Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gay Wedding: a break from the conventional

Lately I've been referring to J as my wife, mostly because it's the easiest and most clear-cut way to explain our relationship in the least amount of words. And for all intent and purposes, she IS my wife. October 1st saw our 3 year living-together anniversary, this February we will file joint taxes for the first time so I can claim her student credits.

But, legally she is not yet my wife.

I had gotten over the idea of a wedding and being married to someone, because when I came out in late spring of 2001, it wasn't yet legal, nor did I understand the importance of why it needed to become legal.

I am still not entirely married to the idea, preferring to day dream about babies and parenting rather than my "perfect wedding day". Perhaps because I am overly practical, I cannot fathom the idea of spending $20K on a party. The thought in and of itself makes me want to barf. I have attended weddings that topped $60K, and weddings that only cost the married couple the cost of the marriage license and the wedding officiant. Each and everyone were lovely in their own way. I have spoken with people my parents age who had huge weddings and regret the expense, and people who had small, intimate weddings and still speak of it to this day (my parents being among this last group).

We each come from small families. My mother is the youngest of three, her middle brother died when I was 6, and her oldest brother and his husband I *never* see, and have spoken with only once in 4 years. My cousins I have spoken with twice in 5 years. My father is an only child. J is an only child, and her brother-like cousin is the only one on her dad's side. Her maternal family is slightly larger, although I have only met 1 of them (excluding her mother, whom I've met several times).

Our small wedding is 20 people. Our large wedding is 45. It does not include people who would have a biological claim, but whom one of us have never met.

But, who wears a dress? Does anyone walk down the aisle? What about wedding parties?

The answer? There are no rules. This is an opportunity to create something uniquely us, devoid of any cultural and societal obligations to rules and the "supposed to's". It will probably be fairly inexpensive, since our kids will be more than a freebie.

J will definitely wear a dress, and I will most likely too, but beyond that, we have no idea. Summer wedding? Winter wedding? Catered? Appies? Sit down dinner? Venue? All of this, who knows?

The world is our oyster.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

That's So Gay, Don't Be Such a Fag

It's something I hear every so often, and up until recently it has only caused mild annoyance. I was caught completely off guard when I heard it recently and had to pick my jaw off the floor before I could respond. I was stunned, hurt and then angry. My guard was down, I was totally focused on a task, it just rolled out in casual conversation, and it felt like someone had just punched me in the gut. It's not something I'm used to hearing anymore since my departure from high school and entering a workplace where people are so kind, caring and understanding (I find health care workers to be curious, but not rude, and I'm always happy to answer their questions).

My initial reaction (in my head) was "people still use this? Educated, smart and really nice people whom I like a lot? People who KNOW that I'm gay and don't seem put off or even phased by it".

Then I felt the hot flush of anger and frustration, the distortion of my vision (the world literally turns sideways when my adrenal glands get going).

The words that came out of my mouth, after I had managed to shut it and get my jaw working again, were "did you REALLY just say that? Really???". Perhaps not the most eloquent, but it did provoke a particularly awkward discussion about homophobia and racism.

I saw the immediate look of panic in their face, and then I felt my stomach drop. This wasn't intentional, it was habitual.

It's taken me a long time to understand the full consequence of using "that's so gay" instead of "that's stupid" or "that's lame". We, as decent citizens, understand the ties between a racial slur and the existence of racism, but the line between a homophobic slur and homophobia is not as well understood. We accept that screaming "CHINK" out of a car window, pulling your eyes back to mock Chinese people, or making the "duhhh" while hitting your chest is rude, cruel and tasteless. We understand that this is a form of violence, and adults, school officials and parents a quick to chastise children for this behaviour. The first time those words ever left my mouth I was 11 and sitting in the gym at school. My friend turned to me and said "that's not a nice thing to say about gay people", and she was very very upset with me. The last time I uttered "that's so gay" was later that year and my mother was driving and I was sitting in the back seat. We were on a side street, so she slammed on the breaks, turned to me and said "don't you ever say that again". That expression has never graced my lips in a derogatory manner since.

My experience in high school was that "that's so gay" and "you are a/don't be such a fag/got" were acceptable insults. A friend's locker was spray painted with "faggot" and was trashed on several occasions, and the Christian club was allowed to "pray for the souls of the lost (aka the GSA)".

Using these terms REINFORCES the idea that being gay is abnormal, that there's something wrong, that it's a bad thing. It's deeper than that though, because insults aimed at a person's sexuality are also aimed at their gender identity. When "you are a fag" is used, it's usually used by a male person directed at another male person and is meant to point out things that are considered "feminine". If you are a man, having any feminine qualities is considered a weakness. I've found this to be true especially amongst teenage boys as they desperately grapple for a sense of identity (like we all do as teenagers). The idea that is reinforced is that if you are a fag, you are not a "real" man. Homophobic bullying IS gender bullying. It's bullying centered around gender roles and stereotypes. If a man knits, he MUST be gay, and therefore knitting when you're a man is considered pretty "faggy". The reverse is true, if a woman has short hair, wears mens pants and drives heavy machinery for a living, it's not "typical" women's work, and therefore pretty "dykey".

What should be done? Zero tolerance for this kind of language and bullying. In schools, at home, at work. I am pleased that this is an expression I hear rarely (although it should be taken into account that I'm now an adult who surrounds herself with people who think and behave like I do, that I have the luxury of living in Vancouver proper, and that I am a white middle class woman with an undergraduate degree and a career).

I hope that I continue to hear less and less of this incredibly derogatory slur as people become more aware and understand the implications when it's used. If it's OK to condone violence against a group of people for PERCEIVED sexual orientation and gender identity, then everyone becomes a potential target, from the 2 year old son who adores and grovels at his 5 year old sister's feet, to the 7 year old girl who would much rather cut her hair short, wear "boy clothing" and climb trees, to a 16 year old boy who cries when someone he loves passes away, to the 26 year old woman who speaks up against sexual harassment at work.

Sticks and stones do break bones, but words cause irrevocable psychological damage.