View From the Bottom: Have Your Cake

An Ode to Making Marriage Your Own Slice of Heaven

BY EMELL DERRA ADOLPHUS

Cake is often the centerpiece of our celebrations. And depending on the occasion - birthdays, baptisms, and most of all, weddings - our preferential palates can give away bits and pieces of our identities with each bite.

White cake with white buttercream frosting implies conservative, while banana nut can feel Boho. As for vegan, dairy and sugar free - bleh.

At the Ultimate LGBT Wedding & Anniversary Expo on March 26, personalization was the most appealing promise. When marriage has historically left little wiggle-room for interpretation, customizing your ceremony can feel like a coup.

Generally, couples are quickly forgiven for ceremonial deviations that may be considered in "bad taste." Yet when we are faced with arrangements that challenge our social conventions like open marriages, we are often not so tolerant. Could we be clinging to the bad moralizing that was once used to oppress us?

It's an age-old issue that only feels new now that same-sex couples can get married, explains philosopher and author John Corvino who married his partner of 15 years last year.

"Do I think that some gay people who have been the object of bad moralizing and other people's being busybodies then turn around and do that themselves? Yes, absolutely. Do I think that some gay people forget to approach people with the same open mind that we ourselves expect from people? Yes. But I don't think that any of that is unique to gay people," he says. "I think every marriage, heterosexual or same-sex, has to figure out the specific contours of marriage and what those mean in their particular circumstance."

Next month marks the 25th anniversary of Corvino's magnum opus "What's Morally Wrong With Homosexuality?" He first delivered the lecture as a grad student at the University of Texas at Austin in 1992. But with age, the lecture's central message, like the author, has appreciated in value.

"The moral argument that many of us heard growing up and still hear today can function as a kind of challenge to intimacy, a challenge to relationships, and can be extra baggage that we carry as we enter into a relationship," he says. "I mean relationships are challenging for everybody. But I think they are particularly challenging for those who lack the social support of family, of their community and so on. And the moral objections to same sex relationships have been the primary way in which we have experienced that lack of support."

In hindsight, homosexuality's "rightness" seems cut and dried--thanks, in part, to Corvino's work to spread the gospel. Similarly, as our community collectively refines the comforts of our commitments, marriage will be more inclusive.

"There are legal aspects of it. There are social aspects of it that depend upon a shared understanding across a community. So the challenge is recognizing that shared understanding and also figuring out how to apply it in specific lives."

His advice? "The sort of wise crack answer I give is 'low expectations.' But I only mean that half jokingly in the sense that people put a great deal of pressure on relationships, expecting their spouse to be their everything at every moment and to meet all of their emotional, physical, intellectual, social needs all the time," he says. "That makes for very nice engagement card poetry, but I don't think that it makes for a good theory of a successful marriage. I think that the people coming together in marriage and living together in marriage have to be complete persons. And as complete persons, they recognize that they help each other, they support each other, but they continue to be complete persons."

Long before couples say, "I do," physical and emotional exchanges begin to bond our separate existences. Shared dresser drawers grow to closet space and sides of the bed. Soon, you're finishing each other's sentences and then sometimes you need no words at all. It's easy to feel like you've been "married" when you share everything but a last name, all the more reason to make sure it is official in writing.

We've fought for that much, to have our cake and eat it, too.

Emell Derra Adolphus is a columnist who examines gay sex, people & politics in metro Detroit. Commiserate and share your stories at EmellDerraAdolphus@gmail.com.
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