so it turns out i cry at wed-dings. Or, more precisely, I would cry if I didn't have to maintain a reputation as a cynical sophisticate, living happily spouseless at an address south of Bloor (the Maginot line of sophistication). There were, therefore, no tears permitted to course down my unmarried cheeks this past Sunday when I attended a double wedding (two lesbos, two fags) at the largely gay-congregationed Metropolitan Community Church -- though I have to admit that I occasionally had to struggle to suppress them.
It is difficult, after all, not to be moved by the joys of others, even when the packaging is not to one's tastes, and joy seemed to be the order of the day for Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell (the fags), Elaine Vautour and Anne Vautour (the lesbos) and the hundreds of onlookers who crammed the church sanctuary to wish them well as they set out on the adventure of being the first legally married gay couples since the Middle Ages.
According to American scholar John Boswell, the early Church had rituals designed to bless gay marriages. As he notes in his book Same-Sex Unions In Premodern Europe, "Heterosexual matrimony tended to be viewed as a dynastic or business arrangement.... Ordinary men and women were more likely to invest feelings the twentieth century would call romantic in same-sex relationships...."
So when the two couples answered Reverend Brent Hawkes's question by looking at each other and saying "I will," one couldn't help but feel that a link to the ideals of the early Christian Church had been reforged. This, I thought, is the opposite of "back to the future." This is "forward to the past."
And when I thought that, there it was -- a lump in my throat.
When I mentioned this chink in my sophistication armour to an equally sophisticated friend, he said, "But you also cry at operas." This is true. I doubt there exists a Mimi or a Butterfly so inept that she couldn't reduce me to a blubbering mess by the final act.
And this got me to thinking. The issue of gay marriage has always been a bit of a problem for the dinosaur gay activist set (among whom I count myself). On the one hand, the push for gay marriage seems conservative, private, inward-looking.
Such relationships seem not to be a natural expression of the gay culture most of us know (and, I concede, some of us want to escape) -- a culture of uncertainty, fluidity, experiment. Or, as a friend of mine put it, "serendipity, varied connections, random affections, promiscuity, magical sex, beautiful boys."
We know that many in the straight world condemn that culture. National Post columnist Donna Laframboise recently noted that "there's something to the argument that the promiscuous lifestyle embraced by many homosexuals" might partly be a result of our not being allowed to marry.
Now, the dinosaur gay activist wants to defend the culture we've built. We see a danger in privatizing relationships. We see monogamy as theft. On the other hand, we want people to be able to choose the lives they wish to lead. We don't want government or Church making those decisions for us.
So when government says, "No, you can't legally register a marriage between two persons of the same sex," we gird the old loins for yet another fight. And we worry. "Oh dear," we think, "this is such a tacky thing to fight for. This is so bourgie. How will I hold up my head at the next meeting of RATTLE (Revolutionaries Against Things That Liberals Endorse)? There's no way any gay marriage can out-tacky Mel and Marilyn Lastman's, and that failure will be so embarrassing. Oh dear."
Then I remember how we learned to cope with family life -- that other phenomenon that gives RATTLE members nightmares. We used the Art Defence. Almost all of western literature, we noted, would be impossible without family life. And what cultural revolutionary is against literature?
Which explains the chant that opens most RATTLE meetings these days: "Long live the nuclear family, cradle of the people's literature!"
I have a new chant to offer. "Long live marriage -- the opera of the people's interpersonal relationships!"
It seems so clear to me now. Marriage is to relationships what opera is to life. Marriage is a fantastical take on the banalities, crudities, wonders and complexities of the way people actually relate. Like any opera libretto, it simplifies complexities for direct, high-impact emotional appeal. And it works. And we cry.
Which is why I, as a representative of RATTLE, am hereby forwarding our congratulations to Kevin Bourassa, Joe Varnell, Elaine Vautour and Anne Vautour. (We have no objection to your framing this and placing it beside the congratulatory message -- routine politeness though it was -- from Governess General Adrienne Clarkson.)
May you break a leg! May you have endless curtain calls! May you outlast The Lion King! All hail marriage -- the opera of the people's interpersonal relationships!