Last night I found myself offering a few words in front of a microphone and a room full of people at a hootenanny hoedown fundraiser for MN United for All Families; not something I do every day. These are those words:
Hello, my name is Rachel and I’ve been asked to share my story.
My story is not unusual and let me be the first to tell you, I am certainly not a poster child for advocacy–it actually makes me really uncomfortable. I tend to lean towards the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi “preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” I rather enjoy living in the luxury of simply “being the change I wish to see in the world.” But I am afraid this election cycle, my simply being is not enough. So here I am.
I am a bisexual woman who was lucky enough to have found her soulmate, and that person happened to be a woman. In July of 2004 I went on my very first date with Karen. I am sure it sounds just as schmaltzy today as it did then, but I knew on that first date that I would like to spend the rest of my life with her. In November of 2006 we made that desire known in front of over 350 friends and family. We got married. Yes, you heard me right, married.
When I tell people this, the first question is normally, “wow! where?” I proudly tell them that we were married at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Minneapolis. The next question is always a bit more awkward and it goes something like this: “But, you’re not legal or anything are you?” No, we aren’t. We are NOT afforded the same 515 state and more than 1100 federal protections as our opposite gender married counterparts.
Then conversation generally turns to something like “geez, that’s too bad” or “wow, that really sucks.” And you know what, it does. It does suck that we have to find the loopholes and legal reach-arounds to make our married life as solid and protected as our opposite gender counterparts–and you all know that even if we do do that work, it can still be reversed for us–right? It sucks to know that Kim Kardashian’s marriage was far more legally legitimate than mine. It sucks being invited to opposite gender weddings, bearing witness to their celebration all the while crying–not because I am happy, though of course I am, but because I feel so very excluded from the thing that they get just because of the gender of those two people. “We did that,” I think to myself ”what makes them more legitimate than us?” Oh yeah, the law.
I could have married a man; I’ve been proposed to previously 3 times by men. But as God would have it, the person I fell in love with, am equally yoked to, is my love and heart and beloved has a vagina instead of a penis. Shocking, perhaps icky to some, but friends lets not get distracted from what this is actually about.
This election is simply about saying we will not permanently and irrevocably write exclusion into our state constitution. We must not–we are not that state, we are not those people. We are the state of the great minnesota get together. We are a state rooted in beauty and generosity, kindness and compassion. We are known for our work ethic, high quality education and leading edge innovations. We are hearty, and we believe the underdog CAN and does win.
Friends, I am asking you to do more than empathize and wish it were different for me. I want you talk to your friends and family, yes even with your batshit crazy neighbors. I know its awkward, difficult and well, its a little like coming out. I want you to come out for me. I want you to come out and tell people–anyone in earshot from here to November–that you are voting no, and I want you to tell them why.
When the election is over, my marriage will still not be legally recognized. And yes, that still sucks. Sister Joan Chittister once said, “We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again.” By each of us having conversations and voting no this election, we will be yet another inch closer to a time when Karen and I and so many others may be, hopefully could potentially be, legally married in Minnesota. I am asking you to help us get there, one inch at a time.
Offered in honor of my friend Louise Brooks who passed away this past week and her partner who survives her, Susan Russell, who continues this work (and gave me the Joan Chittister quote) one inch at a time.