Thursday, November 27, 2008

"I no longer recognize marriage."

[Note: I'm in the process of moving this blog and consolidating it with my website; the blog is the new homepage at I'll keep cross posting for a while to give everyone a chance to redo bookmarks and links.]

The passage of Proposition 8 in California (which amended the state constitution to recognize only marriages between a man and a woman) has energized the LGBT community in a way I haven't seen for years. The anger, indignation, and determination I see--from LGBT people and straight allies--is inspiring.

Sometimes it's a bit scary. I've had mixed feelings about all the name-calling, boycotts, people who made contributions to to support Prop 8 being forced from jobs, etc. Am I just too wishy-washy? Do I have too much residual internalized homophobia, as some would suggest, that I don't believe that everyone who supported Prop 8 is a bigot? Are deeply held religious views on this issue by defiition bigotry and ignorance rationalized, as some insist?

Or maybe I just find denouncing others distasteful and unloving. I'm not against protests; I'm all for honest self-expression of anger, hurt, betrayl, outrage, and all the other very human and understandable feelings that have been evoked. We sexual minorities have been demonized and given second-class status for far too long, and the "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" energy that Prop 8 has unleashed is the force that will carry us into the next phase. I'm gay; I want to be able my partner (although it's a moot point at the moment since I don't have a partner). And I want the countless same-sex couples who are my friends and acquaintances to be able to marry.

Demonizing opponents can be effective politically, but also further polarizes the situation and can make those with whom we disagree so defensive that constructive dialogue is impossible. So when I found this post by Tom Ackerman, it seemed like just the sort of way to disrupt the assumptions in a way that can start to shift the paradigm.

I no longer recognize marriage. It’s a new thing I’m trying.

Turns out it’s fun.

Yesterday I called a woman’s spouse her boyfriend.

She says, correcting me, “He’s my husband,”
“Oh,” I say, “I no longer recognize marriage.”The impact is obvious. I tried it on a man who has been in a relationship for years,

“How’s your longtime companion, Jill?”
“She’s my wife!”
“Yeah, well, my beliefs don’t recognize marriage.”Fun. And instant, eyebrow-raising recognition. Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. In a moment they feel what it’s like to have their relationship downgraded, and to have a much taken-for-granted right called into question because of another’s beliefs.

Just replace the words husband, wife, spouse, or fiancé with boyfriend, girlfriend, special friend, or longtime companion. There is a reason we needed stronger words for more serious relationships. We know it; now they can see it.

There's more, and it's worth reading. I'm going to try this out.

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