by Shaker Sarah in Chicago
Ah, it's in the air, all around us (even with the snow-drifts still piled up against our apartments), we can veritably taste it, the hints of it like being able to venture out of the house without a hat, or gloves, or scarf ... yes, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, spring is springing (though precisely how much it has sprung, is a subjective matter of course).
And, naturally, with said sprunging of spring, comes for those of us not either suddenly having sex (oh, you're not?), or cleaning, or both, are weddings. Seriously, this time of year is like someone dropped a wedding-bomb, nuking the whole hemisphere in satin and lace (not to mention all those ridiculous formal-vests that so many guys seem to think are sexy, when only a small fraction of such can be really thought of as having that property ... trust me, I know this, I'm gay, so I'm qualified ... okay, so I'm lesbian, but still).
Now, why I mention this period of the year that involves such a sudden rush to nuptials, is because I am often told by people/friends that have the strange wish to wed a member of the opposite sex (seriously, what is wrong with you people? *smile*), that they feel really conflicted about getting married, because of the fact that all their friends that are gay and/or are in same-sex relationships, can't do so as well. If you think about it, it would be even more horribly conflicting for the bisexuals out there, who know that purely by accident of having their genitals not match those of their partner, they can have access to socially approved marriage, when it just have easily could have been someone of the same sex for them, yet with precisely the same feelings.
So, I'm asked for suggestions about what those marrying opposite-sex partners can do to make sure their queer friends feel included. Because, as any queer can tell you, being at an opposite-sex wedding can be alienating, in that you really don't feel 110% that it is a safe and inclusive space for you, as they do tend to be celebrations of heterosexuality in a society that is fundamentally hetero-supremacist. They really are a statement of privilege, and as with any privileged space, one must work in order to include those that don't have access to that privilege.
I'm sure we've heard of all those celebrity straight couples that have sworn off getting married until everyone can get married, and honestly, how wonderful a statement such is to us queers. I've even got friends in heterosexual relationships that have made the same commitment. And I will admit, such a statement is a wonderful thing to me, I am not going to lie.
Because I have to say, as a lesbian woman, having straight or bisexual friends marry someone of the opposite sex does honestly leave me quite conflicted. Really, I'm dead serious about this. Bittersweet doesn't even begin to fucking cover it.
As I am so SO happy for them whenever I hear the announcement. Really, no shit, I actually am. Friends of mine committing their lives together to making each other happy and fulfilled? Why the hell wouldn't I love that? Especially if there's going to be an open bar. And good food (really, though, enough with the chicken breast, think something original up, okay? You know it's going to be as dry as bloody shoe-leather). Hell, I am one of those HRC lesbians that really does want to find a woman silly enough to walk down the aisle with me, so why on earth would I not want my friends to do similarly? So honestly, I'm not going to tell you not to marry, that you should somehow deny yourselves that joy to make a statement. Hell, we're all fighting just so we don't have people telling us who we can or can't marry, so why on earth would I turn around and do that to you?
However, despite all that happiness for my friends, and the alcohol, I do know that this is an institution that is fundamentally denied to me and those like me. Have you ever done one of those food-fasts for charity? You know, where you get money for not eating for a couple days or so? Well, it's like someone hovering a medium-rare steak with a wonderful char on the outside under your nose when you're at about hour 30 in that drive. Or driving through local Little Vietnam neighbourhood. Or grocery-shopping at about 7pm in the evening.
Yes, I know, technically all us queers CAN have the ceremony, as it is the legal recognition that is denied us, NOT the lace, vests and white folding-chairs. However, symbolism matters, and not having our society recognising our commitments does impact the meaning of those ceremonies, and how much they are seen as fitting into the life-transitions in our respective cultures. So long as we aren't civilly equal, the ceremonies will always be 'separate'. Equality, strangely enough, really turns out to matter.
But, this isn't a question of marrying or not marrying, because there are things that you can do if including your queer friends is important to you.
I do have some friends that have actively and overtly made a statement about marriage equality as either a part of their vows, or their first statement together after exchanging rings. One couple included a small blurb about their LGBT friends in the programme ... which was particularly apt for them given that when they first started dating, they were two women, even though they had become a heterosexual couple a year or so prior to the wedding. Others I know of have removed all the gendered language during their vows, as far as replacing 'wife' and 'husband', 'man' and 'woman', with such things as 'spouse', 'partner', or 'person'. Feminist as well as queer-inclusive.
Another idea is not requiring all your bridesmaids to dance with your groomsmen for the first dance. I know of one lesbian couple where both were bridesmaids at a wedding, as one of them was the sister of the bride. However, despite the fact that these two had been together longer than virtually any other person in the bride's OR groom's parties, when it came to the first dance, they were partnered up with groomsmen. Of course, they did this because it was for their sister's/in-law's wedding, and they didn't want to detract attention from her. But, naturally, all it did for those of us that knew was that it was REALLY uncomfortable. Obvious by void, if you will.
And to dancing, maybe during the first couples' dance, overtly and actively encourage your same-sex coupled friends to go out on the dance floor. Your friends may want to, but given as I said above, that this isn't going to be a space they feel completely comfortable in, you're going to have to do something overt, in terms of encouraging them, to let them know that they are welcomed.
Many of you may have queer friends who you may want to have in your bridal parties, for instance. And, for example, if she isn't a femme, forcing her into a dress, heels, make-up, nails and 3 hours of hair styling so that she's a clone of the other women in the party, isn't the most welcoming and inclusive act on the face of the earth. Remember, your wedding is as much about everyone else there as it is about you. And the booze (which will be considerably partaken in should you force your butch or tomboy friend into 6 feet of lilac faux-satin, let me tell you this right now, and I say such as a femme myself). Maybe choose a theme, or a colour, that all works and matches, and let your bridesmaids decide what variations on that they could come up with. Makes for a way less generic McMansion-style wedding at the very least, and your butch friend will look downright sexy in her suit.
One thing my sister did do that I think just speaks volumes to how kick-arse she is, was that she and her fiancé (now husband) did away with bridal and groom parties altogether. Her reasoning was that honestly she didn't want to pick between her friends about who was going to stand with her, and who wasn't, as she simply wanted them all there. And it saved money on bridesmaids dresses. I'm sure she really wasn't thinking about who wanted to wear a dress and who didn't, because my sister really isn't the kind of person to have that shit bother her in the slightest (really, she's that awesome a sister), but one effect of that decision was that more people were able to be included.
Not to mention, of course, she had the ceremony AND the dinner in one of the oldest beer breweries in New Zealand, right down on the Wellington Harbour. See? Told you she rocked.
Another thing that could be done is that instead of wedding or engagement showers where you get given shit you probably already have (as who they hell waits to move in with your partner, or even move out of home, till you're married, in this day and age?), you could encourage people to donate to marriage equality organisations. Or hell, feminist/progressive organisations in general. Same thing with wedding gifts.
Unless you really want those three different bread-makers of course. And toaster-oven are for us lesbians, as everyone knows.
And seriously, what the fuck is with the whole garter removal dance thing in front of a couple hundred people? Really? You want a symbolic act of forced heterosexual de-virgining as a part of your ceremony? In front of your parents? And if you didn't know that that was what it was ... you might really want to have a think about what your ceremony actually means. Also, maybe not have your father "give you away" either. I mean, leaving aside the complications that whole tradition introduces to same-sex weddings, from a feminist perspective, do you want the bride to be passed as property between father and husband? There are way better ways of doing this that don't involve a shipping receipt for purchase, nor excessively displaying the heterosexist nature of the ceremony.
And I'm sure there are a bunch of other things that I'm forgetting that others may suggest.
Of course, naturally, you don't have to do any of this.
Some of your queer friends may be just perfectly comfortable with the regular, run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter wedding. And honestly, you don't have to do all of this, or even a majority. Again, I'm not going to tell you what you should, or shouldn't, do regarding getting married. But, as I said above, a straight wedding IS very much a statement of privilege, and if you do want to include others, you're going to have to WORK at it. You're going to have to DO shit that you wouldn't otherwise. Merely thinking that your friends will just know that you want them to be included isn't automatically going to make that true.
And really, hopefully, eventually you'll be more likely to be invited to your friend's same-sex wedding when that happens. And seriously, more than reuseable shopping bags, more than a hybrid car, more than even being able to order off a sushi menu without numbers, nothing says how fucking hip you are than being included in a queer wedding.
Happy spring ... you can go back to your sex now ... or cleaning. Or both.