A Photograph of me without me in it

A Photograph of me without me in it
A photograph of me without me in it

Monday, February 25, 2013

Third Anniversary

Friday, February 8, 2013, Ann and I joined five other couples at our little church in Wallingford, Seattle, to celebrate our marriages. We called the ceremony a “mass wedding.”

Each couple had previously celebrated their sacred love, most couples in “commitment ceremonies” like Ann and I did. Two couples married two in other states, Iowa and New York, that allowed GLBTQ weddings before Washington State did.

Our friends John and Jerry have been married several times, including one time in Oregon when the law was overturned after they married, and the state revoked their Oregon Marriage License and returned their licensing fee.  Rude.

I was excited to participate in this mass wedding.
We couldn’t believe it in November when the state’s electorate voted for gay marriages, and we wanted to celebrate our relationship as well as this political turn.

Each of the couples had said vows before, and at this wedding we shared new ones (and one couple even remembered their original ones!) In the vows was evidence of lives shared together, none of us really newlyweds.

 I loved Tyler’s and Keegan’s vows, which revealed the complexity of long term love and raising children together. Their vows were funny and sweet. Keegan, for example, promised to be willing to go out to eat, even when he’s already defrosted the chicken. This, I gather, is a tension they are working out at home.

 As part of the ceremony, each couple told a bit of their story. Most of us had been in these relationships for more than a decade. Two couples met (though they didn't start dating then) in secondary school: Karen and Janet met in eighth grade and Jerry and John met in ninth.

 Anastasia and Giselle, in Seattle on a visit from Trinidad, joined the celebration, too, and we were honored by their participation.

Ann and I now celebrate three anniversaries (in addition to our birthdays--mine's coming up): seventeen years ago when, on April 17, we committed ourselves to living together in a way that honored both of our searches for our best selves; three years ago, on August 15, we celebrated at a commitment ceremony in our church: friends and family honored us with their presence.

And now we have a third anniversary: February 8, 2013, the day when the state agreed that we are married and gave us a pretty piece of paper to mark the occasion.

I didn’t think the third, state-approved ceremony would mean so much to me, but it does.

The celebration was a lot of fun, full of joy and love, humor and kindness. Our church’s ministers, Karla and Deborah, officiated. Our choir sang. There were candles and music, flowers and “I do’s”, prayers and promises. Faith, hope, and love, these three, were abiding there.

John and Jerry wore tuxedos. Mary and Hadley wore skirts (and in church!). The rest of us—men and women alike—wore nice pants and shirts.  No jeans or biking shorts. In our church, this is dressy.

After the ceremony, there were choices: white cake with raspberry, banana cream cake, and gluten and egg-free chocolate cupcakes. Lots of hugs and photos. And the signing of papers by officiates and spouses and witnesses. There were even those powdery square mints that we always had in the South.

I must admit, though, that my feelings about wearing my ring are mixed.

On the one hand (literally), I wear the ring as a reminder of how lucky I am to be with Ann and to live in this time of cultural change.

Ann and I are finally officially recognized as a married couple in our state, a recognition that I hope signals a cultural shift to accepting God’s love in its many forms and to loving all of the people in this world.

As our state’s—and, I hope, one day our nation’s—laws catch up to our church, I hope that more children will feel that they are loved and that more people will honor the goodness that God made in them and in others. I hope we really will love our neighbors as ourselves.

I also hope for some of the very important rights accorded married couples, rights of hospital visitations when one of us is sick and beneficiary rights to retirement income and social security when one of us passes.

These rights are real and important, and I thank the pioneers, many of them nameless, throughout our state’s and nation’s histories for the rights we've gained so far. Some people suffered, some even died, so that Ann and I and so many others might wear state-approved rings.

I am thankful, also, for the many people, young and old, who worked for this: students and professional politicians like Jamie Pedersen and “I love my gay son” PFLAG members.

 Most importantly, I am thankful for Ann’s love in my life, for the great gift of living my life with her. As I said in my vows: “My deepest promise to you is that I will live my life in gratitude for this great gift….I will bring my best self to you and my world because with you I am my best self.”

This ring and the love that it symbolizes overwhelm me with gratitude.

I have to tell you, though, that I feel a little funny wearing a gold wedding band around my ring finger.
For one, I don't want to be mistaken as straight. (I mistook myself for straight for too long.)

Secondly, Ann and I exchanged gold rings at this wedding, though we are aware of the devastation that gold mining has on the earth and on the people who mine it.
(At our first ceremony, wanting to be socially responsible, we exchanged sustainable, wooden rings. They were beautiful but didn’t last. Since we had to remove them to wash our hands, I lost mine in a few months. Ann didn’t lose hers, but it succumbed to the ravages of weather and hand washing and broke.)

So this time, we’re wearing gold, perhaps a more apt symbol of our ongoing commitment to one another, but still troubling as a reminder of what we’re doing to our world and to each other.

 I have protested against so many social injustices and have for so long, as a GLBTQ person, identified with those who are discriminated against. This wedding doesn't change that. Our society, after all, remains so unjust to GLBTQ people and others in so many ways.

This ring says to me that now I am—in some new measure at least—a person of privilege. And I don’t think I deserve such a privilege, not because I’m not worthy but because we are all worthy.

I worry that I am wearing a symbol of oppression.

I wonder if I feel like a woman in my social work cohort who revealed at the beginning of this fall that until she had done some recent research into her family history, she had identified as Native American, at least in part. And Native Americans certainly have suffered some of the worst oppressions that I know.

In her genealogical researchlast summer, however, she learned that in fact her lineage is not at all tied to a Native tribe, but instead that her history is primarily German.

She seemed to be overwhelmed by her sudden shift in identity. I feel in a similar whirl myself.

If I think of the world as oppressors and oppressed, as I so often have, these changing social constructs are disorienting.

So how is my thinking shifting?

Maybe it isn’t that the world is bifurcated into oppressed and oppressor, but maybe each of us is part oppressor and part oppressed.

If this is so, we are not defined by our status. We are neither oppressor nor oppressed. Just as I am not defined by my disabilities, not a disabled person, but a person with disabilities, we are persons with privileges and persons with oppressions: we are persons first. We are people who are oppressed AND people who oppress. Maybe.

Or doth the lady protest too much?

 We live the lives of our histories, African-American histories, native histories, histories of people who are GLBTQ and of people with disabilities. And so forth. So many histories in this power play.

No matter how we define ourselves and our privileges and oppressions, maybe the key idea is, “How do we move to a more just world where each of us, each human in the country and on this planet, has the opportunity to live a life of dignity and fullness?“

What moves us closer to this world? Does GLBTQ marriage move us in the direction? I hope so.  Does advertising that marriage with a gold ring. Maybe. Maybe not.

In hope for a more just world and in my deep love for Ann, I wear this ring.

Not just maybe. For sure. But still...






Monday, February 4, 2013

Shades of Grey

At the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conference last summer, agents and publishers were a-twitter about E.L. James’ erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. Comments and audience giggles had a supercilious tone, as if to say that this novel wasn’t real literature, but also felt boisterous and familiar enough so that I suspected many in the room read the novel with a flashlight in the boiler room so that no one would discover them.

I haven’t read the novel (sorry), but I live in Seattle, so I know about shades of grey. Some days, the sky wears a low grey veil that covers the city and the tree tops. Though there’s a vague glow in the sky that suggests the sun is up there somewhere, there’s no orb.

Other days, there are layers of greys: dark grey clouds with streaks of rain slanting from them, clouds that suggest the drama of a storm and maybe even thunder or lightning, lighter grey puffy clouds that may grow up to be storm clouds; and even higher and lighter greys where the sun’s glow emanates.

These variegated clouds, as opposed to the monotonous grey of living in a cloud, have variety and vibrance that lift this Northwester’s spirits—not as much as a “blue skies and the mountain is out” day, but I still appreciate the variety.

This past week, I’ve been living in my city’s fog and in the fog of the flu, and I’m tired of the flu’s tedium.

Before I had brain surgery a few years ago, I didn’t know that there were shades in illnesses. When I felt sick, I would lie around and moan, “I feel bad,” and my partner Ann would ask for clarification: “Do you need to the hospital or do you need to lie down.” I almost always just needed to lie down.

After brain surgery, however, nurses taught me about shades of pain. When I said, “I have a headache,” someone always made me assign it a number on a scale of one to ten. They never explained the scale, so I made up my own. A 1-3 was just a slight headache, one that I noticed but that didn’t stop me from any activity; a 4-6 was worse, but still not terrible;  a 7 required serious attention, and an 8-10 required intravenous drugs.

It’s been almost six years since I had neurosurgery and three years since radiation, the swine flu, and pneumonia, and now I have the flu. I’ve forgotten my numbers, though, which hardly matters because there are no gradations in my pain—pain which is really is not so bad, to tell you and myself the truth.

With this low level of pain, I could attend part of my graduate school class on Saturday and part of church on Sunday. I could watch the whole Super Bowl, even the power outage, but I think I overdid it, so today is another monotonously grey day.

I am tired of this mind fog. I wouldn’t prefer thunder and lightning in my brain, but they are more exciting. Perhaps that excitement is why I was a brave neurosurgery patient, and I am a wimp with the flu.

I read once that the worst thing for a teenager is boredom. I’m not sure that’s just true for teenagers.