Ponderlust: You don’t have to like it, but we’re gonna put a ring on it

PONDERLUST

By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

“Are you mafia?” I ask, searching the hazel eyes across the table for a sign. “You’ve been awfully quiet. What are you hiding?”

“Nope.” Short and sweet, with a smile.

We’ve only just met, at a mutual friend’s dinner party that preceded everyone heading to the bar for a friendly game of Mafia. It’s been awhile since I’ve been out, and there are plenty of cute queers in the group to keep my attention. But I keep going back to those eyes.

On this cold November night, he is not the “mafia,” but he does eventually slay me. When the same mutual friend organizes a citywide game of Queer Assassin, we both sign up. Each participant is given a folder containing the name of their “target” and a few basic details. The objective is to “assassinate” the target through creative, non-violent means. Once you’ve taken down your person, their target becomes your next target and the game continues until only one player remains.

I don’t survive long. After foolishly revealing details about my work schedule on Facebook, I walk my bike out of the service exit at Pioneer Place Mall to be met with an unexpected silly string assault (followed by a toilet paper roll “stabbing” for good measure).

Behind the surprise attack are those eyes, kind and full of laughter. As it happens, we are both headed to a barn dance, so he tosses my bike in the back of his truck and gives me a ride. We dance to “Wagon Wheel.”

Less than a month later we are dating. It doesn’t take long for me to realize he’s a keeper, but we’re taking things slow, continuing to see other people. Still, there’s nothing I treasure more than our Sundays together. Sometimes they start on Saturday night, but they typically include a game of “hug and fall” football with friends at Unthank Park followed by waffles at Flavor Spot and an afternoon of lazing around.

It’s on one of these Sundays I realize I’m in love. We’ve reached the point where we no longer have to entertain one another; we can enjoy the sweetness of shared silence. Lying on his futon bed, we stare into each other’s eyes for what feels like hours.

I could do this forever, I think. Completely vulnerable, yet safe.

Three years later, I still feel that way when I look into his eyes. I wonder if this is how my grandparents felt about each other. After my grandmother passed away last year, we came across old love letters she exchanged with my grandfather. Their pining was so sweet and sincere, it’s no surprise their marriage surpassed the 50-year mark.

I want to celebrate 50 years of marriage. But I need to be able to get married first.

On a November birthday trip to the Washington coast, Corbin does his part — gets down on one knee, presents a ring, and asks me to love him forever against the backdrop of seemingly infinite Pacific Ocean. I say yes. Of course. I cry tears of joy.

As we share the happy news, people ask if we have plans. It’s complicated. I won’t come out as trans for another two months, so people don’t realize we can’t yet legally wed. See, we still pass as a straight couple. It’s not uncommon for people to assume we’re husband and wife.

Because the state of Oregon only requires a driver’s license as proof of identity when obtaining a marriage license, we could technically get married now. But what happens when I get a new driver’s license, with a more accurate photo and gender marker? When I change my passport and, eventually, my birth certificate? By being true to myself, I lose the freedom to be true to my heart.
I love my fiancé and I want to build a life with him. Shouldn’t that be enough? But before I can think about food, location, or guest list, I have to consider birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and ballot measures.

It’s not that I’ve never considered this before. I’ve been queer for as long as I’ve been seriously dating, so legal marriage has always seemed like a long shot. But these few years spent passing as hetero makes the absurdity of it all the more clear.

While I understand those who would rather see something besides marriage get top billing in the LGBTQ movement, I can’t help but be personally and politically invested in the fight. Because for me, as for so many other queer people in love, marriage equality is the only answer to a question that ought not be so complicated.

So, here’s to the freedom to marry in 2014 — ‘cause I plan on holding this gaze for the next 50 years, and then some. And I don’t take kindly to being told what I can or cannot do.

Erin used to write a column called “Query a Queer.” Never one to leave a question unanswered, Erin welcomes all queries big and small and may continue to answer them on the blog while he uses this space to ponder life’s twists and turns. Send questions, high fives, and Polaroids of your heart to erin@pqmonthly.com.

Originally published in PQ Monthly.

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