Feminist bride, traditional-ish wedding
Planning a wedding to a cis-man as a lifelong feminist and member of the LGBTQ community was a challenge wrought with emotion, guilt and confusion (in addition, of course, to all the blissful feelings of being engaged and in love). I was also older and some of the more traditional aspects of a wedding no longer were appealing to me, or spoke to my values. I was fated to have a wedding that was a bit untraditional, and I was totally fine with that.
I was a feminist before it was cool (humble brag), when it was decidedly UNCOOL. I realized that I liked girls as a teenager in the nineties going to a Catholic school, where the only openly gay teacher was a female gym coach who wasn’t allowed in the girls’ locker room. My best friend at the time straight up friend dumped me when she found out, and we've never really spoken since. Gay marriage would not be a reality until nearly 15 years after I realized I might want to marry a woman. At different points in my life, I’ve hated both men and straight people; not out of malice, but out of fear, rejection and really bad experiences.
Then I decided to marry a straight dude.
My straight dude is not your typical straight dude. He’s a progressive, self-proclaimed feminist who has never judged (or fetishized) my past. I had a hard time falling in love with him because I felt like it meant abandoning a big part of who I am. But through our super healthy, supportive and loving relationship, I’ve learned that I can still be a queer feminist who is married to a man. There are no rules to this thing.
Another thing about my straight dude is his very straight family. I knew that when I agreed to marry him I would be agreeing to marry his family. I’ve always considered myself open minded, but this was a challenge for me. Of course they are Evangelical Christians. Of course. They are from the very same community of people who shamed me the most throughout my life as a queer woman: who threatened to kill me and my girlfriend in the middle of liberal Seattle, who chased me down the street with knife while screaming at me to devote my life to Jesus in order to be saved, who told me I was going to hell, who told me that I should be dead. The most common and decidedly least violent mantra I heard was the old refrain “love the sinner but hate the sin,” which to me was more cutting than almost anything. None of these things just happened once, and through all these threats and disappointments I developed patience, bravery, and fear. I was terrified of his family until I was welcomed with warmth, love and open arms. They know that I've been in love with women. And, I’m sure if they could have picked the perfect partner for their son, it probably wouldn’t have been me. Let’s be real, it definitely wouldn’t have been me. But we don’t talk about that because we have other things to talk about. And we love each other. I am ashamed to admit it took me longer to love them than it took them to love me.
We got married. Can you believe it?
Planning an inclusive, feminist wedding under these circumstances was HARD. While I generally like to operate on consensus, my partner and I had to draw some very clear boundaries for our ceremony and reception, including: no mention of god or religion at any time, no bouquet or garter tossing, no gendered photo poses, no language about servitude, no “this is the beginning of your life! Or the adventure begins!” because EXCUSE ME I had a life before I was a wife!, and absolutely no changing of my last name or calling me “Mrs.”. We wrote our own vows. In mine, I promised to give him a life of freedom and autonomy (along with unconditional love, of course). They were my favorite part of the whole wedding.
We did it! Here’s my secret: we got married far from our families, we asked for no advice, and when they did very generously give us money, it was for things like our beach welcome party; ie, the most noncontroversial and inexpensive things we could think of. The only part his family had in the actual planning of our wedding was when his mom and sisters went dress shopping with me, which turned out to be one of my very favorite parts of the whole planning process. I didn’t get a dress from the shop we went to, but we laughed and joked and I saw them not as people who hated me, but as family whom I loved and loved me back.
We are all fighting our own battles, and if I’ve resented judgment in the past I certainly have no room to judge. Listen - I am not excusing their homophobia and other dangerous beliefs. I will always stand at the ready to defend the rights of the oppressed (and I have, and I will again if necessary). However, at some point, we all just have to do what is important to us and what moves the world forward in a positive way. And when it comes to your wedding, it’s only one day. I doubt that, at this second, my husband’s mom is angry that I didn’t take his last name, or wondering why we didn’t quote the bible in our vows. And if she is, I have no control of that, and it can’t be my problem.
I'm sure if the LGBTQ or feminist police came to our wedding, they would come back with a list of all the ways we failed. If you want to take your husband's last name or be called Mrs., you can still be a feminist. And if you define yourself as queer but still want to marry a cis-man (or person of any gender), you clearly can! Any suggestion otherwise is divisive and wrong.
Overwhelmingly - through some disappointments, deep-seated fears, and a lot of love - my husband and I are proud of our feminist, non-religious wedding, way more than anyone is mad about it. And that is all that matters.