As a child, I knew I would never marry. Even before I realised, at a tender young age, that I was a lesbian, I knew it wasn’t for me. I knew that weddings happened in churches, weddings involved kissing a man, weddings involved a sea of quiet eyes focussed on you, weddings involved kissing a man in front of a sea of quiet eyes focused on you, weddings made you a boring grown up, weddings relegated you to a life of school runs and taxes. This continued into adulthood – in past relationships, I have never felt the strong desire to marry. It just felt irrelevant to me – something other people did, and I was happy to leave it at that. The important thing about all this is that I have never felt that romantic partnerships inevitably led to marriage, that that was endgame.
The best way I can think to describe my desire to marry H is to refer to the end of Girl Meets Boy, by Ali Smith. There’s an elaborate description of an imaginary wedding scene, of every festivity and celebration imaginable, grandiose and raucous, and then “what I mean is, we stood on the bank of the river under the trees, the pair of us, and we promised the nothing that was there, the nothing that made us, the nothing that was listening, that we truly desired to go beyond our selves. And that’s the message. That’s it. That’s all.”
I feel about her like I have never felt about anything before. I don’t know what words to choose, because no words said to me before this could have conveyed it to me. I don’t know how to make you understand, but to hope that you will. The words I would choose would be – altruism, tenderness, softness, quietness, constant awe. Goosebumps, counting-down-the-minutes anticipation. I feel like I’ve found my co-pilot. We met on a tram. As per Eleanor Catton, “what’s the likelihood? That the one girl who makes my heart race is the one who wants me in return? That the accident of my attraction coincides with the accident of hers?” This serendipity, this grandness and the small moments. I told her I loved her on the riverbank, on a dark spring evening, as party boats cruised past playing party songs. I want my life to be linked to hers, my love to be linked to hers, through every ritual and antiquation I can find. I want the sea of eyes focused on us as ours are focused on each other. I want everybody to understand the promises I will make to her, even if I haven’t found the words yet myself.
We aren’t marrying for reproduction. We aren’t marrying to legitimise the sex that we have. We aren’t marrying for religion. We aren’t marrying for property. We aren’t marrying to isolate ourselves from our community. Our marriage will be feminist, a home for us to grow personally and politically, a safe place to view the world from. Our marriage will become part of the institution, perhaps slightly shifting what it means to be married. We will be married, and we will choose the parts of it that we want. There will be no aisle, we will not wear meringue dresses, we will not change our names, we will not wear garters, we will not have a professional photographer, we will not have a wedding registry. We will get married outside and then get drunk and eat tacos and dance to Womack & Womack with the people we love around us. – I write all this, forgetting that we won’t really even be married. Doesn’t that just prove my point? We’ll be legally married in New Zealand, but when we return to Australia it will be as if nothing has changed – except for us. We have talked about what it will feel like, being married – will we feel a cementing of our bond, a previously unspoken togetherness now closer through the speaking? Will we feel the same, just with a great party under our belts?
There are elements of succumbing to the mainstream. I never thought I would be able to give my parents this particular happiness. To them, there is nothing radical about my wedding. They are hugely excited. They were a little disconcerted by the lack of diamonds, but unperturbed by my female partner. We all live in different places. My mother was fortuitously in town from another continent when we decided to get married. We told her less than an hour later, in a Gangnam-themed Korean restaurant, and we held hands in a circle and cried over our bibimbap. Even in my broader family, I have only been asked “so who will be the husband and who will be the wife?” twice. This is privilege! I get to be mainstream because I am privileged. I default to it.
It’s important to establish that I don’t think marriage is the Issue of our Times. I don’t want to be part of some marriage crusade, bringing marriage to all the people, marching on parliament to cry emotively about the primacy of this as the last frontier we need to overcome. Things that are more important: trans rights, of any kind. Homelessness. The fact that so many LGBTI kids and adults, especially POC, are excluded from education and safety and work and housing and healthcare. What’s happening on Manus Island, to asylum seekers LGBTI and otherwise. Marriage is a false panacea, a keyword, a marker of false liberalism, a get out of jail free card for politicians. It should be exposed for that.
I think it’s wrong that married people are granted rights that people outside of it aren’t. – whether people do not marry by choice, or are in relationships that society does not extend the option of marriage to, why should they not be extended the same privileges? I think many things about marriage in its traditional form are wrong. I question the extent to which I am complicit in these wrongs by choosing to take this path with H. Can we do this as I hope, in a way that is not neoliberal and exclusionary?
It’s fucked up, it’s confusing.
Ultimately, I also think that there are bigger, more important things in the world to direct our outrage towards than queers accessing marriage.
Ultimately, I love her.