My pen pal is an American in Denmark. She sent this story hours after Mary and I argued about Dan Savage’s decades-old assertion that marriage might be the beginning of the end of gay culture. Now I have even more to think about. Meet my guest for today’s Marriage Project:
To be perfectly honest, I have never wanted to get married. But I’ll tell you that I have also felt a little guilty about that. Because, in just the way that heterosexual couples are “privileged,” my partner and I have been, too.
Two and a half years ago, we moved to Denmark, perhaps the most tolerant country in the world. While they’ve been a little slow getting around to full marriage rights (legislation that will pass this year), Denmark was the first to recognize same-sex civil unions. In 1989. Government-sanctioned gay relationships in Denmark are as old as the average nightclub patron. And in most ways, far more normal.
When we first moved here, people back home would ask what the gay community was like. Surely it was thriving and exciting! It’s been hard explaining to my gay friends – who consider Copenhagen in much the same way that pot smokers think of Amsterdam – that there really isn’t one. There’s a pride parade and the GLBT Film Festival, but everyone goes to these. Everyone. Grandmothers and small children go, and politicians and police officers, military in uniform – not to protest or keep the peace, but just for something fun to do on a summer afternoon.
The Danes are beyond tolerant. Their value system is based on opportunity and equality. Same-sex couples can adopt easily, and the government partially subsidizes fertility treatments and IVF – lesbian or otherwise. In fact, my visa and work permit actually hinge on my girlfriend’s, under what’s known as “Family Reunification.” On all of our paperwork, I get to check the box that says “Cohabitating Partner.” Not married, no. But still my love is valid. My love has an equal weight.
At the end of this summer, our privilege ends. We will be coming home – to our real home. To family, and the familiar, all of the million things we love and have missed. And if we were to have married, Florida would not recognize it.
While living abroad, I have occasionally found myself being an apologist. I’ve tried to explain why my country can’t care for its sick or poor, or its children – not in the way that Scandinavia can. But this isn’t even that complicated. It’s not a matter of tax laws or logistics; this is simple bigotry.
So coming home means being relegated to a place I haven’t thought about in a while. In a state that only very recently lifted a ban on gay adoption. (Not for gay couples, mind you. Gay people, period.) Our powers value neither equality nor opportunity, and I feel unsafe again. Like I have something very basic and tender to hide.
The fact is, I may not want to be married, but it’s devastating to lose the right.
2 thoughts on “Marriage Project, Day 8”
I hope you resist the pressure and continue to live ‘as if’ you were still as free as you were in Denmark. I think living as if has saved my life in countless ways since I was a teenager.
Thank you, Mary. I’m certainly not closeted in the States, but I am more guarded. I think you’re right, though. And perhaps the more you live ‘as if’ the more likely you are to be treated that way.