Sunday, May 15, 2011

Be My Husband, I'll Be Your Wife : On Queer Marriage

Last week, Joan and I jumped the broom  (see photo)! And no, I'm not posting this on my honeymoon, but I am still overflowing with love, true love, which is why I have to write this post. After months and months of planning and recruiting friends and family to help us, we had a fabulous wedding ceremony and reception (I mean really, look at the picture, the color palette alone is pretty awesome)!  Seriously, it was really, really beautiful: our family was there in all kinds of ways--biological/families of origin, our friends who can only really be called family, and our larger community of folks from work, organizing, grad school, etc. All of these folks came together to celebrate and hold us as a couple. It was really amazing and one of the most awesome things I've ever done. Truly, as our friend Juana says, "it was a good day for queer love." It was, which is why I write this post.

I think that every queer person should have a wedding or some kind of ceremony to celebrate queer love. It's a powerful thing. And I don't mean in the "we should have the same rights to wed as everyone else," kind of wedding, as I've said before, I don't think that LGBTQ folks should organize around same sex marriage as a community or as a movement. There are so many other ways that LGBTQ people are targeted that are, arguably more important, than pressuring the state to recognize our love through an institution that was intitally set up to exchange women as property, a site where women continue to be disrespected and undervalued, and where many people, including LGBTQ folks, but also single mothers, those who receive welfare, and undocumented people, are denied certain benefits from state and federal governments.

But that's not what I'm talking about. State recognition is not my concern.

Now, it may seem like I'm trying to have it both ways: saying you should have a wedding and being against same sex marriage all at once. And, it's fine if some readers walk away with that thought. But, I think that queer couples should stand up in front of the people they love and care about, as we have been doing for years, and declare your love for another person--or three or four friends--whatever suits you. But, set up an event where you stand up and declare your love and commitment for your girlfriend, your people, and your community.  Doing that, for me, was transformative. See, I've never been a person who has believed in marriage or spending lots of money on a day to tell others how much I love the person I'm in a relationship with. There has always been something that has felt temporary, something I wasn't sure about. Perhaps it's because my parents were divorced before I turned one, as quick psychology might suggest. Perhaps. But, I have also always known that there were much more interesting things to do than hang out with only one person, commit to that one person and no one else, raise children with that one person, and pick up and move around the country with one person if work demands it, without question. That's what marriage looks like to me. That seems to be what people do. But, there is something way more interesting and queer than holing up with one other person for eternity, like celebrating queer love with your community.

Joan and I were each clear that we wanted to do this with one another, commit to each other and build a relationship with one another. But, by having this ceremony, we invited others to stand up with us. Some literally in the ceremony, others called up later to take responsibility for making sure that things go well, to really be there for us, as we pledge to do for our peoples. That was powerful. Just as powerful as looking into Joan's eyes and telling her all the ways that I love her and have found a home with her and reiterating that this home was stable here, because of the women we are, but also the community that we come with, that surrounds us. As our dear friend Marcia, one of two officiants in the ceremony, said about the Redwood trees that encircled the grove we were in, "these are Sequoia Sempervirens, the everlasting tree. We're here to make a ring around these two amazing women. To hold them and support them like these trees around us."And that was our intention. And that's how it turned out: from those in the ceremony like Maylei, Holly, Cedric, Tom, Diane, Marcia, Laura, Nancy, Sommers, and Simon. To those who smudged people on their way in (Darren and Stacy), made fliers to the reception (Skeeter and Sauntoy), picked up food (Ray and Matthew), arranged the flowers (Cheri), set up and organized people for our space (Jaime), deejayed (John) toasted and roasted us at the reception (Anna, Gayle, Rider, Legs and Andrew), tied ribbons on mason jars (parents), and helped us get our groove on on the dance floor. It was a queer event that's ongoing. While that day was pretty magnificent, it is, in effect, an awesome reminder of the community that surrounds us and that is everlasting. That's something worth remembering. That we have a community that we want to be in and be around, one that we will always be connected to and are firmly grounded in.

Those few hours shifted my perspective about queer love and marriage. Naming and recognizing our community, showing our people to one another and reminding them of what they mean to us, makes this already sweet, sweet love between me and Joan, even sweeter. Our wedding wasn't just about us in the two people sense, but about us as a community, as people that love and stand up for one another. That's the love that I want recognized and, as Nina Simone sings, that's the love I will  "love and honor the rest of my life."

(photo by Hanh Nguyen)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Black Celebration

I apologize off the bat for the Depeche Mode reference, but the song has been in my head for the last 22 hours as I try to comprehend the events of the last week. And, by the time I finish this post, it may have a dual meaning. Anyway, first off, President Obama reveals his long form birth certificate, then ridicules Donald Trump and the media (as well as his own actions) several days later at the White House Correspondent's dinner, and then makes a special announcement about the murder of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy Seals the next day. That's a big, WTF just happened, I'd say, wouldn't you? And, as I write, I think he just finished his interview on Oprah. Damn, that's quite a week.

On the one hand, it's difficult to describe the feeling of watching the most powerful man in the nation, some say in the world, and the only African American to be elected president having to, effectively, show his papers. That doesn't bode well for existing (unconstitutional and unethical) laws in several states that seek to monitor brown bodies. And, the fact that he did it, is worse. Well, arguably, given that he was simultaneously planning an attack on bin Laden, maybe not? Dude. But, that's a little bit like President Obama, isn't it? "Okay, I'll concede on the budget and let you take away everything I campaigned for and everything that ensures the health and well-being of people in the U.S." and then, BAM! (as Alexis Mateo says), DADT is repealed. I know it didn't quite happen like that and I don't care two cents about DADT and it's nothing compared to losing Head Start, Pell Grants, or not having universal health care, but he does tend to work that way. "Oh, you want me to show my papers? Sure thing, and by the way, here's bin Laden's death certificate. BAM!" Work it out. I'm doing what the Bushes wouldn't do. Holla.

But, I can't really say that I'm jazzed about it. I made some comments on twitter last night and I've been following other blogposts about it and, of course, Facebook and I just don't feel any different. I don't feel any better now that Osama bin Laden is dead. I don't feel like it pays for the death of hundreds of thousands in the U.S., Iraq, and Afghanistan since 9/11/01. And I don't think it makes Barack Obama a stronger president. It just adds to the death. Look, I know he did terrible, terrible things and admitted to the attacks on the world trade center, but it doesn't change the fact that thousands upon thousands are dead. And, this does nothing to bring any of those precious people that died in the towers, on planes, or in Iraq, back. Not to mention the ongoing assault on transwomenBlack women, poor people, prisoners, workers, and immigrants, just to name a few. Yeah, lots of things happened last week (and I do know that the link for Black women and transwomen is the same above, and while I abhor the actions of the two young women, who were Black, Maureen Dowd--whose piece is problematic at best--referred to them as 'the savage pair,' which is another post).


More importantly, like others, I find it doubly upsetting that people were dancing in the streets after news broke of bin Laden's death. The mostly (or is it safe to say all?) white crowd walking arm in arm as republicans and democrats and chanting "USA." Sorry, but I'm a queer Black woman in this land of the free, so these kinds of gatherings scare me more than retaliation attacks, even if they are cheering for a Black man (I mean seriously, that guy in the picture is hanging from a tree in a suit). Really, just a few days ago, I'm sure there were people standing outside saying "Obama" and "USA" in the same sentence, but demanding proof of citizenship. This is a strange, fickle country we live in. And, I don't trust "the optimistic eyes" in this moment of false hope, frenzied celebration, and victorious death. Less than a hundred years ago in this country, this kind of public gathering, this kind of chanting and celebration connected to a Black man and death would have had an entirely different meaning.

So, I can't celebrate with you all. The temporality between these two (more, really) realities is in my veins, so I won't celebrate.  Unless, in the words of a 1980s new wave band, it's "a black celebration to celebrate the fact that we've seen the back of another black day."