May 12, 2011
When I was in the UK last week, a waiter in Betty’s Tea Rooms said their little iced cakes, which picture William and Kate, have been selling in vast quantities. Well who wouldn’t devour the fairy tale dream of a prince and princess who live happily ever after? But as many Brits pour an extra cup of Typhoo while cooing at the bridal gown, the rest of us are down the pub with a nudge and a wink. Because we know the wedding night is seldom as white as the dress and that happily-ever-after is a pretty big ask – especially if you’re a royal.
How negative I am!
But seriously, consider: It seems to me that, in many ways, the English wedding ceremony was created to permit hanky-panky, thereby encouraging the birth of kids who would soon be baptized. On the wedding day, the bride’s white dress was the color of virginity and her veil represented her sealed hymen. (In fact, the hymen is often misunderstood – there’s no layer of skin that seals a woman’s vagina like cling film, just a corona or fringe of tissue that can sometimes tear). Yup, when the groom tenderly lifts the veil from his new wife’s face, though he may not be thinking about screwing, he still symbolizes it. Indeed, at an Elizabethan ceremony, the wedding night was on everyone’s minds – for example, if a new husband didn’t wave his blood-stained sheets out of the window next morning as proof that his new wife was a virgin, the town grew suspicious. Back then your wife was your property. What if she wasn’t “fresh produce,” hmm? Irony aside, Elizabethan women were at it left right and centre – and besides, not everyone bleeds when they first have sex – so in true porn-flick fashion, the faking of fluids ensued and the sheets were indeed bloodied. Bravo.
Let’s face it weddings can be pretty extreme affairs, especially where sex and flirtation are concerned. Carl Jung was one of the first to teach us that whatever we try to repress will only appear more strongly. Deny sex enough and you’ll suddenly find it’s everywhere. Lust, it would seem, is hard to bin. At some weddings the purity myth is so intense that everyone’s at it like bunnies – after all, what’s more exciting than breaking the rules? Yet society continues to thirst for the Disney fairy tale in which prince and princess are starry-eyed perfection. Castles in the sky apparently lack bedrooms, and if you know Sleeping Beauty was a minx in the sack, chances are you’ve been reading the Anne Rice version.
But unrealistic as a fairy-tale wedding might seem, we should all own the right to have one. Sadly this isn’t the case. If you fall in love with a same-sex partner in America, the castle doors often slam shut, depending on which state you’re in. Even in Britain, where gay marriage is legal, I can only imagine the hubbub if Prince William had wanted to marry a guy. “Aw,” folks croon, “but the royal family’s so lovely!” And yet, if you’re coming out as a gay prince I doubt it’s a barrel of laughs. See, the problem is that fairy tale castles arise from Victorian tales that are entirely hetero-centric, and if you think that doesn’t impinge on the heterosexual reader, think again. A society where one kind of love or way of being is held above another is a dangerous place. Last month, a transgender woman named Chrissy Polis was beaten by her coworkers while an eyewitness recorded the brutal event and posted it on the internet. Why did they attack her? Because their erroneous notion of gender as a binary construct was shattering in front of their eyes. In 2010 we saw many queer teenagers taking their lives because they couldn’t see a way to be both living and happy. Did anyone ever tell them a gay fairy tale? I hope so, but somehow I doubt it.
Of course, such fairy tales do exist, often in the form of children’s books. And Tango Makes Three (by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell) for instance, is a gay fairy tale based on the true story of two gay, male penguins who cared for an orphaned egg and ended up raising their adopted chick together as fathers. Many homophobic parents flare up when kids have been taught such a tale in school – in fact, the book hit a record number of ban requests in 2006-7. But where there are stories, there’s hope. And hope is good.
What’s more, I’ll fight for it.
So when people say weddings have nothing to do with sex, I’ll continue to ask them why they think gay marriage is often forbidden, and when they tell me there’s no harm in traditional wedded bliss, I’ll agree, but only to a point. While the royal wedding certainly gives us a chance to feel proud, until marriage is an option for everyone – not just legally but socially too – such ceremonies will always be bittersweet, even when the couple seem as deeply in love as William and Kate. That’s why we must continue to harness the power of story by sharing tales of gay romances, weddings and lovemaking. Because happy endings shouldn’t be dependent on sexuality or gender. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m all about the love.
Photo on “Sex” main page – John Pannell