12 February 2011

Sacred, not secret, union

I've been thinking a bit, lately, about the reality of marrying or committing myself for life to a man I love someday. If I ever do find such a man, or even if I find such a woman, I intend to hold such a commitment (whether called 'marriage' or 'union') sacred and meaningful, and I have been thinking I may have to make some difficult decisions. I may decide to purify the experience and avoid sullying it by inviting, to the ceremony, only those who would be fully, truly supportive. Then we could have a reception for everyone, including those who couldn't wholeheartedly support whatever ceremony represents our union but who want to wish us well.

I might not allow the presence of those who do not hold sacred the covenants I make and the relationship into which I enter. I would do this not because I don't love them and not because they don't care but because some people just don't or won't understand the magnitude and sacredness the relationship holds for me. Some people would not fully grasp what it means or what it's about. They wouldn't relate to or appreciate the reality of it. They won't fully understand the motivations behind my choice to get married in that way. I wish they all did. I wish they could all understand and see what I've seen. But they won't, and that's their choice or belief, and it doesn't change or diminish what it means to me. They may be upset that they can't come, and they may not understand why I would exclude them when they are happy that I have companionship but just don't understand its full meaning. But it's not about them. It's about us. It's about our commitment to each other and to truth. They'll have to deal with it.

On one hand, I love the idea of having an open, public wedding to which all are invited, to contrast it with the exclusivity of LDS temple marriage, into which only active, temple-recommend-holding members of the church are allowed. I may never see many of my dear friends married because I no longer believe the ceremony is exactly what they believe it is, even though I know I would--if allowed to be present--lovingly and happily look on them as they make their covenants with moist eyes and be grateful to respectfully share that moment. But there are reasons for the exclusivity which I fully understand in ways someone who has never believed in the magnitude and the sacred and eternal nature of temple covenants might not fully relate to.

In fact, maybe it's not so different. I still believe my marriage or union, if I ever enter into one with either a man or a woman, will not be about any social approbation, grand parties, attention, or even 'rights' (though I'd want my partner and I to have legal protection and decision-making rights for each other)...and it's not even primarily about unifying or linking families. My commitment to another soul in union is about the unification of the two of us, committing our lives to each other and promising that we won't bolt when it gets tough, we will draw closer and remain one even when the fun wanes or other options come along, and we'll form a union within which we become financially and personally 'one' and lay a stable foundation for a future family if we're able to bring children into our home. That is too sacred a commitment to invite the presence of those who don't understand or believe in it.

So I may insist on a very private, very limited ceremony if it ever comes to that. If that means it's only my partner and me, then so be it. It's not about anyone else to begin with. I've always thought things were almost more sacred by being more private, so it's kind of a beautiful thought to commit to each other without spectacle or demonstration.

Then, after the most important business of unifying ourselves, we can symbolically unify other aspects of our lives by bringing together families and friends in a fabulous reception with lots of good food, good music, and happy memories in the making.

Ha, or I could just be a single old codger with a few short-term relationships along the way. That's probably more likely. *wink*


this blog author said...

Beautiful post. This is exactly how I want it for myself, too. I wish us both well on our journey to get to where you wrote about. Thank you!

El Genio said...

I like the ideas you present in this post. I really don't know what I would want in terms of any future wedding that may occur. I've never really been enchanted by the idea of a big ceremony and reception for other people, and I'm even less interested when most of my family just won't "get it" on a fundamental level. So I suppose it will largely depend on what he wants.

J G-W said...

Well, ok.

Göran and I held our commitment ceremony in 1995 (we had already been together as a couple for a couple of years by the time we decided to have the ceremony). Those who came to witness it included about 110 of our closest friends and family. The gathering included devout Mormons, Lutherans, Baptists and UCCers, Radical Faeries, academics, members of Göran's gay fraternity Delta Lambda Phi, university colleagues of mine, and members of the African American gospel choir we sing in. They were gay, straight, bi, trans. Some folks came in drag, and, ironically, the pictures of the drag queens were the only ones that turned out among all the photos taken by my devout Mormon grandmother. A grandmother who -- by the way -- had once told me that she was absolutely opposed to the concept of gay marriage. But who -- when we invited her anyway -- dropped everything to fly out to Minneapolis from Fresno, CA to be with us and celebrate the event.

The power of the ceremony -- for me -- was not necessarily that everybody supported us completely or understood the nature of our commitment (though I think most of those present did all that). It was that they were witnesses of the commitment we were making. In a other words, I really was powerfully moved by the reality that all these people are now witnesses before God and angels and everyone else present that I, John, was making a life commitment to Göran. And we were in essence asking all these people to help hold us accountable for that commitment.

It was the power of that experience that made me realize why marriage is so dang important.

Kiley said...

Even when I was playing it straight I never wanted a big wedding. Since coming out I have wondered how family and friends would react to attending my wedding. For awhile I thought a lot like you and really did not want to deal with drama. More recently though I have felt like not having a big wedding would be hiding or closeting my relationship... I really like what J G-W said too though I can see this both ways.

I personally have decided to invite everyone if I ever get the chance to get married now. At this juncture I would not want to appear like I was excluding anyone just because it might give them the excuse to exclude me at another point.

Scott N said...

I hope you'll forgive me if I say that this post comes of as perhaps a little pretentious? It's entirely possible (and possibly even likely) that I've misinterpreted you, but what I read is:

"A marriage commitment means more to me than it does to most people (and more, even, than most people are even capable of understanding), so I think I'll exclude the majority of my friends and family from the ceremony if/when it happens, because their presence would detract from its meaning."

If I have mis-read, I apologize. If I haven't... well, I'll just re-state that that approach seems a bit pretentious, and leave it at that.

Original Mohomie said...

This post was about 'perspective' as much as or more than about me actually wanting a super-private union ceremony.

Truth be told, with my personality or outlook, I don't care how it might appear to others nearly as much as I care what it means to me. That's kinda how I roll. I've really had to force myself to try to learn diplomacy and consider how things come across to others and to give that real weight. It's not my natural inclination, but I usually consider it pretty seriously and have integrated it into my decision-making process.

J G-W, I appreciate your thoughts, and I understand that the reality of witnessing something often overcomes the objective anticipation and can therefore soften hearts and foster some sense of harmony, but my personal desire for and interpretation of what is ultimately a deeply personal and private commitment tends to outweigh social benefits and consequences.

If I were to have a public ceremony, it would be primarily for such social reasons as you outlined, and the personal commitment would already have been made, which I think is how most ceremonies really are and probably why most ceremonies don't much matter to me personally: I didn't walk for college graduation, I found scout ceremonies to be annoyingly put-on, I opened my mission call alone, I only wanted close family at my first time through the temple, etc.

Scott, you mis-read. Although, I do have to say: I think it might mean more to me than it does to most people (judging from many conversations and readings), and I do think my own same-sex union would definitely mean more to me than it ever will to most of my more conservative LDS friends and family, partially because I've been told point-blank that that's the case by a few of them and know that many hold beliefs which: place temple sealings as supreme and same-sex unions as patently temporal with no hope for being made eternal, regard same-sex unions as inferior by lack of procreative ability, see same-sex unions as based on faulty emotional development and perverted desire rather than genuine love, etc. This isn't about me understanding principles of aerodynamics most people don't, or knowing calculus better than 95% of the population (both of which are true for some people--not me--and merely a statement of fact, not pretense, if they were to say so). It's about very personal meaning and distinguishing those who truly respect it from those who merely tolerate it. It's about keeping perspective on what the union means to me: not social approbation, not convincing anyone that it's right, not making anyone more accepting, but about us committing to each other, with the other stuff being nice and meaningful but quite distantly secondary.

And I hoped to say it in a way LDS faithful might actually relate to in some way they otherwise might not, but maybe it was a failure on that front. :-)

Original Mohomie said...

P.S., I actually meant same-sex unions and non-temple unions or even non-religious unions, with emphasis on the same-sex unions.