Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What Makes RP See Red (this week)...

By popular demand (well, sort of…), here is my expanded version of what makes me see red.

Ignorance in charge of other people’s lives and freedom.

I think I’ll focus on that one for now. But where do I start? Let me begin with an easy one.

Ignorance: Some people will tell you there’s really no reason for same-sex couples to want marriage, that they can get all those benefits through wills and such, that same-sex couple just want the name of marriage for the prestige, to be just like different-sex couples.

Oh, really? Tell that to the man whose partner had stipulated in his will that he was not to be buried in the family plot but in the plot he and his partner had chosen. His family was able to bring suit for him to be buried where he did not want to be--luckily, the judge ruled in favour of the will and the partner and the deceased’s expressed wishes. Wills are continually contested, they cannot cover benefits (like veteran’s benefits and Social Security), which are regulated by law, and they are not usually settled until well after the person’s death—by which time the ones contesting it may have marched off with all the deceased’s belongings. Ever seen “If These Walls Could Talk 2”? It details the three generations of lesbian lives lived within a single house. The first segment, set in the early 1960’s, is about two women who have lived together for many years until one of them passes away suddenly and her nephew comes to claim the house. It will break your heart—and it is still all too true.

And the lack of marriage rights hurts same-sex couples when they’re both living, too—everything from being able to file taxes as a married couple to getting health benefits, to child custody laws to having both their names on the title to the home….every one of those things matters, financially and emotionally, and in many states of the US, same-sex couples cannot do those things. Opposite-sex married couples don’t even think about it—and that’s the point. It’s automatic—you’re married, you get it. Unless, of course, you and your partner are the same sex. Then you’re out of luck, no matter how long you have been together, or whether you have raised children together, owned a home together, been through illness and job loss together.

The love and commitment of two same-sex people who want to be married is no less than that of two different-sex people. I can attest to this personally, having officiated at more than 25 same-sex marriages. But some ignorant people want you to think it is less, that same-sex relationships are all about sex, and there is no commitment between same-sex couples. Tell that to the ones who have been together 15, 25, 35 and 50 years. It’s about the relationship, not the body parts involved.

Let’s change gears from same-sex marriage to another legal issue—birth certificates.

For transgender people, legal identification is a huge issue. A person can be physically hurt or even killed, not merely insulted or hassled (which is bad enough) if the sex on their ID does not match their gender presentation (the gender they appear to be, based on dress, hair style, etc.). So the correct sex on the birth certificate, needed for so many other forms of identification to be issued or changed, is supremely important for them. Some municipalities require that transgender people provide a certificate of surgery before they will issue a new birth certificate; this is difficult for many trans people, since it takes years to get the surgery (partly for medical reasons, partly because they have to save for it, since insurance won’t cover it); and some trans people simply don’t want all the surgery that the municipalities require (especially female-to-male—FTM—trans people, because the surgery is so difficult and unrefined currently). So some trans people are partly transitioned, and may need to have identification that matches their target gender, not their biological gender. Not to mention that many clinics require their patients to live for a time (anywhere from three months to a year) full-time as the target gender before the surgery is approved. And so if they are going to travel, they have to go through airport security either dressed in a way that is a lie to them, although it matches their (unchanged) identification; or they pray the police officer who stops them doesn’t notice the disparity; or they dress in a neutral way. And they have to fear on the subway, in church, shopping, in the bars, on the street…because their identification doesn’t match who they seem to be.

Both of these—same-sex marriage and transgender identification—are about a choice between living a truth that is inconvenient and uncomfortable for the rest of the world, or living a lie called a closet that doesn’t bother anyone else, but that can lead to depression, psychological self-mutilation and even suicide for yourself. It’s about having to one day face God and say, “I wanted to live my truth, but when I tried to live as you created me, I was threatened—with rejection, ridicule, ostracism, violence, even death.” It’s about having the courage to face down the world that doesn’t want to even acknowledge that you exist, that would rather you stay in a corner, in the dark, remain the Other. It’s about being who God created you to be.

God is truth; and the truth will set us free.

1 comment:

rev. jen said...

Hey there-- thanks for this blog, My partner and I just finished our wills so that there will be no chance of litigation. It is as close to "marriage" as we can get in the state of Illinois.

Rev. Jen@

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