On the language of marriage equality
This past summer I got married for the second time. Rather than try to come up with a new way of saying the same thing I’ve already said, I hope you will forgive me if I simply quote myself:
So the Better Half and I got married this past weekend. Again. To each other. Without any interruption in our relationship in the intervening years.
The first time was almost exactly eight years before the second time. (Many guests at our recent celebration joked that they will pencil in another one eight years from now.) It looked pretty much how one would expect a wedding to look. We wore tuxes. (I now regret the choice to go with tails.) We had it in a church (the same one both times, actually) and exchanged vows in front of a big crowd of loved ones and well-wishers. We had rings made (the same ones we wore this time). We had a reception and cake. Etc.
Indeed, I have considered myself married since then. We meant the vows we spoke then and have since lived the best life together that we could build. If not for the newly-granted legal protections, we would have seen no need for a second event at all.
Ah, but those legal protections! Those legal protections really seemed to merit a party all of their own. So a second event we had.
Since then, life has continued pretty much as it had before. We still negotiate who gets to pick the evening’s viewing material. (I’ve gone back on my word, “Scandal,” and have been coerced into watching you despite my assertion that you had gone too far with Huck. At this point, if both he and Quinn fell into a well I’d be best pleased. But dammit if Bellamy Young isn’t both so charming in real life and such a good actress that I’ve found a reason to enjoy the show [mostly]. Go, #TeamMellie.) We still forget to tell each other important details about our work schedules, leading to vexatious last-minute childcare scrambles. He still changes the kids’ outfits when I get them dressed, and I still rearrange the dishes when he puts them into the dishwasher wrong.
Same as it ever was.
There is only one thing that I can put my finger on that has definitively changed. I no longer refer to the Better Half as my “partner.” Now he is always my husband.
I rarely used that latter word before we had our legal ceremony, despite considering him very much my husband already. “Partner” seemed the safer, easier word. It was fraught enough as it was, essentially packing “Yes, random interlocutor. I am unapologetically disclosing to you that I am homosexual, despite knowing little or nothing about your attitudes and opinions and thus risking your disapproval” into seven little letters. In truth, the risk was relatively low. The American virtue of niceness and increasing acceptance of LGBT people, particularly where I live and work, resulted in no real negative responses to my using that term beyond an occasional thin rime of frostiness that would settle onto subsequent conversation. Plus, my innate scrappiness was willing to push the point if it had ever been necessary.
But there was the inescapable reality that, as far as the rest of society was concerned, he was my husband only isofar as I said so. Since the terms and conditions entailed by my granting him the title were set by us, the qualification to use it self-granted, it just didn’t feel comfortable to use that word with most people. The lexical ground beneath me felt too unstable. I didn’t chance it (though I suspect I really wouldn’t have gotten much flack for it if I had).
Now, of course, he’s my husband. There is no reason to use the blander, less specific term. I don’t just say he’s my husband, the state (by majority vote!) says so, too. Now the soi-disant right to set the terms is borne by those who would choose to negate my marriage, not those who see it as equally valid. The tide has turned, leaving my family riding a happier wave.
And yet I still feel a little frisson of apprehension when I say “my husband.” I’m not sure what I’m bracing myself for, but brace myself just a bit I do. Insofar as I can read myself, there are no tics to betray this subtle misgiving, no quaver in my voice. When I told the woman at the Mexican place that my husband had called in our order and thus I wasn’t entirely sure what was in it, I felt just a tiny bit vulnerable even as my timbre held steady.
Thus far, nobody has bat an eye. (That said, I have yet to give it a try in a state without marriage equality.) And each time I matter-of-factly call my relationship what it is, I feel slightly less exposed. Which is as it should be. I’ve had almost ten years to get used to having a husband. It’s high time everyone else got used to it, too.