We Do!: Achy Obejas: Like Every Other Kind of Family
To celebrate the release of We Do!: American Leaders Who Believe in Marriage Equality and the Supreme Court’s recent ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act, we’ve invited Akashic authors to share their thoughts on marriage. In addition, on October 15th, we will be celebrating marriage equality and We Do! on Twitter, and want to see your wedding photos! Tweet them at us with “#WeDo!”
Today, Achy Obejas (author of Ruins, editor of Havana Noir, and contributor to Chicago Noir) builds off a piece she wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times and asserts that same-sex marriages and families are “like every other kind of family.”
In June, when the US Supreme Court killed the Defense of Marriage Act, I wrote a piece for the Chicago Sun-Times in which I said, “This is the thing about same-sex marriages and the families they create: we’re remarkably like every other kind of marriage, like every other kind of family.”
I hadn’t shown the article to my wife before publication, as I normally do (she’s a very good editor), mostly because of time, but I began to think of the column as a little gift to our union. So imagine my surprise when she said she’d been disappointed by it. “You made us sound so . . . ” she said. “You know, so boring.”
This, I think, is the great embarrassment of Same Sex Marriage: At least on paper, it makes those who enter into it seem as we’ve agreed to melt into a great tide of conformity.
As queers, we’ve long enjoyed our association with the margins—and for good reason. There’s an urgency and a spark there, where things are constantly on edge. And even if we, as individuals, don’t really participate much, we frequently come back to the mainstream with a little fairy dust trailing behind us.
Let’s face it: marriage, at least as conventionally defined, isn’t particularly cool. It slots the lovers into patterns—and not even necessarily the conventional ones, but the ones people fall into when their lives take on routines. And marriage is, if nothing else—and no matter how dynamic—an arrangement of behaviors around a certain set of routines. The participants can play with the rules—leaving the door open to others, choosing not to cohabit, doing any number of things that breaks away from expectation—but the sheer legal definition of the union offers the exact same blueprint for everyone to work with or against. The lovers who buy the marriage kit have to figure out what they want to do with it, but everybody gets the same kit.
In the meantime, there are people who need marriage: transnational couples; couples with kids (and who perhaps can’t afford a battery of lawyers to draw up what rights marriage confers automatically); couples with inheritance issues (ditto); couples who need the legal protection to not be compelled to incriminate each other in court; couples whose health and other insurance policies demand legal union.
And, you know, there are lovers who just want to be married, to share for a moment the illusion of love as a recognizable, inviolable thing; lovers who relish the message of exclusivity (whatever that means to each couple), who feel that elevating a relationship to this new status—with its legal weight—is an important step.
So yeah, I’m sticking by my Sun-Times assertion: we’re remarkably like every other kind of marriage, like every other kind of family—meaning that now, like everyone else, we have the rights to chose to build (or to opt out of) whatever kind of marriage we want.
And that sounds pretty radical to me.
ACHY OBEJAS is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Ruins, Days of Awe and three other books of fiction. She is the co-editor, with Megan Bayles, of Immigrant Voices: A 21st Century Reader, forthcoming from the Great Books Foundation in 2014. Born in Havana, she’s currently the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College, Oakland, California.
Posted: Oct 8, 2013