It was a good question.
He was going to a same-sex wedding at a Quaker meetinghouse in Pennsylvania. “Of course, I will go,” he said; after all, the two men getting married are good friends of his, and he is delighted for them, for their happiness.
But he felt bitter and resentful, angry that Pennsylvania has just recently legalized same-sex marriage at long, long last and angry that he is supposed to celebrate this. It pisses him off that he is supposed to be grateful to a society that has finally, after considerable hesitation, deigned to accept, if not see, him and his gay friends as equals. And all the more so when the couple, as with many same-sex couples, has been “married” for years, whether in their hearts or in religious ceremonies (one of my earliest posts here was about the powerful experience of attending a gay Quaker wedding while Proposition 8 was still in effect here in California).
What, he asked, is he to do with this anger?
I have been thinking about gay marriage and what its legalization means for years. I totally get that having the right to marry is huge to gay men and lesbians. Not only is it about their love and commitment being legitimate; it is also, perhaps more importantly, about having the myriad of rights and legal privileges that heterosexual married couples have. I also hear the jokes about same-sex couples wanting all the headaches and hassles of married life (and divorce!), and I hear about some gay men wanting nothing to do with marriage, not wanting to be tied to a monogamous relationship.
Then there are those who argue that they aren’t interested in marriage or legal marriage, that it isn’t necessary. This isn’t about wanting to be free from commitment - some are in longtime committed relationships - but wanting not to be part of the wider society and its capitalistic, war-mongering norms. I see this as the queer position, as opposed to gay men and lesbians fighting to be like and assimilate with the rest of society, and, while I fantasize about having a wedding and would love to have a husband who is recognized as such, I find myself drawn to it. Or at least I can relate to it.
I deal with being disabled in the same way. For years and years, I tried to be not disabled. I tried and tried to be like everyone else, to assimilate. But it was too hard. It was a losing proposition, and I wasn’t getting anywhere.
But giving up trying to assimilate wasn’t a defeat. It was liberating. It was empowering. People were always looking at me and always would, so why not give them something interesting and fun to look at? I try to do this, at least in part, not only in my writing and in the performances that I’ve done but also in the variety of the overalls I wear everyday and my hats, in whether or not I have hair and what I do with it and in the rainbow laces in my Doc Martens and my mismatched high-tops. I also do it by getting out a lot and often on my own. I used to say that I want people to see me and not my disability, but I think it’s more like I’m using my disability to make or help people see and think about other things.
I’m not saying that this is easy. It isn’t any easier than trying to assimilate, but at least I’m in control. At least I feel I’m going somewhere and getting something done. I’m showing people I’m comfortable being who I am with my disability - not despite my disability - and I hope I’m helping people feel comfortable with who they are.