Friday, October 2, 2009

Same Person, Different Rights

I was just reading a post I'd missed on my new favorite blog, Are We Married?, about the fight for equal parenting rights and it led me down a familiar mental path.

See, I'm in a very long-term committed relationship with a man, but I have a few ex-girlfriends in my past and have been truly in love with a woman in my life. I'm also very sensitive about
rights when it comes to the most important decisions a person can make, to marry and to have children. I'm marriagefree and childfree and proud of it. I haven't 100% written marriage out for some time in the future, I'm realistically flexible and can see some practical advantages to the institution, but I am not having kids under any circumstances other than taking in the children of those I care about if there is no other option but them going to strangers. I knew I didn't want to be a mother for certain when I was 3 and have yet to waver as of 33. To be perfectly honest, the thought of having a kid terrifies me more than jumping out of a plane did! Only one thought is scarier -- pregnancy.

My only problem with my decisions is the conversation I have had oh, so frequently with strangers. acquaintances, some family members, and even a few friends:

Them: "So, are you two married?"
Me: "No."
Them: "How long have you been together?"
Me: "About 12 years [or whatever amount it was at that point]."
Them: "Oh! That's a long time! Well, when are you going to get married?"
Me: "I'm not sure, probably never."
Them: "But what about the kids?"
Me: "We're not planning on having any."

And then, depending on religion or age group, they launch into one of several tirades. The most common is just that if I don't have children I will end up regretting it, which is funny because I refuse to regret things, it's such a waste of time and energy. Another regular is that I will lose my boyfriend if I don't give him a family, which is ridiculous as he doesn't want those things either and we ARE a family as it is, we certainly act more like one than many married people. My personal favorite was the guy who told me I should kill myself because I am not fulfilling my function as God's daughter. I am not joking, he was a cabbie who picked me up at JFK and drove me to Manhattan, a very long and strange taxi trip.

I know I could just lie or try to change the subject but why should I have to do that? I much prefer being proud of myself and my choices, even if it can be painful to hear the reactions.

Then I look back at my life and realize that I could be having such a different conversation if I'd settled down with a woman. The very same people who lambaste me for choosing not to marry or have children would be telling me that those are not even an option for me as long as they have their way. That would hurt a lot more. The concept that a decision I made to go out to the bar where I got to know my boyfriend one spring evening years ago could completely change my rights is mind-blowing.

I think about Guadalupe "Lupita" Benitez and how a clinic refused her access to IVF. I think about the droves of right-wing voters who came out for Prop. 8. I think about how people used to complain about gay couples having more disposable income than them because they didn't have children yet they don't want them to spend that money to become parents or support children.

What worries me more than the serious Christian Coalition-types, though, is the amount of generally rational, tolerant, accepting, and loving people I know who are pro-gay rights in every other way but are also anti-marriage equality. Why? Why does it affect you in any way? It's not like anyone is talking about taking away a heterosexual's right to marry.

People who love each other should be able to marry each other or not as they wish. People who want kids and can care for them properly should have them, people who don't and can't shouldn't. It's that simple. We have an awful lot of control over these things today, the capability for a whole new level of personal freedom and choice.

We need to strip away all the laws that take away anyone's rights and worry about people hurting each other instead of who we can continue to oppress and how to best oppress them. Politically, spiritually, and in our attitudes as well. If that happens it will be the moment America truly becomes The Beautiful.

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