Retelling the Story of Marriage and Families

Marriage Equality is an emerging story useful to both same sex and the “one man/one woman” kind of marriage. It is even helpful to families who are single parented. By story I mean the tale we tell ourselves about ourselves. The big word for it is narrative – and what the nation is missing right now is a narrator in chief about gender. Without a commanding narrative about what it means to have a gender, we are each and all lost in the woods of personal confusion, which results in national confusion, which results in many long dark nights of the soul, for those with any kind of sexual equipment. Marriage equality is helping, not hurting, this gender confusion. It helps by allowing for experiments it what it means to be married, what it means to be a person with a gender, and what it means to cling to each other, in the world beyond consumerism. We promise richer/poorer; better/worse; sickness and in health when we get married. Our word is our word here. Multiple attention dissolves into singular attention, the kind we want from a lover. We stop “shopping” and start living.

In marriage equality we have a grand experiment in what it means to be male or female, mommy or daddy, frau or fraulein, boy or man. In the great mixing, we learn more about the cliché that “everybody has a little masculine and a little feminine in them.” In particular, we learn to apply choice to gendered roles and let a man be a mommy and a woman go to war. We aren’t going to understand these meanings in one or even two generations. But with different kinds of marriage, beyond the cage and box of “one man, one woman,” we all enter a great experiment. In that experiment there is joy and good for everyone. The wiggle goes back in our gender walk.

Masculinity is in crisis, if by crisis we mean that we no longer have a good story to tell each other about what it means to be a man. Warrior? Guardian? Rapist? Bearded sage? Father figure? Femininity is in crisis, if by crisis we mean that we no longer have a good story to tell each other about what it means to be a woman. The plug for someone else’s cord? The starving nurturer? The mother whose failure is the result of everything else?

Our stories of gender are failing us because a kind of violence has erupted in them. Not just Sandy Hook and not just Iraq and not just Indian women being thrown off the bus after being raped. Not just the Oscars singing “boob songs,” as though they were funny, and not just shorter skirts on 13 year olds who think the world likes them to look “sexy.” These are the high peaks in an underground ferment about who we tell our sons and daughters that men and women are. The stories conflict internally, then erupt as volcanoes in violence. The original violence is the gender confusion, what can positively be called the queering of America and negatively be called the lie or distortion. Am I, as a woman, to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan? Or just choose one and let the other be outsourced? Are you as a man to be strong enough to protect me and also strong enough to overpower me when your frustration gets beyond your capacity to control it?


The best story about families that I have read in a long time is called “The Stories that Bind Us."

Its theory is that families bind in positive ways when the stories they learn to tell about themselves that ring true. It also says that families who distort their stories and tell either the flattering or the unflattering parts fall apart. When families fall apart, people fall apart. Even if we are single, we like knowing something about who we came from because that origin determines our destiny. Nothing is sadder than a person who tells the story of coming from “dysfunction” and is heading to more of the same. Nothing is happier than a person who tells a story about coming from people who loved me because my narrative is I can love. Nothing is more real than a story that has a little dysfunction and a little love, even a lot of love for those who couldn’t function.

What marriage equality is going to give us each and all is a new story, beyond the prison of gender. It is going to say a good man is a nurturing warrior. A good woman is a warlike nurturer. Or reverse the sentences. Marriage equality is going to open the doors on the boxes that have hurt us too long. I can’t wait for it to be EVERYWHERE.

~ By Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper

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