Resist! Resist! Resist!
In my culture(s)*, this is considered the ideal relationship. I consider marriage to be an institution of the patriarchy, built to oppress women. In addition to Twisty’s scathing critique of marriage, I would add that I believe that The State (tm & co) uses marriage to confer privilege upon individuals that I believe should be considered human rights–things that The State ™ shouldn’t be able to touch in the goddamned first place! Reasons I have considered getting married: conferring medical power-of-attorney to someone I trust, access to quasi-affordable education, shared health insurance, access to citizenship, spousal privilege…you see where we’re headed here. Fuck The State ™ and fuck Marriage (turn down the defensiveness–not your experience of marriage**, but Marriage As An Institution). Forcing people to get married in order to access these privileges gives The State ™ ever more ways to enforce the kyriarchy.
I was pretty small (~ 10 years old) when I announced that I would never marry. I’ve wavered since then in various capacities, trying to negotiate with the cultural concept of The Ideal Relationship: a committed (state-approved, static, lifelong) monogamous heterosexual patriarchal relationship, homogeneous in race, class, ability, etc. I think it’s been relatively easy to reject the notion of homogeneity in my relationships because I am the by-product of a mixed marriage myself, although I still feel like my parents used marriage as a tool for assimilation to whiteness, class privilege, heteronormativity, etc. Personally, I’m still working on unpacking the rest of my internalized shit about relationships.
Establishment Gays (as I like to call them) have been pushing marriage as a big gay agenda item hard for ~10 years, after HIV infection rates began to fall (nevermind that they’re on the rise again). Notable tag lines of these arguments: ‘we’re just like them, but gay!’ I find this rhetoric to be patronizing and false. Because queerness has evolved in direct opposition to (and under direct fire from) the patriarchy and the State ™, I see many of our relationships (both in history and currently) do not conform to the ideals of marriage or monogamy. Additionally, I feel like this kind of rhetoric marginalizes people who don’t fit whatever the USian “normal” is supposed to look like.
For me, to say that I am a queer is not just to say that my desires do not conform to those predicated by the patriarchy, I mean that my desires act in direct resistance to the patriarchy. Some of those ways: being a CAFAB person who fucks other CAFAB people, being a masculine-identified person who fucks other masculine-identified people, engaging in enthusiastic consent, having multiple ongoing sexual relationships, committing to non-romantic or non-sexual relationships and prioritizing those over sexual/romantic ones, practicing BDSM, doing sex work, challenging notions of what constitute ‘primary’ sex acts, redefining and/or doing away with the concept of virginity, engaging in mixed (class, race, ability, generation, etc) relationships…the list goes on and on.
In identifying and actualizing upon my desires I spend a lot of time thinking: is this what I really want, or what I’ve been told to want? It’s harder for me to undo what I think of as The Monogamy Myth, that we can just pair off and close off our world from others and be completely fulfilled. I find this a) tacitly false b) unhealthy as hell c) undesirable because it undermines the health of communities d) to put that another way: it reinforces capitalism. If I put all of my resources (emotional, physical, and financial) into a single relationship, I don’t have any resources left for anything else. Even for people who prefer monogamy to other models of relationships, outside relationships provide important tools and support! If I already have someone(s) to care for me when I’m old and sick, what do I need a spouse for? If through our joint efforts we can provide for ourselves with fewer means (i.e. as a collective household or thru a pantry), we don’t have to justify the Wage Gap, and we certainly don’t have to fuck, date, or marry people who perpetuate fucked up abusive shit.
I think that a very real argument for marriage as a tool exists in terms of conferring privileges that people would not otherwise have access to, thanks to the oppressive nature of The State ™, but I also want to keep working to combat the notion that marriage is the end-all be-all of a politickal agenda that represents ‘the best interests of all queers’. Because it’s not. Marriage is not a solution to the patriarchy. Marriage is not a solution to the medical-industrial complex’s monopoly over access to healthcare. Marriage is not a solution to homophobia. Marriage is not a solution to white supremacy culture. Marriage is not a solution to abusive relationship dynamics. Marriage is not a solution to the State ™ having acquired legal purview over one’s residency. I could go on but hey, let’s leave you some room for creative extrapolation! Putting forth marriage as The Big Gay Agenda Item legitimizes the State ™, and is used as an excuse to justify all sorts of fucked up shit, marginalizing the experiences and very real oppression of others.
So. I probably won’t marry unless I decide that it represents my best interests, because I prefer that The State ™ stays the fuck out of my relationships and my bedroom, but if I have to in order to access privileges I/the people I care about need, I’ll do it. But I sure as hell don’t want to.
No gods, no masters, no marriage.
additional suggested reading:
- Monogamous privilege checklist [ed. note: none of this oppression exists in a vacuum, please consider issues like immigration, sexism, etc as you read!]
- Dean Spade on non-monogamy as radical practice
- That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation ed. Matt Bernstein Sycamore aka Mattilda [as an amusing aside: a friend gave me this book a few days after I showed him the first draft of this essay–and it opens with a queer critique of marriage. yeehaw!]
*when I say “my culture” I mean middle-class (ish?), white-assimilationist/supremacist USian. not the culture I strive for, but the culture(s) I was raised in.
**some of my best friends are married! No, really. Some of my favorite people in committed relationships are also married. To eachother! And I love the way that they are partners to one another–it is an immense joy to be a part of their lives as a friend, to bear witness to them growing and loving and supporting one another thru the years. But it’s the health of their partnership that I toast to, not the seal on their marriage certificate, when I toast to them. You know who you are.
And you who can not marry: I love y’all, too. And I toast to your partnership just as high (or higher), tho I know sometimes it’s a bitter fucking pill not to be able to sanction your partnership with the privileges that marriage could afford it, from shared ownership to health insurance to visitation in perilous situations.
Let’s keep fighting while acknowledging that these are rights that should be afforded to everyone.