On feminism, marriage equality, and my impending marriage

December 12 | Guest post by Tjatjue
Can't hold… laughing too much…
Who says people getting married don't conform to gender norms, that straight couples can't be pansexual, and brides can't carry their grooms over the threshold!? Photo by Faller Photography

I would think that it is fair to say that getting married forces one to articulate one's assumptions and confront expectations. It has certainly forced me to confront mine, and to articulate and affirm the values and ideas which I hold most dear. For me, these would be feminism and marriage equality. I was definitely a feminist and a proponent of marriage equality before my engagement; getting engaged has not suddenly made a progressive out of me. However, the prospect of my impending marriage (to a lovely, understanding, open-minded and progressive straight cis-man) has forced me to clarify my perspectives on these two ideas to a much greater extent than ever before. In the process, I have become even firmer in my support of these two positions.

Why has my position on feminism and marriage equality been strengthened?

Marriage is traditionally an institution steeped in patriarchy. It is traditionally defined as being between a man and a woman, and comes with predefined gender roles and expectations. The prospect of my impending marriage means having to confront all these notions, which make me deeply uncomfortable.

Strict gender roles and expectations that come with marriage are steeped in gender essentialism, so much so to be nauseating. What is even worse is the fact that establishment-linked organisation Marriage Central promotes these gender essentialist and frankly, offensively sexist notions. (The fail-worthy nature of Marriage Central deserves a separate post of its own, dedicated to tearing down each and every terrible, close-minded construct they endorse.)

Traditional gender roles are complete and utter rubbish. All roles and responsibilities should be equal opportunity. The basis of understanding should be equality — if those in a relationship choose to have an unequal relationship (e.g. 24/7 Master/slave etc.), this would still start from a negotiation on the basis of equality. A partner should not be expected to fulfill certain roles simply because zie is of a certain gender. And now that I am outwardly going to be perceived as a "wife" simply because I am female, I revolt all the more against such outdated expressions of gender essentialism.

However, getting married is still the right choice for me and my partner. If the civil partnership option existed in this country, and conferred the exact same rights as marriage, we would of course opt for civil partnership. But this is simply not the case. Some have chosen not to get married until everyone can get married, but my partner and I have not chosen this route (personally, we doubt its efficacy, though of course we do not pass judgement on those who adhere to it).

In a similar vein, the prospect of my impending marriage has made me an even stronger supporter of marriage equality. It is completely and utterly senseless that anyone would deny anyone the right of making that same level of commitment to a person (or people) that they love. It is illogical and smacks of supremacism. There is a profound sense of injustice, and it makes me so very angry.

Now, I have identified as mostly straight for a long time running. Being in this loving, stable and secure relationship with my partner has given me space to think more deeply about my sexuality. I have come to accept that I am bisexual/pansexual. This does not mean that the relationship with my partner is doomed. We have agreed upon a monogamous relationship; sexual orientation is not the same as relationship orientation.

Of course, this new-ish discovery has brought a new dimension to my thinking on marriage equality. Identifying as part of the queer community has made this issue even closer to my heart. I feel fortunate and safe that my partner wholeheartedly agrees with me. We will be opening our marriage ceremony with a reading on marriage equality and what marriage means to us. We find this extremely meaningful, and I am very glad that we have incorporated this into such an important occasion.

The prospect of being viewed as a stereotypical cis-gender, binary-confirming, heterosexual female (with all the gender essentialist tropes) has been very much increased by my impending marriage. I feel a greater need than ever before to speak out and rebel against these harmful notions steeped in supremacism and deep-seated inequality. I am only one drop in the ocean, but it does not follow that I am incapable of making a difference.

  1. Gently caress gender norms, man. Seriously. Not everyone lives their lives the exact same way.
    Personality-wise, my partner would be considered to be "dominant". I consider myself to be femme as well. However, she's the housewife while I'm the breadwinner. If asked "who's the butch?" (we're lesbians), we answer "both!" And it's not a bad thing – it's just how life worked out for us, and we're cool with that.
    P.S. We're both wearing dresses at the wedding. :)

    6 agree
  2. That's cool! I'm happy for both of you! :)

    I think it's more the fact that people tend to impose gender norms indiscriminately to everyone that gets to me. Individuals conforming to gender norms is ok! Not conforming to gender norms is also ok. :) Expecting everyone to conform to gender norms is not ok is what i mean :)

    4 agree
    • Exactly – I'm lamenting the fact that we get asked "So, who's the butch?" all the time, and that I get pigeonholed as the femme. Sorry if that complaint was a bit subtle.

      0 agree
      • Ahh, I see. I can see why that's frustrating.. Internet commiserations & hugs, if wanted! :)

        0 agree
  3. I really enjoyed reading this! I've been rather lucky that the people who know I'm bivsexual/polysexual are open enough to realize that it doesn't mean anything about my personality, it just changes who I am attracted to. I did spend some time explaining to my sister(maitron of honor) and friend (maid of honor) that my bridesman is not a femme or a butch, he is simply himself. I think my MOH got it because she's bisexual also. Some people get so caught up in the societal norms with which they grew up, they don't know how to break the mold of understanding. If it's something outside of what they've been taught, they simply cannot comprehend it.

    2 agree
  4. Very eloquent. It is hard to fight stereotypes in any case, but I find (for myself) that appearing to be straight, in a straight "normal" relationship, on a path society seems to be able to identify with, allows me the freedom of fighting from the inside – I can point out "Oh you think I'm straight because from the outside I look and act straight? Well, I'm actually bi – does that really change your perception/relationship with me? Maybe there's some rethinking that needs doing, hmm?" Most people seem to get it, some people give blank stares, and a few get confrontational (from both ulta-conservative anti-gay standpoints, and from LGBT corners – apparently I'm not "gay enough" – what?!). Again, thank you for the very eloquent argument.

    6 agree
    • On not being "gay enough" – I am bisexual and get that from a lot of other lesbians as well. It is frustrating enough that my relationships with women inspire rudeness and hate, but when my relationships with men bother people in the LGBT community? C'mon, guys! I'm with Tjatjue here – "sexual orientation is not the same as relationship orientation". Amen, Sister!

      6 agree
      • To which you reply, "I'm not gay at all. I'm bisexual." Two totally different things.

        (I'm also a straight-passing bisexual woman–i.e. in a monogamous relationship with a man. I don't really make a lot of noise outside certain Internet communities for a variety of personal reasons, so I've never been told "you're not gay enough". But I understand the frustration of bi erasure in this context.)

        2 agree
  5. I have identified as bisexual since I was about 13 and have had relationships with both men and women. I ended up with a big, burly, 'masculine' man as my partner, but I just as easily could have ended up settling down with a woman if our paths hadn't crossed. I spent a long time wondering if it is even fair or ok for me to marry my partner, because if things had gone the other way, I would not have had the option in my state. There are a lot of people out there who don't think about marriage in that same way, and I think including a piece about marriage equality in your wedding is a great way to show your support. I really appreciated reading this article.

    8 agree
  6. I have a women's studies degree and I had to click on a few of your definition link, so thank you for providing those!
    :-P There is a serious lack of research and shared experience about these issues!

    I share your frustration about the gender roles people bestow upon you in regards to marriage. I hate the word "wife" because it's always associated with being a "good wife" and we know what that means, of course. I have put off marrying my partner for a lot of the reasons you mention. I don't want to join the "wife" club or the "heterosexual married couples who dine with other heterosexual married couples" club.

    0 agree
  7. Awesome read. This is pretty much everything that I think and feel except I am hetrosexual. But I only get my feminist strop on when confronted with the patriarchy that is the institution of marriage particularly when mine and his very patriachial families are involved.

    0 agree
  8. One hundred times this. I am also pan, but in a serious relationship with a white hetero cis man and I've had to justify my orientation to people by referencing past relationships. I also identify as gender queer but present pretty randomly, often quite femme and this presents the same issue. I really dislike that people seem to think I have to prove my orientation and identities, as though I was just trying to be a special little snowflake. It's even gotten to the point that I've seriously second guessed myself due to people's disbelief.
    I sometimes catch myself even thinking my life would be easier if l were dating someone of another gender, but I'm not and that's okay.

    0 agree
  9. Thanks for writing this. I'm struggling a lot with how closely my life right now matches with so many hetero-normative societal assumptions, but each of these decisions were not made lightly or are out of my/our control. I love whom I love. It just so happens that I'm a cis-woman in love with a straight cis-man, playing the housewife, planning a wedding and talking about making babies. The fact that I'm not straight, monogamous, or intending to birth all my children doesn't really come across as quickly to people as I'd like, unless I put WAY too much effort into shoving it in their faces. Sometimes it makes me feel trapped in this box of societal pressure to be this way, and I hate it.

    I feel like the only way I can rebel is to refuse to get legally married, in part based on some spiritual-political ideals but also based on the fact that were I marrying a woman, which is equally possible and still an option, I wouldn't be able to do so legally. Well, I can now in Washington where we live, but not in my home state and it's not recognized federally yet either. It's not the only reason I don't want to be legally married, and there are some perfectly logical legal reasons NOT to be married right now, but that's the one people seem to understand the most.

    To me, being married is in the eyes of our chosen clan, of our families and friends. To my partner, it's about that legal piece of paper. We have chosen to table the decision until there is an official proposal and we have set the dates and locations of the ceremonies and receptions, but a part of me dreads the day I have to either put my foot down and refuse to sign the paper, thereby having to accept the disappointment of my partner, or disappoint myself.

    1 agrees
  10. This was a joy to read.

    I'm exhausted at present, so for now I'll just say:

    THANK YOU. And, to much of it, ME TOO.

    0 agree
  11. *guttural roar of approval*
    That is the only way I can express all I feel about all you said and having to confront the Mrs. complex I hold inside. I will be reading this article again over the next 4 months as I deal with all the injustice and close-mindedness PLUS the feelings of offbeaten inadequacy. Thank god for this community.

    0 agree
  12. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I've recently been wrapping my head around a wedding and as a pansexual, feminist, bride to be… It's been weird, eye opening, and so much more. You took the words right out of my mouth. I am so happy I came across this post!

    0 agree
  13. Great article and totally hits the spot. I'm a bisexual cis-gendered Alt woman who is a practising Druid with HedgeWitch tendencies marrying a bisexual cis-gendered Goth Agnostic man who is the first to admit he's pretty camp, we are both in our 40's and have both been married before. This you would assume means we can do whatever the hell we'd like at our wedding and we fully intend to do so.

    However there is part of me that is dreading having to explain why we are having a gender-queer androgynous but still pretty femme trans man as our best man along with a multitude of LGBT and alternative friends at our wedding to my ultra-straight family.

    Whilst they know by now we are both 'a bit weird', I've a feeling they aren't going to be able to just go with the flow and instead there will be much rolling of eyes and a less than tolerate attitude from some quarters especially my Dad's partner who has expressed mildly homophobic views in the past and has never really had to confront 'the world of the weird and wonderful' before.

    At the end of the day we will be having the wedding we want because I'm far too old to be told what to do but I want it to be a day for everyone to enjoy without having to worry whether or not people are going to get sniffy.

    0 agree
  14. great read! I'm having the exact same thoughts. I get so many "why would anyone get married anyways, it's so traditional, you're so non traditional!" thgoughts lately and I really don't know why I want it/am doing it. It just feels right for us and I'm proud I'm marrying a feminist who supports me and is as much excited about it as I am.

    0 agree

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.

Biz owners & wedding bloggers

Please just use your real name in your comment, not your business name or blog title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your website. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.