Illustration by Laura Cerón Melo
With arepa in one hand and cell phone in the other my prima whispers in my ear: Congratulations on ese matrimonio. I look around, maybe she’s confused? But everyone in this family reunion is busied with alcohol, selfies, and Andres’ new baby boy who is just ay qué cosita más lindaaa.
No, de verdad, she says, biting on the arepa, Congratulations on your wedding. Her right hand lands on my shoulder and I’m searching for the homophobic punchline that would come after that, I’m searching for the, You are banned from Jesús’ family hang-out crew forever. Por lesbiana. Tortillera. Marimacha. I wait for her eyes to lose their glimmer, for her to snap into the conservative Jesús-loving woman I know her to be, but the only thing she says is: Ay nena, you know Ellen Degeneres? I love Ellen Degeneres. I watch her show all the time.
ELLEN DEGENERES, people!
Who said mainstream white gays did not have an impact on us on the other side? Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
I chuckle. I imagine her and my cousin watching Ellen (I can’t!)
(Aside: again, context. This part of the family: evangelical Colombians waving to Jesús from Miami’s beach.)
She says, Qué pasó? You don’t like Ellen Degeneres?
I tell her, yes, como no. Ellen Degeneres? My favorite dyke and thank you. I mean if you watch Ellen Degeneres you are almost an activist for LGBT rights, carajo! Give the woman a medal. My interior self is snapping, clapping, rolling on the carpeted floor in extreme laughter, pulling at her hair, barely able to breathe because this just happened. Because, hello mainstream gays. Hello homonormativity. Hello marriage and its weird feelings. Because bienvenida mami al mundo de los normales. Over here children, over there a remodeled kitchen.
In the previous installment of “MATRIGAY” (read here) I mentioned the yo no sé qué creepy feeling that came de a gratis with, You can now kiss the bride. Because, mi reina, it is not only about kissing the bride, or exchanging fair-trade locally-manufactured wedding bands, or waiting two hours for the judge with your in-laws and your adopted queer mom and the awkward silence of city hall (and the Chinese tourists snapping pictures of your blunt homosexuality). But, you already know that, cariño. There is plenty of literature on the heterosexism and the overall fuckedupness of marriage as an institution, so I won’t break into a history song (but I could) about business models, and second-class citizenship and the state regulating how many people I can lawfully fuck (smile, monogamy!). I am interested in the ball of feeling starting at your gut trickling all over your body and ending with a twitch of the lips when your 75-year-old tía Marta calls you with that index finger: Ajá Juli, you gay? Ajá mi vida, but you getting married? Ay, pero why so far, come here, sit with us. That index finger welcoming you into the family sofa.
I’m interested in what happens with that sudden recognition that yes, Hola familia I have a life. That yes, Hola familia that cute girl in those Doc Martens ain’t my roommate. That, no tía, I have not been single for the past ten years. That you, tía, knew this but decided to look the other way. That, now, all of the sudden you say marriage and they say hey! What is happening with that sudden recognition from the homophobic other and the homophobic state as it lands on my lesbo body. As it lands on a body that over and over has heard: Tu? lesbiana!? No, mi amor, primero puta que lesbiana. Lesbiana? But if all you need is a good dick mami. You wanna try some dick?
You with me, pela’a?
Before the I do, before the receptionist at City Hall asking us over and over: Are you sure you don’t want to change your last names? Are you sure?
But, are you totally sure? This could change your life (as if).
Before we politely told her my girl was keeping her Cerón and I was keeping my Delgado and no thank you we ain’t no hyphenated couple, before this, and before walking down an aisle where my feet blended with the pavement, before the champagne and the drunken reggaetón, I told Laura: marica bebé come look at this Facebook pic of a high school friend of mine on her wedding holding her man like a fucking trophy. In unison we exclaimed: OMG, qué huesooooo. In the next picture her dad is giving her away, there are tears (tears!) and she hashtags it: #foreverdaddysgirl. Yes, mi reina, go puke.
Now I want to stop here for a second and acknowledge the hetero mamis who are going, ADM! This lesbian is totally jealous. Who does she think she is? This lesbian wishes she could have a daddy and a real man or at least a real wedding. A wedding where all the old people in your family gather around you and nod: your abuelo coughing, your abuela pinching you underneath the dress so you smile. A real wedding where your Papi waltzes with you before sending you off to be with your #prince with the perfected crew cut and the average dick. A wedding where your tías get drunk and flirt with the waiters. Where your ten best girlfriends and their ten boyfriends take shots of tequila in your honor, etc. A big hetero orgy of love and #normativity. A wedding with mariachis or at least a papayera or at least the #prince breaking into a drunken song about his princess and his future children. ADM! She wishes! The point is: I ran away from this as fast and far as I could. Which is to say I ended up in Berkeley reading The Ethical Slut with half my head shaved. Which is to say I removed myself from the hetero orgy, I unlearned the heteronormative way. I pledged loyalty to vagina freedom. But then my homophobic tía texted me some wedding love and I felt some longing in my rib cage move. I felt my stomach contract in what can only be described as nausea from this unknown feeling of familial belonging. Which is to say the weight of this inside us is terrible.
Let’s just say that if I ever dreamed of a wedding it was more of a symbolic ceremony than a bureaucratic transaction. Over the years I’ve talked to people extensively about the Gothic Victorian drag wedding I will have inside a castle when I win the lotto (which according to my grandmother’s predictions will happen soon). But even this image of the Gothic Victorian Wedding did not happen until my 20s. Back inside my teenage head gay girls did not marry (duh!). Marriage was something my tías did, my cousin Carmen did, the girls with pearl earrings and highlights did with their boyfriends and their gelled heads. We? We hid lesbian books from our mothers. We sneaked out to kiss our girlfriends behind the corner store, we daydreamed of her thighs while our tías set us up in blind dates with church boys. We kissed in the middle of Unicentro to the outrage of that mom covering her little girl’s eyes. We shaved our heads. Our love was outlawed by our fathers and therefore revolutionary. We held hands in a pride parade in Bogotá as it drizzled. It didn’t matter that somewhere gays were already being commodified and sold, this was our life and marriage had nothing to do with it. We lost our homes but found each other in the rain. We loved, we fucked, we survived. At 19 we attended our prima Carmen’s wedding, drank endless shots of aguardiente, and finger-fucked her straight BFF in the coat room. (Carmen doesn’t speak to us and her BFF has two kids now.) Which is to say our future was an endless sapphic rendezvous.
At the same Ellen Degeneres reunion my cousin Andrea demanded I show her my wedding ring and yo, ni corta ni perezosa, flung that wedding band in her face with such enthusiasm this woman of God stepped back and chuckled anxiously. Cálmate, Juliana! Ay mama, but I don’t know how to act in these situations. Nobody taught this dyke how to properly showcase a wedding band, or say thank you when some homophobe that you love congratulates you about something they’ve been fighting you about for the past ten years. You mean you were kidding for the last ten years? Of course they were not kidding, ilusa! Of course not.
My therapist says I deserve this. Meaning, I deserve to feel some of this love no matter how fucked up my family’s realization is. She says that it is okay to question its source (hellooo I’m writing a whole post about it), but it doesn’t negate the fact that it feels nice to belong and be loved and be acknowledged (it does). It doesn’t negate the fact that my heart burst with joy when I saw my mamá—straight off a plane from Miami—standing on the aisle snapping pictures of the brides.