Life happens out of order. It’s one of the only things I’m really certain of.
It’s a screwed up certainty, though, because it’s this thing in my head that comes solely from being too attached to story, where even complicated, unsettling events are neat and always driving towards a conclusion, or at least a pattern. Non-fictional life isn’t like that; hence that out of order feeling.
But if you have the relationship with fiction that I do, and considering how many of the people who read this come from fandom, you just might, there’s always a drive for narrative that distorts our non-fiction messiness into something neater and more elegant. It is, at its most basic level, why we play where were you when games. It’s how we make stories about the true things that happen in what is generally a clumsy manner.
A week ago, I was at a gig at Irving Plaza, half distracted by the NY Assembly’s passage of the marriage equality bill. When I got home, amped up and a bit tipsy and my voice hoarse from singing along with the show all night, and Patty was asleep and I knew I wasn’t going to get even four hours of rest myself, I emailed my buddy Christian and said: “This is a stupid thing man, but I want the Senate to pass the bill tomorrow, so Colfer can reference it in that stupid skit about the proposal at Glee Live.”
Christian has a narrative compulsion too, and we met through Torchwood fandom, so he got it immediately. It was a trivial desire in the face of a non-trivial thing, because it made for shinier narrative and thorough distraction. It was also a way to make fiction seem a little more real — although whether that was about the skit, or the bill I didn’t think would pass, it’s hard to say.
Of course, I actually saw Glee Live in New Jersey (it’s one of the cruel ironies of living in New York City, that many convenient stadium shows are in another state, that we hate, and the shout-outs are never for us), and it never came up. Then it did, in the reports from the shows on Long Island later that weekend.
There was just one tiny, embarrassing problem (other than this whole post) — marriage equality still hadn’t passed in New York; our congress is bicameral. But it sure didn’t stop the screams for Colfer giving a shout out to the law (supposedly) passing or delivering the most marriage-y of the non-marriage proposals the skit (in which Kurt asks Blaine to join glee club) had yet seen.
I sent Christian a link to a vid of it someone had linked me to. “When this doesn’t pass, I’m going to be gutted because of these fictional kids being dumbasses.”
“Maybe it’ll be okay,” he said.
“Maybe it’ll just be like how everything always happens in the wrong order,” I said.
My whole fixation with it seems stupid now, but I’ve been involved with the marriage equality story for twenty years now, and maybe I just needed a buffer from it that was young and optimistic and not all this life and death; a whole hell of a lot of people didn’t get here with us.
When I joined my LGBT student group in college, I was 17. And other than a lot of really bad crap happening to me and mine, the other thing that happened was we talked about marriage equality a lot. I knew people who were involved in some of the earliest court cases about it, and we all spent endless hours shooting the shit about how we could get a marriage equality case to the Supreme Court.
“Can we do it on a religious freedom basis? If a religion recognizes gay marriage, doesn’t the government have to?”
I was so young. And I was, and remain, of a generation that was taught (even if we didn’t believe) that marriage was not just a marker, but perhaps the only marker, of adulthood. A wedding, in my eyes, those 21 years ago, seemed like the only way I was ever going to be something other than the property of my parents, with whom, at that time, I had an extraordinarily difficult relationship.
21 years I’ve been talking about marriage equality, because I was precocious and wounded, because I wanted to be chosen, because I was a born a girl, because I felt like property. It’s never been anything but a bucket of screwy symbolism and pedestrian magic for me, and despite a profound, sometimes yo-yo’ing, ambivalence about the institution now, it’s been a huge part of my queer story.
Which is probably why I spent the last week, not just frantically tweeting about the New York bill and calling senators all the time, but also trying to insulate myself from my own history and from an expected legislative disappointment with stories about fictional kids who weren’t even a potential concept on the narrative landscape of my childhood.
See, this sort of painful, annoying drive I have to personalize everything and make everything a narrative? Well that was the only way I was ever going to get stories about people like me twenty, twenty-five years ago, because there weren’t any. I had to be self-involved because there was no one else to be involved with instead.
Marriage equality doesn’t change my life. It’s just a thing that makes it seem like the fight’s a little smaller, and I’m a little realer. It makes me feel safer walking down the street (although, in truth, anti-gay violence is expected to rise in the city in the wake of this), more comfortable calling the cops, and freer to say “my partner” without getting any damn backlash. With marriage equality in my state, the idea of being in any closet seems antiquated.
This morning, I’ve seen a flurry of emails and tweets along the lines of “did that really happen?” And that’s when I smile at my supposedly petty defense mechanisms of the last week. Of course it did.
You know how I know?
It happened in the wrong order.
But it happened. It really did. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t as happy for the idea of stories as I am for all the real people (myself included) who never should have had to fight to get here.
6 thoughts on “life happens out of order; that’s how I know it’s real”
I know well what you mean about putting everything into narrative, although as someone who also grew up with the expectation of a wedding as the rite of passage into adulthood, I feel lost within the story. At 48 now, I’ve concluded that I’m never going to find anyone who wants to marry me, male or female. And so I’m starting to feel like the old maid tucked into the corner of a 19th century novel – the Miss Bates in the corner of Emma, the Marilla Cuthbert of Anne of Green Gables – a side character in someone else’s plot. Where the hell’s my story?
But last night was amazing. I’ve been following your tweets all week from here in Virginia, and I tuned into Rachel Maddow to watch the coverage. Absolutely incredible to see. I think the moment that stood out the most was someone shouting “Thank you” in the legislature room after the bill had passed.
I watched it life on the online feed and it was SO exciting, I stayed up all night until they finally voted. Though I almost wish they’d let more Senators speak to explain their votes. The ones who did were very interesting. Duane was touching. Diaz was infuriating. The Reps who voted pro were fantastic. I could have watched for longer…
But then 33/29 happened and that’s ALL THAT MATTERS! *hugs*
I had two tabs open all week long — the NY Senate State livestream and the #NY4M Twitter feed. I noticed your tweets, and I recognized your photo from all of the Klaine fanfiction I’ve been obsessing over since “Original Songs.”
Amidst all of the noise this past week, I kept coming back to your tweets, and your blog. Thanks for keeping me updated and informed in a way that made sense to me, even though you had no idea it did.
We have more in common than just Klaine. I live in New York (formerly Brooklyn, now Nyack) with my girl and I make my living writing things (other people’s stories, mostly). Also, from this post, I think we might be close in age. Perhaps that’s why I kept checking in with you during this agonizing week of waiting — the invisible thread of commonality.
(newbie to fanfiction: klaineaddict)
I’ve read this three times today, and have thought for hours about how I should comment (and honestly if I should comment at all). Because as excited as I am and as meaningful this is (or should be, at least) for EVERYONE, this isn’t my victory and it’s not my fight. I’m straight. I’ve been married for four years, since I was 22. I was bullied in middle and high school, but nowhere near the extent that I could have been. I’ve never had to fight for the right to do anything, and I’ve never really been denied anything. Basically, I’m spoiled. And so I don’t claim to know your struggles or understand your joy over the passing of this bill.
But it still matters to me. It matters a LOT. Enough that I ran downstairs squealing to my husband last night after the vote passed 33/29. Because it’s what’s right, plain and simple, and I’ve never understood how that point can be argued. And because I have friends who HAVE faced really really terrible things b/c of their sexuality and lived to tell about it, and I think that this law gives them hope. It gives ME hope.
So this is getting long and rambly, and I have no idea if I’m even making sense, but I just want you to know… As a straight Southerner who grew up in an ultra-conservative Baptist environment … I care about your rights, and I was crying along with all you new yorkers last night as we all watched history being made. And it thrills me to no end that the number of people who have marriage equality rights has doubled because of this 🙂
This is one of the most beautiful things you’ve written.
For me it’s been fascinating to read your blow-by-blow reactions to the passage of the bill, and even more surprising for me to see here that even 20 years ago you were hoping for it to happen one day.
My 18 year old self in 1991 couldn’t imagine ever seeing gay marriage happening in my life time. Maybe I was sheltered, or cynical, or just in Georgia but I despaired of seeing gay marriage as of COURSE becoming law like it always should have been. I’m glad to know I was wrong but somehow happier still to know that there were people 20 years ago who had the hope and imagination to make it so.