tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
It took me about six weeks, but I finally finished reading Samuel Delany's recent novel _Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders_. Maybe I just have a kink for long books -- it's 804 pages and, like _Infinite Jest_ (which is even longer), I suspect it's going to be one of those books that keeps being important to me for a really long time. (The third one like that is _A Suitable Boy_ by Vikram Seth, though it hasn't stayed with me quite the same way _Infinite Jest_ has; I've also only read it once.)

In lieu of more thoughts, some quotations from it:

"'There ain't no normal," Shit said. 'That's what he always told me.' With his scruffy beard, Shit pointed his chin toward Dynamite. 'There's just comfortable and uncomfortable. And I like to be comfortable with pretty much everything.'" (p. 305)

"'Well--' Eric looked back up and put his hand on Shit's warm shoulder--'state supported marriage comes with a whole lot of assumptions about how it's gonna be, a history of who has to obey who, when you're justified in callin' it quits, all sorts of things like that. Now, you could agree with each other to change some of those things or do 'em differently, but for thousands and thousands of years gay men and women didn't have even that--except for a few Christian monasteries here and there, where the monks were allowed to marry each other. But nobody likes to think about those. For us, decidin' to be with someone else wasn't a matter of acceptin' a ready-made set of assumptions. You had to work 'em all out from the bottom up, every time--whether you was gonna be monogamous or open; and if you was gonna be open, how you was gonna do it so that it didn't bother the other person and even helped the relationship along. Workin' all that stuff out for yourselves was half the reason you went into a relationship with somebody else. We had some friends once--back when we lived in the Dump--that was faithful for ten months out the year, but for two months they'd go on vacation and do all their tom-cattin' around.' He realized he was making that up, but hell, it was plausible. 'Then they'd be faithful again. But that's how they liked to do it. Then there were guys like us that just had to make real sure that the other person was feelin' good about things, when they did it and knew they were number one and didn't mind. See, that's what people who get married don't have. Or don't have in the same way." (p. 785-786)

"'Bein' a pervert was the only was I ever learned anything worth knowin'.'" (p. 792)

There's also this epigraph, which, if I ever wrote papers anymore, I would try to include in a paper about GC:

"Except there's garbage, which is part of what we're trying to include in our work and our thought, which is to say, we are attentive still to what remains, what gets tossed away and off. We want to include the trash in many ways, thinking of this refuse according to all sorts of disposal systems." -- Avital Ronell
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
A few days ago I was listening to some Vienna Teng albums on Spotify, and her song "City Hall" came up. I realized that this post -- from my LiveJournal on February 16, 2004 -- was almost nine years old. So here it is, nine years today.

If I try to think back, I don't think I thought then that we'd still be fighting for basic dignity and respect nine years later, at least not with respect to the particular issue of whether marriage should be for everyone.

We went to City Hall, in San Francisco, and helped same-sex couples get married! And I met [livejournal.com profile] ubiquity, who I hadn't expected to see at all despite having read her post where she said she was coming here this weekend, since at that point I didn't know I was also going! ([livejournal.com profile] karenbynight and [livejournal.com profile] yakkette apparently got turned away due to an excess of volunteers, and [livejournal.com profile] wkfauna -- wisely given the former -- decided not to make the trek up. And I must thank [livejournal.com profile] wintersweet, who was there on Saturday to perform ceremonies, for passing along the information so that I could be there in the first place!)

We'll display our Assessor-Record Volunteer nametags proudly in the house, though neither of us did much assessing or recording. We handed out donuts for the first few minutes -- if there's anything happier than handing out Krispy Kremes to people taking advantage of their first chance to get married, I don't know what. For the rest of the day we stationed ourselves along the line of people waiting and checked their license application forms for validity. This was surprisingly important, since many people don't understand the concept that when they say "the name on your ID has to match the name you put on the form *exactly*", they mean "don't put down 'John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith' when your license says 'John J. Smith'."

We also had to check that they'd received the booklet on "Your Future Together" that the state is legally required to hand out, and which mostly consists of information on pregnancy (not particularly relevant, since although same-sex couples might have kids, they probably wouldn't do it accidentally) and STDs (which unmarried same-sex couples presumably know more about than married different-sex couples). As one guy commented, "We've been together 24 years." And then there was the couple both of whom were named Kenneth and both of whom were over 60, of whom the older one couldn't remember what his occupation was (he'd put down "Retired" but they wanted the previous job in those cases), and the couple whose members had the same birthdays as David and I (not the same years), and the guy who had to ask his partner what his own occupation was because he forgot...

If I were ever inclined to believe that marriage was love, today would have been that moment. And it's somehow inconceivable to think of the people who will presumably be suing tomorrow in order to protect marriage by stripping 2500+ people of their marriage licenses. I wonder how many of them are just parroting lines they've been told and have never actually met a gay person and can therefore believe that they're all purple-furred monsters with horns, and how many of them actually could have stepped inside City Hall today, watched and listened to what was going on for five minutes, and still believe that letting (mostly) normal-looking people with kids and jobs and dogs get married was a threat to Western civilization. In the first case, I can understand how it's easy to unthinkingly absorb stereotypes. I just can't possibly imagine what it's like to be inside the mind of the second kind of person, any more than I can imagine what it's like to be a jellyfish or a doorknob.

But at least for five days, love won out over hate in San Francisco, and I'm glad to have been there to see part of it.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
"One of the things we are forced to re-examine is relationships. Unlike straight people we do not have church weddings, we are not often enrolled in the PTA, we are not clear on who is the breadwinner and who is the homemaker. We don't have relatives clucking over us, urging us to be faithful and fertile and upstanding. Our relationships have little social or legal reality. As a result, we must invent love all over again. Gay lovers must work out contracts or agreements that suit them. Household chores, money matters, social obligations -- these things must be decided and assigned. Sex roles in bed, gender-linked behavior out of bed (who cooks, who mows the lawn, who pays the bills) -- these things must be arbitrated. And fidelity, the thorniest question of all, must be arranged.... The variations are endless. My point is that convention does not govern us; we create new conventions for ourselves.... Today more and more straight couples are deciding that traditional marriage doesn't work.... Straight people might well learn something from us, since we have already sorted out the issues, even if we haven't arrived at solutions that will suit everyone." -- Edmund White, "The Joys of Gay Life" (1977)

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tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

May 2017

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