Happy Sunday morning, y’all! Guess who we have joining us at Women and Words today? Author Jennifer Pelland! Jennifer stopped by to share her thoughts on marriage equality, big dreams, and her novel, Machine, available now from Apex Publications.
by Jennifer Pelland
When I first started writing Machine nearly a decade ago, with its married-in-Massachusetts lesbian protagonist, I threw in this brief exchange:
“People will get used to it. They’ve gotten used to marriages like yours, after all.”
Celia winced. “Not every state acknowledged we were married.”
Of all the big ideas that I asked my readers to swallow — android bodies with human minds inside, extreme body modification, even more extreme S&M, and Google glasses* — the one thing I didn’t ask them to swallow was full marriage equality.
It just goes to show that sometimes, writers are too afraid to think big about the things they care deeply about.
I’m a married-in-Massachusetts bisexual. I’m married to a man, but I refused to do it until at the very least my Commonwealth had marriage equality for all couples. ** I still vividly remember the day that the Goodridge decision came down. I was at work, in my office, door closed, on a conference call. I put my phone on mute and kept refreshing Boston.com to see the verdict the moment it was released. When I read the good news, I buried my face in my hands and started to cry.
Thankfully, it wasn’t a phone call where I was expected to contribute much.
And now here we are, a little under ten years later, awaiting news from the U.S. Supreme Court about the fate of same-sex*** marriage in our nation. Our nation — not just my little Commonwealth. True, no matter what the verdict, neither of the cases is poised to automatically open up marriage equality to the entire country. However, if DOMA Section 3 is struck down (the section that restricts federal recognition of marriage to female/male couples), then how long until we topple Section 2 (which allows marriage-discriminatory states not to recognize same-sex marriages from marriage-equality states)? Once that’s gone, there’s nothing to stop same-sex couples from traveling to a marriage-equality state, getting married, and then going back home to their marriage-discriminatory state and claiming full marriage benefits. And that spells de facto national marriage equality.
I should have let myself dream bigger.
However, I didn’t seem to have any problem dreaming big on behalf of my trans and genderqueer friends. I wonder if it’s because they seem so much farther from gaining the kind of public acceptance that the LGB**** folks in the QUILTBAG have won. I’ve seen entertainers publicly acknowledge their trans children, but I don’t believe a single national politician has. And I don’t think I’ve seen anyone come forward on the national level for the genderqueer. So while it’s my dream to see a sitting senator say, “My child is genderqueer, and no matter how uncomfortable zir gender expression makes you, ze still deserves equal protection under the law,” I don’t think I’ll witness it in my lifetime.
Of course, I could once again not be dreaming big enough.
I also dreamed big for my seriously kinky friends, but I know them — if what they do becomes mainstream, they’ll find some new way to horrify the mundanes.
It’s weird to live in a time with such hope. I keep feeling like it could be yanked away again at any moment. I keep having to remind myself that despite Reagan, Bush, and Bush, we kept moving forward as a nation on queer issues. And if we kill DOMA now through the Supreme Court, then we kill it for keeps. Even if we end up with President Bachman in 2016, she won’t be able to take this away from us. So I think I’m going to let myself hope without reservations. Marriage equality seemed like something I wouldn’t see until I was old, if at all, but here it is. Why not dream big for the rest of the QUILTBAG? Why not imagine a country that truly embraces liberty and justice for all?
Maybe it won’t take as long as we fear.
(*I’m still kicking myself for not patenting them.)
(**Yes, I’m one of those scary people who see nothing wrong with polyamory. Mind you, I’m too lazy to be poly. It’s exhausting enough just being with one person.)
(***By which I mean “same-legal-sex” of course — plenty of other-gendered people who have been legally shoehorned into the binary are also affected by this.)
(****LG more than B — a lot of people still don’t think we’re for real.)
Jennifer Pelland lives outside Boston with an Andy, three cats, and impractical amount of books. She’s garnered two Nebula nominations for her short fiction, and many of her short stories were collected in Unwelcome
Bodies, put out by Apex in 2008. Apex also released her debut novel, Machine, in 2012. Because spare time is for the weak, she’s also a performing belly dancer and an occasional radio theater actor. Find out more at www.jenniferpelland.com.