Monday, 31 March 2014

The Spousal Veto

I probably should've put this here in the first place instead of splurging all over Facebook.  Anyway...

Same-sex marriage has been legal in England since two and a bit days ago, and there were ceremonies at midnight.  This might sound like a good thing. I should also point out that it's none of my business why other people get married, on the whole.  I can see the point of marriage from the point of view of supporting residence applications, for next of kin to be recognised and other things, and since that contract is out there, it might as well be used even though its history has been besmirched by the enslavement of women by men, which is what it was originally for, of course.  This brings up the issue of legal hermeneutics - whether the intent of lawmakers is to be considered when applying the law.  I suppose if slavery was still legal, there might be some positive aspects to it but who nowadays argues in favour not only of keeping slavery but actually extending it?

However, same sex marriage is relevant to me as a married trans person, unfortunately, because of how the law has been changed.  There is this thing called a Gender Recognition Certificate which gives people the same legal status as their chosen gender with the exception of inherited titles, marriage in the Church of England and sporting competitions.  None of those things are relevant to me anyway.  This GRC thing turned up in 2004 and required married couples to divorce first.  Although I find that idea fairly repugnant, I can at least recognise that it's probably quite important in this kind of society to take transitioning seriously, and therefore that undertaking as serious a procedure as divorce might be considered sensible in that it demonstrates commitment to what you're doing - how hard do you want it?  I don't agree with it of course, I'm just saying I can see the argument.  However, clearly a relationship which has been through as much emotional turmoil as transition tends to cause but could recover isn't helped by having that inflicted on it as well.

So as of last Saturday, the law changed.  The situation now is that a spouse must consent in order for their partner to get a GRC.  This is the Spousal Veto.  They get to choose whether you can have your transition recognised in law.  I think it's very clear why this is not sensible.  The "easy" way to get out of this is of course divorce.  However, imagine the kind of marriage in which that could actually be deployed.  To me, it doesn't sound like the kind of marriage which is worth saving.  Therefore, to me this sounds like the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction to which people adhered in the Cold War, which was also completely wrong of course.  You keep nuclear weapons so the other side doesn't get you, so they exist in order that they never be used.  The spousal veto is similar.  You have this threat of your spouse messing up your relationship, so you refuse to go there and instead just do the normal killing yourself thing that you're supposed to do anyway.  Solves the problem well, doesn't it?

While I'm on the subject of marriage, people often wonder why I'm married when I disagree with it at such a basic level.  Here's one answer.  I have no right to interfere in another's relationship, on the whole, which is one reason I oppose marriage in the first place - nowadays it's usually considered to be a formalised romantic relationship with which either organised religion or the state has interfered, so it is in fact a relationship someone else has interfered with.  This is so even leaving behind the baggage that it's a form of personal tyranny.  However, that means equally that it's not OK for me to interfere with anyone else's relationship at all, and since Liz's relationship with me is not my relationship with her, I can't interfere with that one either, even though it's our own marriage.  I still have to live with the guilt of having done something to which I'm implacably opposed, and I deal with that by seeing myself as her property, which is after all what marriage is supposed to be about.  This feeds back into the trans issue.  I don't belong to myself any more, so I have no property rights over my body.  Incidentally our marriage vows are deliberately asymmetrical but people who were there at the time seem not to have noticed or are keeping quiet about it if they have.  This means that my spouse does in fact, in my case, have a spousal veto, and always has had, over not only my legal transition but also my physical transition.

In some kind of BDSM fantasy world this might sound like fun and maybe for some people it really would be, but that doesn't float my boat and to me this is just a practical arrangement that helps me deal with the fact that I've inflicted marriage upon her.

So that's why I got married, although there are other reasons.  It's not connected to commitment in my mind though.  Commitment is something I do believe in.