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Mental health day / my sister’s wedding 
14th-Dec-2004 11:11 am
Misc: BiCamp campfire
[Warning: While I love my married friends and do not question the choices you’ve made – really and truly I don’t, not even deep down, I don’t think – this post is likely to push buttons for married people, at least married people in most of the US. If you live in Massachusetts and got married recently, the likelihood for psychodrama is less. I don’t want to lose any of my friends, so please try to understand that I’m not attacking you in this post, and not telling you you’ve made a wrong choice.]

I feel crappy, and I’m taking a mental-health day today.

My sister is getting married to her wonderful, sweet partner in early March, in North Carolina, and I’m not going. I feel awful. I love my sister, I think her partner’s wonderful and I can’t think of anything I want more for her than to spend the rest of her life with him, and I want to support her, and I want to do things she really wants me to do. But since her wedding (1) will be legally recognized and (2) will be in a jurisdiction where same-sex couples can’t get married, I’m not going to be there.

I might be able to force myself to go. (Honestly, I'm not sure I’m capable of it.) But it wouldn’t be healthy for me, and it wouldn’t be healthy for my relationship with my sister. It would feel so much like a lie for me to be there, that it might poison my relationship with her. It would certainly poison my relationship with myself.

Here’s a little snippet of a letter I wrote to my mother about this:
There are many deeper and more evil injustices in the world than being told you can't marry the person you love because of your identity, while your neighbour can, but it’s still an injustice, and to me it feels similar in kind if not (by any means) in degree to Jim Crow laws or miscegenation laws. I wouldn't eat at a whites-only lunch counter, and I won’t participate in a straights-only wedding. I don’t blame other people for participating in them – we all make our own moral choices, and the world is full of compromises, and we have to pick our battles — but *I* just can't, and still respect myself.

There’s a strong temptation to put my thumb on this moral scale and try to convince myself to attend [my sister]'s wedding, but that really doesn’t feel like a safe thing for me to do at this state of my life. [...]

And even if I made the choice to try to submerge my principles and attend (which would feel like telling a lie), I don’t think there’s any guarantee I could pull it off. If I’m exuding negativity and upset, that’s not going to make [my sister]’s wedding a happy celebration. If I lose it and get sick or have to leave or otherwise make a scene, that would be even worse. And even if I manage to keep myself more or less under control, if other guests can tell that I’m upset and ask me why, what do I say? The last time I told a big important lie was probably saying “I love you” to my father. (Sometimes when I said it it was the truth, of course, but not always.) That’s something I’m ashamed of, and I don’t need more things in my life I’m ashamed of.

(This all came up with a vengeance because a friend of my sister’s emailed me out of the blue trying to pressure me to go to the wedding. I was too upset to read the whole letter once I realized what it was about; I’m going to try to have some calming tea and relax and read it through and give her the thoughtful reply she deserves. One much smaller thing that bugs me about this situation is that a bunch of people seem to think that I am under a moral obligation to go to this wedding, even though it would be a lie for me. I believe very much in keeping promises (although sometimes I’ve failed), but this is not an obligation I ever assumed, or ever would have assumed, any more than attending Mass or saying my Friday prayers is an obligation I assumed. *Bleah*.)

Everybody should bear in mind that in most ways I’m really happy these days. It’s kind of weird having the intense happiness juxtaposed with intense stress and Big Moral Angst, but the happiness is no less strong for that.

I haven’t turned off comments, but please don’t try to offer me advice, unless it’s about what kind of herbal tea to drink to calm down. (And to anyone who suggests hemlock, I say: *LBPTHFFLBT*! :-) Doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your own similar situations if you want to, or what you would do, as long as it’s about you and not about what you want me to do. And do remember if you were married in a straight-only jurisdiction, or expect to be, that I really and truly do not feel bad about your choice or your spouse or your family. This is not about feeling bad about my sister’s wonderful fiancé or her decision or even really about her wedding, it’s about feeling like I need to tell the truth by my actions.
14th-Dec-2004 04:43 pm (UTC)
Tension Tamer is some good shit. I like it.
14th-Dec-2004 04:45 pm (UTC)
Just *hugs*.
14th-Dec-2004 04:52 pm (UTC) - Tea Suggestions
When I am in a "mood" I tend to drink peppermint herbal tea made by Stash. That or Good Earth's China Black. Both very good.
14th-Dec-2004 04:53 pm (UTC)
Forgot the *hug*.
14th-Dec-2004 04:55 pm (UTC) - Um..so...
If David and I fly to Las Vegas to get married, but have a big party to celebrate being married back here in Boston, will you still come to the party?

(He and I are just hilariously keen on the idea of telling everyone "we're going on a little weekend vacation to hike in the dessert and gamble"...then come home married...)
14th-Dec-2004 05:05 pm (UTC) - Re: Um..so...
Um, probably. It would depend on whether I felt like attending was supporting the (Nevada) marriage or just supporting your relationship. In fact, I offered to throw a party for my sister and her fiancé in support of their relationship after (or before) the wedding, but that just made her upset.

If your marriage was in Massachusetts, I’d have no moral qualms at all about attending the wedding itself (not that I’d expect an invitation), although this whole situation gives me some emotional discomfort about weddings in general.

I like the idea of surprising your friends with it, though! If I were the marryin’ kind in general, I might do the same sort of thing with a trip to P-town or Montréal.
14th-Dec-2004 04:57 pm (UTC)
A big hug to you.
14th-Dec-2004 04:58 pm (UTC)
My feelings are slightly different, as would be my decision, but I respect yours on both counts.

As for tea, may I recommend some matcha?
14th-Dec-2004 05:06 pm (UTC)
As for tea, may I recommend some matcha?
Sure, if you tell me what it is and were to get it. :-) *Hugs*, and thanks!
14th-Dec-2004 05:07 pm (UTC)
Statement of bias: I am an (regretfully, almost completely straight) man married to a woman (if you want to know her orientation, ask her :>), and we got married in CT.

Speaking as a random member of the "married people" set, I wasn't in the least offended by your post. Why should I be? It's not about me, or my wife, or my marriage. I pretty much agree with you: it is a great injustice that same-sex couples can't marry. In point of fact, I think the entire idea of "marriage"--which is a religious thing, primarily--being recognized by the government is ridiculous and a bad idea. (As to why *I* did it...that's an entirely different story for an entirely different time.)

So, don't worry about offending anyone with this belief--if they get bent, it's their damage, not yours.

All that said, I hope your sister is accepting. Problems within families are no fun.

14th-Dec-2004 05:08 pm (UTC)
I hear you, and I'm glad you're taking a stand that preserves your own mental health.
14th-Dec-2004 05:11 pm (UTC)
It was really hard for me to decide to get married, legally, in California. It kept coming up for me that if my partner had been only slightly different, genetically, it would have been illegal, and that felt wrong. We had decided to wait until it was legal, and if we had been unmarried in February, we would have been in line with everybody else at City Hall.

It wasn't until I sat down with a friend who is both a fine and excellent pragmatist, and partnered with somebody of the same sex, that I was able to justify it, to myself, enough to feel completely comfortable. I'll tell you some of his argument (he was for us getting married, one hundred percent).

For one thing, giving up my rights doesn't give other people rights. What gives other people rights is having people who have those rights fight for them, too. It's one thing to make an open and visible protest, to send letters and money and donate time and so forth, but to make a silent protest like not getting married because gay people can't -- all the politicians will see is that just about everybody getting married is anti-equality, and that will reinforce their beliefs.

Second, there were a lot of reasons why I should marry, but one of the big ones was to tilt the wealth equation in favour of people who favour equal human rights. Marriage consolidates wealth, and if only anti-equality people marry, they will tend to be more wealthy and more powerful than pro-equality people, and wealth, as we know, is power.

Having pro-equality people marry and get wealthy and then use that wealth to enforce their world view the way anti-equality people do is the only way things around going to change. Pro-equality people should gang together and make pro-equality churches, pro-equality school boards, pro-equality parents' committee for moral values (pro-equality moral values, not fake moral values centered around voyeurism).

I don't think straight marriage boycotts help the gay marriage cause. They help people feel better when they're smarting from having been smacked around by the media in the past few months as if somehow being gay made John Kerry lose the election, and that's not a minor thing, but they really don't bring us any closer to equality.
14th-Dec-2004 08:29 pm (UTC)
It's one thing to make an open and visible protest, to send letters and money and donate time and so forth, but to make a silent protest like not getting married because gay people can't -- all the politicians will see is that just about everybody getting married is anti-equality, and that will reinforce their beliefs.

My personal intention, if and when I get married, is to announce publicly at the ceremony that the ceremony is a spiritual, emotional, and practical one but that it is not being backed by a legal contract. I intent to tell all of my friends and relatives in attendance why I am doing this. I have a lot of pretty bigoted relatives and if even one of them thinks twice because of it I feel like I will have done some good.
14th-Dec-2004 05:27 pm (UTC)
I like kava kava as a stress-reliever, though sometimes it seems to work much better than other times. *shrug* (I think Yogi Tea makes a kava+otherstuff blend, which is quite good.)
14th-Dec-2004 05:28 pm (UTC)
i admire your strength in this.
14th-Dec-2004 05:38 pm (UTC)
I find this terribly sad.
You are punishing your sister for something she has not done.
Will this be a future regret?
I do understand standing begind your beliefs, but I really think that the only affect this will have is on your sister, not the system.
It's not a "straights only wedding". it's your sisters wedding in a state that allows segregation. There is a difference.
14th-Dec-2004 06:02 pm (UTC)
I have to agree. It's the state that is anti-gay marriage. Unless your sister also subscribes to those beliefs, you are in fact punishing your sister for something she is not guilty of. It is, of course, your choice, and I do not wish to tell you what to do or not do.

I love chamomile tea, btw, when I need to relax.
14th-Dec-2004 05:51 pm (UTC) - Big Hug!
I get off work at five, darling. You would be more than welcome to stop by here or I could head out to the orange line to meet up with you. That is, of course, if you're looking for company. If not, I shall gladly give you space as well.

I'm proud of you for your honesty.
14th-Dec-2004 06:16 pm (UTC) - Re: Big Hug!
Thank you so much, sweetie! Since I’m not fit for work today (or at least I wasn’t this morning), I was planning on running some errands and getting to the Diesel early. I’m not sure exactly when I’m going to be done with my errands, but I might be able to pick you up at work and either go over to the Diesel, or go get an early dinner, or just hang out for a little while. But if you’d rather have your customary quiet time before Diesel, that’s fine too – I’m a bit shaky, but I’m not in a “needs to be taken care of” mood. Give me a call and/or I'll give you a call and we can make plans (even if they’re just to meet at the Diesel) – I may be offline for big stretches between now and then.
14th-Dec-2004 06:24 pm (UTC)
You may remember my girlfriend, Julie, from 9 years ago. Julie had the exact stance you do, that she didn't want the state recognizing her relationship(s) because of the fact that they wouldn't recognize same-sex marriages. Very analogous to the arguments some conservatives now use, I note -- instead of "if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, it cheapens the institution of marriage" it's "if same-sex couples aren't allowed to marry, it cheapens the institution of marriage"

Being an atheist, I had no desire for any religious body to recognize my relationship(s). So, between the two of us, we didn't have group that we thought was sufficiently noble to recognize our relationship. That seemed fine.

Over the years we both mellowed. Julie got tired of fighting that fight and married a Buddhist Monk. I realized that it was important to me to have some community recognize my relationship, and that unlike most Americans I actually do view the government as the people and not some oppressive external organization. It doesn't hurt that same-sex marriages can now be recognized in either of the jurisdictions I might be likely to have a wedding, Massachusetts or Ontario. Poly relationships, of course, have yet to be addressed, as do immigration issues if a same-sex mixed-nationality couple wants to live in the U.S.

In any event, I still go to weddings that purport to draw their legitimacy from gods that I don't believe in or from states that are no longer at the vanguard of civil rights. If someone purposefully moved their marriage ceremony to a jurisdiction that did not support same-sex marriage specifically for that reason, I wouldn't go. If they were just having it where they lived because that's where their community is and trying to get all their loved ones to go to Massachusetts or Canada would leave many unable to attend -- that seems not so bad to me.

Best of luck with your choice, and with having your family be able to differentiate your feelings about marriages in North Carolina and your sister's marriage. You choose your battles, and you've chosen a particularly emotional one.

Make a gallon of the tea. :)
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