When we told our friends and family that we were getting married, we were met with a mix of responses. So many of our loved ones were unequivocally happy for us, “over the moon” etc. However there was also a lot of scepticism and criticism of our choice to get married, ranging from a classic “are you sure you want to go through with this?”, to a nice condescending “Is this a joke because I don’t really want to take time off work if this is just a joke?”, and our particular favourite, “but what if you decide you like boys again?”
Time and time again in the run up to the wedding, people would take us to one side to check that we weren’t losing our minds and that we were sure this was a good idea. Family members refused to come to the wedding. People would scoff when we would talk about our wedding plans. It left us thinking, why is it that people doubt our ability to make decisions for ourselves? Fair enough, we only met each other 7 months before we decided to get married, and we are a young, interracial, same-sex couple of 19 and 24 – we are far from the normative marital ideal. But we nonetheless found ourselves shocked by how comfortable people were to express their discomfort at our decision. We were made to feel as though we were intruders, which we suppose we are.
Neither of us had ever been particularly enamoured with the idea of getting married. Both coming from broken and abusive homes, we didn’t exactly have dreams of meeting our Prince Charming, getting married and living happily ever after. Especially given that we both realised we liked women at an early age, and grew up in a world where marrying the person you love simply wasn’t an option.
It was a great moment when gay marriage was legalised in 2013/2014. We were both in loving relationships at the time, and both felt it was about time our community was afforded this right. However, both before and after we made the decision to get married, we discussed at length how it is enraging that equality equals assimilation. That as queers, we are only accepted if we do just as the heteros do. That we should feel lucky to have been afforded this privilege that straight people take for granted. Further, as strong feminists, we are well aware that marriage has historically existed as a patriarchal mechanism of the ownership, control and subordination of women. We had more reasons to resist marriage than to subscribe to it.
Why did we decide to get married then? For many reasons. As an act of defiance. As part of our collaborative practice as artists. To confront the persistent and heart breaking erasure and trivialisation of our love for one another. To survive in a world that untiringly and systematically undermines us. But paramount to all of that, we got married because we are just really fucking in love with each other. Unwaveringly and incomparably besotted with one another. And we knew it was forever.
We spent a month planning the wedding. In total it cost about the same price as the average wedding dress. We got married in matching white hoodies with men’s shirts wrapped around our waists, black PVC boots and diamante chokers. We went down the aisle together. We didn’t get given away by our fathers, rather we gave ourselves willingly to each other that day.
It has been widely debated by feminist and queer theorists whether you can truly disrupt or subvert traditional, patriarchal paradigms such as marriage; or whether by playing into old structures, your radicality is usurped and eaten up by the cogs of the machine. But we like to think that we are queer, and that we take our queerness with us. We take it into the machine and jam it, making everyone pause, think and re-evaluate what they think and feel about marriage. And people felt it. They came to believe in us. They changed their minds.
Our friend Gabrielle at The White Pube wrote about our wedding, and captured everything we wanted to achieve by getting married;
“Still, and anyway, and safely, the girls were floating above us, it was soft defiance… through resistance and delight and decoration and Spotify playlists, their happiness was political – which isn’t to say they spent their day fighting, but that they were fighting when they were drinking champagne and being papped and giving out goodie bags and going on with their lives.”
Some will see our getting married as assimilating and playing by the rules. And yes, in our heteronormative society, marriage is the means by which a relationship becomes both legally and socially legitimate. But being a couple whose relationship is continually erased and illegitimated, this act of assimilation doubles as a demand for visibility. To be seen and heard. Dismantling the heteropatriarchy it is a massive task; but queering it and pushing its boundaries from within is a step in the right direction. We guess we are a little more optimistic about the institution of marriage than Mary Rich.
Maybe we are silly to think you can achieve anything political by getting married. But we are happy just knowing that we made the 70 people who attended our wedding and hopefully the hundreds of others who live streamed the ceremony think twice about love and marriage. People will still scoff at us, they probably will for the rest of our lives together. But unfortunately the sound of scoffing and disbelief is a daily reality for queer people. In a world that is laughing at you, standing up and professing your love in front of an audience with a bunch of roses in one hand and the hand of your lover in the other is an act of defiance.