NEVER FEAR: NORMATIVITY

BY TEAGAN WEBB '18

Q: I’m queer and poly and I think the concept of marriage is problematic, but I can’t help but fantasize about wedding dresses and “eternal love.” How do I deal with these feelings? How do I talk to my partners about it?

Thank you for sending this in! In my experience, this is a rarely spoken-about issue in the mainstream queer rhetoric. Many college-aged queers don’t remember a time when large LGBTQA organizations, like HRC or NOH8, weren’t fighting for marriage equality. I have seen my share of tear-jerking Buzzfeed videos of rich New York gay weddings and their adorable dog-ringbearers. I am not immune to their charm. The movement’s slogan, “Love is love,” is difficult to argue with by design. And it makes queers like me who disagree with a focus on marriage equality feel a bit heartless. So let’s see this from both sides.

On one hand, marriage was a tool for controlling and bartering women as currency for the purpose of childbearing. But rarely do we discuss its part in the colonial project, enforced (often violently) on people of color under the guise of “morality,” or its part in capitalism as an ideological tool of property rights and lineage. I don’t think I have enough space to go into it fully, but it’s important to mention that the history of the practice is deeply steeped in racism and classism. And while I am grateful to hear that the majority of the mainstream players are still fighting; marriage equality was not/should not be the end-game of the movement. For further reading on this, I suggest Angela Willey’s book, — and her course on monogamy at Hampshire! — “Undoing Monogamy.”

On the other hand, queer people deserve to be happy. We have all been socialized to understand romantic love in a specific way, with marriage (and sometimes child rearing) as the final goal. So don’t be hard on yourself, or feel like you’re not “queer enough” because you are having “Say Yes to the Dress” feelings. I remember the nasty feeling of being unable to hold a girl’s hand in front of her family. I just wanted to feel “normal,” not deviant or immoral, just a person in love. We all deserve that.

So my advice is this — talk to your partners about your feelings because, beyond marriage, that’s what “normal” relationships should look like. If you haven’t already, read Alison Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For” as she frequently discusses the balance between her urge to buy into the “white picket fence” and also burn it to the ground. 

Ask yourself what really appeals to you about marriage; is it the celebration of undying love? Or the grand gesture of long-term commitment and security? Maybe all your cousins are getting married and your mom keeps sighing forlornly at their Facebook photos. Whatever it is, it may be worthwhile to figure out why you crave that and why it’s not being satisfied. Ask your friends, family and partners, what does marriage mean to them? 

And most importantly, don’t feel rushed into a decision. Whether you’re 20 or 60 or 100, this is not a decision which defines your worth. Tell the people you love that you love them. It’s enough.

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