On July 3, 1996, Mary Jo and I were married in a civil ceremony on a boiling hot day in Austin, Texas by a justice of the peace. We had been balancing career and geography, both of us having academic aspirations and living in different cities. It was a matter of logistics to find a time when we were both free enough for a marriage ceremony, although there was no question of whether marriage was right for us. I expected the service down at the Travis County courthouse to be perfunctory and bureaucratic, so I was not prepared for the beautiful words spoken by the judge as she listened to our vows, blessed our relationship, and called us official in the eyes of the State of Texas.
As we drove to the nearest pub, the radio played the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,” and like Elaine and Benjamin at the end of The Graduate, we looked at each other and wondered what this marriage would bring. The kids in the movie and the couple in the song face the possibility that the burning fire of romance and the anticipation of what a life together will be like may not live up to expectations.
Far from growing disillusioned, I think Mary Jo and I have made our family realistically, having compromised when it made sense to do so and having pursued our own individual directions when it made sense to do so. Like the two pillars in Kahlil Gibran’s poem on marriage, we have grown strong through our own individual development and hold up the family through a strength that lets the wind blow between us without shaking our foundations.
We have approached parenting the same way, hopefully building a common foundation of communication and excitement and love of learning that allows the kids to be themselves and try, struggle, fail, and succeed as they discover themselves. We let them push their abilities without actually being in physical or emotional danger.
I cannot imagine my life any other way, believing so strongly in the power of family and marriage and having become whole through my relationships with Mary Jo and my children, Lane and Ezra.
It is possible (albeit unlikely) that somewhere down the road, the State of Texas can nullify this marriage and the rights that Mary Jo and I enjoy. The current law of the land is to be found in the Littleton ruling, which says that for the purposes of marriage, a person is always and forever the sex that appears on their birth certificate. I’m of two minds on this ruling. On the one hand, it’s incredibly rigid and will hopefully be struck down. On the other hand, it provides a loophole in prohibitions to same-sex marriage because Mary Jo and I will be a legally-married same-sex couple because of this ruling.
The trans* angle of the same-sex marriage debate in this country doesn’t even merit a footnote for most people, but it’s really important to us, as you can imagine. I’m collecting websites that deal with case studies, legal rulings, theory, and other resources related to the nature of marriage a) as ammo if and when we ever need them and b) as further evidence to support same-sex marriage.
Please feel free, dear reader, to comment and contribute.
“For a Married Couple, a Sex Change Raises many Legal Issues” New York Times 4/27/2008
Christie Lee Littleton Website:
Thomas Kraemer, ethnographer in Oregon:
Phyllis Randolph Frye, attorney