I recently finished reading the heartfelt collection Here Come the Brides: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage, edited by Audrey Bilger and Michele Kort (Seal Press, 2012). After making my way through the super-angsty I Do, I Don’t (2004) earlier in the summer, I was a little burned out on the whole queers and marriage combination. I Do, I Don’t felt — and you know I don’t often say this — too political. Reading the earlier anthology I was left feeling weighed down with the social import of my marriage. Half the authors seemed to feel marrying will contribute to the revolution (I believe it will, but that wasn’t the deciding factor); the other half seemed to feel marrying was tantamount to betraying the revolution (if it is, answer me this: why does it terrify the conservatives so frickin’ much?). Throw in a salting of stories about heart-wrenching breakups and there was a serious deficit of personal joy.
Here Come the Brides! is far from apolitical. From Heather Purser’s “Suquamish Family Values” (about the role she played encouraging her tribe to recognize same-sex marriage) to “Emily Douglas’ “We Have to Talk About It, Someday” (in which Douglas muses on how her job at GLAD as a recent college grad brought home how important marriage was — queer theories aside — to the actual queer community) Brides! interweaves the political and legal revolution taking place throughout North America as queer couples form legally- and religiously- recognized relationships with one another in the presence of family and friends. Yet overall, the energy of Brides! is much more effervescent and forward-looking than that of I Do — even when the topic was divorce or death. (Yes, I actually wept on the subway while reading Susan Goldberg’s “Four (Same-Sex) Weddings and a Funeral,” in which she describes how her wedding was a race against her mother’s cancer). Artist Patricia Cronin contributes an essay on the creation of her sculpture Memorial to a Marriage, which stands in Woodlawn Cemetery on the plot that will one day serve as Cronin’s grave — as it will the grave of her wife, Deborah Kass. Authors express their doubts and fears about marriage, describe the messiness of gay divorce (how do you get divorced as a lesbian in a state that refuses to recognize your marriage?). They tell hilarious stories of over-involved parents, wedding-cake sagas, and serial weddings — all to the same woman! — made logical or necessary by the patchwork of same-sex marriage laws in our Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
I think, overall, I was struck by the normality of the essays in Brides! — the way the stories told are (mostly) human marriage-and-relationship stories, perhaps with a queer twist. In the years between 2004 and 2012 we — as a country, as a culture — have moved from a moment in which marriage equality was a dicey political proposition to a moment when it’s become (knock on wood) an historical inevitability. DOMA will eventually be ruled unconstitutional — perhaps as early as next year — and once the federal government is constitutionally required to recognize, once again, all state-sanctioned marriages then states will be able to move forward at their own two-steps-forward-one-step-back pace toward civil marriage for all consenting adult couples (and hopefully poly relationships as well, not long behind). And religious communities can continue their tedious-yet-necessary process of coming to terms with the full spectrum of love that is possible in this world. Brides! rides this wave and treats getting gay-married more or less the same as, well, getting married.
While a part of me enjoys the frisson of rebellion inherent in Hanna and I marrying today (yes, I get a kick out of the notion that by doing what I want in my own private life I’m freaking people out), I’m also grateful to all of the women (and men) who have done the emotional, political, and cultural work necessary to make it possible that our marriage is almost totally unremarkable.