And so, a couple of months short of Ron and Yvonne’s tenth wedding anniversary, K and I find ourselves contemplating our first return to that same registry office on Shakespeare Street. A decade ago, with the Conservative government into its seventeenth consecutive year in power, the prospect of legally binding same-sex civil partnership registrations – in this country, within our lifetimes – would have been dismissed as laughable. From December 5th 2005, it will be a reality.
Over in the USA, insofar as I have been following the situation (which admittedly isn’t all that closely), the whole debate has been about “gay marriage”. It is to my immense relief that here in the UK, we have gone down a different route. Less controversial (and therefore less politically dangerous to introduce) – but also infinitely more acceptable to my (our) way of thinking.
We’ve never wanted a “gay wedding”. We’ve never wanted to make those kind of public vows, using somebody else’s state-sanctioned words, in such a standardised, ritualised, sentimentalised manner. For many reasons – not the least being that, as people who have always stood outside the major heterosexual paradigms, one of the great strengths of gay relationships is that we can shape them for ourselves. Not pret-a-porter, but couture, darlings.
So why are we even bothering? The clue is in the wording. We’re registering our partnership with the state – for solid, pragmatic reasons. Exemption from inheritance tax, for one thing. More importantly, we’ll have full next-of-kin status, including hospital visitation rights.
But also – and I might just be speaking for myself here – I will value the full, above-the-board legitimacy that civil partnership will confer. When I’m applying for a job, or sorting my finances out, or meeting someone in a formal capacity, then my relationship status can be calmly, smoothly, confidently expressed. All those lingering “outsider” issues – that telling someone you’re in a gay relationship within the first few seconds of meeting them is somehow over-sharing, “inappropriate for the situation”, or dangerously “political” – they will all melt away. Instantly, and for ever. Call me a bourgeois assimiliationist lackey as much as you like – remind me that, yes, it’s all very well for you, in your cosy, oh-so-perfect little relationship, but how does that change anything for single people – but I’m telling you straight: that prospect feels wonderful.
Right, so how are we going to approach the registration day itself? Ever since the day I got down on my knees (ironically) and popped the question (although it scarcely needed asking), K and I have shared the same running joke.
Our nightmare scenario, for sure. But if not that, then what? Do we really just grab a couple of witnesses, turn up at the pre-appointed time, sign the bits of paper, then go back to work as if nothing had happened? There’s a logic to that approach – but isn’t it a rather cold, hard logic? No sense of celebration at all? More worryingly: wouldn’t we be in danger of perpetuating our marginalised status on some level? Oh, we’re gay, so we’re not really worth it?
If there’s a happy medium, then we need to start looking for it. At the very least, it should be a good excuse for buying nice new outfits. Perhaps we could invite a few people along – a few, mind. Mish has already vowed to ambush us outside with confetti, whether we like it or not.
Incidentally, there’s at least a 50% chance that Mish’s friend and former colleague k.f. will be officiating at the registry office. Two people in central Nottingham are about to receive special training for the same-sex registrations, and he’s one of them. When I call in to place our names on the queue, I have been instructed to ask for him by name. Indeed, we’ve already shared several giddy, tipsy conversations down at The Central.
“Oh darling, I’m so THRILLED that you’ll be MARRYING us!”
“Oh darling, it will be such an HONOUR!”
Actually, I think we might be the ones passing him the freshly laundered linen handkerchief.
So if we’re inviting a few people along, then we can’t really send them straight back home again, can we? So maybe we should all go out for a nice meal afterwards? Possibly in one of the small-ish private dining rooms, in one of the good restaurants in town? You know, just to maintain the sense of occasion?
There’s also the thorny issue of our families to consider. This may astonish you, but in the whole twenty years of our relationship, my mother has never met any members of K’s family. (I know, I know. Another post, for another day.) Elephant in the room, or what?
Perhaps this would be the ideal time to get everyone together at last. My mother and sister, if she’s in the country; K’s parents and sister; and a select number of well-established friends. Yes, that could all be very jolly. K might not think so, but if I begin my campaign of attrition right now…
Ooh, slippery slope. Thin end of the wedge. We’ll be up to our necks in tangerine watered silk, weeping aunties and rotisserie sets before we know it. But we’re navigating uncharted water here. Maybe we need an instruction manual?
Oh dear. But I’ll bet you that some enterprising queen is pitching the idea to his agent right now.Colin & Justin‘s How To Get Hitched, anybody?
All these years, I’ve been standing on the sidelines, the perennial Detached Observer. Sometimes sneering – sometimes spinning my wheel and muttering my incantations – but most usually dabbing my eyes, raising my glass, Wishing Them Every Happiness, and tearing up the floor at the disco afterwards.
Now it’s my turn.