trans*scribe illustration ©rosa middleton, 2013
Standing in line at the Los Angeles Superior Court in Norwalk, waiting our turn to apply for a marriage license, my wife and I were all smiles. Even when we reached the little windows in the wall, and the woman behind one of the windows gave us a condescending look, telling us with a little twinkle of satisfaction in her eye that California doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, we were all smiles. I slipped my passport out of my purse and presented the inconsistent gender marker to her, of course with a big smile on my face. I’m sure I must have looked quite smug.
You see, several months before, I had filed the proper documents with the California DMV to receive my driver’s license with an ‘F’ in the area designated for sex. However, at the time, passport changes were much more difficult to obtain. Thanks to this simple governmental regulation, my wife and I were able to exploit a legal loophole and obtain a federally recognized marriage, something that still eludes many of our LGBT sisters and brothers. Currently, only nine states out of 50 recognize same-sex marriages, a statistic that is deplorable under a government that touts itself as being, “the land of the free.”
I’ll never forget the look on that woman’s face, behind the glass at the courthouse. Nor will I forget the look on the young man’s face, behind the glass next to her. He was all smiles, too. And it seems that a month later, when we came to the courthouse dressed to the nines, he remembered us. In fact, he asked us if he could officiate our marriage! He was even sweet enough to use “spouse” instead of “husband” or “wife” regardless of what it said on the marriage certificate. He even took photos of us with our close friends out in the lobby where everyone at the courthouse that day could see us, I in my white silk strapless dress and my wife in her long bell-sleeved black dress. We were all smiles. I’m sure we all looked quite smug.
It was important to me to use a form of identification that identified me as male, despite my distaste at being misgendered during a normal workday, or in any other way being identified as a man. I hate that. I mean, I’ve got boobs for crying out loud! I am no man. But, in this case, it was important to me that someone get the clear distinction that I was exactly that, and my wife a woman, and that someone was the United States government. I needed them to see our marriage as being ‘valid,’ despite trying not to seek validation from outside sources. Sure, there’s civil unions and other forms of joint partnerships that carry tax incentives and whatnot. We could have even just had the wedding for ourselves and our friends and family, in someone’s backyard or some picturesque locale. It would have been every bit as significant and sentimental to my wife and I. But in the back of my head, was a whispering voice that kept calling, so quietly:
“…hospital visitation rights…”
and, “…power of attorney…”
These words resounded in my head, in that infinitesimal voice, because I would be damned before some nurse would keep me from seeing my wife, if she were injured! And I would be damned before seeing one single penny of our money end up in the hands of my parents simply because they were listed as “next of kin.”
The US Supreme Court will soon announce a ruling on same-sex marriage cases that have gripped America for years. The nine sitting justices will have the opportunity to determine, once and for all, the fate of millions of LGBT people who have thus far been denied equal protection under the law. I know in my heart that, at least, most of these nine people can see how important it is to a same-sex couple to be able to visit each other in the hospital, or to ensure a surviving partner doesn’t get thrown out into the street, simply because they are not the legal beneficiary. I firmly believe that they will decide in our favor, if indeed protection of the Constitution remains the mission of the Judicial Branch. I don’t see how they can’t. The defendants can’t even make a solid case without quoting a 2000 year-old book of fairy tales.
I honestly don’t even know what to think, if the alternative happens. It would carry far-reaching implications. To me, the matter is as plain as it could be. Each American citizen is granted equal protection under the law. We’ve fought the equality battle for too long to suddenly forget what it means in this country. And to the county clerk, that young man at the courthouse, it was also as plain as could be. I saw it in his eyes, when I smugly handed over my male-identified passport, and smiled at the other, condescending, clerk. Later, we all saw in in his eyes as he proudly pronounced us married by the power vested in him by the state of California.
Any law that can ban marriage from one group of people and still allow it for another, goes clearly against our Constitution and even more than that, is just plain stupid. Especially when circumventing the law is as simple as deciding which form of identification to show the clerk. Being transgender sometimes has it’s perks. Just don’t expect me to answer to “husband.”
Elizabeth is a thirty-something transwoman and wife. She’s a retail slave, part-time writer, and aspiring professional photographer.