I do believe in gay marriage. I mean fairies, I mean gay marriage. I’m a lesbian. I’m approaching my legal fourth year anniversary on October 29, 2012 with my wife. I’m voting for Obama for many reasons, and one of the strongest for me is that he is the only president who has “come out” in support of gay marriage.
An acquaintance recently said to me, “I don’t believe in gay marriage.” There is not a counter narrative to this in my vocabulary. I cannot say “I don’t believe in heterosexual marriage.” I can say I don’t support it—but even that is not true because my taxes do support a system which privileges partnering legally over not partnering. The metanarrative of religious discourse privileges belief statements. So when someone says “I don’t believe in gay marriage”—they are encasing my life in the world of theology where we cast our lot with belief or non-belief. I’m Catholic—I believe in the Virgin Mary. I believe in the canon of saints. I don’t believe in Hell, however, or Purgatory. I’m not sure of my belief system regarding Heaven. As a New Age practitioner– among these practices are Wicca, yoga, martial arts, Western inspired meditation practice, psychic readings, etcetera– I feel empowered to question the belief systems of the Church, and even more so as a feminist.
I don’t believe in gay marriage—I live it. Like the ad slogan regarding gay life, “For the last time, it’s not a life style, it’s a life.” The discourse of belief belongs to the world of maybe or maybe not. Gay marriage, gay people, gay families and gay lives are here. We are not maybe/maybe not. This language of belief has been used by the hegemonic culture to enforce its position as the dominant paradigm. If I can not counter with an equally compelling statement of “belief” I am forced into the sub-narrative always subservient to the metanarrative. What would be strategically most effective is counter-narrative—I don’t support heterosexuals who use statements such as “I don’t believe in gay marriage.” Forcing the “belief” adherents to use non-support statements such as, “I don’t want to support gay marriage with tax dollars. I don’t support gay families having the same ability to create family through the ability to have tax breaks, legal adoptive ability, marriage rights across international borders, hospital privileges, etcetera,” reveals the prejudice that the belief narrative cloaks.
For instance I was hospitalized for heat stroke. I had a horrible 45 minutes before the ambulance arrived. My wife, however, had a horrible day. Although we are legally married in California (right now gay people can still not marry in our state; we are part of the 18,000 couples married in the brief 2008 window) it is not usual or unusual that I had caring attendants who literally brought me back to life that day, being close to cardiac arrest, and that my wife was denied entrance to the emergency room for hours and had no idea of what was happening. In fact the last thing she heard was “She’s gone flat,” as I passed out in the arms of the EMTs. She was told she was a visitor. She kept trying to get the guy at the desk to clarify his position– which he would not do. Finally I was awake enough to sit up and I saw her outside and yelled for her.
Inside the emergency room they knew I was looking for my wife and didn’t think she was there, so when they realized that she was there, my nurse went and brought her in. The guy at the front desk apparently didn’t believe in gay marriage (even though it exists) and so didn’t see my wife in the person who was trying to explain to him, “I’m not a visitor. That’s my wife in there,” but he repeatedly said, “I told you; No visitors.”
The purview of religious discourse is not in civil rights – especially for many of us who are on the receiving end of this hermeneutic of belief. This system rarely privileges those outside the metanarrative of hegemonic culture. I exist. I am gay. Women exist. Some do get abortions. Children exist. They often are in abusive families. Belief systems should be reserved for those ideas we question as factual. It is no accident gay people are called fairies and are then cast into the land of fiction. Exposing this metanarrative of belief exposes factual actual lived lives—as opposed to fairy lives in Neverland.
You don’t believe in gay marriage? I ask an acquaintance. So you don’t support my wife getting into the emergency room…and if I had died in the ER without holding her hand because we are not married in the country of the United States…you support that? Well, I didn’t say that, she says. Oh, yes you did. Belief narratives must be challenged for what they contain – a dialogue that shores up legal arguments and creates lives that actual people must live in, no matter what they believe, or more importantly –who they are.
Next time you hear or say, “I don’t believe in…” dialogue– challenge this discourse to a language of support or non-support– for what exists must be believed.
If you don’t believe me–ask Peter and Wendy. They will tell you that if you didn’t believe in the fairies in Neverland – Tinker Bell would have died.
Marie Cartier is a teacher, poet, writer, healer, artist, and scholar. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of New Hampshire; an MA in English/Poetry from Colorado State University; an MFA in Theatre Arts (Playwriting) from UCLA; an MFA in Film and TV (Screenwriting) from UCLA; and an MFA in Visual Art (Painting/Sculpture) from Claremont Graduate University. She is also a first degree black belt in karate, Shorin-Ryu Shi-Do-Kan Kobayashi style. Ms. Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.