29 Mar 2015

Two Women Still Denied Their Right to Marry

From Full Marriage Equality:

“Bean”: I am a female artist in my mid-20s, who grew up in the conservative west. […] I am a bisexual, or perhaps more accurately, a lesbian with some heterosexual tendencies. I am a woman with a fair balance of masculine and feminine tendencies; some days I’m very feminine, other days I’m just one of the guys.

[…] I had a fairly unique upbringing. There were aspects of my childhood that were typical of most, but the biggest difference was that I was a secret for the larger portion of my childhood. This had several effects on my life. I was the result of an affair my father had with my mother (he was cheating on the mother of my sister, and one of my brothers). Rather than come clean, my father and mother both decided that the best solution at the time was to raise me in secret and separately from my siblings. He would come to see me now and then, but only under certain circumstances. No one from the family even knew of my existence until I was about 10-12 years old, but I knew about them from a very young age.  It’s one thing having secrets. It’s a completely different ballgame to be a secret yourself. […]

“Tortilla”: Bean is my half-sister, but I don’t call her that. I call her my sister. Half is good enough to be full! […] I am ten years older than Bean. I actually went to law school, so it’s ironic to me to be a lawyer who is breaking the law with her relationship. […] I am not married, but I am in a nine-year long relationship with my boyfriend in addition to my newer relationship with my sister. My boyfriend and I never planned to marry, and marriage has always been something that is not important for me personally. But I think people who are consenting adults who love each other should be able to declare their family unit legally.

[…] I am bisexual, and have realized that since high school, although I have memories going back to kindergarten of being attracted to girls in addition to boys. I believe more in spectrum sexuality than categorical sexuality, and my sense is that most people are somewhere in the middle rather than exactly at either end of the spectrum. […] I also see the masculine and feminine as a spectrum, and I’d put myself somewhere in the middle of that spectrum as well. […] I definitely consider myself a woman, but I often identify with gender norms of men more often than women. As for relationship orientation, I consider myself monogamous as my natural inclination. However, I cannot avoid the reality that I have two partners: my boyfriend and my sister. So I am acting in a polyamorous relationship, although I identify as monogamous.

[…] [W]hen Bean turned 18 or 19, I started to think more about her and wondered about where she was in life and what she was like. I decided to write her a letter letting her know that I wanted to get to know my sister, and that there were no personal hard feelings against her for what our dad had done. I invited her to reach out when she felt ready to do so. […]

“Bean”: About a year and a half passed, and I finally was prompted that I needed to respond to her letter. I sent a reply, then also sent an email to an address that she gave with her letter, to let her know that I’d sent one back. […] I didn’t expect a response, but to my surprise, she wrote back less than two hours later. And to my even greater surprise, she happened to be visiting town that very week. It was very surreal. We made a time to meet up at the end of the week for lunch, which turned into a whole day event. We both connected so fast and so intensely from the moment we saw each other, we didn’t want to let each other go. It was honestly one of the best days of my life. I was just so thrilled to have my sister, and that she was so wonderful and so like me in ways I never anticipated.

[…] I loved everything about her: she was so smart and witty, she understood and mirrored my humor in ways that no one else ever had, she was beautiful and suave, kind, understanding, non-judgmental of me, caring, invested. Everything I could ever possibly want in a sister, in a best friend, and in a lover, I began to slowly realize. […]  It was this trust and intimacy; combined with the years of longing to belong with her, and the recognition of our souls with each other, that gradually turned into feelings more than sisters.

About three months into our relationship, I came to visit her for a month. The beginning of the visit was still fairly “normal”, although both of our feelings had risen in intensity on either side. About a week in, though, it had become pretty apparent to both of us that the other had the same feelings. But we were both still afraid and too ashamed to say them.

We had gone on a walk to the park one particular night. We sat on the swings together and both talked and enjoyed the silences. But there was a weighted feeling between us, of words that weren’t being said. As we sat on the swings, we watched a shooting star fall across the sky. Both of us made a wish to ourselves. I’d come to find out later, that she had wished to not do anything to ruin the relationship we were building; that she would have enough self-control to not kiss me.  I had simply wished to be with her forever.

She had been staying with me in my room during my visit, so we could stay up later and talk until we fell asleep, using every possible second we could to be together. It was normal by this point for us to cuddle and be otherwise physically affectionate, but only just on this side of the line between sisterly affection and romantic touch. But this night was filled with a lot of emotional tension, and we both could see where it was going. I loved being next to her, smelling her and feeling her so close beside me. I began to tickle her skin and rub her back, like I had done nights previously. But this time, she whispered, “What do you want from me?”  I didn’t know what to say, but I knew what I wanted. But I was too scared to say it first. I encouraged her to say what was on her mind. Reluctantly, she finally confessed that she had those feelings for me.

I was both thrilled inside that I was not alone in my feelings, but also terrified because I had no idea what to do from there. I was afraid of my feelings. She leaned in and kissed me, and at first I was motionless, paralyzed between choices. Then I slowly returned the kiss, but Tortilla had already felt like I’d rejected her and rolled away from me and began to cry. I reached for her and held her close and whispered I was so sorry; I didn’t want to hurt her.

The next night we lay there just as before, and eventually she turned to me again, and we kissed – slowly at first, and then with more intent. We ended up making love for the first time that night. It’s still so memorable to me. I held her close and ran my fingers through her hair, whispering softly to her, smelling her sweet scent and just feeling so close and so much love. It was beautiful. I had never before felt so connected in every possible way to someone. It’s really not something you can describe. You have to experience it to know what it means to really love someone in this way. […]

“Tortilla”: Now the fact that our relationship began as an affair kept secret from my boyfriend for several months is a separate matter. In that sense, what we did was morally wrong. I owed my boyfriend the right to know about it and have a say in whether he found the situation acceptable. I betrayed his trust in acting before talking about it with him. But at the time I also felt like I was so driven that I couldn’t not be sexual, and so unable to talk about such a taboo thing with someone who I did desire to maintain my long-term relationship with. When we did ultimately come clean to him, together, it was somewhat surprising to learn that he was not at all shocked or repelled by the incest aspect. He was terribly hurt by the secret aspect, and it took a long time to work through that. And also to come to terms with the concept of transitioning from a monogamous relationship to a family unit that included some polyamorous overtones. He has actually adjusted extremely well and is absolutely supportive of mine and Bean’s relationship.

[…] We are three roles actually: sister, best friend, and lover/partner in all things. It’s not that those things are necessarily distinct, but there are different aspects to our relationship that are fed by each of those relational elements, and we would not have as complete and fulfilling a relationship were it not for all three facets. I tried to remove the romantic aspect at one point, breaking things off with Bean, and it was a terribly hard time. I realized and learned the hard way that we can’t excise part of who we are to each other. We just are those things. Luckily, she agreed to take me back and leave her new girlfriend behind for me.

[…] We have people who are in the know, and people who are on deck to know, and people who maybe never will know. Boyfriend was the first to know, of course. And in the beginning I think we felt that we’d have to keep it secret. But there is a huge burden to being secretive. This is something Bean knows firsthand, because her existence was secret in the beginning, and she lived with the stress and burden of that for a long time. It made her question her reality, her actual existence in a way. Can you imagine that? Questioning whether you are real because of how others are allowed to know you? This is why a closeted existence is something no one should have to put up with.

But we recognize that it is simply not safe to be completely open. I have told one of my close friends, who is completely supportive and nonjudgmental; not even shocked in the least. Bean has told a handful of her friends, some of whom I would consider friends myself. It is nice to be able to be around those people and completely be ourselves. Boyfriend has some polyamorous friends in our hometown who have also been let in on the secret, and they don’t care in the least. So far no one that we have told has reacted negatively, although I imagine we can’t bat 1000 forever.

There are maybe a few more people that she could tell than me because her background is to be surrounded by more bohemian type people who tend to be very open and nontraditional. I have a lot of professional concerns to protect against. My professional reputation could be irrevocably damaged if people were to find out about my true relationship life, even though we are loving and cause no one harm. It’s a reality. So I am being more selective about who I will tell so far. I have a few people in mind, but telling is hard when you love someone and want them to keep loving you and fear they may not. I don’t think we plan to tell any family members, although there are some who may be able to accept it. […]

“Bean”: It does hurt me when I am not able to fully express my relationship with my sister to others. […] It’s especially hard when I can see that she and her boyfriend, just by nature of being an unrelated female and male, can act any way they want to with each other in public. They can be as open or as closed as they please. That freedom is something I desperately want to have. And when we are with family or unknowing friends, that is also very tough. They are automatically “paired off” with each other, and I feel like the dorky tag-along little sister who others think can never quite get her life together. It’s a tough situation to be in sometimes, and sometimes the jealousy is really hard to deal with. But it’s a sacrifice I make, because having what we have together is so much better than what we’d have without each other.

[…] I think it’s completely ridiculous that anyone thinks they have the right to tell consenting adults whom they can and cannot love. Who you love is no one’s right but your own. I would think members of the LGBT community would be especially understanding of this, but surprisingly, that’s not always the case. I would say, don’t judge something that you don’t understand and have never experienced.  Don’t infringe on other’s right to love in a consenting, safe way. It doesn’t affect you, and it doesn’t concern you.  Love is love. As long as it’s safe, healthy, and consensual, it shouldn’t matter who it is or how it happened.

[…] I’d marry her yesterday. In all seriousness, Tortilla is my soulmate. She is my partner in all things. I want to be her wife.  My wish on that star? Still holds true. I just want to be with her forever.

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Why do I support consanguinamory?

An anonymous user on Tumblr asked:

I hope this doesn’t sound weird and I’m sure you get asked all the time, but why are you for incestuous / consaguinamory relationships and marriages? Every example I’ve ever heard has come from a background of abuse, or perhaps neglect from parents to have exposure to the outside world. I want to understand though, I want to understand in what context you believe this is okay and not abusive, and why you believe that it should be fought for?

It’s not weird, but others get asked it more than me. Before, people would just unfollow me. It’s more unusual for someone to ask about it before passing judgment.

One of the things you should notice is that there isn’t any child abuse in any of the cases I’ve posted about, unless I’m taking someone to task for it. I hate the equation of “incest” (I hate how broadly we use that word) with familial child abuse, in the same way that I hate how homophobes equate all homosexuals with men who abuse young boys – and yes, they do make that equation. It seems that some of my followers can make this distinction, too.

You want to know why? Because when I see two consenting adults who’ve fallen in love and want to build a life together, I think it’s beautiful. And then I have to sit and watch as everyone around them tars and feathers them, beats and strangles them, shames them, throws them in jail, and puts them on the sex offender registry for life. People who’ve been abused speak out, because they hope they can find support from their friends. People in non-abusive relationships don’t speak out, because they know that their friends and family will try to hurt them. It’s actually far more common than you realize, and I come across more and more cases all the time.

I am tired of people killing themselves or getting murdered by their families. It sickens me when our society cares more about punishing non-conformity than helping the victims of real abuse. Our society is far too prurient. When people celebrate gay men getting married, no-one seems to get all that confused about the lack of equivalence with adult men sexually abusing young boys, but if the two are half-siblings, suddenly it gets extremely confusing for people. It’s totally legal to return to your home town after college and marry your old teacher, but if you have sex with a woman who never raised you, but who happened to have carried you for 9 months, suddenly you’re a sex offender. None of that sounds sane to me.

What you’re talking about is a major assumption, and it’s one that’s created by stereotypes perpetuated by our culture and the media. I never internalized those assumptions. Actually, I think such couples are sweet. It has also never stopped me from hating child abuse. I know and know of people who’ve been abused by family, and people who’ve had consensual sex with family. The two groups don’t negate each other, any more than a priest having a romantic relationship with another man negates those boys who’ve been victimized by priests.

Besides, I hope you realize that a majority of all long-term sexual relationships between blood-relatives are among reunited relatives. It’s called genetic sexual attraction. Literally every human being is capable of it, because our instincts evolved in a context in which 99.9% of children were raised by their biological parent, with their biological siblings. If you ever find yourself meeting a long lost half-sibling, you might find your feelings changing rather quickly.

And what about cousin couples? They’re not even considered biologically “incestuous”, and we have no natural instincts to prevent attraction to cousins. Most cultures now don’t consider even 1st-cousins to be “incestuous”. Hell, double 1st-cousins are allowed to marry under all Abrahamic religions, even though double 1st-cousins are as genetically related as half-siblings. Double 1st-cousin marriage is also allowed in half the US, and in a majority of countries. I mean, Islam allows it, and Islam is way stricter about consanguinamory than Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. The Torah doesn’t even specify a uniform punishment for all types – siblings who’ve had sex are merely banished. (Also, the Torah allows for uncles and nieces to marry. Remember that the next time someone tells you that cousin marriage is “against God” or whatever.)

It’s not like the laws are universal, anyway. What’s considered “incest” in any given culture has changed drastically over time. Now Iranians live under Twelver Shi’i shari’ah law (mostly), but in ancient times marriages to close relatives were venerated as holier than exogamous marriages. Exposure to Islam and Hinduism has changed modern Zoroastrianism to forbid such marriages, but 1st-cousin marriages are still preferred among the Parsis. Before the Romans actively tried to eliminate the practice, sibling marriage was preferred among the Egyptians, and as much as a fifth of all marriages were between siblings. The Romans even used the threat of violence to eliminate the practice from their Kurdish Zoroastrian provinces. Western imperialists and Christian missionaries later went around the world and tried their best to eliminate similar practices among those cultures which had them.

That was, of course, under systems of arranged marriage (though not all the marriages were necessarily arranged, or unwanted by the participants). The point is, the prohibition is pretty damn arbitrary, and always has been. Such couples have existed since the dawn of humanity, and in most cultures they’ve been hunted down and tortured to death for no other reason than people thought it was “unnatural” and a “bad omen”. Why should nice people, who aren’t even that unusual, be hunted down like rabid dogs and thrown away for life? Why should their children be ripped from them and placed in foster homes where they are actually more likely to be sexually abused? Why should society waste its time and resources suppressing something that doesn’t need to be suppressed, to protect nobody, and destroy families that would otherwise contribute positively to society?

Many countries allow consanguineous sex, anyway. Last time I checked, Brazil’s problems weren’t because they allow consensual adults to have sex, or because they allow half-siblings to marry. France and Japan don’t seem to be falling into ruin. Australia and England get by while allowing 1st-cousins to marry. I have yet to see anyone claim that France is a cesspool of child rape. Historically, “incest” laws were not created with child welfare in mind, and other laws exist to protect child welfare already. The bigger problem is how effectively those laws are enforced, and whether they need to be enforced frequently, both of which are cultural problems related to the way societies view children and authority figures. I respect children and don’t blindly accept something from someone with power. I think that’s more important for preventing the abuse of children than outlawing consanguinamory.

I can’t possibly reproduce all of my arguments for you here. It would be very, very long. I haven’t even gotten to the psychology of itnor even the biology of it. Read this; it will help you understand. Maybe read an account or twoWatch a movie or two or three. There are still plenty of things I haven’t linked to here, regardless. Similar couples are everywhere, floating around the internet. These are all just the ones that bother to publicize themselves. Remember that.

Don’t feel bad for asking. At least you care enough to ask.