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Tedra Osell: How the Gays Taught Me to Stop Worrying and Love Marriage

Tedra Osell,
Bitch Ph.D.
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June 19, 2008

Tedra Osell blogs at Bitch Ph.D., where she muses on feminism, motherhood, academia and more. In her contribution to the ACLU’s online symposium in celebration of LGBT Pride, Tedra discusses how LGBT people and their relationships have strengthened her relationships, marriage and family.

I think I pretty much owe my straight-suburban-married-housewife-with-one kid-life to the gays.

Reason one: my husband and I met when I was 18. We went to different colleges. The only way I would agree to “date” him was if he would agree that we could date other people. The more so since he was uber Catholic (and you know what that means), and I was gonna be damned if I was gonna swear off sex for a long-distance relationship at the age of 18.

Not that non-exclusive l-d relationships are *entirely* the province of homos. But you have to admit that the idea of having a Serious Relationship with someone while being free to fuck around with other someone is a li’l more commonly associated with gay (men, especially) than it is with straight couples.

Reason two: when I graduated from college and moved in with my husband-to-be, he happened to be in Saudi Arabia fighting Gulf War I. His coworker who helped me move into his apartment? Gay. (Later he came out under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and lost his job, which sucked.)

Reason three: when we finally decided to get married (after years of back and forth asking-and-refusing, then the other person asking-and-being-refused), my agreement was conditional on the idea that, if either of us ever cheated, that would be a shitty reason to divorce. No way was I going to promise never to have sex with anyone else again. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that my being able to contemplate this sort of thing had a lot to do with the way that some aspects of GLBT culture helped all of us start rethinking what consitituted committment, what constituted marriage, what relationships were based on. And, as ambivalent as I was about marriage—just before the ceremony, both of us dressed in our wedding finery, I asked my soon-to-be husband, “I can still back out of this, right?” He knew that the right answer was “yes”—I would never have gotten into it if I hadn’t felt like the rules weren’t negotiable.

Reason four: after four years of separation, during which he worked in Omaha and I attended graduate school in Seattle, he was transferred to the Pac NW. When he left the military and we started thinking about maybe sort of having kids, again I looked around at the new ways that people were having kids—we lived on Capitol Hill, Seattle’s Big Gay neighborhood—before taking a deep breath and saying, okay, yes, maybe we can do this.

Reason five: the best pregnancy book I read was Dan Savage’s The Kid. I’m totally not kidding about this (and once, when I saw him having dinner in my favorite restaurant, I went over and told him that myself, and thanked him). He did the research for me on drinking and pregnancy (yes, you can drink without dooming your baby to brain damage). Given that pregnancy books these days are all about What You Mustn’t Do (seriously, have a look at What to Expect When You’re Expecting someday. And then burn it.), that one thing was huge, and helped buttress my general feeling that I wasn’t gonna worry too damn much about anything.

Reason six: The OB/GYN who I picked (after searching around for quite some time to find someone who wasn’t into lecturing me)? And who delivered my child? Is now, according to Wikipedia, the “rock star” of transgender surgery. I found out towards the end of my pregnancy, in fact, that she was herself a MTF transsexual, but I had no idea that she’d made sexual reassignment surgery her primary work until last week. While visiting my boyfriend of three years (and yes, I’m still married) I happened across this article, in which she points out that

One thing that still burns brighter than any other issue within the GLB community is marriage equality. What is important is that the trans phenomenon undoes any and all objections to marriage equality, no matter how the issue is argued.

What I know is that, before I found out that she’d had SRS, I’d noticed the pictures of her daughters on the wall of her office and complimented her on how much they resembled her (especially the youngest). And that when I found out my main thought was that she’d had an excellent surgeon. Now apparently she *is* an excellent surgeon.

Reason seven: when my husband and I moved to Canada to take my first teaching job, our best friends, with whom we swapped childcare once a week so that we and they could go out once in a while and try to stay sane? Were a lesbian couple. With two (now three) kids. Not only did they swap babysitting with us, but they parented like us, they were there for us, they were my best friends during what was (due to seasonal depression) the hardest, darkest time of my life. And, of course, they helped my son, by giving him other kids to play with, other adults who understood and accepted him.

They helped me explain to my son that some kids have one mama, some have two, some have a mama and a papa, etc. And that what matters is that every kid have a parent, or parents, who loves and takes care of them. On the night when they got pregnant with kid number three, we got a sudden call—can one of you come babysit immediately so that we can get pregnant? M’s ovulating!—I got to explain to my son, who was four, Where Babies Come From, and artificial insemination, and sperm donors. In the course of the discussion, he pointed out that we use the words “parent,” “mother,” and “father” to mean both biological parents *and* the people who raise and take care of you. In short, he realized at four what I, at forty, still have trouble articulating: that the biology of reproduction is related to, but not the same as, the facts of human feeling.

My point? Is basically a simple one, so obvious that it shouldn’t need saying. But since it does, here it is: gay relationships, gay marriages, the whole GLBT ball of wax have been nothing but good for this straight chick, her straight marriage, and her straight suburban family. The gays and trannies have helped me not be afraid of marriage or motherhood. They’ve helped me realize that I can have those things without losing myself. And they’ve been there at every goddamn step of the way, helping and supporting my straight marriage, my straight pregnancy, my straight mamahood.

Surely we straights can be as decent.

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