So now marriage is for the gays….we struggled, we fought, we finally won! And now that the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage almost one year ago today, it opens up a whole new batch of questions for LGBT people around the country.
What does marriage really mean?
Am I sure I even want to get married? Does getting married mean I’m just conforming to a heteronormative tradition? How might being in a gay marriage differ from a straight marriage?
For most of my life, I didn’t think marriage was even an option for me as a gay man, and in a way, I actually found that a relief. I didn’t have to stress about finding the right partner for marriage, planning a wedding, writing the perfect vows, or bringing various family members together in awkward situations.
Most importantly, I didn’t have to feel bad about myself if I didn’t get married at all. I was given a free pass to avoid a lot of potentially stressful things because I wasn’t seen as an equal in the eyes of the government.
Now all of that has changed.
I’m currently engaged to an amazing guy and we’re marrying in Maui this October. Now that marriage is on the table, it’s forced millions of people, including myself, to examine what it means to be getting married as an LGBT person, and how to navigate this new frontier.
I ultimately decided to get married despite my initial feelings because I wanted to grasp at the chance to be seen as an equal in the eyes of the law, and express my commitment to a loving relationship to my partner, while sharing the joy with my friends and family. I also wanted to take advantage of some of the rights of being married if I want to, such as tax breaks or hospital visitation rights.
One of the concerns LGBT people often have when getting engaged is feeling pressure to conform to heteronormative traditions that historically go along with the institution of marriage
It is important as a gay person getting married to constantly check in with yourself to make sure that your upcoming wedding feels very authentic to who you are. Just because it was a tradition to send out paper invites, doesn’t mean you have to. My fiancée and I send out email invitations and went “digital”, because it’s more us. We also decided to just plan a lovely dinner on the beach after a small ocean front ceremony, with no dancing and DJ after, as we’re both very mellow. Keeping your wedding as authentic as you can is key. If you don’t like wearing a ring on your left ring finger, don’t wear one! As gay people, we have often celebrated our uniqueness and originality in the world. Finding a way to keep this alive through your wedding and marriage is extremely important.
Another issue that gay couples face in getting married is the distribution of responsibility
In traditional heterosexual marriages, it is usually the bride’s family that pays for and plans the wedding. In gay marriage, there may be two brides, or none at all. It is especially important to communicate with your partner as much as possible throughout the process. Asking questions about what feels most comfortable for both of you, and who is going to take on what tasks, can help reduce the stress. My partner is doing more of the planning around our dinner, and I’m taking on things like creating our wedding website. Each person should decide what they do best, and have a conversation about the planning.
Another great pre-wedding goal should be to have a conversation with your partner about any potential issues you think might come up point down the line in your marriage
As gay people, we have often been treated as less than at some point in our lives.,however, on the flip side, it’s also given us the chance to really examine what we want and not fit into any box that is expected of us. This is true for going into a marriage as well, and strong communication will be key as to defining what that looks like. What does it mean to each of you that you are making a commitment of marriage? Does a commitment mean something purely emotional to you, does it also include being physically monogamous, or how do you see marriage? Ultimately, every marriage can be different, and what it means to be married can be different. It is important to have these conversations up front.
Last but not least, going into a marriage as an LGBT person, it will also be important to work through any internalized shame that comes up around getting married.
For so long, gay people were treated as less than, so we often internalize a feeling that we are not enough. Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to your wedding. If there’s something you really feel strongly about, make sure that is heard by you and your loved ones. Your wedding day should be special. If you notice you have feelings of holding yourself back, try to notice that and be aware of it. Seeing a therapist can also be a great help.