Mark always said that our relationship was political, because other people made it so. It is an externally imposed politicization of our lives. Because others view our relationship as a political act that has to be reacted to, it becomes a political thing.
This has always been a tiny, tiny part of our lives together. When you’re knee-deep in un-ironed socks and unfolded towels on a thursday laundry evening, and when the dogs make a mess of things, then the political nature of our existence is far, far away. But it is there, even if it’s a small thing, and in some contexts it grows to be quite visible.
Imagine the scene. You arrive together at some function where you don’t know most people. Once more you have to carefully explain that Mark isn’t just ‘a mate that’s come along’. Then the people who are told feels the need to react somehow. Usually they react with a gushing ‘oh that’s so brave’ or something equally banal.
Imagine another scene. You’re on a train together, late night, and you’re tired. You’d love to put your head on his shoulder and sleep. But you don’t know how people in the carriage will react, so you don’t. You pretend that your own husband is just ‘a mate that’s tagged along’. No hand-holding, no using Mark as a pillow, no sighing glances. Because you could spend the rest of the train journey with someone who, at best, belligerently stare disapprovingly at you. There’s always that little voice at the back of the head that says ‘Is it safe?’.
The first scenario is just annoying because there’s nothing special about us. We’re not uniquely brave or bold or anything. That whole line of thinking is a lie designed to make us feel better about the whole thing, and to feel better that we’re in a room full of ‘enlightened and modern people and not troglodytes’ even if we’re reduced to a token couple while we’re there.
The second scenario is where our marriage is a useful political statement, because it normalizes it. It makes us be seen. If enough of us do this, then the stares will go away because people will become used to it. And when people become used to it, the mental leap that will go from disapproving stares to outright murder will be broken in the minds of those who’d do us harm. If most people are so used to us, and seeing us everywhere, then that leap should be very difficult.
When Mark first said that our relationship was a political thing because other people made it so, I was very sceptical. I didn’t want it to be like that. The very idea that we’re some kind of role model or example annoys the hell out of me. But over time I’ve come to accept it, and see the truth in it. And when things like the shooting in Orlando happens, then I’m glad that it is like that.
The ones who have come before us have done a lot of work to make sure that Mark and I can do what we do without much fear. People like Spence, who wrote us a long mail about Florida and inspired this post. One of his key points is that while we’ve come far, Orlando shows that the progress is superficial. It can reverse at any time.
Just last week many of the same people who now shed crocodile tears about the dead in Orlando, argued for the introduction of segregation and discrimination of LGBT people in the USA. Ted Cruz, the runner up in the Republican primaries over in the US, smilingly accepted the endorsement of a Pastor who advocates for the execution of gay people.