kiss

Love (& Marriage?)

Although my recent wedding (if one could even call it that) was small and private, as a queer woman I feel compelled to share some of the details of our decision to get married. It’s really important that members of the LGBTQIA community are able to contribute their own experiences to the world, regardless of their subject matter, because we have lived so long in a society where our collective experiences have been suppressed rather than encouraged. Ours is a very simple and familiar tale of love, not unlike the stories that so many same sex couples have, and that’s where it’s significance lies; we want to be relatable and understood without people losing sight of the differences that make us unique. The more we share our stories and who we are, the less stigma I think there will be to recognize people from my community as whole, full formed individuals. We are not OTHER, we are others.

 

As a child, I never ever dreamed about having a wedding, and therefore never ever wanted one as an adult. In fact, my feelings about weddings have always been unromantic and complicated and they became even more so after finding myself in a loving relationship with a woman; who even wants to entertain the idea of having a marriage that your government won’t technically allow?

The beginning of my distaste for marriage in general was born out of defense. As I have mentioned before, I grew up poor in the deep south with parents of different races, but what seemed at times to set me apart more than any of those things was the fact that my parents were never married. The horror on people’s faces, adults and children alike, was obvious. “Why don’t you have the same last name as your Dad?”, they would ask. “Um. Because my parents never got married so I just have my Mom’s last name,” I would answer sheepishly, and then they would look at me like they didn’t know how a child like me could possibly exist.

This seems to be a recurring theme in my life.

They were wondering how I GOT here without a wedding, as if love and marriage were not mutually exclusive. I knew from a young age that a marriage didn’t equate love, a marriage didn’t validate a relationship, a marriage didn’t make you more important than any other couple that loved each other, but I didn’t know how to not feel embarrassed about my illegitimacy in other people’s eyes. So, like any other child, I internalized my feelings, and I grew into an adult who had a deep aversion to the idea of marriage, without ever really bothering to unpack it. This isn’t to say that I didn’t go to my friend’s weddings and cry uncontrollably as they walked down the aisle. I have always been so happy for my friends who found love, but I was happy for them BEFORE their wedding announcements, not because of them. I was happy for them on their seventh date, and happy for them when they moved in together, and happy for them when they talked passionately about their future. To me, that was legit as it got.

Claire and I had been together three years when we got our domestic partnership in NYC, and contrary to popular belief, we didn’t do it because we wanted to have a legal declaration of love for one another; we did it because we wanted to be protected by the law when we both moved to Vancouver for my work. Getting a legal partnership was about security and safety, and this was the first time I recognized that this was the most basic benefit of a legal marriage. The fact that religious doctrine said we were not allowed to get married in the church was fine with me, cause my union with Claire had NOTHING to do with the church. It had everything to do with planning for a family one day, buying property, filing for taxes, getting insurance coverage, making sure that we would be taken care of should something awful happen to one of us. A union in the eyes of the law was a pragmatic decision, and had nothing to with God. I was angry that we couldn’t have this same basic right as other couples, because I didn’t even want a wedding, I just wanted equal rights! Although our decision to get a domestic partnership was a sensible one rather than a romantic one, it was still an incredibly special day, and I will never forget it. We had chosen a pair of very simple, inexpensive rings to exchange over dinner at our favorite restaurant in Prospect Heights where we lived at the time. We enlisted my closest friend Larry to accompany us to City Hall who posed as our photographer as we filled out the necessary paperwork. We took silly pictures next to the “Marriage Licenses” sign in the hallway. When we were finished and we had our paperwork, we stood in the elevator and cried with each other as we looked down at our certificate. Despite the practicality of our legal partnership, we knew we were absolutely committed to each other, and although that piece of paper didn’t dictate the importance of our relationship, the decision to get it did. It wasn’t the domestic partnership itself that was significant, it was the circumstances that encouraged us to get the domestic partnership in the first place; Claire was leaving her job and her friends to move across the country to share a life with me, and I wanted her to come with me more than anything in the world.

As legit as it gets.

Now, fast forward four years to when we moved to our new city and moved into our new home that we own. Nothing much has changed between us, except that we have survived some very difficult experiences and transitions, and thankfully flourished because of them. I still wanted to spend as much of my future with Claire as our love would allow. But guess what. That domestic partnership we got years ago in NYC? It didn’t mean anything here in California. It didn’t mean anything outside of the state of New York. We had to go through the whole process again. We marveled at the fact that this was taken for granted by so many same sex married couples; what if, whenever a married couple moved to a new state in the US, they had to get married again? I began to think that maybe this was a smart idea, that maybe some couples who weren’t really happy together might feel more inclined to separate or re-think their relationship if they were forced to go through the process over and over again. But it didn’t feel smart to us at the time. It felt like a hassle. It felt like no matter where we were or where we went, we didn’t ever count for real.

In late June, we are in Beverly Hills at a lawyer’s office drafting up our wills when we find out that they cannot be executed until we get a civil union in the state of California. This is the very week where the constitutionality of DOMA and Prop 8 are being reviewed by the Supreme Court, and Claire is pessimistic. She thinks that Prop 8 has a chance of working in our favor, but that DOMA will never be struck down in our foreseeable future. A few days later we are both literally awestruck when we wake in the morning and read the news headlines that the federal government is making same sex marriages legal. Speechless. We just hug tightly as my tears start to fall. Now, instead of having to get a Civil Union in the state of California, we are going to get an actual marriage. We will be recognized in the whole country as a legal couple. We wont have to keep filling out the same paperwork every time we move to a new place. If something terrible happens to one of us, we wont have to worry about whether or not the other person will be well taken care of financially. We don’t have to worry about being allowed hospital visits if one of us is sick. We don’t have to worry about who gets to be the legal guardian of any children we might adopt in the future. We don’t have to pay thousands of extra dollars annually for Claire to be be entitled to health insurance simply because she is viewed as a taxable dependent instead of as a spouse. We have always known that we were the same as other couples. But now we will be treated as such. This is what I am elated over.

The strange part about announcing our union for the second time is dealing with other people’s reactions; not everyone has the same attitude about marriage that I do, and marriage means many things to different people, so merging their expectations with our reality was a bit tricky. Most everyone was really happy and excited for us, which was certainly understandable in one respect, but it also reiterated the idea that our domestic partnership we had gotten several years ago didn’t count, that THIS was the real deal. I had never thought of our first legal union as a marriage, but I did think of it as our first public commitment to each other, and that mattered, and still matters, so much to me. In some ways, that one counts even more because we had to take a leap of faith to move forward with it. Making a commitment after seven years is easy when you’ve known each other for that long, when you’ve have had seven years of ups and downs, when you’ve learned to love all the difficult parts of each other for so long. But a commitment after three years with an immediate move to another country? That was dangerous territory, something we could have easily fallen apart over.

We told a few friends and family that we would be getting our marriage officiated soon, but most people didn’t find out till I posted pictures online the day of our wedding. It wasn’t an attempt to exclude any of the important people in our life, but rather a continuation of keeping the spirit of the event low key; we wanted an intimate experience, and that’s what we got, with only our officiant and our friend Kelly (who acted as witness) present.

All the pragmatism and utility in the world couldn’t keep this day from being special. On a whim, we drove down to San Diego a few days before the wedding to visit my high school friend, Henry, who works at a beautiful jewelry store, and he and his wife helped us pick out two simple, lovely rings to exchange. I wanted the most non-clunky, non-showy, functional ring I could find, so that it would never get in the way of what I was doing or where I was going; it seemed to perfectly symbolize my union with Claire- always present but never a burden. On Oct. 5th, Claire and I woke up, had breakfast, and picked out what we were going to wear, outfits that (magically!) matched. Our officiant arrived at our home while Claire was still in the shower, and she sat on the couch patiently as we finished getting ready. Kelly showed up looking radiant in a beautiful lacy white dress and served as our photographer while Claire and I stood in front of our homemade coffee table and listened to each other share her vows. I cried like a baby. Claire doesn’t write very much, but when she does, it speaks right to my heart. Ours was the briefest ceremony perhaps in the history of the world, but it had all the important parts we wanted: our declaration of love for one another, our “I Do”s, and a kiss. We exchanged our perfect rings, mine rose gold, Claire’s white gold, we had a toast, and then we took some fun, casual pictures on the front lawn of our house, with our dog, Rosie. There were a few parts in the day that I had wished our families had been there to witness our exchange of love, but we plan to have a party some time this year for all our friends and family to celebrate with us. I have no idea what the format will be, and honestly, I don’t care. We got the important part done already- the rest is just fun.

It was really important for us to stick to our wishes and be selfish about how we wanted this special day to be, despite the protestations of a lot of well intentioned people in our lives. I had the dream wedding I had never even realized I dreamed up, and nothing could be better than that.

26 replies
  1. Seanathan
    Seanathan says:

    I was going to write the usual “I’m so happy for you two” but I was always happy for you too. I’m just happy that you were able to exercise a legal right that should have never been denied to you in the first place.

    Reply
  2. Josh Neff
    Josh Neff says:

    SUCH A CUTE PHOTO!

    You write so beautifully!

    I also have pretty ambiguous feelings towards marriage, since my parents divorced when I was 4 and my wife and I split up a few years ago. When we got married, we were mostly doing it for very pragmatic reasons (for taxes and to provide a legal father for her daughter–now our daughter). We were going to ask people to donate money to some pro-marriage equality organization instead of getting us wedding gifts, but we ended up having a quicky wedding in the county courthouse. (We also joked about going to court for our divorce and telling the judge we had broken up “because of teh gays.” But this is Kansas and there’s a good chance we’d be taken seriously.)

    I’m very happy you and Clare were able to have the dream wedding you never thought you wanted! I hope it’s not too long before every loving couple can do that in any of the 50 states.

    Reply
  3. Kathy & Dave
    Kathy & Dave says:

    We are so happy for you and Claire and look forward to the time when you can come visit us in NC. The photo you posted is beautiful and truly shows the love between both of you. Congratulations!!!!!!

    Reply
  4. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer says:

    Hurray!

    My wife and I were married as soon as it was legal in our state, just this past December. It was, as you say, largely practical, but also just the, “Oh my god, we CAN get married! This is an option now!”

    Our ceremony was barely longer than yours, although we did haul ourselves out to the park where we had our first date and where I proposed. All we had were our witnesses and officiant, and then we went to lunch.

    And oh, how we cried when DOMA went down.

    Congratulations, and best wishes.

    Reply
  5. tara
    tara says:

    this made me cry. seeing two people protecting and sharing each other’s lives while fostering the good in each other always does. congrats!

    Reply
  6. Teresa W
    Teresa W says:

    That sounds like the perfect wedding. We’re in the midst of planning our post wedding party, since Maryland was kind enough to pass marriage equality in the November election.

    Also, thank you so much for the point about people not considering the Domestic Partnership a marriage! My father in law seems to think that his daughter and I have ‘only’ been together since our commitment ceremony in 2004. Never mind that we’ve been together for three years before!

    Anyway, I wish you and Claire joy in your lives together. Thank you for being awesome.

    Reply
  7. Kristylove
    Kristylove says:

    thank you for sharing your day, my darling. you know, we caught a moderate amount of flack when we decided to have only immediate family at our wedding, but as you mentioned the day was perfection. you gave yourselves the space to be selfish and to make it YOUR day, however it looked, smelled, tasted, sounded or felt. i can only imagine it was beautiful, aromatic, delicious, melliflous and (hopefully) orgasmic. LOL… i love you. and Red. so much. i salute you, your love, and can’t wait to dance inappropriately at your post-wedding celebration.

    Reply
  8. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    This was beautiful, and I’m just happy that you have found each other, because all those little pieces of your life that you and Claire share online make you seem like a really happy couple.

    PS: you have a really cute dog.

    Reply
    • Patricia Umoh
      Patricia Umoh says:

      Being raised by my German mother and being biracial I was privilege to have been raised not to judge others. With that said ” Love who you want. Clearly Jasika and Claire have found a love that is one of a kind. Men and their laws may place an obstacle in their way, but it is nothing that their love can’t overcome.” Cherish every second and push regret away when it try’s to creep in to take one of those beautiful seconds.

      Reply
  9. NORN CUTSON
    NORN CUTSON says:

    I’ve only recently learned about you!
    I’m not a regular tv watcher, but have recently gotten hooked on FRINGE via NETFLIX and I think you are WONDERFUL!
    I’m so happy to see your art, learn more about you as a person and to read about your HAPPINESS!

    All warmth & respect
    Norn

    Reply
  10. Mark Simpson
    Mark Simpson says:

    19 Dec 2013.
    I only knew you as Astrid until 20 minutes ago, my favorite character from Fringe. You were only the most lovely woman on my tv and I loved to see you in every episode! Just watched season 2 finale.
    But now I know you as Jasika, the actress, artist, wife, animal lover, activist, writer aaaaand most beautiful woman on my tv (and I’m sure your many other things of which I have not had the honor of learning yet).
    Your story touched me, this big dumb redneck, in a way that I was incapable of 12 years ago. That was when I inexplicably fell in love with a beautiful lesbian that had inexplicably fallen in love with me, a big, handsome idiot. We are married and inexplicably, doing very well together.
    I’m very happy for you! But also sad that it wasn’t/isn’t just a ‘given’ that you could be who you are and be treated equally.
    I know you will continue persevere.
    Your biggest fan (6’4″-235lbs),
    Mark

    Reply
  11. Dez
    Dez says:

    Belated congratulations! I didn’t know you had a website until I saw the link on your ravelry profile (someone on reddit mentioned you were a knitter and had done a marvellous octopus sweater and I had to go check it out). I deduced that Claire must be someone important by the number of knitted treasures she was wearing in your gallery of finished objects :)

    I agree with you that it’s crazy that your NYC union (or had you gotten married in Vancouver) wasn’t recognized everywhere. Hopefully the day is coming soon that marriage equality will be the rule of the land in the US. I’m glad to say that Canada made it a national law and that all things considered, it wasn’t a really big deal to most Canadians. A big win for LGBT people, but really not much of a fuss.

    Again, congrats to you and your lovely wife, Claire. I happen to be finishing up watching Fringe and Astrid and Walter’s relationship is one of my favorite things on the show!

    Reply
  12. Fiona
    Fiona says:

    Dear Jasika;
    As a heterosexual non religious single woman who just like you, never wanted -and later never believed in- marriage the way its tied to religion and a greater power, I always struggled to explain myself to those whose understanding did matter to me. Did I not wanted marriage? Meaning did I want to live like an island the rest of my life? Of course not. We get married in church, we exchange vowes which usually in one way or the other is our promise to stick to each other no matter what. Then things change, sometimes a change as simple as one transfers to the other side of the country and the other has to leave a career of a life time behind, and there we go, filing divorce papers… We, the same people who once carried ourselves like religous spirits seeking the higher power to bless our union, turn to “practicallity” and seek our relief in the divorce proceedings in a court of law, human law. The hipocracy of our behavior is outstanding… Our union never had anything to do w/ a higher power, and deep down in ourselves we all know that.
    So why would I still wanted to get married? -and I mean “want” just in case I met someone worth dedication of a life time or until things change like they do-
    You put it in words just perfectly. THANK YOU :)

    Reply
  13. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Lovely – I’m a fan of Fringe, living in the UK and my husband and I love the series and the role you play. I have found your blog inspiring and wanted to let you know.

    xx

    Reply

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