Two Thoughts on Marriage

My best friend Ramona and I were lucky enough to meet and fall in love with wonderful people within weeks of each other.  It really was a fabulous stroke of luck, because for the previous several years, through Ramona’s unwilling celibacy and my promiscuous-without-attachment days, Ramona and I had been near inseparable.  We spent huge chunks of our spare time together, we helped each other shift, we rang each other if we’d had a shit day, we were each others plus-ones at weddings.  In a whole lot of ways, we were like a couple – just without the sex.  Our friends even referred to us as each other’s “wives”.  So I think that if one of us had fallen head-over-heels in love and the other hadn’t, it would have been difficult on our friendship.  As it stands, the anniversaries of our respective relationships are just over a month apart.  We are still extremely important parts of each other’s lives, but we’re not the inseparable twosome we once were.

Because Ramona fell in love with a woman and I fell in love with a man, only one of us is allowed to marry our partner.

Although opponents of marriage equality would like to pretend it is, it’s not a damn thing to do with Christianity or the Bible: marriage is not and has never been the exclusive domain of the church.  It’s not a damn thing to do with children or the family unit: my love and I have no intention of having babies or raising a family; Ramona is already acting as a step-parent to her partner’s children.  They can twist it whichever way they like, what they’re essentially saying – in either weasel words or outright – is that same-sex couples are not worthy of marriage.

The thought that ANYONE would think that my relationship is somehow more worthy, more important, more real than Ramona’s infuriates and sickens me.  It makes me quiver with rage.  It makes me wonder at whether their hearts and minds are fully functional.  To see two people in love who want to be married and to deny them that right requires an incredible lack of heart.  To think that gender of the people involved makes any difference to the quality of the love requires, yes, a lack of intelligence.

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This notion that marriage is a purely heterosexual institution because heterosexual relationships are more important than homosexual relationships makes marriage less relevant to me.  Not just because it excludes Ramona and many other people I love, but because it excludes a huge chunk of my history.  I have dated women, loved women, contemplated living happily-ever-after with women.  I was banned from taken my girlfriend to my high school formal (but did so anyway, daring the chaperones to make a scene).  I’ve seen the disappointment on my mother’s face when I told her I was a lesbian (clearly I’m not any more. It’s a long story which you can find elsewhere on my blog).   I’ve been spat on in the street and called a pussylicker (it took me several moments to click that it was supposed to be an insult).  Frozen in shock, I watched my sister chase the woman who spat at me down the street, screaming at her in defence of me.  I’ve shagged women in the toilets at gay clubs, attended queer youth groups, played in a lesbian sports team, held my girlfriend’s hand walking down the street after dark in mid-90s small-town New Zealand, scared but full of “fuck you” bravado.

For me marry as marriage stands, as the so-called defendants of marriage want it to be, denies all this history.  It says it is not worthy, just like Ramona’s relationship is not worthy and thousands of other same-sex relationships are not worthy.

And to that I say, where is your heart and where is your mind?

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What We Do versus Who We Are

Tonight I am going out for a Supermoon party.  A private party, full of weirdoes and deviants, much flesh and PVC and leather on display, furries led around on leashes, adult babies in pink bibs, the traditional Domly game of “my flogger’s bigger than your flogger”.  Bad Annani will be let out of her box.  Much excitement.  Bad Annani doesn’t get out to play all that often any more.

A party like this would, in the not-too-distant past, have been a completely normal weekend activity.  I was part of the clique that hosts these parties; now I’m lucky to even get an invite.  In the not-too-distant past, a party like this would have barely raised a “meh” on the Monday morning weekend review, unless something extraordinary happened at it.  “Meh” because it is a planned event, and everyone knows the best times happen with no planning and no warning.  A noteworthy weekend would have been finding myself in a hotel room at 5am with my friend-with-benefits, a merchant banker, the merchant banker’s boss’ 17-year-old son, half the stock of the local sex toy emporium and enough illicit substances to justify a whole team of police officers dressed in black kicking in the door.  That would be a weekend which would have me sitting at my desk on Monday with a small smirk, hiding my hangover and comedown, and thinking, “Yep, that was an interesting weekend.”

The thing is… in this not-too-distant past, that would have been my identity.  Had someone asked me to sum up exactly who I was, I would have said, “I’m a woman who sits at her desk like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, thinking deliciously about the scandalous evening the night before.”

Now I am a woman who hosts dinner parties for her couple friends.  I go to pub quizzes.  I have drinks with the girls after work.  I tend the garden in the weekends.  I have discussions with my partner about which duvet cover will look best in our shared bedroom.  Yes, yes, sometimes I go to BDSM parties and sometimes my lovely boyfriend will tie me, blindfold me and cane my breasts.  But these things are no longer What I Do.  They’re no longer the large part of my identity.

I don’t know who I am any more.

In this not-too-distant past, I was pretty happy with my life.  I’d shake my head in quiet amazement at the weird and wonderful situations I’d find myself in sometimes.  I expected that if I kept walking these lines, I might really find myself in danger.  I expected that I’d be single forever and I was happy about that – I could just keep going where my whims took me.

But I met my boyfriend and I fell in love and I love him more than I loved the things I was doing.  So when he said he couldn’t do non-monogamy, I agreed to monogamy.  I said goodbye to my friends-with-benefits and fuckbuddies, and I said goodbye to the nights of following my whims.  I thought it’d be hard, but in reality it’s been easy.  I love my boyfriend, I have agreed on monogamy with him, and so monogamy is easy.  I’ve not been tempted to stray, not even after wild offers from former lovers (which isn’t to say that I don’t occasionally think wistfully about what might have been had I still been single).

I think the problem is that I phrased it all wrong in my head.  Identity isn’t exactly what we do.  We are many things, some of them expressed, some of them not.  I still consider myself to be a non-monogamous person.  I am just behaving monogamously because that’s the sort of relationship I’m in.  I still consider myself slutty, even though my slutty behaviours are confined between me and my love.  I’m most certainly still submissive – I submit to my boyfriend in large and small ways every day, even if elaborate scenes are a little rarer.

But although I feel a sense of loss for that part of who I was, I’m starting to realise that thinking of myself only as that scandalous woman with a knowing smile was really selling myself short.  I have to remind myself that I’m still who I always was, and those parts of me I adored are all still there.  It’s just that other parts of who I’ve always been are coming to the fore now – dare I say it, softer, gentler parts.  The aspects of my identity which are capable of loving, of embracing service submission, of quietness and solitude*, of – yes – domesticity (don’t flinch as you type that, Annani!).  As contemptuous as old me is, trying out a new recipe while friends sit at the dinner table drinking wine and we discuss the latest political scandal – it gives me a sense of peace and rightness that a hundred nights of fucking strangers and snorting drugs never did.

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* It sounds weird to say that I’m capable of solitude now that I live with a partner.  But so much of what I did previously was motivated by my inability to sit quietly with myself – I always itched to do something, anything.

To Bi or Not to Bi?

I know, I know, I bet no one’s come up with that witty pun before.  And at the risk of starting out with a spoiler, the answer is “not”.

I have had relationships with men and women in my past (sometimes both at the same time) and I continue to be attracted to both men and women.  But I don’t identify as bisexual, and I’ve never identified as bisexual.  Back in the dark ages when I was a teenager, I identified as lesbian.  This is because I knew I was attracted to women and I figured back then that human sexuality was a two-sided coin.  There were gays and there were straights.  I liked women, I had relationships with women, therefore I must be gay.  I knew about bisexuals, but what I “knew” about them was that they were fence-sitters who wanted the best of both worlds (the lesbian community in my town in the mid-’90s was pretty vociferous about this stuff).  Of course, this was while I was at an all-girls school where my opportunities to develop attractions to men were pretty limited.  Once I left school and broadened my experience and met some yummy men, I realised that I was attracted to some of these yummy men.  But that somehow didn’t change my identity.  I was four months into a relationship with a man when he referred to me as bisexual, and I said (quite indignantly), “I’m not bisexual! I’m a lesbian!”  To which he responded by falling over laughing.  I’d somehow decided that, despite being in a relationship with a man, I was still a lesbian… who just happened to be in a relationship with a man.

Quite a few years and quite a few relationships later,  and I no longer identify as lesbian (though my ex-lover, who was a lesbian who said she only dated lesbians, declared, “You are a lesbian.  You’re just a shit lesbian.”  My turn to fall over laughing.)  But, as I spoilered right at the top, I don’t identify as bi, either.

Here is problem number one with “bi”: it implies a neat bisection of one’s sexuality.  Like you’re split down the middle: one side likes men, the other likes women.  I’ve fluctuated wildly over the years from being almost exclusively attracted to women to being more drawn to men.  But I can’t put my finger on any point in my life where my attractions were equally divided.  And the other thing I’ve found is that the quality of my attraction to men and women differs.  I used to say that I could only fall in love with a woman, but would take a man any night of the week for some hot senseless shagging.  Since then, I have fallen in love with a man and had many nights of hot senseless shagging with women.

But my biggest beef with “bi” is that it implies there are only two genders.  My first love was a woman when I loved her but is now a very handsome man… who I ran into last year and still found myself very attracted to.  How does he fit into bisexuality?  And my current (and, I hope, always) love and partner was born male and presents to the world as a man… but often presents privately as a woman and has a gender status which is, at best, uncertain.  Where does our relationship fit into bisexuality?

There are other words: pansexual (which makes me think of goats), trisexual (which is the set up for a bad punchline, omnisexual (like God?) and that catch-all queer (which just doesn’t sit right with me.  Like I don’t have enough facial piercings to be considered queer or something).  I guess I’ll just continue to fumble through life label-free.