I am getting a divorce. I never thought I would say that. But as a queer person, I didn’t think I would be ever be able to say I was getting married either. When I was in college, I knew of some employers that extended benefits to domestic partners; but the idea of same-sex couples getting automatic access to health insurance, retirement accounts, and death benefits of the person they loved in the same way heterosexual, cisgender couples did was just not imaginable. It has been 4 years since same-sex marriage was made legal in all 50 states, but depending on an employer’s policy or individuals’ religious beliefs, benefits to LGBTQ folks are still not guaranteed.
In 2001, Vermont was the first state to offer civil unions. Vermont was my first home out of college and and it was here that I had my civil union ceremony; a handful of states later passed same-sex marriage within their own borders and those rights extended to other states with same-sex marriage laws. Vermont was one of those states and, in 2010, when my ex-partner was pregnant with our first child, we signed marriage paperwork too.
The legal protections for gay couples and their biological, non-biological, and adopted children have varied across the country in very confusing ways, were non-existent in some places, and even now are shaky at best.
I am 40 years old and knew I was queer from a very early age. I was assigned female at birth and identified as a female for most of my life, so when I felt my first flicker of affection for another female when I was in elementary school, I knew my heart loved differently. I also knew different was wrong. I was closeted until the late-’90s, didn’t have a good coming out experience, and have struggled with bigotry and rejection for over 20 years. There have certainly been victories along the way, but since coming out as transgender, I am seeing more and more losses.
When Trump was elected, I was certain that it wouldn’t be long before the Supreme Court would reverse the 2015 ruling in the civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges which granted same-sex couples the right to get married in all of the United States. While this hasn’t happened yet, rights and basic human decency are continually being stripped from LGBTQIA+ folks in the workplace, health care settings, and in places of business.
Before legally able to do so, same-sex couples made commitments to one another in front of friends, chosen family, and sometimes family members who accepted their gay relative or child instead of rejecting them. Those lucky enough to witness love that didn’t require paperwork to prove its worth would create circles of support to strengthen the union. Kids have been a part of the mix too—it never took a court order for queer couples to be married with children.
We never wanted permission to marry; we only wanted protection within that marriage.
Many people (i.e. bigots) argued that same-sex marriage would ruin the sanctity of marriage. The perpetuated myth is that gay couples are all whips, chains, and kinky sex with no respect for love, marriage, or family values. Marriage, after all, is between a man and a woman. Marriage is meant for procreation. And what about the children!? Children need both a mother and a father. Clearly same-sex marriage erodes the idea of fidelity in straight marriages. Women need a man to protect them, and men need women to domesticate them.
Who’s going to break it to them that none of these things are true? Not it!
Even most recently, an Ohio politician blamed mass shootings on “homosexual marriage” because, according to her, that has led to the breakdown of the traditional American family. Who is going to tell her that “traditional” American families created the mass shooters? The gay agenda includes brunch, not murdering innocent folks because of racist, xenophobic, and homophobic beliefs.
Just like same-sex marriages don’t take away from the “sanctity of straight marriage,” queer couples who divorce don’t take for granted our ability to get married in the first place.
Getting a divorce doesn’t mean I am trashing the rights I shouldn’t have had to fight for, nor does it mean I don’t value marriage. I didn’t get married to make a statement nor did I get married thinking my relationship would end in divorce. Like many couples, my relationship worked until it didn’t. Yet, there seems to be stigma around queer divorce, as if I should take my marriage more seriously because I should have been so thankful to finally have been given equal rights.
If you wanted to get married so badly, how could you just spit on it and throw it away? Because I didn’t. I and other LGBTQ folks should not be forced to stay in a marriage that isn’t working in order to preserve another queer couple’s ability to get married because of the ignorant opinions of some straight, cisgender folks. My ex and I did the brave and responsible act of showing our kids what it looks like to adjust relationships in a respectful way that ultimately benefits our family.
You don’t deserve marriage! Everyone has the right to marry who they love. I had the right to get married and I have the right to get divorced. I also have the right to get married again.
With the rise of LGBTQ families, the image of the traditional American family is changing. Queer people are getting married, having kids, and, yes, getting divorced. None of these are privileges I take for granted. The right to happiness, whether it’s the beginning or a beginning to an end, is something we all deserve.
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