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By Gwendolyn Ann Smith
Same-sex marriage. I cannot even begin to imagine how many words have been written on the topic over the last handful of years, from the congressional record to, well, this very paper. It has been an unavoidable topic, forcing those of us who are activists to dedicate inordinate amounts of our time to any number of uphill battles against state and federal bills designed to “preserve marriage.” For who it is really being preserved for still remains a mystery in my eyes.
In light of all that has been written to date, I feel a bit guilty to be taking a truncheon to this finely-ground horse. Unfortunately, I also feel like I cannot not say something about this topic.
You see, as a transgender woman who also happens to be in a marriage relationship, I have a slightly different take on this issue. I’ve also discovered that both transgender activists, and those struggling for same-sex marriage rights, have had issues with me being a married transgender woman.
From some of my transgender siblings, I have heard more than a little rancor about how the fight for marriage has weakened struggles for any other legislation. I cannot dispute this, given the amount of energy, focus, and cold, hard cash being put towards and endless strong of bad legislation designed to prevent a segment of society from having rights.
Some within the transgender community have taken the argument a touch further, however, suggesting that the fight for these marriage rights should be dropped in favor of other legislation. That is a point I cannot agree on, because I’ve seen these anti-marriage laws used one too many times against transgender people.
In most situations were DOMA legislations have existed, they have been used to rule against the marriages of transgender people.
Christie Lee Littleton of Texas lost her right to sue a doctor for malpractice in the care of her husband thanks to these laws, losing not only her rights as a married woman, but even losing her legal identity as a woman in the process. Others have lost their rights as heirs of the estates of their deceased spouses, the custody of their children, and their right to marry the person they love.
I worry that I, too, could end up in a situation like Ms. Littleton’s, where my rights as a married woman would get hung up on the fact that both my partner and I happen to be women.
Oddly enough, while I might expect to be embraced by those fighting for marriage rights, I am more often shunned. Some marriage advocates have even suggested that in order to be a part of the struggle for same-sex marriage, I must give up the marriage I currently enjoy. This argument is ludicrous, akin to suggesting that I could only fight for the rights of the disabled by becoming disabled.
No one will fight half as hard for ones’ rights as a person who fears losing them. Giving them up in order to fight to gain them is just not a rational argument from this side of that fence.
My partner and I have been married for thirteen years, a time long before even the first arguments for and against same-sex marriage sprung up. Back so many years ago, I was presenting in a different gender than the one I am in today, although my partner already knew I was transgender. Our license did not even have a place to fill in the gender of those getting married, because this was simply not an issue.
In the past decade plus three, my partner and I have built a strong marriage relationship, to the point where our marriage is, indeed, as big a part of our identities as is – for example – my gender.
If anything, that is what I want to be understood: my identity is not only that of being a transgender woman, but is also that of being a married woman. Neither is negligible, and neither may be seen as greater or lesser than the other.
That is why, in spite of all that has already been said, I am still willing to speak my mind on this issue.