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Phobe-Reduced Weddings

My last screed dealt with weddings as systemic insult. Despite the many positive responses I’ve received, some friends think it’s unfair to blame our friends for celebrating that they have and we don’t. Such is the nature–and reality–of privilege, which makes us complicit with misuses of power.

You’re looking at me, thinking I’m a hypocrite for not admitting all the ways I have privilege. Okay, fine. I’m complicit in a lot of ways. I’ve got work to do on that, and I’m doing it. I could easily dismiss my lack of privilege in regard to sexual orientation by saying, “Hey, I’m white; I’m middle class. I’ll just smile and nod so my straight friends will like me, maybe soak up a little of their privilege.” Yeah, well, I’ve done enough of that.

The insult is not only way up there in The System. It drips along the strands of the social-cultural web and sticks to me. It’s not just what weddings mean that makes me uncomfortable. I’ve grown to hate how I feel when I’m at or in them. Invariably, someone in the wedding party or one of the guests tosses out a homophobic slur. At one wedding, a brother of the groom toasted him with, “I’m glad you didn’t marry a guy.” He was young, you say, so don’t hold it against him. He didn’t know what he was saying. It was just a little levity to break up the tension, right? If I’m fed up with being invisible (which, in case this point is not clear: I am), I’m doubly sick of my identity and relationship being used as a source of comic relief.

And of course at almost every wedding I’ve ever been to, there are Bible verses, and, just as often, bastardizations of Bible verses that emphasize the importance of male-female bonding while completely ignoring or misrepresenting the important same-sex relationships in the Bible. It’s their faith, you say, and I should respect that. While I respect their right to worship as they wish, I also have every right not to respect the content. And being a curious person, I have to wonder if they’ve considered how much they really know about their faith and that it’s telling me something about them that they might not intend for me to know.

And there are the petty insults. A guest who doesn’t know Doug and me might ask one of us if he is married (to a woman), or ask both of us if we’re brothers. Or someone who does know us might explain our relationship by using the catch-all “friend” (i.e., not explain it). These are harmless comments, you say, commonplaces of so-called polite conversation. Must I take everything so seriously? Do I have to make everything about me and being gay? And if you’re so proud, why don’t you introduce yourselves as partners?

We understand there’s a fine line between politeness and activism. If we sense it’s okay to self-identify at a particular event, we do it. If not, we don’t (or, at least, we leave the pins in the glitter grenades). We have been good guests to our hosts. For their sake, and because it was the easy thing to do, we have played by rules we don’t agree with. We have behaved appropriately when appropriate. We have been complicit in our own subservience.

You tell me I’m misrepresenting them, that our friends have invited Doug and me to their weddings because they love us and want us to be part of their joy. We know that already, but thanks for pointing it out. That’s not a snarky, defensive comment. We are truly heartened by your observation and to know that our friends’ love is not in our dyad’s collective imagination.

Our stance falls about midway between “pretty well jaded” and “plain ole realistic.” We know that our friends can’t control much of what happens at their weddings, and we certainly don’t hold them responsible for the behavior of others. Their love and support can only do so much. We don’t expect anyone to guarantee us a phobe-free experience.

I think we’d settle for phobe-reduced weddings: 20% less homophobic than a traditional wedding. No equal rights march down their aisle, no spotlight on us. Just a few signs of action, even a few awkward moments: “This is Doug and his fr– and the guy he’d be really glad to marry.”

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3 Responses

  1. hear hear. and those of us who are white and middle class have a responsibility to speak up for those who can’t – those for whom being out can mean death.

  2. Hi, I stumbled upon your blog on another writing website. You have a very clear and enjoyable style. But I am intrigued by your position.

    I am gay, and certainly sympathize with your struggle, but is boycotting a friend’s wedding really the answer?

    I imagine we both have a wonderful network of friends whom we rely upon for support; what does it say of us if we do not support them in return?

    At a friend’s wedding, I do not expect them to be sensitive to my needs. It’s their day. Yes, I am saddened by the fact that I cannot marry my partner, but that has nothing at all to do with my friends. I want to be there to support them, as I want them to be there to support me if that time ever comes.

    There are other ways for us to fight this injustice that don’t involve alienating our friends and missing out on one of the most important days of their lives.

    I wish you good luck with this issue and good luck on your novel. Don’t stop writing!

  3. Jeff — Thanks for your comment. My partner and I thought about our decision very carefully over many years. We’ve explained how we feel to our friends, and most of them understand.

    I’m aware of the challenges of fighting injustice. I’ve been doing that work for years while walking on eggshells, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. Our straight friends see us as a mostly happy, mostly healthy couple. They know we’ve been together for 15 years and hope for that kind of longevity. They see us as equal, which is wonderful, but they don’t seem to understand that there are enormous differences in terms of rights. It’s not about the wedding except that the ceremony is the gateway to those rights.

    We have supported friends for years and honored their relationships. We’ll continue to do so, but skip the wedding ritual. Our friends will miss us on that day, and we’ll miss them. We have no illusions that this choice will be a painless one.

    Thanks for the good wishes. Good luck to you, too.

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