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Today, I bring you, on this feminist Friday, the first of a series by Part Time Monster Contributor Cat. She is my dearest friend, certainly my longest-running companion (we’ve been friends all our lives), and she and her wife, Heather, have recently gotten married.

Some of you have seen Sourcerer’s posts on marriage equality this week. If you haven’t, go here, here, here, and then here. Here at the Monster, I’ve written about being a Southern liberal who wants marriage equality. But we’ve been unable to hear an important voice, that of a contributor who is actively engaged in this struggle not just because she’s an activist but because who she loves makes her a part of a struggle–and Cat seems ready, now, to shout about it. So here’s her story, her words–her voice.

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I’ve always been an advocate for equality. I wrote a pro-Obama article in one of the most conservative newspapers in the state back when Obama wasn’t even cool among the Millennials of my small town, right after Dreams from My Father, and right before his famous speech at the Democratic National Convention. I’ve written pieces about income equality, equality in the work place, women’s rights and minority justice. However, on the biggest civil rights issue of our time, I’ve remained mostly silent. I was too close to it, a woman in love and engaged to be married during the fight for marriage equality.  I guess I just wanted my marriage to be my marriage. Not a fight. Not a struggle. Not a statement.

When I met my now wife Heather in 2010 I was a divorced, bi-sexual mother of two with a barely middle income job and my very first bought-it-all-by-myself vehicle. The first night I saw her, I wanted her. And eventually, I got her. But this isn’t our love story, it’s our wedding story, and it should be one and the same, but it isn’t.

When she asked me to marry her, I said yes. However, I didn’t really think we would ever get married. When she asked me, she didn’t think we would ever get married. Not that we didn’t love each other and want that commitment. We planned a wedding that wouldn’t be recognized by anyone but our friends and family who chose to gather and celebrate with us. Even this limited version of marriage was actually more than either of us thought possible when we  were little girls with confusing dreams of other girls.

Growing up in the extreme south in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, there were not a lot of examples of functional gay and lesbian relationships. Of course the caricatures of Will and Grace and Ellen were coming through on the TV, but I always felt like these were only TV people and that people like that didn’t really exist. In my hometown, LGBT adults were talked of in whispers behind the hand. A local businessman was caught in drag late one night with his boyfriend in his back office and we prayed for his family. Then we smiled knowing, sad smiles at his wife. The daughter of the only out lesbian I knew wasn’t shunned. No, we were a Christian town. We gave her sticky, sweet smiles and included her in things just to to do our Christian duty.

Being a lesbian just wasn’t an option in my head. And being bi? Well that is what all the attention seeking girls did for the guys. Women who actually enjoyed both men and women–I didn’t have a real idea of that. For one who prides herself on believing the impossible, my ignorance blinded even my inner spirit from dreaming into being the life and love I have now.

So when this beautiful creature asked me to be her wife, while both of us wanted it, we had a hard time envisioning the reality. After all, we would have to travel thousands of miles and navigate a pile of political red tape to be “really married” and we wouldn’t get anything for it but a piece of paper. No, the marriage we were planning on the beaches of Mississippi was as real as marriage would ever get for us, and we were ok with that.