Wednesday, May 27, 2009

gay marriage.

apologies to facebook friends who've already read this, but today i reposted a link-- a link to a blog post that responds critically to the outpouring of anger in the wake of the california supreme court decided 6-1 in favor of upholding proposition 8.  i posted this link with some trepidation, as my own update feed was almost entirely filled with good friends who are, in fact, very angry about the decision.  here's the link, and here's what i wrote:

to be clear: i'm interested in civil unions. not for gay people, but for everyone. the rights, privileges, and obligations that come with state-sanctioned unions should be available to any consenting adults who would choose to enter into them-- a legal framework flexible enough to structure all kinds of different families. if i spend my old age caring and being cared for by my dearest friends, then we'd be a household, a family, worthy of those privileges, rights and obligations. if my sister and i raise children together, then we'd be a household, a family, worthy of those privileges, rights and obligations. leave it to religion to specially consecrate sexual relationships (heterosexual or otherwise), and abolish civil marriage in favor of civil unions between any consenting adults who will pledge in good faith to be profoundly responsible for one another.

this is a policy change i would donate money and sign-petitions and canvas and write letters to the editor in support of.

i was extremely anxious about posting anything that would convey my ambivalence about the decision. partly out of respect for the very real pain and disappointment suffered by citizens of california; partly out of respect for the fact that, even though i'm not exactly "for gay marriage", those fighting against it are obviously motivated by their own intolerable homophobia and not to be supported in their aims;  and mostly by the fear that it would further alienate me from certain friends (see: my last post).

but this is a serious issue, and i've got to say what i think. for every story about a same-sex romantic partner being barred from a hospital room, or being ignored while estranged parents are allowed to make bad end of life decisions or take away children or property (even if special papers have been signed), there's a story about the same sorts of things happening to people without romantic partners.  their actual life-partners-- friends and housemates who care for and understand them and their wishes-- are ignored.  these are wrenching stories-- each one a terrible miscarriage of justice.  all people, in the vulnerable moments around death and birth and sickness, need recourse to the special protection that state-recognized unions afford.

and there's something maybe larger and certainly more radical that ought to be on the table: it's hard to see how we, as queers, can effectively imagine and adopt nontraditional family structures without said recourse.  and it's hard to see how the larger public could begin to re-imagine traditional (often oppressive) family structures in the shadow of civil marriage.  i won't go on about this at length, but it's worth mentioning.  i'm no HRC gay with a yen to assimilate.  i'm a radical, god damn it, at least about this, with a mind to reimagine.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


if you're very lucky then it will happen to you once or twice or several times over the course of your life that you'll spend a smitten season with someone, and with this someone romance, when it concludes, concludes simply and in an easy affection.  smittenhood itself lives on. smittenhood deepens, even.

i'm very lucky.  so lucky!  but my friend hannah (with whom i spent a smitten season) is moving away.  i'm feeling surprisingly stricken!  she's moving bravely, i think, to an unfamiliar city where she'll learn to do the work she loves, and work in a new way on the love she's in (grad school, in other words, and the pleasure of domestic partnership).  so we're all being scheduled, all of us lucky ones, for a little quality hannah time before she goes, and mine was yesterday.  i should have been writing a paper, as i should be writing a paper now, but it was such a worthwhile conversation, as our conversations are (i can't say how much i'll miss them).

hannah and i have both been thinking some, for various personal and pragmatic reasons, about domesticity.  i feel surrounded by it all of a sudden.  i'm sure it wasn't actually sudden.  i'm sure it sauntered up to me slowly, in plain sight, waving.  but here it is-- a collective turning inward toward shared homes, and marriages, and pets, and babies.  everybody wants a damn baby!  i can't even love babies without being accused of wanting them, too.  can't i like babies for themselves, for being awesome, without self-serving motives like wanting to own one and dress it up and do things i think are cute?

not coincidentally, i think, i've made a series of apparently offensive comments over the last few weeks regarding the children, pets, and relationship dynamics of my friends.  frankly, i haven't said anything that i'd never thought to myself (or even said out loud) before, but i've begun to say these things too loudly and at just the wrong moment.  i've been courting confrontation.

the summer i met hannah was a conspicuously undomestic moment in both our lives, and this was reflected in the politics and circumstances of our friends and wider community.  'i was living on whisky and air' she said, and i was explicitly practicing a kind of friendly pluralism in which anything like the formal or informal expectations and hierarchies that come along with romantic relationships were strictly prohibited.  and this was, it's true, a moment, but our views and commitments weren't, i think, fad-ish.  i was two years in to a four year stint of this way of doing things, and most all of our friends were trying for something a little weird, where they were trying for anything at all.

i still think that there's something ethically dubious about the expectations and hierarchies that tend to structure romantic relationships.  on the one hand, arranging one's priorities and expectations around a single other person can undermine other relationships-- to friends, to oneself.  but i also wonder if the relationship in question-- the very one being prioritized-- doesn't tend to wither under the weight of prioritization and expectation.  right or wrong, i've spent a long time trying to live by the conviction that one way of making relationships sustainable is to resist the impulse to expect, and, spun out to it's conclusion, this conviction has at times led me pretty far off the beaten path, romance wise. 

my concerns aside, this primary relationship business seems to be what people are up to these days, even me, sort of.  and i'm mostly proud and impressed and happy.  this winter i visited with another old friend,  unexpectedly living with someone and liking it, and she said to me that loving someone alone is not reason enough to think that you can make domesticity last.  partnership-- sharing your life with another person-- is the deepest kind of compromise.  it's an agreement to negotiate on the most important and distinctive features of what your life will be like.  you have to think, she said, that this kind of compromise is valuable in itself-- not just something yr willing to put up with because you love someone.  loving someone is one thing, wanting to be close to them no matter the cost-- honestly, that shit's a dime a dozen.  any asshole can fall in love, and they generally do.  it's another thing to think of someone that your own life would go better if it were decided by what you come up with together, even through conflict, then it would guided by your judgment alone-- to think that even the conflict itself generates something of vital importance-- that you're better for it.  conflict will always be a reason to leave if you see things any other way.

i'm not sold on it yet, myself.  it might be a good way to do things, and it might not be.  it might be a good way to do things for some people, but not for everyone.  "it" might be several different kinds of things misleadingly disguised as one, or one thing misleading disguised as several.  i don't know.  but i'm lucky, as i've mentioned.  i'm surrounded by people i trust and admire who i can observe and talk with as they run their own on-going experiments on how a life might best be lived.  h.lewis is just one bravewondefullovemess of an example.  the greater the diversity of the experiments, earnestly undertaken, the more i learn and the better i can imagine.  and the less fucking cranky i get.  i want to romance my friends, and be a friend to my girlfriend, and i want my friends to be my teachers, and i want to treat babies like they're my friends, too.

hannah helped me think about it.  she's put a damper on my bitchery with brave thoughtful goodwill, and thereby saved the rest of you from my aggressive heckling.  sucks for you, she's leaving.  no wait, sucks for me.  no wait, i'm so happy!  another city with a comfortable couch i can sleep on. xo, HL-- xo.