I never thought much about marriage, mostly because I wasn't allowed to; as a lesbian, it was never a possibility. Even when same-sex marriage became legal in a smattering of states, I thought, "That's great for equal rights, but marriage isn't for me" -- until, of course, I fell in love with someone I can actually picture being with "till death do us part."
When gay marriage became legal in our home state of New York last year, my girlfriend and I started making jokes about tying the knot. "Tying the noose is more like it," I thought at the time. Blame it on the biological clock, all those cute gays getting hitched around us, the beating I took from the love stick, or maybe just the realization that my woman is the most amazing person in the galaxy, but I started thinking differently about that piece of paper that binds two people together.
Cut to one year later at my cousin's wedding on a hillside in northern California, and I found myself popping the question to my woman. It was all very romantic. Perfect setting: I had several grandma-of-the-bride's-bathtub-procured-cranberry-infused vodkas in my gut. Impeccable timing: We were washing our hands in the bathroom with an impatient aunt banging on the door to get in. Somehow this inspired me to look deeply into my partner's sweet green eyes and ask her to do the deed. There was no diamond, no down-on-one-knee (that would have been highly unsanitary in the crapper), and no public pronouncement for friends and family to witness and cheer on. It was pretty lame but somehow completely right.
I'm still digesting the fact that we're engaged, a frightening prospect for a recovering commitment-phobe, but am mostly happy to think about formalizing a rare and beautiful love that's delivered three years of laughter, fulfillment, and mutual respect and consideration. Why not celebrate that more widely than our one-bedroom apartment? Why not ask our nearest and dearest to come eat and drink and be merry with us to honor the deep love that we share? I've always felt it selfish and voyeuristic to ask others to travel far and wide to glimpse a couple's intimacy, but straight people do it without a second thought throughout the space-time continuum; why not step out into the light and shout from the rooftops now that we legally can?
As we move into the wedding-planning stages, though, we're beginning to realize that it's not all sunshine and lollipops. Just because gay marriage is legal in our state doesn't mean that we enjoy a smooth sail to the wedding aisle. We are both lucky to have parents who are accepting of our love, but there's something intangibly different about being gay and getting married, a bittersweet taste in our mouths as we think through how we might actualize these plans.
It's like the rules of engagement -- literally -- don't apply when it comes to the gays, and it may always be that way, regardless of legality.
For one, relatives and friends have been excited for us, but there's a lurking cynicism below the smiles and hugs that's hard to digest. It's like announcing that you made the best scrambled eggs of your life, or took the healthiest bowel movement of the decade; those who love you are happy for you, but not filled with pride and joy. No one has offered to throw us an engagement party or a shower. Not that I care about such things from a formality vantage point, but from an equality standpoint it would have been nice (plus, who couldn't use a new toaster oven or a fancy cheese grater?).
One of the first things out of my beaming mother's mouth was that she couldn't invite her boss to the ceremony because she's a nun. That probably means my mom also can't cash in on bragging rights at work about her daughter getting married, a given for parents with straight kids and a badge of honor that I feel guilty my mom can't enjoy. My girlfriend's aunt might not come; she belongs to a strict Catholic church that "converts" gays. Even though my girlfriend has been close with her aunt her entire life and we both dropped everything to drive three hours to hold her hand by her dying son's bedside, we still aren't sure that she will put her biases aside to celebrate this special day with her family. I hope we're wrong, but I hate that we even have to think about such matters.
We visited the almighty Google to look at potential venues and vendors and hit an emotional wall when we realized that we had to figure out how to vet every option through the "are they homophobic?" lens. We ruled out holding the affair at an open restaurant in the event that passersby gawked. I'm loud and proud and generally don't give a flying rat's ass who looks and judges, but there's something about my wedding day that made me anxious thinking about having to put up the brave gay guard. I don't want to use fists on the happiest day of my life.
I suppose I should know better. Legal rulings don't magically make homophobia go away, but I had not anticipated that the same old ignorance would suck the fairy dust right out of my excitement for gains made by the LGBT community and in my own personal life.
Discrimination isn't all bad. I'm afraid my LGBT community is becoming so mainstreamed that we risk losing our gay flair. There's a part of me that's happy we're not being treated like every straight couple out there as we plan the big day; I don't want to be like everybody else, and I don't want to do things the way everyone else does them. Marginalization keeps us edgy, different; it gives us a damn good reason to be proud of our differences, and it gives us our bite to continue the good fight. Even when the walls of DOMA are torn down and wedding bells ring freely for queers everywhere, I stand by our freedom to rise up tall and proudly declare our love, and not feel pressured to get down on bended knee.