AMBIVALENCE:
A STATE OF MIXED AND CONTRADICTORY FEELINGS

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transcript

MORNING MASSAGE
When I see my massage therapist, Sara, she tells me how happy she is to hear that Ginny and I are engaged, and she recalls how she teared up when she first heard the news because she feels so strongly for marriage equality. Her boyfriend has two siblings who are gay, pushing her progressive politics even further. “It used to be a social issue for me, but now it’s personal,” she explains.

I felt myself having two conversations at once – one with Sara about marriage equality and another with myself as I critiqued the typical marriage equality sentiments. I used to never do this, but ever since I’ve become more critical of marriage equality and the queer political resistance, it’s something I find myself doing more often. I’m not sure how I feel about it. For one, I feel bad because here’s this person articulating her support in the best way she knows how; she sees herself being critical and resistant in her support of marriage equality. She, like most hetero supporters, wouldn’t understand why gays wouldn’t want to get married because that’s not really the message they hear. Equality is a positive umbrella in their eyes, no worries for them about the normalizing implications. And then I hate myself for interrogating their support because it feels so genuine and important. So I let myself go and allow myself to feel loved and supported, even if it means being considered normal, the same.

AFTERNOON LUNCH
An hour and a half later I find myself sitting down for breakfast with our favorite waitress, Julie. We haven't seen her in awhile; we tell her the news and she’s excited. Another waitress comes over to chat: she is also getting married. We share ideas, caterers, and wedding site plans. We find out, after four years of knowing her, that she has two children and has been dating the same man for ten years. She explains how she’s getting married, finally, because they can afford it, because their children are old enough to be involved and remember it, and because it’s a way for her family and friends to come together and celebrate.

Then she says something that surprises us: they aren’t actually going to sign the marriage certificate because she doesn’t want “Emmett County and the state of Michigan regulating [her] family.” She also doesn’t want to lose $3,000 in tax credits. I would have never expected her to be so resistant, and it felt really good to hear a hetero critique of the state.

As we are getting up to leave, a woman at the table next to us says, “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I heard the good news. Congratulations! That’s so exciting. And you’re doing it all on your own, which you’ll never regret.” Although I wasn’t too sure what the doing it on our own bit was about (most likely because we are having the ceremony and dinner at a private home and not in a hall or at a church), I could see that this was the woman’s way of saying, “I don’t carry any prejudice against the gay community and I am happy to see you are getting married whether it’s legal or not.” She was saying that she supported us, and, again, that meant something to me.

How much power do we grant the institution of marriage when we avoid it because of its tradition and systemic longitude? How disempowered and disenfranchised do we allow our(queer)selves to become when we allow an institution, albeit in a backward sort of manner, to determine the decisions that affect our lives? And how do we rewrite the connections people forge by reading their support as normalizing when that is not their intention?

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Ambivalence is the best word to describe my current state. Reading radical queer critiques of same-sex marriage and getting engaged in the same week has me confused. As I look forward toward my relationship’s future, I can’t help but look behind to historicize the (nation-)state’s endorsement and promotion of compulsory heteronormativity, homophobic institutions, and systemic violence against queers. The nation-state both grants and refuses. It is a mechanism of legitimacy and illegitimacy, and it (and its regulating powers) factors into the decisions GLBTQ folks make every day. In Who Sings the Nation State?, Judith Butler and Gayatri Spivak ask, “what kind of state are we in when we start to think about the state?” (3). I would answer: an ambivalent, queer, genealogical, critical state of (non/)being and doing.

FCKH8. "Ellen and Portia Being Married." Facebook.com. Web. 29 Sep. 2013.

Fuck Hate Image with Portia DeRossi and Ellen DeGeneres

Click image to enlarge

J. Jack Halberstam further complicates this 'state' for me as I read Gaga Feminism, where ze [2] provides a scathing critique of the marriage equality movement. Ze admits ze is “grumpy” about gay marriage, and argues, “while gay, lesbian, and trans people may think that, by tying the knot and going legal, they are changing a very old and conventional institution, be warned: before you change it, it changes you” (97). The more I read, the more enraged I became. Ironically, Halberstam writes about how ze and hir [3] lesbian partner co-parent as lesbian/femme-mom and butch-stepdad at the same time ze critiques such models of domesticity vis-à-vis an attack on marriage. This hypocritical move doesn’t change the fact that Halberstam makes some excellent points about why I shouldn’t want to participate in marriage, as a queer.

"ze" and "hir" are gender neutral pronouns.
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Almost immediately after reading this section of Halberstam’s book, I saw FCKH8’s post of Ellen and Portia de Rossi; it’s like a punch in the heart. I love it. If I have an emotional reaction to this, am I a bad queer? I react just as strongly to FCKH8’s image as I do to Halberstam’s arguments about marriage…How many other queers are with me on this? How many of us are actually discussing the ambivalence this is causing, and how many of us wonder how we can refocus that political energy on something more pressing? What if my “getting married” and ideas of marriage are totally different than the traditional sense? If my idea of getting married means being with a woman on a daily basis, isn’t that already different? Should it even matter how different or same it is? Am I going to lose my queer-card if I marry my girlfriend?