Editor's Note: This post launches a series, "Love & Marriage, LLP", on the wedding planning process of two lesbian women. - Feminista Jones
She looked up as we walked in and excitement brightened her formerly work-weary face. "G!" she exclaimed, and hugged my fiancée (who had been my fiancée of three whole days by then) as I stood by beside the hotel's wedding coordinator, our tour momentarily on hold. G introduced me to the smiling woman as the daughter of a good friend G's mom knows from church. Immediately, the woman jumped in to tell us how G's mother had talked about our engagement for hours at church the day before, to anyone who would listen. The best part? My fiancée and I didn’t think to be surprised and grateful the moment we heard that had happened; those feelings snuck up on us hours later.
Image: Jerome Decq via Flickr
Talking about getting married with G, and then getting engaged, has been a wonderful experience for me personally. Politically though, I have always been a bit disappointed that the powers that be in the gay community made marriage seem like the only goal of all gay people over the past 10 years or so. I wish gender and sexual minorities had a push for equality that had less to do with assimilation into straight norms. I wish our rights agenda paid more attention to promoting rights for us as individuals even if we don’t have “respectable” family arrangements. But, now that I am engaged to a woman, and quite visibly riding the early wave of Illinois’ newly-legal same-sex marriage, I have a little insight into why the push for marriage equality has been so successful: people really, really love weddings!
I truly did not expect the spontaneous outpouring of love and support my fiancée and I have received from family members and friends, but also wedding vendors and total strangers who hear that we are going to get married. I struck up a conversation with a lady in a car wash and she was giddy as soon as I mentioned it! I’m lucky and proud to say that both of our families were accepting and kind to us before we got engaged. Since G "put a ring on it", though, I keep encountering evidence that our moms are spreading the news far and wide, and more happily than I imagined. I can feel these little shreds of the internalized homophobia I thought was long-gone actually easing off, for the first and last time.
Getting engaged feels like becoming a symbol of the possibility of true love and happiness for everyone around me. I see this lightness and joy in the people I tell that we are engaged; I never realized how powerful the cultural messaging around marriage truly is. I still don’t think marriage should be the only framework for gay equality in this country, but I think framing gay marriage as a highly important part of equality let people focus on the happiness and love gay couples were enjoying all around them. In some ways, the marriage equality movement turned straight people all over America into teary-eyed wedding guests. Shifting the focus of politics, for once, to something happy, like weddings, helped make Illinois a more equal place to live for my fiancé and me, and we are loving every minute of it.