As June nears, we’re getting excited about all the upcoming Pride events that will take place around the world. In honor of our courageous LGBT friends, we’re sharing why we believe in marriage equality. A different version of this post was originally published in 2012, during our engagement, on my Thriving Blog. where I kept an online journal during the 90 days leading up to our wedding.
When I was 10 years old, my dad sat me down in the kitchen and told me I would one day have an arranged marriage.
I will be married in 23 days and I am thinking about my father’s words. He also said I needed to learn how to cook because no man would marry me if I didn’t. By no man he meant no Nigerian man. You see, my Nigerian family was sure I wouldn’t challenge what was expected of me. They were wrong! At 10 years old, my biggest fear was that I would wake up next to a man that I did not choose and pretend to love him for the sake of tradition. Marriage scared the hell out of me.
In less than a month, I will be marrying someone I chose.
After getting engaged, I started thinking about some of the similarities between the cultural expectations I grew up with and the laws against Marriage Equality. I’m in a straight relationship, but I’d like to think that anyone in support of Marriage Equality shares a similar interest: When it comes to saying I do, we all want to decide who to share our lives with. Although I am marrying a man, I am very familiar with that fear that comes with not feeling like you fit in because you want to live your life differently. During college, I dreaded receiving those blue par avion envelopes from Nigeria, knowing they came from suitors. I hid the fact that I didn’t want to return to my village to find a husband, but deep down I knew it wasn’t for me. I never felt there was anything wrong with choosing to find love this way, but it wasn’t for me.
Until 1967, my interracial wedding would not have been legal
I love the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, the interracial Virginia couple who defied laws against interracial marriage. They were arrested on their wedding night because they chose to choose each other instead of federal laws that said their marriage was illegal. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have the freedom to marry my husband more than 40 years later.
Some of us are first generation straight Americans whose immigrant parents are afraid to let go of traditions from the old country. Some of us are part of the LGBT community. I think most of us just want to be able to legally recognize that we’ve accomplished one of the most amazing and difficult things in this world: found someone who is anything but perfect and chosen to try loving that person and being vulnerable to the best of our ability. That’s brave! That’s awesome! And that’s something we should all get a shot at, even if we fail!
Today my friend posted (on Facebook) a picture of herself dancing with her soon to be wife.
She was celebrating her birthday and made it very clear what she wants as a gift: to be able to marry her partner and raise her son with the same rights that all human beings yearn for and deserve. I can’t grant her that for her birthday, but I can give her a belated birthday present by letting her know that the beauty of the two of them dancing made you know that there was love there. If there is love, there is possibility, and if there is possibility there is community and if there is community there is accountability and if there is accountability there is an investment in who each and every one of us becomes. And when there is that communal investment, I do believe god (or whatever you want to call it) is there: That presence of grace that gives all of us permission to come forward as we are without shame or ridicule. I truly believe that an ashamed society can never be an accountable or fully loving one.
Marriage Equality is really about Marriage Autonomy!
I don’t want my parents, my elders, my village, my fellow Nigerians, other Africans or my government in my bedroom. It’s that simple for me. When we lose our right to vote, we lose our voice and when we lose our right to choose who to love, we lose our understanding of what is possible in our lives, and when we lose this understanding, we lose our sense of self. I don’t want this to be my future or ours. Vote for Marriage Autonomy! The worst thing that can happen is that you find a whole lot more people walking taller and feeling stronger and better about themselves. One might just catch your eye too, and then anything is possible.