I was married once, for 12 long years. It’s a chapter in my life I talk about privately, mostly. And my marriage, at one point ended up in That’s Life magazine (that’s another post all of it’s own) and it wasn’t a pretty story.
I have just spent since September 12 unsuccessfully trying to find a wedding photo of that fateful day in 1992. I guess that says something in itself!
When the 22 year old me cried during my wedding vows, people gushed emotive phrases over the tears of “joy”. It was sweet. It was touching.
What now makes me want to cry is the subtext: the bride is so grateful to have found such a man.
There is an element of truth in that. Because I knew I was performing something I didn’t understand fully at the time. I was performing heterosexuality. I was performing because if I didn’t I wasn’t sure what would become of me if I did not try and play known tradition out.
There was a part of me that didn’t want to be shunned and knew that if I said, “I think I would prefer to love a woman and I’m not sure if even that is true”, my life would be more unbearable than it already was. There was no other messaging around me other than straight, so in my subconscious, I very much thought there was something wrong with me.
So I did feel grateful, for an opportunity to fit in for a while, when I never really had fit in before.
I want to talk about the wedding day tears, because I think they are symptoms of a cultural phenomenon in how traditionally sexist culture works. We tell men to trust their gut instincts about their decisions before acting and tell those assigned female at birth that any anxiety is the more romantic butterflies in the stomach. Where in fact, it these butterflies may be the warning we are meant to heed.
These butterflies are often anxiety about the expectation of servitude. Of knowing we are supposed to be the nurturers of the earth’s manhood and that martyrdom is our supposed natural locale. We are conditioned to not use our gut instincts to forge on to make decisions, but harness the butterflies inside to avoid doing anything that appease others.
Prior to my marriage, I was already shaping up to be a traditional gender role misfit as an assigned female at birth military trades-person. I had been assaulted and abused at work enough for being female and I even left the military to become a proper wife. The result was 12 years of abuse and misery.
I tried to feign excitement about wedding planning. Because we are supposed to dream about our wedding day since almost birth, I hadn’t ever thought about it until I was engaged. I really just wanted the holiday at the end and thought that the money would have been better spent on travel. And after I fled this marriage, I grew my life into the life I wanted, on my terms and that included lots of travel.
I have the Oprah Winfrey show to thank for a course of testosterone after watching a show where this was discussed as a way for housewives to improve libido. Not that there were any problems with that, but just that course of drugs was totally unnecessary and had not be questioned by the doctor, because my husband was also pushing the agenda.
I’ve never forgotten him telling me after the divorce his new partner (who he had an affair with) “couldn’t leave him alone in the bedroom”. There was such glee in his voice as he thought he was telling me something that would prove I was a failure.
My unspoken response, “thank goodness, because it’s not me having to do that”.
This was the 90’s there was no discussion about the fact boring, unfulfilled lives with controlling and domineering husbands was the cause of the libido fails. For me it was that and the fact I am pansexual attracted but also asexual. In other words I am not attracted to a gender identification, but a person and I am not that sexual.
Of course, I would go on to spend 46 years of my life trying to prove I wasn’t asexual. I tried everything from kink to tantra. Sure, I could force myself to enjoy myself, but it rotted me at the core.
The word ‘frigid’ is a double edged slur. If you say no when you’ve said yes before, you are frigid. If you are reserved you are ‘frigid’. Frigid and slut are used as ways to dehumanize women (AFAB) interchangeably.
This is because at every turn sex is promoted as life’s necessity, something like air or water. If you present with low sex drive you are painted as pathologically sexually bereft, almost less than human.
Doctors look over their glasses at you with concern. Partners feel rejected and slighted. And when I am left alone without any kind of sexualised pressure I feel….
Happy. Content. Balanced. More prone to joy.
I’d like to think we are starting to move past measuring human worth from the default position of biologically and socially defunct reproductive and sexual values. But one look at media when a partner leaves a heterosexual marriage for a same sex relationship will shows slow burn narratives of deceit and “turned gay” conversations. Which is simply not accurate or truthful.
Society shoves people into “the closet” and put it’s foot hard against the door. It takes quite a bit of an internal shoulder barge from inside our closet to get out when surrounded by “straight” values.
I was anxious on my wedding day for a veritable layer cake of reasons. But most of all because I was already so controlled by traditional narratives about my role in life that I was prepared to throw away everything I had done that wasn’t deemed traditional. I was prepared to give away my happiness as I gave my hand in marriage.
There’s an irony in the wedding cake metaphor here. Because I refused to have the traditional man and woman on the top of the wedding cake. I instead asked for clear glass blown pair of dolphins, me proclaiming it was representative that we both loved the sea. There’s two jokes on heteronormativity right there.
Contrary to hetero-normative belief systems, *queer people don’t come out. Even the language of this is hetero-normative. We don’t suddenly come out, we are.
I’ve even heard people regularly say about someone they know “becoming gay” or “turned lesbian”. Like somehow the human default setting is heterosexual and queer people uploaded a virus. Some take it further as though we are the virus.
But the antidote to both conscious and unconscious hetero-normative bias is love. Excepting we all have different ways to love, loving humanities different ways of being human.
My wedding day tears were my gut instinct telling me I was giving away not only my hand in marriage but my right to safety and control.
And I did not experience safety or control in my own body again for many years, not even after my marriage. Not until I understood fully who I was and had embraced my asexual queer self.
*I use the word queer as I am reclaiming what was once a slur. Other LGTBQIA+ people may not use this as I do and that is their right. But it is also my right to use this term as a way to invert cultural norms.