On Marriage Equality: A Very Long Story
There are a lot of other things to talk about today. I'm not going to talk about suicide rates or homelessness statistics, dehumanization or hate crimes. These things are ever-present threats to the survival of LGBTA people in America, and need to be dealt with now that national spotlight is on same-sex marriage rights. But this is a different kind of story.
I'm in Florida. It's the fall of 2014 and I'm drinking champagne in a polka-dot dress. It's seven o'clock and I'm at a wedding with my girlfriend Melissa. She's wearing a plum-colored dress with a faux-fur shawl. It's also the same weekend of our five-year anniversary. The wedding is beautiful and everyone is having a great time. We're sitting at a table chatting with Melissa's old college classmates, talking about anime and exchanging photos of our pets.
It's a wedding, so of course everybody's got marriage on the mind. People are drinking too much and planning their fantasy ceremonies. Deciding on dresses, music, whether or not they'll choose a Star Wars or Star Trek theme. Beach or church, backyard or court house. It's nice, because weddings are nice. They tend to bring out the most hopeful parts of people's personalities. (At least in my experience, anyway.)
The wedding's winding down. Melissa's old friends keep coming up to me, shaking my hand, saying "Oh, I've heard so much about you." Eventually the conversation always turns to marriage. After all, it's been five years. The clock is ticking. Don't we want to get married? Shit or get off the pot, you know? Whenever asked, I shrug and change the subject. Me and Melissa's respective financial situations don't allow us to live in the same state yet, let alone the same house. Our relationship isn't legally recognized in either state we separately reside, her Florida or my Texas. I change the subject because that's too much to explain, how poverty and bad timing and bad laws throw a wrench in your life. Nobody wants to hear that at a wedding. So I drink champagne in a polka-dot dress and try to make small talk, even though it stings.
I'm in Texas. It's the spring of 2015. and I'm sitting in the lounge outside my campus cafeteria between classes. My classmates are seated around me in a circle, eating lunch and talking. They're in their early twenties, and all of them are either married or engaged. They're all straight. I'm not. I'm twenty-eight and trying to get out of college before I turn thirty, so that I don't feel like I wasted my twenties without an education to show for myself. I'm obviously stressed out. I'm obviously not in a very nuptial mood.
They're all talking about wedding dresses and honeymoon lingerie, bridal showers and cake designs. It's fine. They have every right to be excited. They're all young and in love. I'm slightly older, slightly more jaded, and slightly less willing to wax about dreams in public. Eventually, because it always happens, somebody turns to me. Every time women are seated in a circle talking about weddings, one of them turns to me and asks when I'm getting married. I'm already stressed out, and I begin to feel left behind. My girlfriend lives four states away. I can't afford to think about marriage. I can't afford to think about marriage, even if it was legal to be married in Texas.
But I don't say that. Nobody wants to hear that over lunch when they're swapping dress photos and looking up makeup artists. I just shrug and change the subject. It's just easier that way.
It's June 26th, 2015. I wake up to check the news alerts on my phone. I have to write an article, work on my novel, and go to an art show. People are posting rapid-fire updates and celebrating love and equality. I don't know what's going on, but I'm going to get much work done. Instead I sit down in my pajamas with my Captain America coffee mug and I put on the news. It takes a while for the ruling to sink in as I text Melissa in fogged disbelief. She's at work and has no idea what's going on, either.
An hour later, I'm in the car driving downtown and I finally cry.
She's still there and I'm still here. A huge swathe of land and financial constraints still separate us. I don't know when that's going to change. That's still scary. But today, at least, when we talk about the future, it won't be quite so uncertain.