Being an LGBTQ Ally and Planning A Wedding

After this weekend’s book club meetups (more on how they went and more discussion coming tomorrow), and reading and discussing Dan Savage’s The Commitment, I thought it was a good time to discuss being a LGBTQ ally, in the context of wedding planning. For the record, I’m writing this as a person in a heterosexual (or mixed gender, achem) relationship (because you know, I am one). I know some of you are LGBTQ and some of you are allies, but hey, I’m writing from where I’m at. I have my limitations.

There are, of course, as many ways to be an wedding-y ally as their are people. Some people opt out of getting married until everyone they love can get married. Others of us get married, but make very specific political statements when they do (David and I put a statement in our program, and on another level, got married by two lesbian clergy members who were both long-married in a Jewish community). Some people get married and don’t make statements, but give money to help the cause quietly. Some people just pray real hard in their hearts. All of these things count.

I don’t think anyone should tell you that there is just one way to be ally. But I do want to take a moment to really consider the fact that we ARE, in fact allies, that we ARE getting married and fighting for marriage equality. That and we do need to get off our asses and do something about it.

One of the APW book club questions was, “If the book came with an *exactly!* button, which passage would you choose?” It was Penelope’s question, and she happened to be at the San Francisco Bay Area meetup. Not surprisingly she came prepared with an answer. The passage she chose was one that made me cry, and one that I thought needed re-printing here. This is Dan Savage talking about his 10th anniversary party that became kind-of a wedding reception:

… As I listened to him, I was thinking about what Andrew Sullivan had to say about the politics of repression. Social conservatives “want to create a shadow class of people operating somehow in a cultural and social limbo,” the lives of gay people de-valued, our relationships denigrated. “That strategy may have worked as long as gay people cooperated – by staying in the closet, keeping their heads down, playing the euphemism game – but the cooperation is over.”

It was clear at our party that it isn’t only gay people who refuse to cooperated anymore. The gay people in our lives who gathered at the Chinese Room and later that night at Re-bar – our gay friends, two of my exes, my gay co-workers – were outnumbered five to on by the straight people who came to celebrate our anniversary. Our straight friends and family members don’t want us living in cultural and social limbo anymore either, even the Bush voters among them, and they refuse to cooperate with the Dobsons and Bauers and Falwells.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the past few weeks, this refusal to cooperate. What does it look like, on a practical level? What does it look like in wedding planning?

A few weeks ago, Becca at A Los Angeles Love, wrote a incendiary and awesome series of posts about the politics of wedding photography (for the record, a lot of APW sponsor photographers emailed me the link with notes, like “F*ck yes. Love Becca.”) One of the things that came up was the fact that some photographers refuse to have LGBTQ weddings in their portfolio or on their blog, even if they shoot them. Out of respect for the photographer who commented on the thread, I’m not going to directly quote him, but I’m going to paraphrase. He said, in essence, “I will photography LGBTQ weddings, but I won’t put them in my portfolio or on my blog, because I don’t want to offend potential money making clients.” When another person pointed out that, hey, that means you’re disrespecting your current paying clients to get in good with some potential future homophobic clients, the photographer blew that right off.

What I was struck by in this discussion was not, “Hey, some wedding businesses have ethics that I find sh*tty,” because, yes, OBVIOUSLY. This is not news. What I was struck by is that small business owners think that homophobic people will vote with their dollars, and that LGBTQ allies WON’T. Which made me take a step back. And then, about ten seconds later made me FURIOUS. Like, livid.

Because if people think LGBTQ Allies are not going to vote with their dollars, we all need to step the eff up, and tell them that we sure as hell are. Some things that might mean: doing our best to only work with LGBTQ friendly wedding vendors (you can check out a partial list right here, as well as all APW sponsors). That might mean buying Martha Stewart Weddings when they run gay weddings, to make up for all the other people who cancel their subscriptions (shout out to long time APW-readers who are the FIRST EVER lesbian wedding in MS Weddings). That might mean actively asking people what their policies are before you hire them. It means, in general, adding cash to your arsenal of activism tricks. The best thing about cash is, you can do it quietly if that is what works for you. Your Aunt Sue doesn’t even have to know that you hired only pro-LGBTQ vendors, but you still voted with your wallet. And that counts, big time.

I wanted to take this conversation step further, and talk explicitly about how I try to support that with APW sponsors (rad, rad people that they are). The photos in this post are by the lovely Kristy of Moodeous Photography in Denver. They are the engagement pictures for the winners of the LGBTQ wedding photography giveaway that we ran earlier this year. And how pretty are they? Gahhhh. Later today we’re going to have another LGBTQ wedding photography giveaway, and I wanted to tell you why I think these giveaways are important: it’s not that, hey, LGBTQ people get legally married, so maybe we should show our support by giving them stuff (though that’s not the worst reason in the world). It’s because allied photographers need to have gay couples in their portfolio. It tells gay and straight couples that, “Hey, these we  love working with clients of all kinds of sexual orientations, and we don’t discriminate in our portfolios either.” It starts to normalize gay wedding for people that are not thinking about the issue much. It differentiates allied photographers from the people who will shoot gay weddings, but not put them in their portfolio.

It shows that we refuse to cooperate anymore.

And we’ve got to stop cooperating, all of us. We need to stop cooperating in ways large and small. And this isn’t about where you stand on the political spectrum, it’s about equal rights. The New York times ran a profile of Meghan McCain (John McCain’s daughter, and a Republican) on Sunday. In it she said that she supports marriage equality because, “I have friends who are gay, and I’d like to go to their weddings.”

And that’s exactly it.

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