Yesterday we got married. In a slow fermenting, years long, magical way, we got married. And in a thoroughly Capricornian, “the government and our national history recognises your union” kinda way too. Let me recount the story:
Almost 11 years ago, on Halloween of 2004, me and Phil met each other online, and began a friendship which flowered into a lot more by the following February. In July of 2005 I went out to Nevada to meet Phil in person, and we handfasted ourselves to each other in Virginia City. We wear those same, Nevadan silver rings as our wedding rings to this day. Spiritually we were married that day, just over 10 years ago. This is the scene we looked out over:
And this was Phil that day:
One of the happiest, most innocent and joyful, and defining days of my life. We didn’t realize it at the time, but to be together we would have to move to a country with legal provision for same sex couples, in this case my country of birth, the UK. My “husband” wanted to bring me to the USA to be with my new family, and I would have gone at the drop of a hat, and was making all preparation to do so, but that’s not how it worked for two men in 2005 with US immigration. But as it happened the UK was bringing in Civil Partnerships that December, which was a real blessing for us. So we went in the other direction geographically.
In July of 2006, just under a year after our handfasting, we were legally “Civil Partnered” in Harrow in Middlesex. It was a very happy, sunny Summer’s day, and we had wonderful friends around us, but we were under such stress from our blocking at the US end, the move, separation from children, finding and following legal advice, and the demands of immigration procedures and amassing “evidence”, that though we knew this was “it”, the thing that our future hinged on, that it was a truly big deal, yet we couldn’t quite feel it. But it was actually immense, as it came with a very full range of legal rights, and we were very grateful for it.
And then we went through immigration and citizenship procedures for the next three years, and sorting out all the life and family stuff we had to deal with then and in the years following, moving over the succeeding nine years from Harrow to Greenwich, to East London, where we finally made our home (at least until such time as we can move, opportunity permitting, back to the USA).
But everything goes back to that time, that innocent, clear blue skied time back in Nevada, when we said our vows to each other in Virginia City, 10 years ago. We went through so much since then, seeing transformations of our lives and ourselves in various ways, our family, our spirituality and our way of life. But our love has only returned to its beginning and deepened. I look at my husband the same way as at the beginning.
When it became possible to convert Civil Partnerships into marriages last year, we knew we wanted to take up that option. There are quite a few reasons for that. We would have got married in 2006 (or 2005) if we could, but it was not available to us then. We entered a Civil Partnership as the equivalence of marriage, as our “version” of marriage. We were getting married in all but name, but names do have a power, and legal implications outside the UK. Parallel systems to achieve identical ends for separated sections of the population do not make sense, and in fact carry an implicit meaning which is not lost on the common psyche. “Partner” and “husband” do not mean the same thing. If it did, there would be no problem with abolishing the terms “husband” and “wife” universally. But everyone knows that would be an impoverishment. Civil Partnership means something legally very equivalent to marriage in the UK. In other parts of the world “civil partnership” can mean anything from effective marriage rights to simply recording that you are in a permanent relationship, with no expectation of legal protection. Marriage is universally understood.
So we always thought it would be what we wanted to do. It was what we always thought of ourselves doing, even when it was just us in Northern Nevada, in a lot looking out over the countryside. But it seemed like a technicality in a sense now, important, but after all these years we didn’t need another ceremony. But it was actually really important when it came.
Even in the taxi to the register office yesterday I realized that parts of the last 10 years were being erased, released or transformed (some of the trials and struggles), as if everything was new again, without our hard won experience being lost. This was the register office where Phil got his citizenship too, but it really was a bit like being there for the first time. It was like being new, but able to own these 10 years of experience more fully and naturally too. We got here. Damn right we did.
The registrar was really nice, and explained that when this new information got “locked in” to the national computer system, we would be married and our 9 years of civil partnership would be converted to 9 years of legal marriage, we would get a new certificate and the old CP certificates would effectively be cancelled (though we could sill keep them). That in itself was something. That original piece of paper which was our early, key goal; now cancelled for a marriage certificate that replaced it in full. Thanks and farewell, to a life that in some ways felt almost like being on the run.
We signed the declaration, and he filled out the certificates in beautiful handwriting. Whereas the old CP certificate was portrait and printed, the marriage certificate was landscape and looked much like my British birth certificate (except the line borders were in green rather than red), and would have been very much like what my mother and father would have got, complete with the little crest at the top. I actually have what my mother and father had. It’s difficult to articulate what, and how much that means. It’s as if your life were joined up.
And no more saying “husband, that’s civil partner, like a marriage”. He’s my husband, and I’m his.
Which year is this, and where are we? It’s now, and we’re here. Finally here.