Friday, March 16, 2007

Till death do us, etc.

Walhydra has never understood all the flap about same-sex marriage. Of course, this could be partly due to having been reincarnated as a gay male would-be writer.

“That has nothing to do with it!” she snaps. “As far as I’m concerned, the real problem is that most people have the ridiculous notion marriage is about sex!”

She glares briefly toward the left wing of her audience. “And that includes queer people. It’s ridiculous! Marriage isn’t about sex. It’s about kinship.”

Being a Virgo, Walhydra figures that in a reasonable world that pronouncement would settle the matter. Since she’s dealing with human beings, though, she knows that she’s going to have to explain.

“Look,” she says, feigning patience. “Anybody can have sex without getting married. They can even have on-going affairs, lifelong relationships—families, for Goddess’ sake!—without being married. But….”

Now she glares toward the right wing of her audience. “If they want their chosen kinship to be acknowledged and affirmed publicly, if they want their families to be honored and protected by the government, they HAVE TO GET MARRIED!”

Walhydra actually wants to stomp away at this point. It infuriates her that any society would even need “the arm of the state” in order to protect kinship.

“In a sane world,” she insists, “people would be glad to take a couple’s word for it when they said they intended to put up with all the hassles and grief of taking care of each other for years on end. People would rush to celebrate and support them, do everything possible to help them stay together.”

Walhydra sighs deeply. “Instead…, instead…. It just doesn’t make any sense!” She sits down abruptly and waves at everyone to go away.

Walhydra has had marriage on the mind for several weeks, every since her mother, Senior Witch, found a picture from the wedding of Walhydra’s younger brother back in 1986.

Walhydra immediately recognized the gorgeous bearded guy on the right as hubby Jim. She pretends not to know the guy on the left.

“That’s me,” says the would-be writer.

“No. You’re not that young,” Walhydra smirks.

“Neither are you.”

[Slight timeout while the referee intercedes.]

The wedding picture was taken just a year after Walhydra and Jim did the “for better or worse” bit themselves in a private, mostly unspoken ceremony for two.

That mutual promise, in turn, came shortly after Walhydra’s two plus years of grad school and addictions counselor job search—during which, ever the single-minded, studious Virgo, she had failed to notice Jim’s patient, persistent courtship.

Once settled in her first outpatient treatment job in Charleston, SC, Walhydra sat on the floor of a friend’s house one evening, watching, of all things, Somewhere in Time. At one moment, she leaned back against the legs of Jim, who was on the sofa, and thought, “Oh! This is the man I want to spend my life with. Why didn’t someone tell me?”

This brave, brilliant, gentle man with the warm hands, whose Leo body and soul radiate blessing energy!

[Note: Hubby Jim, a convinced scientist, teases that he doesn’t believe in tantric energy or astrology. “Or reincarnation,” he says. “At least, not in this lifetime.”]

Walhydra and Jim went to her brother’s wedding determined to remain discreetly closeted, so a not to draw attention away from the publicly happy couple. Her brother took them from friend to friend throughout the day, saying, “This is my brother, and this is my brother’s, um….”

He confessed later that he kept wanting to say, “…my brother’s loveranddoyouwanttomakesomethingofit?!” Instead, what happened was that “my Um” became a family in-joke term for same-sex spouse.

Toward the end of their visit, Walhydra and hubby went to say goodbye to both of her grandmas, with whom they had been carefully practicing their discretion.

Senior Witch’s mother hugged each of them and said sweetly to Walhydra, “Now, you come and visit me—and be sure to bring Jim!”

Walhydra glanced sideways at her hubby and raised an eyebrow.

A few years earlier, Walhydra had giggled when she received in the mail from her other grandma the pair of carefully embroidered pillowcases. For years, Grandma had periodically reminded Walhydra, “I make a set for each of the grandchildren, for when they get married.” Smiling at the colorful Pennsylvania Dutch stitch work, Walhydra assumed Grandma had finally figured it out for herself.

Walhydra’s stepmother told her later that, during a visit, Grandma had gone snooping to learn why Walhydra wasn’t married yet. When she somehow found out, her wry comment was, “Well, that’s what I get for snooping.”

That was all she ever said about it. Years later, Walhydra and Jim attended Grandma’s big, Ohio farm family reunion, sleeping in the guest bed of one of Walhydra’s aunts. A few years later, they both attended Grandma’s funeral.

So...nine years into their private marriage—on the Full Oak Moon Saturnalia of 1994, to be overly exact—Walhydra and Jim were publicly married under the care of their large Quaker Meeting.

Eschewing clergy and outward sacraments, Quaker couples traditionally “marry each other,” before God and in the presence of all their fellow Quakers, family and friends. They say to each other the vows they have written for themselves and sign a non-secular marriage certificate. Then, after a silent worship during which anyone can speak blessings or prayers, everyone else present also signs the document.

At Walhydra and Jim’s wedding, their Meeting’s historian spoke to explain the significance of what the gathered body was doing.

“In the mid-1600s,” he said, “only marriages performed by the Church of England were legally recognized. As dissenters from the C of E, Quakers decided that they needed to document and witness publicly the vows of their married couples, in order to protect the kinship rights of those couples. This is what we are doing now for these two men, whose marriage we all affirm but our government refuses to acknowledge.”

Twenty-some years into her marriage, Walhydra remembers that moment fondly.

She wonders how it can be in America that, because of the dominant ideology of churches other than hers, the secular government refuses to protect a loving kinship which she and Jim still sustain “for better or worse.”

She snuggles into Jim's calm strength after another long, challenging trip to care for Senior Witch—who considers Jim to be one of her sons—and frowns.

“Oh, well…,” she says softly.

2 comments:

Sara said...

Oh oh oh - what a lovely wonderful post (though I have to ask - what on earth are you two holding in that picture?).

"“Look,” she says, feigning patience. “Anybody can have sex without getting married. They can even have on-going affairs, lifelong relationships—families, for Goddess’ sake!—without being married. But….”

Now she glares toward the right wing of her audience. “If they want their chosen kinship to be acknowledged and affirmed publicly, if they want their families to be honored and protected by the government, they HAVE TO GET MARRIED!”"


I'm sure she doesn't need to be told, but Walhydra is right on. I've always said that marriage should be something the government has nothing to do with - if two people wish to partner together for kinship, or for any other reason, they should be able to do so with all the same benefits of the state - no matter their orientation or gender designation. If two single straight moms want to partner, for instance, because they're friends and they want to help each other raise the kids, they should be able to do that, with all rights and privileges we afford "married couples" in terms of healthcare, etc. Spiritual unions then would be a separate affair - something for spiritual communities to deal with.

Great post again! Thanks!

Walhydra said...

Sara,

They're holding a little broomstick, decorated—for some mysterious reason—with a mouse doll wearing a green cap and apron.

And, yes, Walhydra agrees that the government shouldn't privilege only certain forms of family with all the blessings and protections.

Bless├ęd Be.