Queering Marriage: Deciding What a Union Means to Me

by: Mar Curran

I first became active in the queer rights movement beyond just the usual semantics of, “Of course everyone should have equal rights!” and participating in the Day of Silence when I came to college.

It was the fall of 2008, when Proposition 8 was at its breaking point in California. I spent time writing letters to congressmen, passing around petitions, learning about the 1138 federal benefits denied to same-sex couples. A good gateway cause to be sure, as I had always hoped to get married and didn’t want being queer to be a wrench in that plan.

But you know what? We’ve come a long way since 2008 as far as marriage equality. And I still don’t have equal rights. Neither do a lot of other queer people who choose not to be married, either because they enjoy being single, have nontraditional relationships or don’t believe in the institution.

And even if people were to have equal marriage rights, we’d still have a lot of work left to do. I am often the one who when inebriated and talking about politics with certain queer friends will tell them how frustrated I am that the movement seems to focus on assuming a mainstreaming point of view, saying, “We want to be just like you! Let us be monogamous and live in the suburbs with full legal protections, too!” I think the queer rights movement needs to look at all the facets of oppression we face on a day to day basis and the intersectionality of different institutions of oppression.
This is why people are surprised I want to get married.

First, let me explain. I’m not exactly talking married as in the religious sense. I don’t think I need to be in a church to make my unions legitimate, so calm down, Bachmanns. I’m not going to call it oppression if your religion doesn’t want to validate me.

I don’t think this union needs to be necessarily legal, for me personally. I do believe it’s everyone’s right to choose to enter into that institution we’ve been conditioned to see as normal if they want to. Maybe someday I’ll need my ailing partner to be on my insurance so we’ll have to get legally married; maybe someday I’ll change my mind about it being an institution I see too many flaws with to want to sign up.
I know that just because there has been a traditional narrative of what “marriage” is doesn’t mean I have to buy into it. I’m queer. I can decide what my union means to me.

I am sometimes in monogamous relationships. I know it doesn’t work for everyone. I know it has been what I’ve chosen for myself in the past and I’ve put a lot of thought into those situations. I could see myself doing it again. I could also see myself not doing it again. I could be married and in an open relationship. It works for people I know; I could someday be that person. I have in the past wanted a child or two. I have also not wanted children. I currently stand from the position of wanting to adopt at least four children. I have lived with a partner before. I also have maintained separate residences when in a relationship. Sometimes I think gift registries are useful, and other times I think they’re ridiculous. I am not at a point in my life where I know how things will turn out or how I even want things to turn out.

What I do know is when I was young I had a vision of having a big party and dancing with the person I love and want to grow attractively old with in front of those I’m closest to. I do know I look cute in a suit. I do know that I love to throw a party. I do know that I would like to find one person I want to be in a long term partnership with, however odd that may seem to many of my radical friends. I do know that I have in the past been willing to enter into such an agreement, so it doesn’t seem too far out to see myself in 10 years doing so again.

I like the idea of finding a person to spend my whole life with. I love love. I want to come home every night and have dinner with someone and then watch “Law & Order: SVU” together. I want to be part of one of those couples everyone says are too cute together because they’re legitimately happy.

I want to raise kids with someone, split the good cop bad cop roles with them, share carpools and rides to the dentist with them, and stand in the doorway smiling as they read our youngest a bedtime story and kiss them goodnight. When I’m 85 years old, I want someone there who’s seen it all with me, who knows so many of the good and bad things about me and still wants to be there.

All of these things can happen without entering into an agreement with one another, or defining what our relationship is, much less defining it as a “marriage.”

However, I have never been a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” kind of guy. The good stuff of a marriage I want. A big party with a giant cake, anniversaries, formalized announcements, an attempt at loving someone for a whole lifetime in a committed way. This all sounds like my cup of tea.

I will just leave behind the stuff I don’t like from the narrative of what a marriage should be: lack of sex, dissolving communication, frustration, feeling trapped. I don’t want those parts, so we’ll just have to talk with one another about what we want, what we’re getting out of this marriage. We’re just going to have to queer it up.

So, if you see me getting teary-eyed at the “It’s Time” video, or you hear me make an offhanded remark about how my best friend told me he was going to be my best man someday, don’t be too surprised. This isn’t going to be your grandma’s kind of union (or it might be, I don’t actually know your grandma). It’s just going to be whatever we decide it will be, like the thoughtful queers we are.

Mattis “Mar” Curran is a trans/queer rights activist and community organizer; he is on the boards of Video Action league, Advocate Loyola, the Queer intercollegiate Alliance, and works with GetEQUAL. As spoken word artist, he has read at each All The Writers I Know event. He studies Communications and Women’s Studies at Loyola University Chicago. Curran likes beer and cats.

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