Warrior Brides of the 21st century: No more resting in bubbles of wedding planning privilege

Guest post by Etalia

Theme in a NutshellThe planning of my gay wedding has sparked very interesting discussions among the people in my social and professional circles. After my beloved first proposed, we were met with happy greetings and best wishes from the members of our community. But when I started asking big questions about weddings, marriage, and social injustices I was often met with incredulous stares and upset feelings. Why talk about these “negative” topics during my supposedly blissful engagement period? Because I am a lesbian and my partner is genderqueer and we cannot enter into an institution that has traditionally been upheld as a union between a man and a woman without some amount of fear and skepticism.

I love straight people. Many of my closest friends are straight. They do the same things that we gays do, like Facebook and laundry, but they do them with a level of privilege that we gays do not have. When straight people of the same race get engaged they can mostly expect their communities to react with love, support, and validation of their union. When gay people get engaged, they might expect the same love and support from their communities, but they can also expect misunderstanding, hate, and ignorance. Straight people do not have to worry that a vendor will not work with them because of their sexual orientation. Straight people do not have to answer questions like “which one of you is the bride and which one is the groom?” Straight people may worry about their wedding outfits, but not because they are concerned that their gender identity will be misread or invisible if they get the outfit wrong. Straight people's families do not use the wrong pronouns.

Privilege is not a bad word. It is a reminder. I feel strongly that everyone should examine the ways in which they are privileged.

I am a Caucasian, cisgender, homosexual woman. I have racial privilege and I often ask myself, “what does it mean to be White?” It means I have been awarded unearned opportunities solely because of the color of my skin. It means people do not assume I am shoplifting when I enter an upscale store (even though I have messy hair and wear mud-caked hiking boots). It means I am not profiled by the police but I do move through airport security with relative ease. Privilege is multi-faceted and complex. I have gender privilege because I am cisgender (my gender identity matches the one I was assigned at birth), but I also do not have gender privilege because I am a woman (cisgender men are the winners of gender privilege in case you haven't noticed). This means that while people correctly identify my gender as woman and correctly use feminine pronouns, I also have to deal with strange men making objectifying and unwanted remarks about my breasts. See? More complex than trigonometry, right?

My fiancé is transgender. Xe was assigned-female-at-birth but identifies as genderqueer and uses the gender neutral pronouns xe/xyr/xem. No one ever uses xyr correct pronouns unless they are explicitly told to use them and even then some people flat-out refuse. I always wonder how a cis man would feel if everyone he encountered incorrectly called him “lady,” or “ma'am,” or “girl.” And when he protested he was met with “well, I just see you as a woman so I'm going to call you ‘her.'” How could that happen? How could someone look at a person's gender expression and misinterpret their gender identity? It happens every day. It happens to my fiancé every day. Xe is wounded moment by moment, day after day by micro-aggressions from people who do not have to think about gender.

So what do we do about it? I am done sitting in my bubble of wedding planning privilege. I am popping my bubble, donning the outfit of a warrior bride (think chainmail veil), and taking my vocal sword into the crowd and to my wedding!

Weddings are fun and love-filled, but they are also exclusive and riddled with heteronormativity. The Offbeat Bride world is acting as a support for those of us who do not want to adhere to the norm, but I challenge all of us to take it a step further. I am using my wedding as a political platform to speak out against issues of social injustice. I seek to open a discussion about power, privilege, and oppression and how all of us who are planning weddings in the 21st century can be agents of change.

No longer will we sit behind sweetheart tables, toasting to our love-filled privilege bubbles. No! We will engage in conversation every day, asking ourselves and each other tough questions like “how does privilege impact our lives?” We will alter our language to be more inclusive. We won't assume someone's gender but will instead ask, “what is your preferred pronoun?” We will no longer be afraid of offending people. We will offend! And then we will listen. We will listen with open minds and acceptance. We will understand that examination of wedding planning privilege is initially uncomfortable, but necessary for growth and change. We will hang out in the discomfort. And at our weddings, all people will dance because they feel safe and loved and seen.

Warrior Brides of the 21st century, unite!

Comments on Warrior Brides of the 21st century: No more resting in bubbles of wedding planning privilege

  1. Thank you! This is beautiful and strong and speaks to many things I have been thinking about lately. I would love to hear more about how you are shaping your wedding according to these goals and awarenesses and dreams!

  2. It’s a difficult world we live in, full of unique challenges. I personally support love in all forms, all people, all happinesses. Speaking as a straight, white, privileged girl who has many friends of different races and gender associations, and is in the wedding industry, my advice would be to realize that this is new territory for all.

    Be sure you don’t judge people too quickly and jump to offense when your vendors, friends, and family are attempting to navigate this relatively new world of non-traditional weddings don’t know what pronouns to use or accidentally refer to something in a non-politically correct way.

    There is a difference between rudeness and ignorance, and the world is still learning. Give those around you some patience and etiquette lessons, and you’ll be paving the way for healthy, respectful interactions in the future.

    • I wholeheartedly agree that the world needs patience and time. I also feel committed to educating those around me about gender and gender neutral pronouns (as exhausting as it is to have to explain one’s identity all the time) However, when one explains that one uses gender neutral pronouns and people respond with negativity or refusal to use them, it hurts. This happens on a near daily basis.
      I also agree that there is a difference between ignorance and rudeness but I feel called to taking a strong stance against ignorance because of the pain it unintentionally causes. I would like it if ignorant people responded with questions and compassion rather than discrimination. Sometimes that happens and for that I am grateful!

    • I wholeheartedly agree that the world needs patience and time. I also feel committed to educating those around me about gender and gender neutral pronouns (as exhausting as it is to have to explain one’s identity all the time) However, when one explains that one uses gender neutral pronouns and people respond with negativity or refusal to use them, it hurts. This happens on a near daily basis.
      I also agree that there is a difference between ignorance and rudeness but I feel called to taking a strong stance against ignorance because of the pain it unintentionally causes. I would like it if ignorant people responded with questions and compassion rather than discrimination. Sometimes that happens and for that I am grateful!

      • As a cis female who is trying to navigate the world that you live in, I seriously appreciate the willingness to answer questions. I genuinely want to understand what you feel and go through, but I also don’t want to get yelled at for not already understanding. I’ve gotten to the point where all I really care about is what pronouns you want me to use because any further questioning gets me in trouble. And I also run into the problem of not understanding how they feel. I just can’t understand you if never tell me!

        It feels like if you weren’t invited to a meeting at work and any attempts to get into that meeting were met with hostility. And then the people come out of that meeting with a new set of procedures and rules that you’re immediately expected to follow and understand, but no one gives you the meeting notes or tells you what happened, and any questions you ask get you made fun of or yelled at. And if you mess up one of these new rules, your boss starts to question if you care enough about the company. Oh, and no one at the meeting can actually agree with the rules, so you need to follow different rules depending on who you’re around. And these rules change every meeting.

        • KD, thank you for being so honest about your experience as a cis person. I am also cisgender and had to navigate the land of trans identities when my fiance (now spouse!) came out as trans. I also had several friends come out or transition at approximately the same time. In the beginning, I felt terrible for misgendering people or messing up pronouns. Unlike you, I have never felt hostility from anyone in the trans community which helped support my learning and growth. Additionally, it may have been easier for me to understand because I am queer. I now consider myself a fierce ally and advocate for trans folks. I try very hard to communicate my feelings in a non-aggressive manner, but what I hear from you is that you sometimes feel advocacy is hostile and exclusive. I will continue to examine my methods and motives so that I can reach as many people as possible without alienating the cis/straight community. In return, I ask cis/straight people to listen deeply and compassionately, and recognize that living in a straight world as a queer person is exceedingly difficult.

    • YES! And, at the same time, we have to be careful about putting the onus of social education solely on marginalized groups. This Bridge Called My Back talks about the struggle of being a woman of color and also part of a feminist movement that, at the time (and perhaps still is) predominantly white and middle-class. White women kept saying, “Well, we’re never going to understand your experience if you don’t teach us,” while, for WOC, the were once more providing the bridge between different identity groups, a strain on physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It’s a fine and blurry line between what one might be expected to explain and what one shouldn’t have to explain. As OP said, the “micro-aggressions” that exist are from people who are ignorant because not only do they not have the experience of being trans or genderqueer or another marginalized identity group, but also they don’t think about the ways in which they are privileged as cis, straight, etc.

      What I love about OP’s article is that she’s not asking us to listen to her partner’s story (although we are doing that as well) or to go out and start quizzing people about their marginalized identity experiences, but rather step back and acknowledge our own privileged spaces (however complex they may be) and be more conscious of people who don’t have those privileges. This awareness leads to greater consciousness of those around us who don’t share those same privileges and impel us to mindful of our own assumptions.

      tl;dr: Yes, and also people should be proactive in their learning rather than waiting for someone to come along and correct them.

      • This is awesome. Thank you so much – “people should be proactive in their learning rather than waiting for someone to come along and correct them.” !!!!!

  3. As straight-ish, white, cis-gender, people in a heterosexual relationship, we felt the guilt that comes with all those privileges. Before my state allowed gay marriage, discussing my engagement with friends in a committed lesbian relationship for over 15 years just felt…silly, for a lack of a better term. We were already annoyed with comments about our un-married relationship not counting until it was “official.” It isn’t hard to see how much worse that would make you feel if your relationship would NEVER be seen as “counting” because you aren’t ALLOWED to make it “official.” (Not everyone needs marriage to make their commitment official, but some people want it and the privileges it brings.)
    Our state finally saw the light, and our friends got married a year after we did. 🙂

    • Yeah, sometimes het couples will off-handedly say things like “Hey, things may go wrong with your wedding day but as long as you’re married at the end the day, nothing else matters ammiright ha ha ha!” and we’re always like, “Well, actually, for some couples, being ‘married at the end of the day’ isn’t legally possible… and you’re sorta rubbing it in.”

      It’s rethinking the privilege behind the little statements that can be really enlightening.

    • I agree that it’s shitty that some people don’t have the option to make a legal commitment to each other.
      However, I’ve found that people (at least those I’ve known) have had a different attitude to relationships where the individuals haven’t been able to get married for legal reasons rather than haven’t yet chosen to take that step. Maxing out your commitment level is maxing out your commitment level, no matter where the limit on being able to measure that from an outside perspective stops. How can you make a value judgement about the state of someone’s relationship if they haven’t done something that is impossible for them to do? (Whether you should be making that value judgement at all for anyone is a different question).
      Case in point: where my husband studied for his PhD, married individuals had certain rights (an extra guest ticket for dinners – stuff like that). When the college realised that there were committed gay couples who weren’t able to get married, they expanded those rights to include ‘engaged’ individuals – and if you told them you were engaged, they accepted it. So whilst the new rules also encompassed straight couples, I think the change in regime came straight from a place of saying that those gay relationships ‘counted’ just as much as the straight couples’ marriages from the college’s perspective.

  4. When my wife and I got married 8 years ago we had a fairly traditional interfaith dinosaur themed wedding.

    However in last year we have both done a lot of reassessing our privilege and awarness. When we got married my wife was not out as transgender, and being cis myself our marriage was legal then and continues to be legal now that she had legally changed her gender.

    I feel guilty when we hang out with gay friends in committed relationships whose relationship s may look the same as ours, but do not get the same legal privileges.

    A couple weeks back we were had a friend’s big hetero traditional marriage shindig and we debated if we should sit out the how long have you been married dance. It wasn’t our wedding and we didn’t want to accidentally be to attention grabbing. We eventually did dance after friends dragged us out, but it was sad and confusing to be thinking about.

    Sorry for the long response, good discussion.

  5. I have to say, I’ve never even heard of the terms (I.e. Xe) before your post. I am a hetero and cannot imagine what life is like for you and your beloved. My family’s biggest problem seems to be that my closest are inked up, and, that I’m 34 and just getting married. Welcome to the blue blooded black sheep. So, again, I cannot imagine.
    What I can relate to is the amazing narrowness of some of us.
    Love is love. In love is in love. Hopefully we are all fortunate to find the combo in whatever form we can. If those that scowl cannot see the big ol’ heart, then “bleep” them.
    Just like other “privileges” the mob has an unfortunate say.
    Please know that there are MANY of us who understand that there is one person you can crumble to the ground in front of without fear. That the race, religion, or other “protected” categories truly do not matter if you’ve been lucky enough to find that one.
    Plato knew of our split-aparts.
    He rocked a toga; but, the man nailed it (once you remove the whole man-woman thing).

  6. I never thought of myself as privileged. But I’ve definitely thought of myself as ignorant. Here is another example of such ignorance. I had never heard of these terms either before this post and I thought I was all-embracing. Thank you for posting this!

    I had my first (and only) transgender experience in college and the conclusion of the experience was simply: “if she appears as a she then she wishes to be seen as a she and therefore is a she”. And that was that. I never even knew there were gender neutral pronouns at all. And my social circles and Internet perusing (aside from Offbeat) don’t have doors that would lead me to enlightenment. (Lesbian friends only). So again, thank you for this post. I will be sure to be vocal in any future inquisitions and make sure I am correctly speaking about the human beings I openly and lovingly embrace around me.

  7. This is also a 1st for me. Im a bit confused tho. Was ur partner born female and turning male? Or male to female? And when do I even use the term xe? Does the person correct me if I call them she/he? I wouldn’t want to offend anyone. Uve used some new terms for me and now I have some homework to do.

    • I love your questions! Thank you so much for asking.
      There is a common misconception that humans are born as either boy or girl. We are born with penises, vaginas, or some combination of those genitalia, but humans are not born as a gender. Our gender identity is something that occurs in our brains, in our hearts, in our bodies, and is a personal experience and feeling. My fiance was born with female sex characteristics and pronounced a “girl” at birth, but that proclamation was incorrect. Even though xe has female sex characteristics, xe does not identify as female. Xe identifies as genderqueer. Xyr gender is a bit of both male and female and a bit of neither. Xe is something different.
      Gender does not exist on a linear, binary spectrum. Gender is a much more robust, circular, colorful, complex spectrum. Gender identity (the way I feel on the inside) can be different to gender expression (the way I express myself on the outside).
      I often ask people if they have a preferred pronoun. I do not want to make assumptions about a person’s gender identity based on their gender expression.
      We do not have good etiquette for explorations of gender in our current culture in the United States. I hope discussions like these will help change that.

    • From what I have experienced, there isn’t a rule about what to use, but more that you should ask people’s preferred pronouns, or when a stated pronoun is asked (my name is Robin and I use Xe, Xim, Xyr pronoun) to respect that. I have people in my circle who don’t use Xe, but use Ze, or even other ones like fae/faer/faerself or one of my former students asks to us voi/void/voidself.

      • This probably won’t be a popular comment, but I wish that the English-speaking world would settle on one particular system of gender neutral pronouns. I feel like it would go a long way towards helping people accept (and remember) them if there was a consistent linguistic rule in place. Even better if we could embrace it enough to use them in other situations unrelated to non-binary genders- for example, when referring to an unborn baby or a hypothetical person of an unknown gender (rather than “he-or-she” or the singular “they”). I have an absolute crap memory and can almost never even remember people’s *names* until I’ve met them about ten times, let alone anything else about them, so I often end up doing the “I’m not 100% sure I remember the correct pronouns so I’m going to avoid using any pronouns at all until someone else does and tips me off” dance ;-P (Which I’ll admit is tricky when you’re simultaneously doing the “I’m not sure I remember the correct name” dance, haha.)

        • I absolutely agree with you on this and I AM genderqueer and agender and I DO use gender-neutral pronouns. But I waited 18 years between identifying myself as agender and asking for gender-neutral pronouns because I was waiting for the community to decide on a single set. The proliferation of so many different ones made me too uncomfortable to ask for them and confused about which ones to ask for. So for 18 years I lived with gendered pronouns that ALSO made me very uncomfortable and felt resentful that I had no good method of making that discomfort go away. I finally decided to ask for “singular they” after some 3 or 4 of my friends had all asked for it and I read the results of a couple of surveys of the genderqueer and non-binary-gender community where “singular they” came out as being the choice of a 60% majority of people. I decided that was close enough to a consensus to start trying it. I’ve been using it for almost exactly a year and I still run into people who aren’t against the idea of gender-neutral pronouns but think I should use a different set so I’ve taken to saying “I like gender-neutral pronouns, whichever ones you use, but if you don’t have a set already I prefer ‘singular they'”. The absolute most important thing is that people don’t use gendered pronouns for me – those are so much more wrong than ANY set of gender-neutral pronouns (even silly ones like “meow” and “fae”). I’ve run into a few genderqueer people who seem to think the only reason someone would be opposed to everyone having unique pronouns is because they’re cis-gendered and still ignorant about the concept. It should be obvious that is NOT where I am coming from! I don’t want unique pronouns that express some special property of me – I want my pronouns so be as simple as possible and as common as possible so that it’s easy for people to remember them. Ideally I want ONE set of pronouns for everyone (three is already two more than I want to have to keep track of) – there are plenty of languages (more than half of them actually!) that don’t have gendered pronouns at all.

        • I understand. As a “newly” semi-out genderqueer person, I accept either gendered pronouns when being referred to. I consider myself genderqueer within the ‘boundary’ of binary, a mix of female and male, born female bodied, but tend toward male probably 70%. So, I accept she, he, her, his, etc. I am not picky. However; I have friends who do have preferred pronouns, and my tip would be, if you forget their preferred pronoun, refer to them by name until they use their pronouns or someone else does. *shrugs* It may be awkward, but it helps to not inadvertently hurt feelings (and may help you remember better, because you had to think about it.)

  8. Your post got me all fired up! Thanks for sharing this. I have a couple of friends who identify as genderqueer or transgender and pronouns are so important.

    I had a privilege-checking moment yesterday during my dance lesson with my fiancé. My dance teacher was gushing about how cute she was going to make us look and how she loves to “encourage men to be MEN” while dancing with a partner. Because I’ve had so much dance training, she has to remind me to let him lead all the time. For us, I think this is a good exercise because I do tend to take the leadership role and take on a lot of responsibilities while he tends to take a back seat. Switching roles in this way is good for us personally in a way that has nothing to do with our genders. It makes sense for him to lead because he’s bigger and stronger. But I had to wonder, what if we were two women getting married? Would she have refused to choreograph our dance because neither of us could really ‘be the man’?

    I’ve tried to make it my goal not to use services for this wedding that would not be available to same-sex couples. I just never expected that dance instruction would be such an issue. I’m hoping she’ll be open to a more co-operative style for our next lesson.

  9. Interesting… last week I read a Dear Prudence column in which a man saw a woman at a party who had a gender-neutral outfit, haircut, and manner. He introduced himself and asked what pronoun he should call her… and promptly got blasted by her (and Prudie) for making a huge assumption about this (cis) woman. I have to say, I would have been affronted, too, if a stranger had come up to me, assumed I didn’t identify as female, and made that the topic of conversation. It goes both ways; while you shouldn’t assume someone is a certain gender, you shouldn’t assume they aren’t, either.

    It’d be nice if we lived in a world that was sensitive enough (but not too sensitive) to ask everyone what pronoun they prefer, but since we don’t, if you’re confused about someone’s gender, I feel like it’d be more polite to a) ask someone else discreetly, b) avoid pronouns (easy at a party), or c) apologize if you get it incorrect and switch from then on. (Unless you’re in a crowd where you’re likely to encounter trans* people, of course. I guess that’d change the rules of engagement a bit.)

    But…. please, correct me if I’m wrong, my dear LGBT friends…. if you present as biological female but are gender-neutral or male, would you be offended if someone called you “she”? Provided they switched to the correct term after being gently corrected? I’m sure it gets frustrating to correct people, but it’s an honest mistake to make upon first meeting.

    • As a cisgender woman I would never be offended if someone asked me my preferred pronoun. In fact, I often volunteer that I use she/her. My cisgender identity places me in a privileged category in that most people correctly assume I am a woman. But that is privilege. My transgender partner is misgendered on a daily basis in just about every moment of the day. Xe would LOVE to be asked about pronouns, but rarely is. I feel that cisgender people need to set aside any discomfort we may have in being asked to explicitly state our gender identity out of respect for the people that need to in order to be correctly identified. For me, discomfort usually means my privilege is smacking me in the face and I need to look at it.

Read more comments

Comments are closed.