The 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!