|by Tom Bohache|
|Notes from Cambridge-Part 3
As I write this, I am contemplating and tangibly planning my impending wedding in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to my lover of three years, Tom Laughingwolf Simmons. (Yes, we are "Tom and Tom"isn't that cute? Confusing sometimes, but pu-leeze don't call us "big Tom" and "little Tom"!)
Massachusetts has legally recognized gay and lesbian unions for about a year now, and, since I am an official resident by virtue of being enrolled in school there, we decided to make it legal. It's ironic that because we are non-Episcopalians we are able to be married in the chapel at the Episcopal Divinity School, since the school, in protest to the bishop's edict forbidding Episcopal gay/lesbian marriage (even though civilly legal), has placed a moratorium on any Episcopal weddings, straight or gay.
While all of this is well and good, why, you might ask, am I writing about it in a column that is supposed to deal with spirituality? Quite simply because, since time immemorial, we have been conditioned to believe that Spirit only resides in male/ female relationships. Our homophobic and heteronormative society insists that whatever same-sex couples do together, it could NEVER be of God and thus could never be recognized as equivalent to male/female union by organized society (even though U. S. society is supposedly premised upon a separation of government from any particular view of the Divine). Indeed, I have struggled long and hard over whether to even go through with this. Is the institution of marriage really something I can buy into? Isn't it irredeemably heterosexist? Doesn't it consist of a patriarchal hierarchy of domination and subjugation?
I have come to believe, with many of my queer brethren and sistern, that I can lodge a protest against the heteropatriarchal institution just by virtue of doing it. The act itself "queers" the institution! The fact that two men or two women enter into an agreement which historically has meant that the "male" dominates the "female" and "she" submits to "him" can be a revolutionary and transgressive act that stands in contradistinction to traditional marriage. (If you don't believe me, I encourage any of you to try to dominate or otherwise impose your will upon my fianc, Mr. Simmons!) Thus, lesbian/queer theorist Judith Butler states in her latest book: "The recent efforts to promote lesbian and gay marriage also propose a norm that threatens to render illegitimate and abject those sexual arrangements that do not comply with the marriage norm in either its existing or its revisable form. At the same time, the homophobic objections to lesbian and gay marriage expand out through the culture to affect all queer lives. One critical question thus becomes, how does one oppose the homophobia without embracing the marriage norm as the exclusive or most highly valued social arrangement for queer sexual lives?" (Undoing Gender, Routledge 2004, p. 5) The answer, of course, is not to buy into all of the crap that the Bushes and the Schlaflys would have us believe about the union of two persons to one another: Each of us is able just by virtue of being a child of the Creator to envision and embody a life of partnership with another person of our choosing who completes and vivifies our personhood!
What should be important is not who makes up the marital duo, but rather what qualities and integrity they will bring to the union. Will they coexist amicably and peacefully, or will they beat and batter one another? Will they honor one another's choices, or will they seek to impose their will on each other? Will they be true partners, or will they be one major party and one mere extension? Will they emulate the worst qualities of traditional "masculinity" and "femininity," or will they tangibly show that such gender roles are just constructions of a heteropatriarchal society? All of these and more are questions we should ask ourselves before we walk down that aisle. It's not just about selecting rings and deciding what to wear and whom to invite!
Yes, we should have marriage rights and all they entail, just by virtue of being human persons in the United States of America (or anywhere else, for that matter). But those rights will mean nothing unless we critique the very institution we are seeking to embrace. Hebrew Bible scholar Ken Stone says as much, when he asserts that we must read the Genesis accounts of male and female bonding against the grain, as texts that serve merely to shore up the heterosexual contract implicit in most societies: "What I am trying to argue is that the biblical contributions to the heterosexual contract, though clearly present and certainly visible in the Genesis creation accounts, are less secure than many contemporary readers wish to admit. One legitimate strategy of queer 'resistance reading' of the Bible... is therefore to expose this insecurity in Genesis and elsewhere." ("The Garden of Eden and the Heterosexual Contract," in Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible," Pilgrim 2001, pp. 67-68) I submit that we expose that instability and insecurity every time we dare to cross over the boundaries society has set for us.
So who wants to throw me a lingerie shower?
The Rev. Tom Bohache has pastored the Metropolitan Community Church of Rehoboth for seven years. Currently on a three-month sabbatical, Tom has just begun a doctoral program at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He receives email at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 15 November 23, 2005