Lots of my (queer) friends think marriage equality is the dumbest thing ever, but as a straight lady, I think it’s rather awesome. I won’t get into all that now, and it’s not like I have anything to say on the matter that hasn’t already been said. Most of the contributors, with a few notable exceptions are pro-marriage equality, even if they don’t want it for themselves or have complicated feelings about it.
I appreciate that the editors included a couple-few fuck gay marriage and fuck the patriarchal state essays, because you can’t tell the story of LGBTQ responses to the institution without them. However, they were one-note and didn’t fit in with the narrative style of the rest of the contributions. Then again, there were also poems and short plays, so it’s not like there was just one method of communicating.
The main thing is that the anthology is an enjoyable read, especially if you like eavesdropping on other people’s relationships. Btw, I’m friends with one of the contributors and friendquaintances with another, in case that makes you not trust my review. Without further ado, here are some bits I want to remember:
from the introduction
"Women’s history gets erase all the time," notes contributor Patricia Cronin in her essay about the remarkable sculpture she created, “Memorial to a Marriage.” “And lesbian history is often not written at all.”
from a Tale of Two Cakes by Candace Walsh, whose first wedding, to a dude, was marred by an overly sweet, fugly cake
I’m looking forward to cracking open and poring over the pages of The Cake Bible. If there has to be a bible on our wedding day,let it be one that gives the recipe for the one true butter cream—not the one “right” way to love and live.
Even the people who get gay married question it. From Leslie Lange’s Ten Days of a Lesbian Engagement
Does our plan to get somewhat traditionally lesbian-married really signify we’ve succumbed? Are we now active participants in the oppressive regime of compulsive capitalistic patriarchal society? Are we just two more non-heterosexuals sucked into the rubric of heteronormativity?
Cate Glass observes queer friends trying to heteronormative her gay marriage in She’s the Boy
Only our queer friends—especially since we announced our engagement—feel compelled to cast us hetero-style. It’s always other lesbians who tell me I should be the one to get pregnant, change my name, or drop my career to make room for Annie’s. I’m the woman; she’s the man.
She goes on to enumerate which of the two is “the man” in different scenarios—housework, sex, attire, sports fandom, crushes on male celebrities, make-up, door-opening, etc. Guess what—it’s not consistent! (Nor is it with my male spouse and me.)
I’m not a fan of marriage’s historic roots as a religious or legal contract, but I feel that reclaiming and reconstructing meaning is a valuable tool for social change and personal amusement. Justification? Maybe. But there’s no denying I like a good frock.
As I’m paging through the book again, I’m reminded of one thing that felt repetitive. Many of the chapters were written by Californians (mostly in the Bay Area), so a lot of them recount similar California gay marriage sagas.
In We Have to Talk About It, Someday, Emily Douglas looks at the legality thing.
Learning about the legal consequences of marriage changed me. No one right galvanized me as much as learning that you got them all, in one fell swoop, just by marrying, even if you didn’t know what they were. (Of course, gay people don’t get them all, even when they do marry.) The luxury of not needing to anticipate every right you’d ever need became plain.
I dogeared a million (four) pages from Holly Hughes's chapter I'm Not From Here. I'd seen her perform, but not in a long time and never read her non-theatrical writing. She's the real deal, contextualizing the politics of marriage equality in the gay-rights movement of her youth, the AIDS crisis. And she's clever/funny.
I overhear women talking about planning their wedding like they are training for the Ironman, like they are building their own home with their bare hands, and I feel like I’m from Mars. No, a Martian would be mystified, but I feel like I’m in my Prius of queerness, sneering at the gas-guzzling Hummer-sexuals.
I love that she’s willing to challenge her own judgment.
Okay, about my sneer, where’s that coming from? Conviction or compensation for a wound I don’t remember? My way of saying, “You can’t reject me, I reject you first”? Was a rejection of marriage with all the trimmings part of what led me to queerness, or is it something I learned on the margins? My anti-consumerist passion is nowhere to be found when I’m browsing stuff I’m interested in, like the recent Patagonia catalog or anything dog-related.”
And the orthodoxy of her homies.
But I’m entirely lacking in the eagerness for marriage itself. yet it flares up in me when I am faced with members of my own queer tribe who put up a solid wall of “no” when marriage is mentioned. The fight for marriage equality is “assimilationist” and “heteronormative.” The words slam down like a pair of electronically controlled garage doors, and I’m on the outside, the wrong side—no, way past the gate…I’m not sure if it’s the eagerness for marriage that overtakes me at that moment so much as the memories of other shunnings.”
The fourth dog-ear has to do with declaring herself married to her partner on Facebook.
A piece by economist M.V. Lee Badgett, Marriage by the Numbers gives statistics, but also addresses the personal impact of marriage—on how the brides’ families, including conservative, religious Southerners, accept them differently after their wedding.
In Where the Queer Zone Meets the Asian Zone Helen Zia, like many other contributors remains critical of marriage as a patriarchal institution. What differentiates her story, even from the other Bay Area writers is her focus on the marriage workers, many of them Asian-American. I always love a labor perspective!
But, ultimately, we made it to the altar because of the Asian-American women we knew at the San Francisco marriage bureau in City Hall.
I am referring to the people who were in charge of the marriage license bureaucracy at San Francisco City Hall. Mabel Teng was elected City Assessor-Recorder after a nasty and close contest for that decidedly unromantic-sounding job. A former San Francisco supervisor and longtime community activist, Teng hired two other women: Donna Kotake, who also had a long history as an activist in San Francisco’s Japantown, and Minna Tao, a well-known leader in the Castro for her work on LGBT causes. After Mayor Gavin Newsom took his outrageous and historic stand allowing gays and lesbians to apply for marriage licenses, the task fell on these women to make it so.
Teng, Kotake, Tao and volunteers upped their capacity from a few dozen marriage licenses a month to several hundred a day. Whew! Woo!
The Back Door to Marriage by N’Jai-An Patters opened my eyes to another hurdle for same-sex couples who want to marry—the challenge of getting divorced. It’s actually a huge PITA for people who married in Canada or a state they don’t currently live in that doesn’t recognize their marriage to get a divorce.
The book is a hair too long, and this review is Cousin Itt, so I’ll stop now.