Monday, July 9, 2012

Going to the Chapel: Straight Marriage Celebrations and the Gays

That letter a woman wrote Dan Savage back in June?  That was the first thing I thought of when I read that Brad Pitt's mother had sent a letter to the editor endorsing Mitt Romney--"a family man with high morals"--because Romney opposes marriage equality.  You remember the letter I'm talking about, I'm sure: a straight woman planning her wedding in a a state with no option for same-sex marriage wrote Dan to say she was busy sending out invitations to her straight wedding, and as she addressed the invitations to her gay friends, she felt "like a schmuck." 

She asked, 

Doesn't this suck for you guys on some level? Smiling through weddings for years on end while being shat on by the government? 

Why yes, I remember thinking when I read her letter.   Yes.  It does suck.  It sucks on more than one level.  Thank you for asking.   

It does, indeed, chagrin--it causes active pain--to take part in the numerous rituals, parties, celebrations accompanying, preparing for, and solemnizing a marriage, a straight marriage, in heterosexist cultures.  When you're gay.  And denied the right to all the pomp, circumstance, rights, and privileges you're being asked to celebrate at these events.

And when you're almost never asked by a single celebrant at these events what it might feel like to be sitting on the sidelines cheering on a big celebration that by its very nature excludes you.  To be cheering on a big celebration designed to exclude you.  A celebration that deliberately and consciously excludes you and your kind.  One that celebrates everybody in the world but you.  One that sacralizes the experiences of everyone else in the world except your experiences.

I'm not exactly sure of the current status of the vow Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie say they made some years back not to marry until everyone, gay and straight, is permitted to marry.  Some reports indicate they may be reconsidering their vow.  

Though I'd be happy to see Brangelina marry if that's what they want to do, I also have to say I've appreciated the awareness their vow not to marry shows--the awareness that yes, indeed, it definitely does suck for gay folks, being excluded from the right of marriage in most places around the world and most of the U.S.  While we're asked to cheer for our straight friends and relatives when they tie the knot.  While we're asked to attend parties and grin to beat the band while we sit through celebrations that by their very nature and intent tell us we're not welcome and not even really there.  Not there as a visible presence in the midst of a world that is unreflectively taken to be all straight, all normal, all the time.

Grin and bear and keep our mouths tight-shut in the very epicenter of that world--a straight-marriage celebration that by everything it proclaims, proclaims us non-worthy.  Proclaims us non-existent.

All of this has been in my mind lately as the generation of my family coming along after mine starts to find mates, pair off, and announce wedding plans.  (I know: I'm old.  But we're late marriers in my family, and so the next generation is only now marrying as I enter my golden years.)

To be specific: what has been in my mind is how little awareness--as in nil, none at all, absolutely zilch--the younger members of my family who have married of late appear to think about the fact that there are gay family members whom they invite to their all-straight-all-the-time wedding celebrations.  Whom they invite without ever giving any appearance of recognizing that our qualms about participating may have quite a bit to do with the fact that we're being asked to celebrate what cannot and will not include us as family members who happen to be gay.

That we're being asked, as it were, to seat ourselves at a lavishly appointed table laden with delicious food into which everyone around us is invited to tuck.  While we're expected to sit and watch but not eat, because we belong to that certain caste of folks designated to sit and watch but never to touch the food.  Though we are expected to ooh and aah along with everyone else at how mouth-watering the feast looks and how appetizing it smells.

We're expected to give, mind you.  Bring a hot dish or a nice salad, if you don't mind.  If there's one thing you gays are good at, it's surely knowing how to cook.  

We're expected to bring presents.  We're expected to offer support, to be there.  When we're needed.  

In a large percentage of families, we who are gay are expected to clean up family messes, to take care of aging parents, to provide hospitality and support when family members are going through rough times.  But then, when the crisis is over and done with, we're expected to recede back into the wallpaper from whence we came and let the "real" family get back to its business of continuing on with its "real" life, while we do, well, whatever it is those gay folks do back inside the wallpaper.

Where they live those gay lifestyles.  Where they talk about being "married."

And through it all, we're not expected to have any feelings at all about any of this.  Because feelings are for real people with real lives.  Not lifestyles.  Feelings (and family celebrations) are for real families.  Not for gays who imagine they're "married."

What's astonishing about this world of . . . blindly taken-for-granted entitlement . . . is, for me, that it's there.  It's more than a little surprising, when you think about it, that so many people throughout the world can be so utterly oblivious to the unmerited exclusion of demeaned others, while they celebrate their own entitlement.  And while they even dare to invite the unentitled--the excluded--to celebrate their entitlement along with them!  Along with them as the entitled.

How do people get this way, I wonder?  How do they get this way within faith communities whose whole ethos is about reaching out, including, bringing in the stray, the misfit, the outcast?  Whose whole ethos is all about sharing one's largesse with those who have none of their own.  

How do people become so oblivious?  

Well.  These are the kinds of questions I'm inclined to ask myself and anybody willing to listen today as I pen this little missive to the world from my wallpaper lodgings this sultry summer afternoon in July 2012.

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