You Don’t Get to Tell Me How I Feel
The same-sex marriage/civil union/domestic partnership kerfluffle that’s been rocking the U.S. lately has been dredging up the good, the bad, and the ugly in a lot of social discourse. President Obama finally came out (har!) in support of same-sex marriage, right around the same time that Mitt Romney reaffirmed his dislike of the same; North Carolina voters overwhelmingly voted against the human rights of LGBQ members of their population; Colorado’s legislature is (at the time of this writing) in an emergency session to resolve its own civil union dispute. The straight population is divided about the issue, but so are LGBTIQ communities across the country — “Do we even want to participate in this antiquated, money-sucking, heterocentrist ritual?” And the question that has come up to me repeatedly this week: who gets to decide? After all, we didn’t vote on your marriage, right (Actually, if you want to get technical…who gets to marry whom has never been an easy topic. Just ask the Commonwealth of Virginia)?
Something that’s been communicated from a lot of sources around the Internet has been the idea that straight people should have no say in same-sex marriage rights. It’s not their marriage or relationship that’s at stake. Those of us with rings on our fingers are unaffected by these policies and our civil rights aren’t being called into question.
To this, I’m going to give a big ol’ “fuck you”.
Let me give you one reason why: like many Americans, I’m bisexual/queer (depending on your definition) but married in the old-fashioned sense. My partner- my husband- is a straight, cisgendered guy, and unless you take the time to ask, you’re probably going to assume that I’m straight too. My current relationship, one that I plan to be in for the rest of our lives, is unaffected by what happens with LGBQ marital legislation. But what if it ends? Or what if, instead of falling for Nick, I fell for a Nicole? Or what if Nick decides to become Nicole? Or the unthinkable happens, and as a widow I find solace and new love with a same-sex or trans partner? My right to a committed, legal partnership with someone I love would be taken away from me. I’m not interested in quibbling about whether it’s worse to have that right revoked, or never have it at all- the point is that the absence of that right is simply wrong. And it’s something I walk around with everyday, whether I will ever have to confront it in my own relationship(s) or not.
When I lived in Canada, I was part of a wonderfully vital community of LGBTIQ folk who wanted nothing more than a world in which adults can consensually love one another without restriction. There was often a lot of talk about who “gets” to speak and emote on a given topic, and while I understood the root of their concerns — when a group outsider speaks, are they silencing the insiders and appropriating their right to self-advocacy? — I also worried about how this intersected with alliances. As much as The System has hurt a lot of us, we need the support of its benefactors to make lasting change, right (Apologies for my ignorance, Ms. Lorde, but I’ve always struggled with this)? There’s a strong undercurrent of biphobia in some lesbian and gay circles because we’re “faking it” or, if we’re in the sort of relationship I’m in, we’re “traitors,” and this leads to accusations that we don’t really understand what it means to be discriminated against because we “can” always retreat to the safety of our straight-looking lives. As the same-sex marriage debacle rages on in the States, I’m hearing these sorts of things more and more. Camps of Us and Them are being drawn, and bi/queer folk are increasingly being grouped in the latter.
I repeat myself: fuck you. Ignorance of the flexibility and depth of human sexualities aside, this whole concept that They can’t possibly understand or empathize has got to stop. The idea that a shared set of experiences means that any two people completely understand each other is reductionistic and categorizes people according to arbitrary rules. “Oh wait, you’re also a cis woman and have sex with cis women? Great! We totally get each other and are basically the same person!” My relationship may not be on the line right now, but my overall rights are- just like yours. The implication of biphobia for people like me in these debates is that, because we “look” straight, we can’t ever experience discrimination. That’s a load of crap.
Same-sex marriages are everyone’s business, whether we’re interested in one or not, because human rights are everyone’s business. Not everyone is as comfortably “out” as I am, and you never know who will come out when you thought you had them pegged, so the breadth and depth the impact of discriminatory legislation will have is incredibly challenging to predict. To me, the right of consenting adults to love each other and legally support each other should never have been a debate at all. But since it is, it’s about time we stopped using appearances to determine who gets a say in what. Since you aren’t in my head or in my life, you have no idea what I have experienced.
You don’t get to tell me how I feel.