On Marriage: Impaled? Have A Bandage!

06Nov09

This has all been said before. But I might as well offer some repetition because people aren’t getting it.

There’s been a whole lot of talk about marriage lately. I’m sure you’ve all noticed the flurry of activity on the part of the GLB…(t) community to get legal marriage extended to gay couples all over America. A move that might, maybe, cover trans folk who are still legally seen as their birth assigned sex and are heterosexual. Maybe. And prolly cover gay trans folks unless folk really want to be giant cissexist douchebags. Numerous states have blocked it or simply not succeeded in passing it. Some have judicially crushed laws blocking it and legalized it, others have gone to civil unions instead.

But surprisingly, that’s not important. Yes, I know, you’re thinking: “Wait, did she just say that trans folk being affected by gay marriage isn’t important?” Well you’d be partially wrong, because I actually said that about the entire damn deal. Marriage. In general. And now, you’re prolly twitching a bit going, “But KH! How can you oppose gay marriage!? I didn’t think you were homophobic!” Well after I finish laughing at that statement, wipe the tears out of my eyes and regain my composure, I’ll set you on the right path. Marriage is the problem. Overall. Straight folk marriage too. Not just gay marriage. Marriage is an issue.

So now that you’re suitably thrown off, I might as well explain why.

Analogy time. Imagine if you will that you just got impaled by a 37 inch long metal spike/pipe (only quarter of an inch in radius). Let’s say a construction accident winged that sucker at high speed right into your gut. Sort of a shitty situation right? You’ve got this nasty long thing of metal in some of your internal organs and you’re losing a bit of blood. Okay, a lot of blood. Well the hospital guys get out the electric cutters and take down enough of it so that you’ve only got maybe a few inches sticking out on either side. Now, you’d expect them to, yanno, take the damn thing out right? Maybe give you some antibiotics, stitch up the wound, give you some painkillers, give you some down time so you can heal up good as new, right?

They give you a gauze bandage and some medical tape.

“Wtf,” you say, “what the hell am I supposed to do with this?”

The doctor stares at you like you’re a dipshit and says, “put it over the wound, duh.”

Let me sum this up in very distinct terms. You have a big fuckoff pipe of metal in through your insides. And he gives you a goddamn bandaid. You’d be pissed right? Right. Well snap back to reality. One this is not a statement on how fucked up our health care system is (although this could happen for real). That impaled person is not actually you. That impaled person is society. The 37 inch long steel spike is a bunch of social issues created by poorly written laws, social problems, poorly set up financial systems and an overall structure within society that fucks over people within certain financial classes and benefits only those in others. Antibiotics, taking the fucking pipe out, stitches, down time, heavy bandages, and painkillers are all the things necessary to make it so society can function (infected, slow bleeding pipe in your gut makes it hard to do that). These things are, quite obviously, reform. Changing the broken laws, changing the broken financial systems, regulating them too, fighting the classism in our society and etc.

So what’s the bandage, you ask? Marriage.

Yes that’s right. Marriage solves some problems, but only in a few places and in a very limited fashion. The bandage the doc gives you slows the bleeding, might even stop it. But the infections will spread, the pole will still interfere with your function, and the lack of painkillers will make it tough to deal with the pain. Marriage is a bandaid that benefits a certain class of people. Monoamorous, middle class, upper class folk who are employed in such a way that allows medical payment. Everyone else, it fails to help at all. And the way that it handles things creates a host of legal entanglement issues that lead to messy and nasty divorces instead of reasonably smooth splits. So that bandage? Spiked with kerosene and salt. Yeah, it’s a shitty bandage.

Why don’t we get some examples of things that marriage bandages?

1: Hospital Visitation Rights:
This one arises from our shit poor privacy laws. There’s nothing wrong with laws protecting privacy. What’s wrong is how they’re written. They only let in your blood or legal family (and spouse is considered a part of your family). This is fucked on several zones. One, not everyone is on good terms with blood family. Abusive parents, hated siblings, etc are all very bad folk to allow to visit someone in a hospital. Especially if an abusive parent put them there. The spouse end of it fucks over polyamorous people, who may have more than one partner, law allows only one spouse. And there’s absolutely no way to allow in non legal family (i.e. family you’ve adopted as your own without law stuff), close friends (which many folk are closer to than their family and even their spouse or partners), or even business partners or lawyers. Why does the government decide who’s allowed to see us in the hospital at all? I have several really close, deeply loved friends (who are not in any way partners) but I regard them like family. They are more important to me than my blood family and if they were nearby, I’d want them to visit me in the hospital and be there for me.

Real Solution: Establish legal allow lists so people can choose a set of folk who are allowed to visit them.

2: Health insurance access:
It’s a well known fact that health insurance benefits are offered sometimes to partners (domestic partner benefits), almost always offered to families and almost always offered to spouses. But this is, once again, only to legal families and one spouse only (one partner too). And really, it’s a part of the intensely fucked up and broken system of health insurance that America has. You know, that system where greater profit is gained by not providing the service that it’s your job to provide? In a system (capitalism) where greed is a virtue? Familiar with that? Insurance systems are not functional in capitalism unless competition is enforced to such a degree that startups are literally fed money by the government to challenge established companies on a constant basis. That will never happen. Cuz the same people that support epic capitalism hate the idea of any government interference (even though market forces don’t work with insurance. Oh well)

Real Solution: Public, nonprofit single payer healthcare coverage for every American that doesn’t opt out to get private healthcare.

3: Joint tax returns + financial entity merging:
I put two of them together because really, they’re the same damn thing. This is a little thing we like to call financial symbiosis. One would say that this is particularly unique to partners and couples but one would be excluding poly folk (as there’s more than two involved). And even if one included poly folk, this is still romantic relationship specific. There are instances where one would want to tie finances together with a semi permanent or permanent housemate/roommate, a family member, a close as hell friend they live with, etc. These people are fucked.

Real Solution: Legal system for financial symbiosis, that people can enter on their own, irregardless of romantic or non romantic relationship and w/ multiple people.

4: Making medical decisions for spouse, death arrangements etc:
Did you know that some people have friends they trust with that right more than their family or spouse? Why the hell is this automatically family centric?

Real Solution: List of decision makers for given contexts and legal power of attorney (already exists!)

5: Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse:
And if you live with a close friend who you possess a financial and legal symbiosis with? How does that get handled.

Real Solution: Legal symbiosis functions in similar way, allowing for decision coverage for mutual things like joint accounts.

6: Visiting rights in jails and places that are family only:
They shouldn’t be fucking family only. They should be allowing more than just family. Not everyone makes family out of legal or blood ties. And close friends are often the only connection many people have.

Real Solution: Reform the jail system and include legal symbiosis on lists of allowance.

7: Immigration passage for spouses:
Legal symbiosis would cover this too but really, the whole immigration system in America is a giant clusterfuck. Why not fix the entire damn thing at once, instead of handling one small portion of the overall problem?

Real Solution: Reform the hopelessly broken immigration laws of America.

There’s a lot of things I didn’t go over here given to married folk that are actually exclusionary as hell to folk who aren’t in relationships and for no good reason either. It’s just randomly giving privileges to monopartnered folk, elevating them over friendships, non blood family and multiple partners. This is a problem overall, one created by marriage; which has more or less become a classist issue to begin with. It also creates this idea that a married relationship is more valid, more committed, more acceptable than an unmarried partnership. Which is fucked up.

There’s some things on that list I didn’t include because it would be redundant. Those issues would be included under the solutions already placed and I’m trying not to make my posts giant fucking novellas anymore.

This stuff is not hard people. If we fix these problems at their roots, society will be better for pretty much everyone, instead of a small group that can afford a marriage license, is monoamorous, is straight in a lot of places, gay in some others and only possess the kind of connection that warrants legal symbiosis with a partner. Oh and actually likes their family and has not expanded beyond blood and legality to make family or has not replaced blood family and legal family for adopted family. You know what I like to call a solution that solves a bunch of nasty social issues for a tiny group of people based on certain, more widely accepted traits over individuals who have less accepted traits, leaving them in the dust? Privileged bullshit.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a call out against monogamous folks who go off and get married. The way you express your partnership and love is entirely your zone. And I support that. But the way the concept of marriage is handled in law, the things it is used (poorly) to solve (for very few) is still a problem. None of that has bearing on your marriage, how happy it is, or the wild sex you have (I would hope anyways). But it has a shit ton of bearing on the goals of social movements. Especially the population marked as middle class monoamorous GLB (cis and trans) with a few realistic straight trans folk too who see how such laws might benefit them despite the dissonant bullshit they have to deal with there. When several communities (feminism, GLB….(t?) mainly) are concentrating more efforts on something that only helps a tiny subset of them instead of everyone (including that subset) shit. Has. Gone. Wrong.

So let’s take the goddamn bandage off the impaled pipe wound, get it the fuck out of society’s left lung, patch society up, give some antibiotics and painkillers and give it the down time it needs to heal. Instead of creating a shit funnel that people have to squeeze through to exclusion of others each time just to get the basics. Fucking self explanatory.



17 Responses to “On Marriage: Impaled? Have A Bandage!”

  1. Yeah, I agree – I mean, obviously this post is very US-centric (and why not, you’re from the US of course!) but a lot of the stuff applies here (UK) too and many other places.

    (And don’t get me started on how the UK’s “Civil Partnership” vs “Marriage” situation fucks over trans people, by the way.)

    But… not sure how to put this very well …

    I suppose, to expand on your analogy, much as I do agree with you that marriage is like being given bandage and gauze tape when you’re heavily injured/bleeding to death, if there was no other medical aid being offered at all, I’d be very angry if other people were being offered that but I wasn’t you know? So… I wouldn’t say I “oppose” it as such, more that I think there are things that are a hell of a lot more important to spend effort and energy on, especially if that energy is limited.

    [Full disclosure; it is the UK's Civil Partnership law that will enable my girlfriend to live over here permanently with me. Yes, absolutely, a change in the immigration laws would mean that wasn't needed, but the way the UK is going we're actually more likely to get - 'tougher' - on immigration, as that's the way the Daily Fail readers and the politicians who want their votes think.]

  2. Oh including the bandage while we work on the issues is certainly a good idea. It does slow bleeding after all. But right now we’re concentrating huge amounts of resources to privilege a small group of people over the entire community.

    That’s a problem.

  3. And, sorry, meant to add (hope you don’t mind me posting twice) one thing that bugs me a lot about the situation wrt the gay marriage thing is, that we (sort of, although not quite) have it here already in the UK, and it feels sometimes like there’s a sense of, “ok, now we’ve got that, we’re done now.” Like I said, I don’t “oppose” it (although, I think there are more useful things to spend energy on, like I said, and that’s even here where our healthcare system is better and things like hospital/jail visiting etc. are not quite as bad) it’s just that – well, it’s only one thing, one, what, “civil right”? – in a sea of denied rights.

    And I don’t know if your lot there has a strategy for “ok, once we get gay marriage, what then?” either, you know?

  4. Ironically, one of the automatically-generated links is entitled “In Defense Of Arranged Marriage”

    Anyway, I completely agree with you. The whole concept of marriage as a LEGAL – as opposed to purely cultural and/or religious – institution has always struck me as bizarre

  5. It’s the same here. There’s seemingly no plan for post marriage. It’s cuz we lose a lot of the middle class and upper class queers from activism once they’ve got marriage.

  6. I would say that is a legal institution based off of religious values-at least that is what I am told by all my Christian friends.

    I am glad you addressed the overlooked issues, RP, but I have the same concern that I have every time I hear someone speak of reform: how the fuck are we going to convince anti-evolution conservative US that the marriage system needs to be repaired?

    Part of being conservative entitles that you believe that there is no reason for things to change and if someone tries to bring about a change that is desperately needed then they are socialist(I am going to be pissed about this till the day I die).

  7. I never said it would be easy. Just that it’s the only way to fix the system. XD

  8. Isn’t that the truth.

  9. 9 Shadow Dragon

    Very well put RP. I think part of the problem is that the word “marriage” carries too much importance. It seems that most peopole concisder it to be the end all, be all of relationships. From day one people are taught that their relationship with their spouse is only legitimate relationship and anything less means you two aren’t really committed.

  10. This is almost certainly the best post on marriage i’ve ever read :)

    Only just discovered your blog, BTW. Lots and lots of awesomeness here. I’m probably going to comment on loads of posts as i read through them. Hope you don’t mind new comments on older (off the first page) posts…

  11. No worries. The content is there to be read, no matter how old. Some of it is a bit depreciated though and operates on obsolete viewpoints. I don’t remove posts that I later disagree with. It’s there for the natural progression.

  12. 12 Ryles

    I agree completely, I’ve always had serious issues with legal marriage. Except for immigration, I don’t think my partner and I ever would have gotten married. Maybe if we’d have to be married to make sure we could both be legal guardians for our kids or would have an easier time adopting or something- but that’s not going to come up for years.

    I also don’t like how people treat divorce- most people don’t care that much if you break up with a partner or expect you to stay in a potentially damaging relationship to “Try to make it work”, but as soon as you slap a ring on your finger people will judge you for ending it.

    I also really don’t like the idea that other people get to say when you’re married. As far as we’re concerned, we were married long before the law said “Oh, yeah, we’ll acknowledge that”. How often do we let the state or God decide what you can label a relationship as? You don’t have to sign anything to be best friends.

  13. 13 nick012000

    I disagree, at least with regard to jails. You know what we call “family” formed outside of “legal or blood ties”? Gangs. You do not want prisoners communicating with their fellow gangsters that are on the outside of the prison; it defeats half the purpose, and it makes the organized crime problems in this country even worse.

  14. @Nick: You do realize blood family comprised and still does comprise much of the organized crime groups like the mafia and many of the drug cartels, right? Your basis can be used to keep out all family, not just non blood.

    Also, my non blood family is not a gang, what a ridiculous bit of stereotyping generalizing bullshit you just spouted.


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