In 1997, my longtime partner, Joy, adopted my daughters. Sarah, the eldest, was, by then, in her third year at university; Meghann was a couple of years shy of graduating high school. Outwardly, nothing changed in our family when the court stamped its approval on our cumbersome stack of affidavits and applications, but there was a profound alteration nonetheless. In attitude. In the way we saw ourselves. In the way other people saw us.
I told Joys nieces that now Sarah and Meg were truly their cousins, and Kelly piped up with, “What were they before? Fake?” Well, in a way, yes, they were. When there is no system to verify your relationships, when you exist in a legal limbo so vast that you could not even take your place at your partners side if she were hospitalized, her life threatened, you are, for all intents and purposes—for all straight peoples intents and purposes—counterfeit. The court stamped not just adoption into our lives, but endorsement. We were—almost—a codified family (although, unlike most two parent households, Joy and I were still considered unrelated).
We ordered new birth certificates. Alberta, unable to change even at glacial speed, listed Joy as Sarah’s “father.” British Columbia, despite altering their adoption laws, couldn’t bring itself to alter its forms. It managed to cross out “father” but refused to substitute “mother” or even “parent”—here, where we live, Joy has become Meghann’s “blank.” Still, still, it was a little heady being a mom and a blank together. Now, darned if we don’t want to take it further. Joy and I want to get married. We’re not just a theoretical argument, but flesh and blood queers, quite smitten with each
other, and we want to get hitched.
Why bother? you ask. Well, why do straight people bother? You bother for the same reasons we want to bother. Because of love. Because of our kids. Because we want a public acknowledgment of how we feel towards each other. Because we want to grow old together, tied and knotted. Because we don’t want our union to be easily severable. Neither of us would thrust marriage on anyone who isn’t interested in it, gay or straight, but it’s obscene that we don’t have the right to choose. It’s indecent that policy-makers have that much power over my relationship. I don't need anyone’s guidance in making my romantic and familial choices.
Joy and I have both been married before. Me, when I was 19 and exceedingly stupid (and as queer, said my young American husband, as Canadian money), and Joy, more recendy, in a far more intelligent manner. But still, the men heterosexual society said we could so easily cleave unto did not mean to us what she and I mean to each other; our marriages weren’t of this relationship’s calibre.
For years, we’ve worn engagement rings made by our jeweler daughter, Meghann. On my birthday, Joy has flowers sent while she’s at work—a Ballerina rose, some purple campanula, a sheaf of peach gladiolus, twigs of lavender, heads of nodding scabiosa. It occurs to me, as I arrange them in a crystal vase and set them in the dining room: they would make a perfect bridal bouquet. If only.
Jane Hamilton is a Vancouver writer. Submissions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to (416) 596-7730. We cannot respond to all queries.
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