Cat-Blog: On Marriage Equality and the Struggle to Keep Marriage Personal

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.

___________

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.

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  1. Reblogged this on Part Time Monster and commented:

    Today, in support of my LGBT friends and family and in light of the ruling handed down in Louisiana yesterday, I’m reblogging friend and contributor Cat’s 3-part series on her marriage to her wife, Heather. Cat’s series is a poignant look at what happens when the private and public sectors become enmeshed with an issue such as marriage equality and of the real human cost of a country that doesn’t recognize the rights of all of its citizens. I’m so glad to have her as a friend and contributor, and I can’t thank her enough for opening up so much about her life on such a public forum.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate to not having a concept for being bisexual… I only had the vaguest conception of what that was. I was at least a year into a study of homosexuality before I actually saw it defined and went “Oh my God, THAT’S ME!” It wasn’t terribly traumatic since I’d been doing that study, but it was a pretty dramatic restructuring of the world. 🙂 Congratulations on your marriage!

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    1. Yeah, bisexuality wasn’t something “real” in some sense…But I think that speaks to our rigid ideas of sexuality. I often wonder how many of those girls who said they were kissing other girls for guys’ attention actually just enjoyed kissing girls.

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      1. Haha, yeah.

        The main misunderstanding I’ve come across is people think you “become” one or the other when you’re in a longterm relationship. Or even if I say “Good golly, Batman is stinkin’ hot,” some people will always go “But I thought you were bisexual.” You’re… you’re just completely missing the point…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s about spirt not sex. I believe bisexuals are the most evolved because we see past the trappings of flesh and look at the comparability of souls.

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    2. Thanks Hannah! I am so glad your studies led you to this self discovery! How elegant, I’m afraid I found my bisexuality through baser impulses but all is well that ends well as they say 🙂 Of corse as you two have stated, self discovery in a world without examples isn’t the only bisexual challenge. We often face skepticism from our lgbt brothers and sisters as to if we even belong to the community. And if a bisexual is in a hetero relationship they have an even harder time being accepted into the group.

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      1. Hah, well, let’s just say it’s no surprise to me that I would come to that realization via research, as that’s how I come to all my realizations. 🙂 If I’d known the word earlier, it would’ve been pretty obvious. As a kid I regularly had this mental exchange: “Wow, she’s hot. OMG, what if I’m a lesbian? No, Spock is still super sexy, so by definition, I can’t be a lesbian. I’m just Admiring the Female Form. It’s all goo, everything’s cool.”

        I’ve been lucky enough in Alabama that people in LGBT groups are just so happy to meet other LGBT people that they don’t really care which letter you are, but I do know people who have experienced those reactions. “Skepticism” is definitely the right word to describe the reaction from all sides!

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  3. Thanks so much for “liking” ADDandSoMuchMore.com. MUCH appreciated.

    I know how lame this will sound – but even though I’m straight, some of my best friends are gay (mostly males) – some married, some not, some not even partnered. One of my VERY best friends (and soul mates), Robin McCarty was gay.

    We met as undergrad theatre majors, both moved to NYC to pursue theatre careers, and both ended up as helping professionals. After a Columbia MSW, Robin became a therapist.

    “Was” because AIDS got him.

    I was one of Robin’s care partners from first dx, & was with him right up to the point of his elegant death at the bitter end — a skeleton riddled with kaposes sarcoma, a Hickman catheter in his chest and a “machine” automating the administration of the fluids and medication that kept him comfortable once his veins collapsed.

    He died at home, holding on — despite the fact he always swore he didn’t want “to be kept alive by machines” — because he wanted every minute he could have with his beautiful partner Richard, whose death followed shortly and quickly.

    I am RARELY judgmental or mean-spirited, but I blame Ronald Reagan for their deaths to this day – he had Koop as Surgeon General, ringing the alarm & calling for research, yet Reagan refused to listen & act. My friends who became symptomatic *after* it was ignored until it became an epidemic (& money was finally allocated for research initiatives) are still alive and healthy.

    I must admit that I begrudge this Teflon president his Teflon death – he probably never had to know what he allowed to happen on his watch through his presidential negligence. EVEN in death nothing stuck to the man.

    In ANY case, the worst thing for me about Robin’s death (other than how it came about and missing our relating practically every day, of course) is that it happened before the marriage equality conversations picked up steam. There was never any reality for him about the possibility of actually marrying his soul mate and life partner. That breaks my heart.

    I would have felt honored to be Maid of Honor in THAT wedding! (and I would have been asked, btw)

    I resonated to “little girls with confusing dreams of other girls” — Robin and I had many discussions about his journey toward coming out — thus the above. Thanks for sharing.

    To those who like to quote Scripture as a reason for censure, I have only this to say:

    “and the GREATEST of these is love.”

    I truly believe that God wants us to honor love in ALL its forms. Congrats on finding your partner and I honor your marriage.

    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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    1. Thank you so much for this response and for coming to see what the Monster is all about. Glad I found you.

      And what a sad thing. I’m too young to remember Reagan’s presidency, at 30, but I know enough about the history of the policies to know what you mean about his AIDS policy–and to be truly horrified by its effects. I know people that it effected.

      I can’t imagine, for the life of me, how we’ve spend so many years being hateful, not recognizing the love between other people. I’m sad we have to fight the battle we’re fighting, but I’m happy to live in a time that we’re fighting this battle instead of one of those earlier ones, even if that’s selfish of me.

      Cat is my best friend, and I’ve been reticent to speak about her marriage here, even though we’ve been working on marriage equality in MS on the blogs this week, because Cat’s story is her own. I’m glad that she decided to tell her story, and I’m going to send her right to your beautiful story and well-wishes. 🙂

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      1. Oops – I guess my ADD eyes missed the fact that this was written by your best friend — tell Cat that I’m sorry about that!

        I am interested in the topic of MS, by the way — one of several hatefuls another friend must deal with. Please leave me a link to the marriage equality in MS (unless, of course, you mean the MAGAZINE 🙂 )

        Re: selfish – I’d say “grateful” (and lucky!)
        xx,
        mgh

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        1. 🙂 Oh, that’s fine. She doesn’t have a WordPress account–she’s really a pen and paper girl–but I convince her to write sometimes, because she’s good at it (You are, my dear. Hi, I know you’re reading this, too).

          This week, my brother, (who you can find at Sourcerer–http://sourcererblog.wordpress.com/), met with the Campaign for Southern Equality (https://twitter.com/CSEliveas) they were heading up some activities in the area. I’ve friends who’ve participated in their marriage license application civil protests last year.

          We write about equality a lot, as it’s something we’re interested and invested in. There are some posts here and some at Sourcerer about marriage equality in Mississippi and its recent version of the “Turn away the Gay” bill.

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        2. Mississippi – don’t get me started! They have a piss-poor record where any sort of equality is concerned. When I was in grad school they actually had a curfew for blacks on the books (and they enforced it).

          No time left today, but I WILL drop in on Sourcerer soonest (VERY cool name, btw)
          xx,
          mgh

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        3. Indeed. I’m in neighboring Louisiana now, but I still work in MS and that’s where my family is. And LA is really quite similar to MS anyway. We’re fighting the same battles.

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        4. I was in grad school in LA (when they held the Klan meetings in the public schools and advertised them on the radio!) — University of New Orleans.

          I would not have known about the curfew on blacks in Mississippi except for the fact that one of my classmates in a small graduate seminar was black and playing in an all-girl jazz band. Our backgrounds were similar enough that we might have been “twins” except for skin color.

          I asked how a recent gig went and she told me that they had to cancel because there was no way they could get back in time afterwards and avoid MS, and the rest of the group wasn’t willing to play without her.

          You have to BELIEVE there was no seminar that particular day. I went on a rant that hijacked the class!!

          What is WRONG with those people?
          xx,
          mgh

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        5. Thank you my dearest. And that was a heartbreakingly beautiful story. I do hope you are able to be that maid of honor at that wedding in the afterlife or the next life.

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        6. Thank you, Madelyn, for taking an interest in our blogs and for sharing your story. I’ll be happy to chat with you about Mississippi any time. (I’m the brother; I edit Sourcerer.) Wrote you a post-length response about Reagan and AIDS.

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        7. Yes. I was going to spell it the normal way, but Diana insisted on the pun.

          It’s a bit of an inside joke, because we’re a crew of loosely-affiliated content producers. Most of us are writers, and I’m the strategist of the group.

          Whenever we engineer some really awesome social media coup, I always say “It’s called Sourcerer for a reason” and everyone laughs.

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        8. lol – I am ***SO*** ADD that’s it’s practically a cold day in hell when I make to Facebook to check up with my theatre buds (mostly) — much less LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. And tweeting is TOTALLY beyond me.

          Soundbites? Give me a break!! I am the queen of “why use one word when ten thousand will do?”

          I tell anyone who needs something from me in a written format, “If you want it short it will quadruple the time for me to get it to you.”

          “Social media coup” sends shivers down my spine, and I must admit makes me feel totally inadequate that keeping up with my blog regularly already taxes my fragile time-management skills.

          My admiration to you.
          xx,
          mgh

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        9. Thanks!

          We’re not really that impressive yet, but I have amazing organizational skills and I think I’ve figured out how it works.

          I understand the whole “10,000 words” thing, and I’ve lapsed into it a bit lately, but for the most part I am a rhetoric guy first, and that’s the one area of my life where I have real discipline. Everything we’re doing is enabled by the fact that we’re really, really good at language.

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    2. Thank you for sharing this story with us. My wife Vicki (who is a MSW) has an experience so similar I had to step away from the computer and collect myself before I could even respond. I rarely talk about this, even offline, because it’s not my story to tell, and because it’s painful. But I’ll share it, just this once, here.

      I am old enough to remember the 80s, but those were my school years, so I did not understand the full extent of Reagan’s mishandling of AIDS until much later. Vicki is a bit older than me. She and all her brothers were adults by the end of the Reagan years. She had a younger brother named Phillip. He was a kind, generous, friendly person who loved life. He was gay. He was also a mechanical genius. And he broke all the 80s stereotypes. He wore three-piece suits. He did not swish, ever. He He was a manly man, and women threw themselves at him.

      He got a good job with IBM during the early days of IT that allowed him to escape Mississippi. He lived in several of the greatest cities in the country – San Francisco, Miami, and New York are the ones I know about. He got to go to celebrities’ houses and work on their computers (he met Jacqueline Onassis once, and she took the time to have a conversation with him and make him feel welcome in her home).

      Phillip died in a hospital in Manhatten in the late 80s. The entire family went to New York to be with him during his final days. He made his partner take them out and show them around so they’d have some memories of the city instead of just the hospital and the hotel room. That’s the kind of man he was.

      Vicki first told me this story in the mid-90s. It broke my heart, and it made me angry. I eventually became a friend of her family, and we married in 2004. I’ve known her for 22 years and her parents for almost 20. I’m more angry and heartbroken about what happened to Phillip now than I was when she first told me. I’ve seen what his loss has done to his family every day for almost two decades. His death was senseless, and I blame Reagan’s failure to act for all that pain. By all accounts, Phillip was just my sort of guy, and we’d be great friends. I never got to meet him. I blame Reagan for that, too.

      I usually don’t bring this up with Reagan-admirers (and I know many), because so much time has passed. It’s easy for this to turn into the sort of conversation that damages relationships. It’s a very emotional topic for me, and I feel like I need an evidence-based case to make talking about it productive. I’ve been working myself up to blog about it and put it all out in the open, but I’m not there yet. I don’t cut Reagan any slack, though, and the only thing positive you’ll ever hear me say about him is that he had a knack for brilliant quotes.

      I wish Phillip could have lived to see the shift toward acceptance and equality that’s taking place right now. If he’d contracted AIDS just a few years later, he probably would have. He certainly could have afforded treatment if it had been available. I think people walking into courthouses all across the south to apply for same sex marriage licences and finding the clerks mostly sympathetic would tickle him to death.

      Diana’s right – we’re very invested in equality. If we see unjust inequality in any form, and we think we can do something productive about it, we try to do it. But LGBTQ rights in general, and marriage equality in particular, have a special place on my agenda. This particular form of inequality is personal for me. That’s why I took the step beyond blogging about it and went to meet people from the Campaign for Southern Equality in person. I wanted to see what they do up close, and let them know I’m ready to get involved. I have real organizing skills and political experience, and I’ve decided I’m not stopping until this gets done. Next time they come to Mississippi, I’ll know further ahead of time, and I’ll take the week off to help them.

      If I could find a way to do it full time and still support my family, I’d devote every minute of every day to it.

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      1. WOW. There is so much I have to say about what you wrote I don’t even know where to start. FIRST, I am so sorry to hear about Phillip – he sounds like my kind of guy.

        I’m sorry that he became another in a long line of some of the best and brilliant people born on our planet who fell victim to one of the most unfortunate effects of homophobia. Had Aids been more visible in the straight population – as in Africa – we would have seen a much stronger and more immediate response.

        Phillip, Robin and Richard would probably have been great friends — and may even have crossed paths in Manhattan. They too did not “swish.”

        Richard was Radio City’s Prince Charming for their production of Cinderella, if that gives you some idea. Robin was a different sort of heart-throb, but just as attractive to the ladies.

        Neither man’s surviving family were lovingly supportive, however. Sadly, there was no rushing to the bedside — but we, their community of friends who became family — were there. Robin’s memorial service, held in the [donated] assembly room of the huge actor’s housing complex in NYC, was practically standing-room only!

        Three days before his death, Robin invited me to come over for “a slumber party – to roll our hair and talk about boys.” In actuality, he wanted to give Richard a chance to get away and play some pool, followed by a solid night’s sleep where he didn’t have to be on-guard – he kept his unique sense of humor, even at the end.

        He knew that my being there would allow Richard to let himself take a much-needed break because both men knew that standing watch all night was something I could easily be counted on to do, given my sleep disorder. THAT was the kind of man that Robin was.

        The image of his frail, emaciated body as I helped him “unhook” and held him steady him so that he could go to the bathroom – both of us belly laughing about “the responsibilities of friendship” as he stood in front of the toilet emptying his bladder – is something I will take to my grave.

        Unlike you, I DO let my Republican friends and acquaintances know my strong dislike of Reagan and my reasons for it — in as charge-neutral a manner as I can manage — and let them know that I’m not available for any conversations about the man’s virtues as a result. (My friends who are Democrats aren’t fans anyway).

        Given WHY I don’t like or respect Reagan – and the reality that I will continue to quote facts they don’t want to think about – generally lets the subject drop with “an agreement to disagree.”

        btw- When he was president of the Screen Actor’s Guild he threw us under the bus – rolling back some hard won concessions as he negotiated with the Producers on behalf of all film actors. I’ve never been a fan, and would NEVER have voted for him.

        I could go on about the other points in your comment, but it is getting late and I have miles to go before I sleep. Let me conclude with my reaction to “If I could find a way to do it full time and still support my family, I’d devote every minute of every day to it.”

        BOY can I relate! If I didn’t have to keep a roof over my head and food on my table with what I do with many too many of the minutes of my life, there are A LOT of things I’d throw myself into full-time. We seem to be alike in that way.

        Pleased to meetcha’
        xx,
        mgh

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        1. Yes, well-met.

          I also have a sleep disorder, and it’s actually a bit of an advantage in the social media game. It would be crazy if Phillip met Robin and Richard, but who knows?

          Vicki’s going to love your response when she sees it. I had her read and approve that comment before I posted it.

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        2. They may well have run into each other — the community is not THAT large, and those boys do get out and party!

          If they DID meet, I hope it wasn’t at the hospital or Ackerman’s. At that time there weren’t that many doctors or therapists who specialized in Aids, so it’s not too far-fetched a possibility that they might have been in the same doctor’s reception area at the same time. (Like me, they chat, so they would have spoken if they had run across him).

          Don’t you wish we could ask them?

          Sleep disorder? I’m guessing DSPS, given that we are both up and blogging well after midnight. It’s a bigger “club” than many realize.
          xx,
          mgh

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        3. Lol. I’m not up on the clinical terms. I just call it insomnia, but it’s a real disorder of some sort. I sleep three hours a night, am a little groggy for the first hour I wake up, then function normally, at a high level all day. For weeks on end. I only need rescue sleep every two months or so to maintain.

          And yes, I do wish we could ask them. I’m hoping they met at a club, or Phillip met them on a call and they all had a nice chat over coffee.

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        4. ADDendom – I am a bit of a sleep disorders expert, and there’s a Sleep Series on ADDandSoMuchMore where I am, bit by article, sharing what I know. (Search for “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sleep for a Linklist)

          HOWEVER, my motto has always been “If it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?” 🙂 xx, mgh

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