7.25.2009

Confronting My Privilege, Accidentally: Part 1 (Het'ro)

This past week I signed my name onto the National Marriage Boycott: "We won't, until we all can." I spent $10 to support the cause by buying a Marriage Boycott ring, a black band with silver lettering reading "EQUALITY" around it, to be worn on the left ring finger in place of (or if you're already married, in addition to) a wedding band. The idea is that, by signing on and wearing the ring, we pledge to not take advantage of the privilege of marriage until it is truly a right accessible to all Americans.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I'm not the marrying sort anyway. I laugh when people ask when TNBF and I (together for five years now) are getting married, and if they persist, I start to lay out all my issues with the institution of marriage - patriarchal tradition of property rights and inheritance, none of which is really relevant to me - until they back off. When Lieutenant would introduce me to his friends as "My buddy's wife", I would always stop the conversation and correct him. (And isn't it fun, how a vehemently anti-marriage stance goes over in military company...) So it's not like I was planning to get married, now or ever.

But I *could*. If I chose to marry one of my male Others, that is. As a bisexual cis woman, dating two hetero cis men and one bisexual cis woman, I could marry either of my boyfriends but not my girlfriend (considerations of polyamory and who's already engaged to who aside). I *could* benefit from an extension of hetero privilege. It's never occurred to me to do so, but the possibility exists. Until I signed the boycott, that is.

And when I did...I was startled by how much that affected me. I hadn't realized how deeply the option of marriage was ingrained into my psyche, as a woman who dates men, until I voluntarily removed myself from that option. Until now, I didn't want to wed, but if I changed my mind the option was always there. But there have been several times over the past few days that I would be letting my mind wander, think something about "If I got married..." and suddenly stop myself, mentally noting that until marriage equality is achieved that isn't an option for me anymore.

I hadn't realized how much I still relied on hetero privilege until then. I self-identify as queer, as more-or-less bisexual, and have my entire adult life. But the way my life has worked out, there has been no point in my dating that I have not been dating a man. I have dated women as well, but not exclusively. So I have, at all times, had access to hetero privilege. I have always had the option of drawing on that, if I wanted to, and that has shaped my entire way of approaching the world.

Confronting privilege is never easy, never fun, but I'm glad I backed myself into this corner and made myself acknowledge that particular privilege, no matter how accidentally.

5 comments:

CaitieCat said...

Yay for strong allies! Thanks for standing up with us all. :)

Anonymous said...

This moved me so much - I'm going to join right now.

For anyone else who's interested: www.nationalmarriageboycott.com

WitchWords said...

Caitie - it feels odd to be called ally to the marriage equality movement, given I'm bi...but I guess in this case it's pretty applicable. Is it possible to be both ally and member to a movement? A thought for another post...

Anonymous - thanks for stopping by! And I'm glad you're joining. Every signature, every person...every teaspoon, is that much closer.

CaitieCat said...

I think it's fair to say someone's an ally when they turn down a bit of privilege they could have accessed, in solidarity with those who don't - even if they might, themselves, in other circumstances, have been someone who would have been denied that privilege (depending who their partner/s was/were).

WitchWords said...

Indeed, and put that way, it's completely accurate. I think it's an odd space inhabited by people who don't fit the privilege binaries we have constructed. Thanks for pointing that out!

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