Why New York matters to all couples

Speaking for us
By THOMAS PAGE MCBEE  |  June 29, 2011

NY main

When it was announced late Friday that New York lawmakers approved same-sex marriage, I yelled excitedly across the apartment for my wife. We just moved back to New England after years in San Francisco, and were thirlled to hear of yet another East Coast victory for gay-marriage advocates. We are, in fact, newlyweds ourselves — our ceremony last September was a windswept affair on a bluff overlooking the foggy, wild Pacific.


As a man who's married to a woman, you might think my position on same-sex marriage is a good-progressive one — maybe a deeply held belief that denying any group their civil liberties is a slippery slope, an objection a la Martin Niemöller — "First they came for the Communists, but I wasn't a Communist so I did not speak out . . ." Which is true, in a way. Neimöller goes on, famously, to say, "Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me."

The thing is, I care about gay marriage because I am a transgender man, and my wife and I are not legally married.

Because my birth certificate currently defines my legal sex as female, my marriage is, technically, a same-sex one — which means we join a long line of loving couples throughout history who've been barred from civil marriage through the brute, ugly force of prejudice.

When my wife and I first started talking about getting married, we were living in California, and the state had just legalized same-sex marriage. But by the time of our wedding, California voters had revoked our right to marry by referendum — on the same day that the country elected its first African-American president.

In the months leading up to the vote, supporters of the proposition to revoke gay marriage sported cheery yellow bumper stickers and yard signs of a stick-figure nuclear family holding hands. Hysterical advertisements warned nice straight couples that their children would be brainwashed with "sex education" in second grade if the bill were to pass. In fact, one "Yes on 8" spot shows an innocent girl in pigtails excitedly telling her mom what she learned in school today: that she could marry girls. Then a serious, balding law professor says, "Think it can't happen? When Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, schools began teaching second-graders that boys could marry boys!" (Massachusetts! Were you teaching children about interracial marriage, too?!)

In all seriousness, it's a pretty stark situation to pay taxes to a state whose residents feel so disturbed by the way my wife and I divvy up domestic chores that they want their kids' virgin ears protected from the very thought. So it was refreshing news, indeed, to hear Republican New York State Senator Roy McDonald tell reporters last week, "Well, fuck it. I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing. I'm tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it."

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