Dr. Indigo Willing has graciously allowed Land of Gazillion Adoptees to share an essay in development on her thoughts on transforming attitudes to marriage and challenging ‘marriage fundamentalism’. We talked with Dr. Willing this summer about her visit to the States and her work in Australia.
Justice evolves through many hopes, voices and lenses, not always unified either, but society has a myriad of hierarchies to undo so, as a friend once said to me, “it’s always better to take a stand and bring on the noise than sit in silence”. For ‘marriage between a man and a woman’ to be the only type of marriage that is deemed ‘legitimate’ in the eyes of the law is one such hierarchy. It is also a hierarchy that places me as a beneficiary of significant privileges, since I am in an ‘opposite sex’ relationship (in a society obsessed with binaries) with my Soul Mate and partner who I married 8 years ago. This is not just in a structural legal sense, but also in our everyday lives (a window onto everyday discrimination that LGBTIQ individuals can face is captured in these clever ads from Argentina – http://bit.ly/whQR4b).
There are of course, many ways to live in love with others, and marriage is just one of those ways. But with restricted access that many activists are fighting to overcome. My hopes are that in the present day, every state becomes like Washington State and its contemporaries, and that soon after we see that everyone, not just some, have the right to marry whomever they wish to in a manner offered to equally to all, if marriage is something they wish to pursue. See:
Simultaneously, if hearing and reading many views widely, it’s clearly also necessary to keep aware and keep examining the residual and long-held hierarchical status of marriage itself, and how it situates those who do/want to/support marriage equality in some very complex and contested terrain:
We also live in a complex world, with all kinds of connections, conflicts and contradictions that extend beyond the lives of middle-class, Western adults authoring most of the debates. For instance, as adoptees with biographies where very often our ‘first’ parents (those we were born from) were not married and were subjected to stigma and treated as inferior as a result, fundamentalist attitudes about marriage have never been an abstract for us. They’ve harmed us. In short, our lives are often not the outcome of marriage, and in the past, we were branded ‘illegitimate’. Sadly, in many sending countries of adoptees, single mothers still struggle for access to resources to keep their children with them (for e.g. see KUMFA on activism to support single mothers in Korea via Land of Gazillion Adoptees hosted by Kevin Ost-Vollmers – http://bit.ly/wKm1OT). Thus, for adoptees, we have a history of being measured negatively for not belonging to a ‘traditional’ nuclear family. But, if people were to look around, they’d see we’re all part of a spectrum of families, and there are many kinds.
So too, there are multiple sides to every important debate, including ones over whether marriage is socially malleable, or assimilationist and discriminatory. But according rights and respect to all relationships, including from monogamous to polyamorous relationships, is essential for all our healthy, interwoven futures and those of our families – including new approaches to taxes, immigration, social services and much more. Furthermore, marriage, just like everything else we invest with meaning, has never been static. There’s plenty to think about, including its transformations, its potential separation from the state, and how we can be learning about and conceiving new laws and rights in place for all, and not based on any one central idea, tradition or space that sets itself up as superior.