What’s it like to be gay in 2016?
That’s a difficult topic to talk about. On the one hand, I only know what it’s like to be *me* in 2016. I have neither the knowledge nor the hubris to speak for the whole of Queer experience. On the other hand, as a Queer Person Myself, the way I see and have been seen by the world has been from behind the rose colored glasses of being gay. I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be straight; I did not go through that phase. So to me, every way of being is a gay way of being. Everything I do is a “gay thing”.
If we want to answer the question– what is like to be gay , or queer, or anything in 2016, we have to start from the past and work our way forward. So let’s rewind to this time, last year.
At this time last year, my then-manfriend, Shawn, and I were staunchly anti-marriage. Marriage is a patriarchal archaic misogynist system of oppression put in place to rob women of their inheritances and power. Of course, at the time, many lesbian and gay people thought differently and were deep in the decades-long fight to get their marriages legalized, and they were fighting for us whether we wanted them to or not, and while we recognized the historical importance of this fight, even last year it still felt pretty far off, and we wanted no part of it. Well, *I* wanted no part of it, at least. I probably shouldn’t speak for Shawn. [NB: He told me it’s totally okay to speak for him on this topic—down with marriage!]
So it is with some trepidation that I tell you tonight, that this year was the first year that I filed my taxes jointly, with Shawn, who is now my husband, because we’re married.
We filed our taxes this year, jointly, as a Gay Married Couple. And I want to say that that felt great, that we’ve been waiting for this moment— this chance for the gov’mint to finally view our partnership as equal— to give us all the breaks and benefits that our straight friends have always had.
But, to be honest, I’ve never really been all that good about doing my taxes anyway. I’d just punch numbers into TurboTax until it spit out something I was happy with. In 2012, I claimed my dogs as dependents. In 2013, I decided that getting drunk at the bar counts as a home office expense, because I’m a writer and my office is the world. Hell, in 2014, I didn’t even file my taxes. So, although I wanted this year’s Married Filing Joint status to feel like a grand symbolic gesture, it kind of didn’t.
And I think that’s a good way to sum up what’s it’s like to be gay in 2016, for me at least.
Because although we’ve come a long way, baby, we still have so far to go.
Looking at it historically, it really is amazing that we can file our income taxes jointly, but we can still get fired for no reason other than being gay—and being able to file your income taxes kind of takes a back seat to actually having an income, so man, I hope we don’t get fired because we suck dick. I mean, because we’re dudes who suck dick.
And it’s also amazing that in the last couple years, we’ve finally got our shit together and figured out our housing situation and now we’re living as a happily married couple in our little rental home in Hyde Park (Austin, Texas). But If our landlady wanted to, she could still legally kick us out of our house just for being gay and my god, I don’t want to get kicked out of the house. We have too much shit to move. We have hundreds if not thousands of books, and records, and comics, and lego. And I get to say we have so much shit because upon marriage, the burden of all this shit — the burden of what was all my shit — legally became half his shit, too, so he can’t complain about helping move all this shit anymore. But I still don’t want to do it. So I hope our landlady doesn’t kick us out. But she can. Because we’re gay. And this is Texas.
Even though this is Austin.
I’ve been in Austin now for 14 years. And every year, this city continues to amaze me. It is absolutely, no caveats and no compunction, amazing that we have something like QueerBomb. That we have a community who said Fuck You to allowing corporate-interests to take over our summer Pride celebration and rallied behind creating our own thing.
And it is amazing that we have events like Queer Mountain, with all these queer people, up on stage, talking about all kinds of queer stuff, from all kinds of queer perspectives.
And it is amazing that in this city we can have something like Big Dick’s House of Big Boobs where all our strange queer bodies can be celebrated in whatever shape they come in, however round or flat or lumpy or curvy or rakeish or gaunt they may be.
But heaven help you don’t have to deal with the Austin Police after one of these amazing events, like my friend Benji, who the cops arrested after a show, and then taunted him and harassed him and demeaned him. Because Benji isn’t straight, and Benji isn’t white, and even though it’s 2016, people in our community are still dealing with shit like that— shit like that and worse.
And so, it was with all these kinds of back and forth arguments about Queer Rights and normative culture and the role of marriage, running through my mind, that on the morning of June 26th, last year, Shawn woke up I asked him if he wanted to get married, and he said yes, and we drove up to the tax assessor’s office, and we got married.
But it wasn’t because of love. And it wasn’t to have or avoid having a wedding. And it wasn’t even because it seemed like a great way to guilt my mother into buying us a really nice KitchenAid mixer, which she did (I’ve made so many cookies!). And it wasn’t even because of marriage, per se.
I asked him to marry me so that he would have the option of divorcing me.
We, as a couple, and we as a queer community, have been through a lot in the last several years. With every battle we’ve won there has been another battle we have lost. Society generally isn’t on our side, so this, this option of divorce, at least this gives him — and me — a modicum of legal protection against a possible future.
There have been a lot of changes in what it means to be Queer, and we’ve gone through a lot of changes in what it means to be us. So to me, ever the realist, this marriage — WHICH, GAY MARRIAGE IS A BIG FUCKING DEAL, don’t let my lukewarm negativity make you think it’s not — but to me, getting married was a lot like everything else in the last year. Really great, but also not enough.
Because although there has been hella progress made, there’s still so much more to be done. There are still so many ways that being queer isn’t safe, isn’t protected, and isn’t equal.
And that’s what it means to me to be queer in 2016.
This piece was originally written for the Greetings, from Queer Mountain storytelling hour in Austin, Texas, April 27, 2016.