Mar 262013
 

“One Voice” by the Wailin’ Jennys

This is the sound of one voice
One spirit, one voice
The sound of one who makes a choice
This is the sound of one voice

This is the sound of voices two
The sound of me singing with you
Helping each other to make it through
This is the sound of voices two

This is the sound of voices three
Singing together in harmony
Surrendering to the mystery
This is the sound of voices three

This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
This is the sound of all of us

This is the sound of one voice
One people, one voice
A song for every one of us
This is the sound of one voice
This is the sound of one voice

Last fall, I had the chance to be with a good friend on her wedding weekend. While at the rehearsal dinner, I asked one of the bridesmaids (with whom I was having a delightful conversation) about why she and her husband decided to get married. In reply, she told me a lovely story about the day they got engaged. I smiled as she told me the tale – both because it was a good story, and because it didn’t really answer my question at all.  My smile came with the realization that most straight people aren’t asked why they decided to get married.  They may be asked about how, when, or where they and their partner made a commitment to spend their lives together; but, seldom are they asked why.  For most straight folks, getting married is just what you do when you hit a certain point in your relationship. You meet, you date for some period of time, you get married, you have kids . . .

I won’t try and speak for all queer folks, but I’d venture to bet that many non-hetero people who make the decision to get married are at some point asked the “why” questions: “Why did you decide to get married?” “Why, if you know it doesn’t make any difference legally, did you make the choice to make that commitment?” or, “So, why was it even important for you to get married?” or, “I just don’t get it – why would you even want to get married?” (It varies a bit, but the idea behind the questions is often basically the same.)

One of the things that was most definitive for my partner and I in making the decision to get hitched is that it was very much a decision – we made the decision that ours was a relationship worth fighting for, worth working through, and that our desire to make a commitment to one another in front of other people was not only about celebrating our relationship as good and just, but was also a means of holding ourselves accountable to the commitment we were making.  We wanted to do it publicly.  We made the decision to address head-on, as much as we could, the wedges that would try to work their way between us: laws that don’t protect us, people who don’t understand us (and will sometimes repeatedly ask us to explain ourselves), a lack of acknowledgement by those, even within our families, who don’t agree with our “lifestyle” choice.

Many LGBTQ people decide not to get married, and with very good reason.  The institution of marriage is one that has been used to perpetuate and restrict gender and class norms, to treat women as property and hold them in their “place.” For my partner and I, the decision to get married was one we made together and with a great deal of thought and care about how we want to live in the world.  We both, in mutual respect and care for one another, felt it was the best way for us to be intentional about bringing our separate lives into into one life together; and, we wanted to do that as part of a larger community.

Because we live in a state that doesn’t recognize our marriage, my partner and I had two ceremonies: one legal wedding in DC, and a covenant ceremony in our church, where our marriage was blessed.  Because we’re church-going folk, it was important that we have communion during our covenant ceremony.  My partner and I sat on the front row of the church as people came to the front to take communion, while a few of our friends sang the song above.  Though I recognize that there’s no such thing as a perfect analogy, If I were to look for a single experience that represents our relationship, it would be those ten or so minutes as people came to the table for communion, blessed us with their touch as they headed back to their seats, as the building harmony of voices and guitar played in the background.  We were there together, sharing a simple meal with the people we love, offering a gentle acknowledgement that we are part of something more.

Part of what has been so beautiful to me about our relationship is the recognition that it is something that needs constant care and love – that the opportunity to spend one’s life with another person is not something to be taken for granted or taken lightly.  We have to acknowledge that we are learning as we go, and continue to check in with one another to communicate with as much clarity as possible – even when it is difficult.  However, it’s also important that we not take ourselves too seriously – that we dance in the living room when necessary.  At the end of the day, I know that my partner is in this for the long haul, that she has seen the worst parts of me and loves me still.  I also know that we are only two people, and that our broader community is an essential aspect of the health and well-being of our relationship.  There are times when we have to be willing to lean on those we love, to ask for help even when it requires a certain amount of vulnerability.  We have trust that we are part of something more, that our relationship doesn’t exist in a vacuum – that while a two-part harmony is nice, a chorus of three or four voices together is what gives a song the greatest depth.

This is the sound of voices three
Singing together in harmony
Surrendering to the mystery
This is the sound of voices three

This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
This is the sound of all of us

(The beginning of this post is from a post I wrote last fall about the what the church might learn from engaging those on the margins, and brought in my experience of deciding to marry my partner.  Given that the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Proposition 8 today, it seemed appropriate to share some of those thoughts again. . .

  3 Responses to “What I’ve Learned About Marriage From My Gay Marriage”

  1. This is really a beautiful read and meditation on your marriage, which is very much real. Thank you.

  2. Whenever I hear that song, I think first of the sacrament, and then of your wedding. The song has helped expand my view of communion. It is such a joy that your wedding day was a blessing to me as well, and I wanted to make sure the two of you are aware of that. 🙂
    Peace,
    Josh

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