Former Bay Windows editor Hannah Clay Wareham shares her feelings about marriage at her blog, the homesteady
You've probably figured this out by now, even though i realized today that i've never actually come right out + said it on this blog: i'm a lesbian.
Why is that still such a scary thing to say/type? i guess it's not a common thing to read in the blogosphere (ugh, i really hope people are still using that word). in fact, a pretty big handful of the blogs out there are run by straight women whose religion -- by + large christianity -- is really important to them + figures prominently in their blogs (i'm an athiest, but let's save that for another post). so it's a little bit of a rare thing, i think, to be gay + also a life/style/whatever blogger. rare, but welcome overall, in my experience.
I try not to define myself using just my sexual orientation...that box is way too small for all that i am. ("i am large. i contain multitudes." - walt whitman...ahem) i'm also a daughter, sister, feminist, dog person, a pro-choice advocate, writer, democrat...i could go on. but today i'm writing about the lesbian part, even though it's still a little scary, even eight years after coming out. get ready for a long, honest post.
I didn't always want to get married. in fact, i was pretty much opposed to it during my radical-ish college years. why would i want to be a part of something that wasn't designed for me, that specifically excluded me? plus all the traditions seemed so old-fashioned + misogynistic. i mean, i know that a father walking his daughter down the aisle no longer symbolizes a change in her ownership (in fact, my dad's walking me down the aisle in may), but once upon a time, it did. my rebellious 18-year-old self just couldn't get down with that.
Even once i met kristie + fell in love, and i knew i wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, the idea of a traditional wedding still wasn't really appealing to me. it wasn't until we i got older + began to think about having kids, that i began to think about what this choice meant for my future family.
I realized that the safest thing i can do for my future children is provide them with a parent that the state has to recognize as their parent. because that's what kristie will be: their mother. if something were to happen to me, because we would have been married before starting our family, there would be no question as to where our children would go: with their mother. i'm happy i can make that safe for them, even before they're born.
But we're lucky. we live in massachusetts. it's a massachusetts law that would keep our kiddos safe (at least until we leave the state. kristie will still have to legally adopt our children if we plan on traveling anywhere ever). lots of states have legislature specifically banning same-sex marriage or adoption by gay or lesbian couples. i can only imagine that life is a lot harder there for a variety of reasons.
Here are just a few facts about what it's like to be gay in the united states:
- if we aren't married when i give birth, kristie has to legally adopt that baby; she's not automatically considered the other parent. (legal experts recommend that she adopt the baby anyway, in case something were to ever happen in another state that would not be legally required to recognize our marriage + therefore her rights as a parent.)
- if i ever ended up in the hospital, in many states we'd have to have the correct paperwork on hand for kristie to even be allowed to see me, much less make any medical decisions on my behalf.
- the family + medical leave act does not require kristie's employer to let her take time off of work to help me take care of our new (hypothetical) baby -- even if we're married.
- after our wedding, if we leave massachusetts + end up in a state where same-sex marriage isn't recognized, that's it! we're not legally married anymore until we leave that state for one where same-sex marriages are legally recognized.
- we miss out on 1,138 federal rights, protections + benefits since the defense of marriage act (doma) says that nationwide, same-sex marriage isn't recognized (even if we're married in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, like mass).
- creating a family that is legally recognized by the federal government + in states where same-sex marriage isn't legal or is even specifically banned requires a LOT of paperwork. like a co-parenting agreement, domestic partnership agreement, marriage license, donor agreements, durable power of attorney for finances, health care proxy, hospital visitation authorization, last will + testament, adoption records, and living will. not some of those; ALL of them. maybe more, depending on what state you live in/plan to travel to.
I happen to think i deserve all the things that come with marriage + family life, ideally without all the paperwork + attorneys' fees. so when i realized all of that -- all that difference that still exists -- i knew we had to get married. to keep our kids safe, and also to show people that our family is the same as theirs. the personal became political, and still is, and probably will be for the rest of our lives.
It's great that nine states + dc have legalized same-sex marriage -- it's more than i ever thought i'd see. but there are 41 state laws that ban it outright. and that sucks. it sucks to be hated by people who've never met me, just because i'm gay. it sucks that some politicians think i won't be a good mother. it sucks that those angry people who protest everything are protesting me, and protesting the happy life that i love. my feelings are hurting almost all the time because of crap like this. we've made progress, but we need to make more.
So here's why we're getting married: because we love each other; because we want to keep our family safe; because we have a right to; because we have so many people in our life who deserve a night of celebration + gratitude. and yes, i'm excited about the dress.
So you know what? the fight's not over yet. my rights are not safe. my marriage -- my wedding -- is, in part, a political thing. + i'm ok with it. if our story helps somebody else understand a little bit more about what it's like to be gay, to be us, it's worth it. our love has just as much value as anybody else's -- and maybe a different significance, since we've had to fight so hard for it. i'm proud of it; i've found my person. nobody will ever be able to make me feel ashamed of marrying the woman that i love.
Read Hannah at the homesteady