My Big Fat Gay Marriage Issue, Resolved

The minister signed our marriage certificate with a flourish, then said, “One of you needs to sign here as ‘husband’ and and one over here as ‘wife.’” It was 2005. Dave and I were wed in Canada on our ninth anniversary as a couple, soon after Ontario legalized same-sex marriage—so soon that gender-neutral forms were not yet available.
When we returned to the U.S. our marital status lodged in the Twilight Zone. It’s still there. We believe we’re married. A whole vast country north of us believes we’re married. But what happens in Canada stays in Canada. According to those with saying power, Dave is married to nobody. Guess what that makes me.
Being nobody wears on a person. Researchers have long documented the negative effects of the stigma of homosexuality on gay people. Recent studies show that residing in a U.S. state that outlaws same-sex marriage has a direct adverse effect on the mental health of lesbians and gay men.
It makes me sick to live in Indiana in a marital state of perpetual confusion. Here’s my marital history: Not married, 23 years. Married, 14 years. Not married, seven years. Married, but not according to my state or federal government, nine years. Married and recognized as such by the state, 36 hours. Back to married-but-not-married, two months, followed by 10 days of being married. Then back to yes-but-no, then over to yes-but-not-really, not until the Supreme Court says it’s okay. (Did you follow that?)
In June a federal judge ruled Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. As gay couples lined up to obtain marriage licenses, Dave and I marveled. We could sip coffee at our own kitchen table as a bona fide married couple. For all of three days. The court ruling was stayed, pending appeal. For us, it was back to life in limbo.
Our summer vacation offered a breath of fresh air. We spent 10 consecutive days touring several states and two provinces where marriage equality is the law of the land. “This is the longest we’ve been married since we got hitched,” Dave said.

vintage collage
Toward the end of our trip we visited Niagara Falls, took in the view from the Canadian side, along with a thousand or more other spectators. So much water rushing over the brink made me have to pee. When I returned from the rest room I soon spotted Dave among the crowd. It’s not all that difficult to recognize someone you care about.
At the same time it’s easy to dismiss those you refuse to see. Experience has taught me this. My three children have severed contact with me over my having come out gay. As has my brother. As have former friends and fellow church members. No place at the table for the likes of me.
Where am I welcome? Life keeps me guessing. This past weekend I attended a college class reunion. I almost didn’t show up. I often encounter judgement and rejection from people who knew me before I came out of the closet. I feared more of the same should my classmates learn I am gay. I tested the waters. The first time a fellow alumnus asked about my spouse, I mentioned Dave by name. I was peppered with questions, taken to task for believing homosexuality cannot be changed, and charged with a lack of religious faith. Sheesh. Thereafter I mostly dodged questions about marriage and family. I avoided some conversations altogether. I shut down, hung back, withdrew. I was present but not present—off in limbo land again. This is familiar territory; I check in there frequently to visit my marital status.
Not long ago the federal court of appeals ruled against Indiana’s gay marriage ban. The state has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But I’ve been thinking: Dave and I could settle the matter now. As our state government is so antsy about keeping marriage between a husband and wife, we should send the folks in Indianapolis a copy of our Canadian marriage license. It’s there in black and white: on March 12, 2005, Dave took me to be his lawfully wedded wife.

Advertisements

Brief Matters

cotton-underwear-briefs    1. “A walnut killed him,” a relative says at the family reunion this summer, speaking of my great uncle. “He had a lot of food allergies,” says a second cousin. Apparently, Uncle Louie was deathly allergic to walnuts and didn’t know it. I stare at a sepia photograph of a young married man with big ears and bigger plans. Live like you mean it, Louie. Hear me? Love like you’re gonna die at 31. ’Cause guess what—

.
2. Blend the peel of an orange, a patch of velvet cloth and a gold doubloon with a Georgia peach and you’ll approximate the color of day lily my husband Dave has growing out back. Gorgeous blooms. But don’t blink. As their name implies, each blossom lasts but an afternoon.

.
3. The pain is intense, and it isn’t as if I haven’t been warned. Dave pointed to the hornets’ nest being built above our barn’s double doors, said he planned to kill its inhabitants. I made a case for living and letting live. They’ll interfere with our painting the barn this summer, he said, and will probably sting us when we go in and out. Not if we don’t bother them, I said. I’m reminded how physical pain rivets my attention, even as I mutter, “this, too, shall pass.”

.
4. After our long cold winter, the attack of the mayflies didn’t happen at my workplace this year. There are usually one or two days the entrance to the building is heaped with mayflies that have expired beneath its bright security light. These creatures spend most of their life as nymphs in the nearby Missinewa River. Come spring, they transform en masse, unfold new wings, fly, mate and die—all within a few hours.
5. Love me, love my cock. My hens, too. Our barnyard chickens are more pets than livestock. I was stricken last fall when a dog maimed my favorite hen. Three weeks ago she went broody, determined to hatch a clutch of eggs. My heart swelled to think of this scrappy survivor bringing life into the world. Yesterday she responded in soothing tones to the peep-peeps of her lone new arrival. Today her nest is empty. No sign of her chick anywhere; only a broken eggshell to prove she is a mother.

.
6. My oldest son is seven years old when I come out to myself and others. I lose my court gambit for joint custody, then see my visitation hours cut and cut again until finally a judge issues an order barring me from seeing my children altogether.

.
7. Pride Day in Indianapolis offers a flash of rainbow warmth and dazzle. Then it’s over. Back to life as usual. Yet for one brief Camelot moment, a shared sense of acceptance and freedom.

.
8. Life itself might well be an orgasm, fast as it shoots by. I’m at the age now where years collapse into months, months into hours. My elders assure me the pace only quickens from here on out.

.
9. In the wake of a recent federal judge’s ruling same-sex couples here in Indiana are allowed to marry. No having to travel out of state or out of country (as Dave and I did when we wed in Canada in 2005). For three days I revel in the notion my state finally has to accord Dave and me this measure of dignity, humanity and equality. Then the 7th Circuit Court stays the order. Now, a colleague bustles over to tell me what she heard on the radio: same-sex couples who wed here are to return their marriage licenses and collect a refund of fees paid.

.
10. All things change. All things change. My crib notes for living in such a world: (a) Live as fully alive and fully aware as possible. (b) Choose love. And gratitude. (c) Laugh often. (d) Avoid nuts.