A Reflection for Pride Month
Before I moved to Los Angeles in 2016, I didn’t know that much about queer history. When the first official gay marriages were first being performed in my hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts, I didn’t see what the fuss was about. As a closeted teen who didn’t know what the word “trans” was, I didn’t see why gay folks should be in such a rush to embrace heteronormativity. Wasn’t marriage a stupid, sexist institution, and weren’t gay folks better than that?
By the time I got to L.A., twelve years had passed. I was ready to learn about where we came from, and why the fight for marriage equality was so important, even if it seemed like an odd thing to focus on. I learned about the Black Cat protests in Silver Lake in 1967, and about the Cooper’s Donut riot almost ten years before that had unofficially jumpstarted the queer resistance.
People moved out of their small hometowns in the 1950s to come to L.A. and start finding their place in the world.
I learned about San Francisco and the Castro and AIDS and bathhouses and started discovering the stories of queer folks living on the fringes. People like the academic Esther Newton, the writer Frankie Hucklenbroich, and the jazz musician Billy Tipton. I learned about people who moved out of their small hometowns in the 1950s to come to cities like L.A. and San Francisco to discover their tribe and start finding their place in the world.
Eleven years ago, before Trump, before Obama, before the “Queer Eye” reboot, California was fighting to make gay marriage legal. But despite vocal support from Californians, 2008’s controversial ballot measure passed, and it took us until 2013 to correct that mistake. At the time, it felt exhilarating. Love won. We rejoiced.
Most people, if they know anything at all about the Middle Ages, know it because of
Now, the real work begins. We have the right to marry, but if we want to make marriage work for us, we have to keep working to redefine it.
In an interview, the author and professor Abbie Goldberg states: “within same-sex marriages, many couples do see themselves as challenging the underlying patriarchal nature of marriage: They are not falling into prescribed roles…Generally speaking, same-sex couples are more likely to veer from traditional notions of how marriage should work.”
At the time, it felt exhilarating. Love won. We rejoiced.
We need to keep moving in this direction. We’ve got to redefine what love and marriage look like outside of the patriarchy. That’s what feminists and civil rights activists, from Adrienne Rich to Mildred Loving, have been fighting for since the 1960s. And to do that, we need to create new symbols, new traditions, and a new sense of what marriage can be. For folks like me who are nonbinary, finding a truly non-patriarchal symbol of love is more important now that ever before. Because the conservatives were right to fear us: They knew that simply by engaging in the same patriarchal rituals, we’d break the mold. And we have. And we continue to do so.