In the midst of everything else that happened in this very heavy news week, Maryland sent its equal marriage rights bill back to committee. Despite what was initially thought, the votes just weren’t there, the state just wasn’t ready yet.
Equal marriage rights are a tricky topic for me as a queer person, and, believe it or not, one I don’t actually like talking about. There are huge issues of heteronormativity and queer culture erasure involved in the discussion, as well as issues regarding misogyny, and an ongoing hunch I have that much of mainstream heterosexual culture is characterized by such intense and unnecessary hostility and suspicion between the genders, that what really terrifies people about equal marriage rights is the option to opt out of that misery that doesn’t really work for them, as opposed to a parallel discussion about trying to fix the often toxic male-female dynamics in this country.
A lot of the gay couples I know are married. Some legally, some spiritually, some both. Some in states where their marriages are recognized, and some in states where they aren’t. The one thing all these couples have in common? Equal marriage rights didn’t exist when they were kids, anywhere, and so they’ve all had to adjust to being pioneers. For some of them, it’s easy. For some of them, it’s easy with a bit of peculiar on the side. And for some of them, they still feel like they have to mention their spouse like a question mark, as if they won’t be believed, as if no amount of paper in the world could make it make sense — not just to others, but to themselves — even as it’s actually happening.
One of the things I think we overlook in the discussion of equal marriage rights is the importance of narrative. Not political narrative or marketing narrative or campaigning narrative, but stories, fiction, the way what is possible often comes to us through the mechanism of what it is not actually a non-fictional fact in the world.
In one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes, “The Waters of Mars,” which I love because it’s about death and sacrifice and early space exploration, there’s a small, completely incidental moment (it’s character development only, not narrative advancement), where someone mentions another man’s husband. It’s completely without note of how notable that is to us in the non-Whoniverse here and now. I don’t have time to find it in the disc, but trust me when I tell you it’s “blah blah blah his husband blah blah blah.”
New Whoniverse stuff is, of course, filled with things like this (see: the lesbians in “Gridlock”) that often get overlooked in the face of stuff like Captain Jack Harkness. But as someone who really loves the Whoniverse and really loves both those small moments and the absurdity (and promise and hope) that is the idea of Jack’s 51st century, it bears noting that some of my sadness this week over the equal marriage bill being tabled in Maryland comes from stories seeming far too far away.
Look, I don’t get a TARDIS. I don’t get the Doctor. I don’t get Jack. I don’t get Torchwood. I don’t get the wonder of the stars as we’re busily retiring the space shuttles. I don’t get all the things I’ve written and dreamed about my entire life. I don’t get to save the world. But wow, if people could just say “his husband” and “her wife” all the time without pause or uncertainty or question, that wouldn’t just be equal rights, that would, for me, be spaceships and dinosaurs and time travel and hope.