The perfect context for my favorite joke

I attended the covenant of holy union (or a commitment ceremony, or a wedding, if you prefer) yesterday of a friend of mine from work and his partner at All Saints Episcopal Church in San Francisco. It is a beautiful Craftsman style building, very unassuming from the street, and once you enter you are immediately struck by the beauty of the craftsmanship and the iconography throughout. It is a little church, the kind where you imagine all of the members know each other.

I have attended Episcopal churches a few times in my life, and having grown up Lutheran, some of the pomp and circumstance was vaguely familiar to me. I sat next to a Jewish friend who leaned over from time to time and asked me about what we should do next, and I had to tell her that I really didn’t know. She probably knew more than I did because I think she attended an Episcopal school.

The church I go to now is so much more casual than this place was, so I have to say that I didn’t know how to behave myself. Each church has its own rituals, I guess, but the Episcopals really do the pageantry. They have the intricately gold-embroidered garb, the jeweled chalice, the iconography, swinging the incense in the little brass pot with smoke everywhere, everything is fancy and highly ritualized. You have to stand and kneel and sing and say things at the right times, and its all so serious. All of us in the congregation kept looking around to see if anyone knew what came next, waiting and searching for cues.

I always get choked up a weddings, and this was no exception. I was very moved by ceremony and the sermon. And same-sex ceremonies always get me a little more because when queers get married we do so in the face adversity. Also, I learned that this was the first same-sex wedding that this church had blessed, which just adds to the significance of the event.

The whole occasion was emotional and moving, the joining of these two people indeed a sacred moment.

And I had the perfect context in which to tell my favorite joke:

Q: What did the drag queen say to the priest?A: Honey, I love your dress, but your purse is on fire.

Towards Marriage Equality

South Africa recently legalized same-sex marriage and declared the same inheritance rights of heterosexual married couples. Mexico just passed legislation supporting same-sex civil unions. In 2005, Spain gave same-sex couples the right to marry.

I didn’t used to care about marriage. I didn’t used to want to be like dysfunctional straight people. I didn’t want to emulate a relationship that was not natural to me.

I didn’t want to be married. Until I met Gillian.

Now I understand why I need the right to marry Gillian, and that this is really a civil rights battle. For me, marriage is not about fitting in or changing the paradigm of marriage. Plain and simple, for me marriage is about love, family, and home. We don’t want to redefine marriage, we just want to build a life together, and we want to make sure that we can take care of each other. There are people who would like to make that impossible, or very difficult at the very least. Gay rights is not all about being able to get married, but I do think that raising the visibility of this issue could be a way for the straight world to see us as more human and less “other.”

I live in a part of the world where Gillian and I are accepted as a couple. No one here questions who we are to each other. We have never had to fight or risk anything because people, even when they are homophobic to some degree, respect our relationship. Our family loves us and support us and celebrated with us when we got married. We are privileged in many ways that others are not, so Gillian and I feel a responsibility to fight for the rights of others who live in more dangerous places and truly need the protections we are fighting for.

We recently watched the documentary Dangerous Living, which is about people coming out in the Third World, and its really terrifying and inspirational. The film focuses on the 52 Egyptian men who were arrested in 2001 for being gay and out, as well as following the stories of gay men and lesbians, all activists from other countries, their decision to come out, and the danger they face as a consequence.

I remember hearing about the Cairo 52 on the news when it was happening, and feeling really distant from it, thinking “gosh, that really sucks, but what can I do about it.” It is so easy to do nothing when something terrible like that doesn’t impact you directly, or at least doesn’t seem to. Seeing those interviews made me see the human face of this terrible injustice. These were people just like me and my friends and family, trying to create a vibrant and loving community and being persecuted for it. Some are just trying to survive, which in some places is revolutionary in and of itself.

I really hope that most people, regardless of what they think about being queer, would agree that no one deserves to be imprisoned or beaten or terrorized or killed for being different. Is it such a revolutionary idea that all people, regardless of their differences, should be treated with respect?

We are gaining civil rights all over the world. I am thrilled and hopeful, and so happy that South Africans and Mexicans will now have the right to marry whomever they choose. I am also frustrated and enraged that this backwards culture that I live in won’t recognize our families or our love. We’re on the right side of history, as my friend Rebecca says, and that gives me the courage to persevere.