Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ramblings: The "Traditional Sense of Marriage"

Scrolling through my Facebook feed the other morning I randomly came across a Frank Bruni article in the New York Times posted by a friend. The article in question is about Liz Cheney’s views on gay marriage while her own sister is happily married to a woman, causing a rift within her own family. That people have these anti-gay marriage views and choose to go public about them is fine in my book. I do not agree with them in any way or form and am happy to discuss my own views in public, but we all are allowed the freedom of our own choices and views of the world, and of other people. It wasn’t really the whole “Liz Cheney is against gay marriage” part that struck me, I’m not really that surprised, although I don’t really know how one can go from completely accepting your gay sister’s marriage to another woman, to then rejecting it in the name of politics. No, it was more the phrase “the traditional sense of marriage” that stuck with me.

My mind started reeling as it often does when faced with a question: what on earth is the “traditional sense of marriage” nowadays? I suppose it is meant to mean the union of a man and a woman with a following of children… Which I do suppose traditionally was what marriage meant in the eyes of a god of some sort. I don’t want so specify which religion and which god, because that will lead to a whole other discussion. So yes, the union of man and woman together til death do they part. The problem is how far back in time can we go to find this “traditional sense of marriage”? Back in the late 19th century, early 20th century, before women started fighting for the right to vote? Before the 1940’s when women started doing jobs that previously were reserved for men, and at the same time started wearing trousers en masse (oh the horror!)? Maybe that doesn’t count, because women were only doing those jobs because the men were overseas trying to save us all from the Nazis and the Japanese. Maybe the image that we get of the 50’s, before the feminist movement started back up again in full force, woman at home cooking and cleaning, father at work? 

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against marriage at all, nor anything against a family where the man works and the woman stays at home. I’m just trying to find a marker of what this “traditional sense of marriage” actually is. Because even within this “tradition” of man marrying woman there are so many levels of dysfunction/difference/anti-tradition that I don’t know where to start. Let’s start with divorce. If the “traditional sense of marriage” is based on man marrying woman “until death do us part” then technically divorcing and remarrying goes against any type of tradition. And therefore marrying again, even if it is still man marrying woman, is not a marriage in the traditional sense. Right?

If you think that the “traditional sense of marriage” can only be between a woman and a man because only a woman and a man can conceive together, then what about all of the married men and women who cannot conceive, due to infertility or other issues? What if they use infertility treatment, adopt or use surrogates? Sperm banks? Yet again, absolutely nothing wrong with this, but in the end, does this not defy any type of “traditionalist” views? If a man and a woman want a child so much that they will go to great lengths to have their own, what is wrong with two men or two women doing the same? Isn’t the whole point of marriage being a union between two people who love each other, and the whole point of having a child being a “product” of that union of love, a being that the married couple will raise as best they can, bringing into the world a little human that contains part of each of them. And that goes to adopted children too – by loving and teaching and being with a child you give them part of yourself that they will cherish forever.

It just gets more and more complicated. I certainly did not grow up in an environment where the traditional sense of marriage was observed (although my parents were married when I was conceived). I always wondered what it would be like to grow up in a family that I saw as “traditional”, and it always surprised me when I had friends who had a father and a mother and lived in a home where the mother didn’t work and the father did. This isn’t a bad thing at all – I cherish my upbringing and feel that it made me into who I am. And my friends who had more “traditional” upbringings loved to listen to my stories and were often jealous of the different experiences I had. In the end “traditional” or “non-traditional” we were all loved and cared for and given the best chances our parents could offer, despite any set-backs they may have encountered. Rather that than being part of those horror stories of neglect and abuse that we hear way too much of in the news.

I’m also not in a traditional relationship, even if I am a woman and my partner is a man. Sometimes we have to struggle with a past relationship still being present, and I would maybe like to get married later on, but this is not stopping us bringing a child into the world, and giving that child the best life that we will be able to provide for her. Because we love each other, and I think this transcends any type of wedding license. In my opinion that is. I don’t need to marry my partner, but I am happy that I have the choice to. If I loved a woman I would feel exactly the same way. Love itself doesn’t set standards or boundaries, does it? So why should we set them? When two people feel the same way about each other, why restrict them on their option to marry if they really want to? In this day and age what is still making people that love between two people of the same sex is wrong? 

Back to my main question… What on earth is this “traditional sense of marriage” today? I keep racking my brain and it just brings up more questions. Instead of preaching about how things should stay “traditional”, maybe we should start advocating change and showing the next few generations that it’s ok to be brought up in different environments with parents that may differ from the norm that was dictated to us last century. Let’s stop making children they are different because they their parents aren’t the same as other children’s parents. There is way too much hate in this world as it is, let’s stop creating it needlessly.

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