Thursday, December 07, 2006

Symbolism



An open letter to [name redacted]:

Let me get this straight (no pun intended): You are a guy. Your life partner -- whom you call your husband -- is another guy. You are committed to each other as if you were legally married; you own a house together; the whole shebang. You had a commitment ceremony before friends and family and there you exchanged proclamations of love and fidelity with your man.

And you exchanged rings. Specifically, you wear what can only be referred to as a wedding band. On your left ring finger. And your husband wears one too.

I have no problem (obviously) with any of this. Heck, some day I'd love to be able to present a man to my family and friends and say, "This guy's the one. The rest of my life, this is the guy for me."

What strikes me as odd, though, is when you kvetch about people who see your ring -- again, it's on your left ring finger, and it's a wedding band -- and assume that you have a wife somewhere out there. You complain that this is an invasion of privacy. And you claim that it is an unwarranted conclusion to draw. You get upset that such comments, when you have to respond to them, put to you the choice of either (a) retreating to the closet by referring to your man-mate as a "wife", and switching pronouns accordingly, or (b) "outing" yourself by telling a stranger that the band represents a husband, not a wife. Neither option seems very appealing to you.

You claim that the ring is a private reminder, to yourself and your partner and to no one else, of your commitment, and it's no one's place to draw any inferences from your hand.

Honey, with all due respect, you need to face the consequences of your life choices. And by "life choices," I do not mean a choice to be gay, because I don't believe that's a choice. I'm referring to your choice to wear a wedding band, and to wear it on your left ring finger.

Let's face it: You've adopted the universal heterosexual symbol of commitment. The fact that it means something entirely different to you than it does to anyone else is of ZERO consequence here. I mean, none.

Yes, yes, yes, the issue of gay marriage has made headlines for a few years now. But with the exception of Massachusetts, no state has legal marriages. (Vermont, as I'm sure you know, created a civil equivalent to marriage for gay couples.) And every state that has since considered the question has voted to add to their state constitutions provisions that restrict marriages to a male joining with a female. So while gay marriages have, in fact, been making headlines, that doesn't exactly mean that it's been a successful P.R. drive, or that this country happily accepts men-whose-wedding-rings-represent-another-man.

Your ring is in clear public view. If you wanted a private reminder of your commitment to your man, you could have had his name tattooed across your ass. Or you could have discreetly put a ring on a chain and worn it around your neck (tucked inside your shirt). Or you could have worn a cock ring or inserted a butt plug (every time you shift in your chair, you'd think of him and smile). Hell, you could have discreetly stenciled his name on your fingernail. Each of these would have called less public attention to your union and could still have the purpose of affirming to you and your man that you are each other's life mate.

But no: you put on a ring. And by doing so you have made a public proclamation that's no different from wearing a crucifix around one's neck or a yarmulke on one's head. It's an outward manifestation pretty much compelling the viewer to reach one conclusion.

You simply cannot fault anyone for accepting your invitation to reach that conclusion.

Let's put it this way: You see a yarmulke, you're going to assume the wearer is an observant Jew. (Let's face it, yarmulkes aren't terribly fashionable among the non-Chosens.) Anyone sees a wedding ring, they're going to assume you're heterosexually coupled. Heck, if I were to put a wedding band on my left ring finger tomorrow, I'm sure strangers would think I'm hitched to a woman, despite the objective facts that I'm gay and I'm not actually coupled. The objective facts behind your ring matter only to you, but the signal that ring sends out doesn't necessarily track those objective underlying facts.

So get over it, [redacted]. Either be out and happy and prepared to talk about the unusual significance of the ring you wear, or quit bitching about having to hide the gender of your partner from people who draw that conclusion. I suppose the third option is to remove the ring completely, but even I would hate to see that happen.

4 comments:

Jamy said...

Nicely said!

Rich said...

'tis sad but true, you can't have your cake and eat him too. If you don't want someone in your house, don't give him a key. People are curious and they like to assume things. Take it as an opportunity to change some perceptions. Boy, when I find someone to "ring", I'm gonna have fun with it--although the idea of a butt plug IS intriguing...

Cincy Diva said...

I could not agree more! In fact, I would go so far as to say. wearing a ring is to proudly proclaim your commitment to another. To deny that commitment in any way is basically saying you are ashamed of that person.

Ryan said...

Well, you're not supposed to wear a cock ring for longer than 20 minutes - but I see your point. :)