Derence Kerneck and Ed Watson’s story is a pretty sad one.
As reported in the Los Angeles Times a couple weeks ago, Derence and Ed are a gay couple in California who have lived together for 40 years, and they would like to get married. As sad as it is that there can’t marry now because of the passage of Proposition 8 two years ago, what makes their story all the sadder is that they don’t know if they’ll be around when the law banning same-sex marriage will be repealed, as most say will happen.
See, Derence is 80, and Ed is 78 and is in rapidly failing health, afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Derence is concerned that if they don’t marry soon, it won’t mean anything to Ed (or he won’t remember it), and says that traveling to a state that sanctions gay marriage would be too hard on Ed. “Besides,” he says, “we wanted to do it in California, where our friends are, where we live.”
Meanwhile, it looks now like the Proposition 8 will be in the court for another year, since the California Supreme Court has been asked to decide if the backers of the proposition have the “standing” to fight the appeal in court when the appropriate officials wouldn’t. Recently, after hearing an argument on behalf of those like Derence and Ed, a federal appeals court ruled that the ban will stay in place during this process, not allowing same-sex couples to legally marry in the meantime.
I am sick of reading stories like this. I am sick of people arguing that gay marriage will hurt the institution of marriage - what about adultery, divorce, etc.? - and I am sick of this argument being used to degrade and hurt gay people. Every time there is a story like this, it increases the pain, like a twist of the knife, like salt rubbed in the wound. As Derence says, “I just don’t see how who I love hurt anyone else’s marriage.”
But there is a part of me that doesn’t let this bother me so much. It’s the part of me that says, “Fuck it! Fuck them!” and doesn’t really care, doesn’t give a damn about what goes down in the larger society.
It’s the part of me that says that, when I find a mate, I will get married, whether the State recognizes it or not. It’s the part of me that, when, as a severely disabled person, it was nearly impossible for me to get a “real job,” I created my own job. It’s the part of me that doesn’t get caught up in the fight over same-sex marriage and other such gay rights - a fight likely to go on for some time, with appeal after appeal and counter-initiatives after initiatives.
It’s the queer part of me.
I was reminded of this last week when, at Pomona College here in Claremont, I saw D’Lo, a gay, transgender performance artist and comic born to parents from Sri Lanka. One of the things that he said that really struck me was that the difference between gay people and queer people is that gay people want to be like everyone else, and queer people want everyone else to be like them.