we are orlando: why bill H.R.2976 does not mean marriage equality
I want to dedicate this to the people who lost their lives in the Orlando massacre.
This morning I woke up with my wife’s alarm at six. I remembered that we’d polished off the last of the salad over the weekend, so I threw on my robe and made Emma something fresh for lunch while she brushed her teeth. I had nowhere to be and I could go back to sleep but honestly, it was more important that she eat something healthy than be forced to buy greasy, American, hospital food.
We got married last year. I’m an Aussie and she’s a yank. The only way for us to be married legally with all the benefits of shared insurance, the ability to both legally parent a child, and society embracing it because we have a certificate, just like everyone else, was for me to move to Pennsylvania and be with her while she finished her studies to be a surgical tech.
The day I left Australia, I tweeted in anger @TonyAbbott as I was rushed away from my parents to queue in customs because of a strike. I remember thinking I was flying away from a box scattered with small thinkers and into the land of freedom and opportunity where there’s a black president, so surely the people are cool, and I can live in harmony with heteros as I grocery shop for organic quinoa in Wegmans with my wife.
When Emma turned the corner with her bag over her shoulder and keys around her neck, I passed her the salad and I felt a twinge in my gut. Our wedding felt like a normal wedding. Our struggles as a couple feel like the ones our parents warned us about, the ones they went through too. And I don’t feel like I’m making “lesbian” spaghetti when I’m shopping for groceries with my spouse. But I looked at my wife, who used to go on road trips to Orlando with her cheerleading squad, whose stepdad would drive them the whole way in one go, and I told her to be safe out there. She looked at me like I had made a ridiculous joke and I grabbed her shoulders and told her this was serious, that people were dead, and she nodded and rolled her eyes in a way she thought I didn’t notice.
We kissed. I said, ‘Olive you from my head tomatoes’. And she called me a goofball. I went back upstairs and slumped into her pillow to smell her shampoo, and scrolled Facebook to read what all my queer Aussie friends were saying about the massacre.
They called for guns to be taken and destroyed, and mourned their fallen siblings. I was glad that most of them saw through the Islamophobia that was being bolstered by the American media, disguising the fact that the greatest mass shooting in recent US history was a hate crime committed against the queer community in their safe space.
I noticed one queer girl I went to uni with had changed her profile picture with a GLAAD add-on that said ‘we are Orlando’. I clicked it and used my current profile picture, of my wife and I kissing. I looked at it and I felt my gut churn again, because I realised that we are Orlando. Emma and I are twenty-somethings who could easily be in a gay bar in Philly having a drink over the weekend with our peers. Holding hands, giving each other a tender little peck, sharing a cocktail with the same straw, taking for granted that we’re in a place we can be without shame that we’re offending someone with our love.
Any American can then go to the local sporting goods store and grab a gun and all the ammo they need and march on in because it’s their right to open carry, and kill us because our love is more evil to them than killing 50 people.
I questioned today whether it’s better to just say yes when strangers ask if we’re sisters, or the doctor asks if I’m Emma’s mother, because it makes more sense that a twenty two year old is a twenty year old’s mum than that they’re wives. But I owe it to my ten year old sister-in-law, who ships Em and I harder than anyone, to show her that I am proud to be in love with her sister.
It’s more important to show the world that I would die for my wife just like anyone would die for the people they love, even if it actually means putting my life on the line by being openly and proudly married.