, I’m going out large.
***** Seriously, who’s counting?