CIVILesbianIZATION :: An American Quilt: Patchworking our Way to Marriage
For the first time, I’ve lost count of the number of states that recognize same-sex marriage. I could easily find out, I know. National organizations have nice maps that visually render the current state of affairs, or more accurately, the current state of connubial recognition. After Massachusetts, I monitored states closely--court cases, legislative appeals. Now, it’s not that I’ve lost interest, rather that there is so much happening, it’s hard to retain, especially as my own state of Maryland feels remote and out of the mix.
We’ve talked about moving, but we aren’t. Certainly, the state of marriage may affect our next geographic relocation. Sometimes, I’m angry about how invisible lines draw distinctions in our lives. There is something mind-numbing about different laws governing lesbian and gay people’s lives and the real economic and social impact. It’s infuriating. My heart goes out to the coupled lesbian and gay people of California: some married, some not. Now all unable to marry. They wait for the court to make its ruling, knowing there will be an appeal and an appeal. Frankly, I find it unappealing, this differential treatment, the uncertainty, the inequality. It makes me angry. Though I don’t like to live in the place of anger, so lately I’ve been thinking about our struggle for marriage equality as one that is uniquely American--a patchwork quilt, if you will.
My first quilt was not a patchwork quilt, but a commercially made one. I imagine my mother bought it at K-Mart, though I don’t know its exact origins. It was warm and comforting on my bed throughout my teenage years. Then, the edges became worn and tattered. So the summer before I entered college, I sewed, by hand, a new border. A sturdy but still soft canvas. Royal blue. I cut and pinned it around the existing cloth, forming triangles at each corner. Then I sewed the entire border by hand. I remember it was hot that summer and in Michigan, we didn’t have air-conditioning. Sometimes I would bunch up the quilt to my side and sew, but some days, I sat under it, warm, sweating, making small, nearly invisible, stitches. They held well. I used the quilt throughout college. Then, the thinning material in the center became tattered and tore. I didn’t repair it. In one post-college move, it was thrown in a dumpster. Sometimes, now, I wish that I had kept it.
I made another quilt pieced with old t-shirts from feminist and gay and lesbian events. It had twenty or thirty blocks and a navy backing. We’re still unsure what happened to that one. Periodically, I’ll discover a box or bag around the house and think, maybe it’s here. It’s not. I have another pile of t-shirts to make another, but for now, I don’t have the time or inclination to patch it together.
Recently, my beloved bought a new comforter for our bed. Though not handmade, it’s fluffy and sleek all at the same time. We like it. It came with an insane amount of pillows, large and small-like the pillows at a nice hotel. When it is all put together, usually only a few times a week, it is formal and luxurious. Sometimes, though, I miss the quilts of yore.
This is what I think marriage will be like when it finally arrives throughout the United States: formal and luxurious. Like a nice bed, carefully made, with enough pillows for lounging and reading. Perhaps if we had gotten same-sex marriage throughout the land at one time, it would be too sterile. Thinking about the quilts of my past and the comforter that gives our bed warmth now, I’m more reconciled to the patchwork quilt of marriage laws emerging today in the United States. Each law, like a quilt panel, reflects the work of lesbian and gay activists. Selecting fabric, making designs, sewing carefully, day in and day out. They are making a quilt for our future. Each small piece, chosen, washed, cut. There is a vision of a quilt yet to be completed. Someday we’ll look back and remember a time before it was done. All I know is I hope I’m here for the final quilting bee when the last panels are sewn in, the batting attached, and the small, sure stitches of the needle are done. Carefully, with love, by hand.