I found out recently, the way one sometimes does, that a casual acquaintance had gotten married. She didn’t mention it the last time I ran into her over the summer. That’s perfectly fine, of course. No one is under any obligation to divulge any information to others if they choose not to do so. I have no idea why she didn’t tell me. Perhaps she’s an intensely private sort for whom those matters are personal. Maybe her mind was on other things and she was distracted. Possibly she thought I already knew. Whatever her reasons, she wasn’t going out of her way to fill me in on the details of her life.
When I found out, I briefly wondered if she didn’t say anything because she had married another woman. I felt bad that she might have thought I would react negatively. It’s also possible that she was tired of having people impose heteronormative ideas on her about the person she’d married (as in, “Oh, who’s the lucky guy?”). As I said, I really don’t know her reasons (we only know each other through mutual friends, and she isn’t required to tell me anything). It reminded me how much privilege I have.
In most situations, when one ties the knot, it’s a pretty big deal. Even the people I know who had lived together for years before their wedding were thrilled to announce that they’d obtained a state-sanctioned contract. When I got hitched, I didn’t have to gauge anyone’s reaction. I was free to show off my ring and tell anyone who would listen.
I also didn’t have to worry that my job working with children was in jeopardy because of my sexuality (yes, this has really happened). I could show up to my reunion at my (conservative) Christian college with my family, introduce them around, and not fear negative reactions. Heck, I could even have skipped the reunion without wondering if my classmates were going to gossip about my “lifestyle” (yep, that’s happened too). My marriage is not only legally recognized in my state, but if I move anywhere else, it’s recognized there, too.
That, my friends, is what privilege is.
And that is why I fight so hard for equality. I fight with my words and my votes and my actions. What I have shouldn’t be limited to me and people just like me. I want to live in a place where even a casual acquaintance is able to share her exciting news because she knows that the love she’s found is every bit as worthy of celebration as anyone else’s. I want to go to reunions and spend time with all the people I remember fondly, not just the ones who fit the expectations imposed on us.
As for the casual acquaintance that I mentioned above, I hope I run into her again. I hope I have the chance to tell her that our mutual friend shared her good news and that I am thrilled for her. I hope that, in some small way, I can be part of breaking down the wall of privilege that stands between us.