As a trans woman, marriage is not only an opportunity to not only commit to the person I love, but also to celebrate the gender I’ve fought so hard for, says Toryn Glavin.
Marriage equality and gender identity aren’t always concepts which go hand in hand. Indeed the visibility of trans people was minimal in the campaign to win the marriage referendum in May 2015. It seemed a topic that was out of the trans realm.
Admittedly marriage is not something I ever put much thought into. Not because it holds little interest for me, but because of the inevitably of it all. Of course I’d walk down the aisle. Of course I’d wear that white dress.
I’ve said this many times, but growing up trans is a truly unusual experience. Your sense of self is warped and your future can seem so uncertain. It can be unclear exactly who you are or what you want.
Growing up I always knew I wanted the perfect suburban life. I wanted a husband, a nice house and 2.5 children. To me that seemed like the ideal. My home life could never have been considered conventional, but it was happy and safe and I always wanted to mirror that when it came to having my own family.
After I came out as a gay man I still considered my life in those terms. I pictured my wedding and in my mind a man and a woman stood at the altar. My home had this beaming woman in it, proud of all that she had achieved. My children had a loving mother who adored them in every way. Even at 15, when coming to terms with the fact I was a man attracted to other men, that image never faltered.
Looking back that image made a lot of sense. The disconnect between my gender identity and who I thought I was, was beginning to shine through. The beautiful bride, the beaming woman and the proud mother were all images which helped me to cling to a future in which I was happy.
Marriage is often seen as an institution steeped in tradition, one for those who can not imagine a more enlightened future. For me marriage is so much more. It’s an opportunity to not only commit to the person I love, but also to celebrate the gender which I have fought so hard for.
Non-LGBT weddings are such incredibly gendered spaces. Friends are divided into two teams depending on their gender to support the key players, whose main aim is to be as stereotypically female or male as possible. I fight every day to remind myself that I am enough, that I am a woman and that my opinion on this fact is the only one that matters.
As a result, is it a shock that I want to be captain of ‘team girl’ for just one day in my life? Is it surprising that I want to be seen by all my family and friends as the bride?
Gender norms and stereotypes can be very damaging. In many ways they lead to the continued oppression of women worldwide, as we are seen as the less valuable gender. Norms which identify us as emotional or irrational, or just plain crazy, ensure that women do not become fully equal; they foster the idea that we are less capable.
But sometimes as a trans women those norms can be comforting. I’ve never been one to try and fit into anyone else’s idea of what it is to be a woman. I rarely wear make-up and I love to dress like an art teacher twice my age. I’m incredibly aware of the ideas and stereotypes used to oppress me on a daily basis. Not only as a woman but also as a trans person. Despite all this, and indeed because of my acute awareness, marriage, and particularly the role of a bride, is still something which I’m hugely invested in.
For thousands of years, women across the globe have had this opportunity. They’ve had this chance to be the most important woman in the room. To be the centre of attention with her own take on womanhood displayed to the world. I want that opportunity.
However I give this advice to any queer woman, and particularly to my trans sisters: you decide what a woman is. No one can tell you what it is to be who you are. If you want to wear that handsome suit, do it. If you hate make-up, don’t wear it. If you’re not comfortable in heels, wear your beaten-up Converse. Your perfect day is only perfect if you are fully you.
Marriage has taken such a hit in recent years. Many women have turned against it, seeing it as a symbol of oppression and a construct of the patriarchy. In many ways this is true, but as queer and trans women we have the opporunity to take it back.
Marriage should not be simply for the heterosexual masses and those deemed important enough to be represented in the marriage equality campaign. It should be for anyone who wants it.
And I want it. I want it all.
You can find Toryn’s column in this month’s GCN.