Saturday, February 2, 2008

February 2008

Hi Poppets. It’s an interesting time, isn’t it? Marriage. Civil unions. Domestic partnership. The great debate. States are scrambling. Congress is scrambling. Presidential candidates are scrambling.

In my opinion, they’ve gotten it right in Massachusetts. Same-sex couples can marry or register as domestic partners. Opposite-sex couples can marry or register as domestic partners. The laws, quite simply, apply to everyone.

It’s different here in Washington. Here, same-sex couples cannot marry but they can register as domestic partners. Opposite-sex couples can marry but they cannot register as domestic partners (unless one of them is over 62 years old.) If you are lesbian or gay and have made a run to Canada or MA, your spouse has no rights but your domestic partner does. If you are straight, your partner has no rights but your spouse does.

There’s something very wrong with this picture.

I have been a human and civil rights activist for a long time now. I have issues that mean more to me, of course, yet if it can fall into the “rights” category, I feel strongly about it. But let’s face it, Poppets: I’m privileged. I’m white. I’m straight. I’ve never been less than middle-class and have spent most of my life upper-middle class. All the sympathy and activism in my heart and in my actions cannot change the fact that societal norms are stacked in my favor. To the point that, if we cannot live in an equal and fair society, since we do not live in a world without privilege, I can and must admit it’s my turn – the turn of the straight, white folks.

Luckily, because I am aware of my privilege and do feel the way I feel, today wasn’t the shock it might have been. Today, for the first time, the laws of my state and my country do not protect me. They do not apply to me. They actively exclude me. You see, I am partnered – deeply, committedly partnered – but not married. And apparently, straight folks are supposed to be married.

Because I haven’t taken my privilege for granted in years, I recognize the pain being denied a right can cause. Because I have been sympathetic for years, I have seen first hand as confusion turns to frustration, turns to anger. What I learned today, though, is that sympathy has nothing on empathy.

So this is what it feels like to have your choices, your status, your very self be negated and invalidated by the law. So this is what it does to your heart, your spirit, your soul to be told that you don’t count. To be told that you cannot care for the person you love; that you cannot make decisions for him should he get sick; that he cannot visit you should you need him. That you cannot see your step-son. That he isn’t even really your step-son. That another person, who has her own agenda, who only wants to exert her power because she can, is more legitimate and more valid than you are.

Honestly, it’s good for me. I wish there was some way, some possible way, for all of us who carry privilege to experience this. If it kicked me in the gut this hard and was such a wake-up for someone like me, imagine the changes it could make in a society who is, for the most part, oblivious.

For now, though, I’ve learned how it feels.

Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.

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