I am a 24-year-old queer woman. When I heard about New Jersey legalizing same-sex marriage last week, do you want to know my primary reaction? I don't really care.
Don’t get me wrong; I was happy for the couples who have been waiting a lifetime to legally marry their partners, I was happy for those who will finally be able to cash in on the legal benefits, and I was happy because inequality in 2013 is inexcusable and if we’re going to uphold the institute of marriage, let’s make sure we’re letting everyone partake, okay?
Personally, when considering how the legalization of same-sex marriage might actually affect me in the next five, 10, or 20 years, I’m mostly just not sure it will at all.
Just like I’m not sure where I’d like to live or what I want to be when I grow up, I’m not entirely convinced that marriage is for me.
Once upon a time, marriage was a financial agreement, established to improve the family labor force. Family historian Stephanie Coontz details the history of marriage in her 2005 book, Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, arguing that the Victorians, with their radical emphasis on marital intimacy and celebration of the individuals, introduced the concept of marriage that we know now.
The current version, of course, is one that centers around love and the exaltation of a nuclear family. Despite the fact that there's a 50% chance that a legal marriage will end in divorce, it still seems to be the thing the Gay Agenda is vying for hardest in the fight for equality.
But why? Is marriage as it is currently defined really the best way for us to continue moving forward as a society of individuals, couples, and groups?
When I think about the future, nothing is concrete. We're the unluckiest generation, the screwed generation, the lazy and entitled generation (all terms created, of course, by the generation actually responsible for the way things are now). And while I actually think the kids are doing quite alright, thank you very much, I'll be the first to admit that my life is probably not going to mirror my parents, simply because the world my parents grew up in no longer really exists.
I'm not going to work my way up the ladder at one job. I may not buy a car or a house. And I'm not sure that settling down with one other human and raising 2.5 kids and a dog — at 25, 30, or any age for that matter — is the path that makes the most sense for me.
I mean, I'm actually not sure. I might get married, I might not. My dad would roll his eyes here and say that I almost definitely will. I have a Pinterest board labeled "God This is So Embarrassing" where I've stored a few cute wedding-themed photos to browse when the time comes, if it ever does. I celebrate the joy of my married peers, and truthfully I celebrate extra hard when it's a queer couple tying the knot because I know it's an uphill legal battle for same-sex couples.
While I can appreciate the symbolic victory that comes along with New Jersey sanctioning same-sex marriages, I just can't get myself worked up about it. Additionally, there are so many other issues that affect the queer community that I wish we would focus on, and we leave so many people behind when we act as though marriage equality is all we need. We do need it, because legal equality should be non-negotiable in "the land of the free" — but we also need so, so much more.
Whether I get married one day or not, I hope that I will never take on the mentality where I put one person above everyone else in my life. Lawyer, professor, and writer Dean Spade wrote about this concept in an essay that explores the value of polyamory. While being poly is not something that I have found to work for me, many of his ideas are valuable.
One paragraph in particular stood out to me, and I wrote it on a piece of notebook paper that I carry in my wallet. I think this might be the key to the future:
One of my goals in thinking about redefining the way we view relationships is to try to treat the people I date more like I treat my friends — try to be respectful and thoughtful and have boundaries and reasonable expectations — and to try to treat my friends more like my dates — to give them special attention, honor my commitments to them, be consistent, and invest deeply in our futures together.
That is what we should all celebrate: our abilities to invest deeply in the future with the people who support us, care for us, hold us up, and will continue to do so every day for the rest of our lives. Can that all come from a spouse, a wedding, a marriage? Sure thing.
But do I personally hope for something a bit different?