Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Other kinds of gay marriages

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

There was a great editorial in the New York Times on Monday - the author, Jennifer Boylan, who is transgendered (male-to-female), wrote about the way that marriage is treated when it involves a spouse who has chosen a gender transition. This is not an uncommon phenomenon, as Boylan notes: "reliable statistics on transgendered people always prove elusive," she writes, "but just judging from my e-mail, it seems as if there are a whole lot more transsexuals — and people who love them — in New England than say, Republicans. Or Yankees fans."

This is a kind of marriage that is totally overlooked, and states have wildly varying ways of dealing with people who choose to transition after marrying a person of the opposite sex. Because it doesn't involve a strict binary definition of gender, people are often at a loss about how to classify the marriage. Is it a gay marriage, even though it didn't start that way? In some states, marriages are only considered valid if they involve people with opposite genitalia - and if that genitalia changes, too bad. Other states legislate on the basis of chromosomes. Weirdly, attempts to pin down gender on the level of DNA (which, as Boylan highlights throughout her editorial, is incredibly fluid) have actually resulted in the legalizing of marriages between women - as long as one member of the couple has a Y chromosome, they're good to go. This means that in the state of Texas, people who have androgen insensitivity syndrome but identify as female can still marry another woman.

The editorial is absolutely right in pointing out the absurdity of this system. The way that gender is defined changes from state to state, and inevitably, it comes down to the basic truth about marriage: that it should be about love, and not your anatomy. Boylan encourages us to "focus on accepting the elusiveness of gender — and to celebrate it. Whether a marriage like mine is a same-sex marriage or some other kind is hardly the point. What matters is that my spouse and I love each other, and that our legal union has been a good thing — for us, for our children and for our community."

And I say, amen to that. And let the storm continue to gather.

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