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.