Queerness, Community, and Reclaiming Marriage
Over the last 6 or so months, I have watched a small community film night (I think four or five people including me) evolve into something much bigger. Tracking down and watching some of the slightly harder to find films such as Rebel Dykes on a laptop in a living room, a small community formed and grew, unofficially led by curator and academic Jules Lacave-Fontourcy.
Queer Film Night has quickly developed, working with organisations like Lavender Menace, hosting well known local Drag Queens like Mystika Glamour, and hosting online Q&A sessions with directors and creators from a wide diversity of experiences, relationships with queerness, indigenous culture, and society, invariably hosted at the wonderful Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative basement.
For the screening of Paris is Burning, we had an attendence of around 60 people, and are already working on more plans for the summer, including touring across the highlands, and a community fundraiser night, principally organised by Kate, part of the team (and resident DJ). Working with our video and tech team (Shoutout to Peter and Nico), we caught some images and video of the event, with a heated discussion afterwards for several hours on the role of authorship, and what stories are, and aren't yours to tell, the impact the film has had, and how to move forward from that point.
For me at least, a lot of the joy of the film nights is recognising how much things have changed from even 30 or 40 years ago, as well as acknowledging some things that have not. Bringing those films, and by extension a wider cultural conversation and literacy, for a history that otherwise stays in obscurity, allows us to find connection to older generations, and a legacy that otherwise risks being lost.
I have always felt closely connected to queer history and culture, as one of the uncommon 'generational queers', raised in my early years by my two mums, shaping a lot of my formative experiences and relationship with the world. However, during the pandemic, my sense of self, the assumptions I had placed on myself, and my relationship with the world began to change, for a wide variety of reasons.
I wonder how many more people are examining and reinterpreting their experiences with more access to information, and the increased opportunity to exist in a community, with solidarity and mutual care, especially when it feels like so much of life is hard to hold onto.
Most of the work that I do is wedding photography, something I consistently really enjoy, to the point where actually crying at a stranger's wedding is something I have to be mindful to avoid as much as possible while working.
I love weddings, because in my experience, they are one of the most unashamed expressions of love and care that exist publicly. A level of authenticity, and vulnerability that usually exists almost exclusively in a private setting, existing openly among dozens, sometimes hundreds of people.
However, weddings are also expensive (sorry), extremely gendered, and they are very steeped in a very 'specific' approach to life, to find a job, a partner, settle down, and maybe have some children. None of those things are wrong, but its hard not to resent how they are treated like the only way to exist in a wider culture.
When I look at weddings, I see a celebration of two people's love, but also of a community of people supporting them. Close friends, family, people who have watched the journey that has led up to this moment, all in the same place, and ready to support them going forward.
All of this is inextricably tied to economics. Marriage, before it represented a deliberate decision to love and commit to someone, was an economic and social unit first and foremost. It solidified the nuclear family, allowing for units of production (read: children), stability, and the passage of property (read: women) from one family patriarch to the next.
A lot has changed since then, but some things haven't. In the UK we have same-sex marriage, considered by some the end point of generations of struggle, the opportunity for many queer people to exist as a social and economic unit, and live out the domestic lifestyle expected of opposite-sex couples.
How then, do you factor in the role of community? When you are to be united to the exclusion of all others, how do you account for the increasingly wide variations of relationship models? When the boundaries defining the roles, genders, economics, and structure of a relationship are no longer assumed, what place does marriage have?
The idea of picking a person and choosing, deliberately, to support them and take care of them, and to be supported by them in turn, does not have to be anything but what you want it to be. The decision to not just put yourself first, but to partner up and make sure everyone does okay, is an action that speaks to a human urge to care for others, whether that is in a very traditional marriage, or a very 'nontraditional' one. To me, that is what the core of a commitment of marriage is, and why, despite all its baggage, I still end up moved by the love of strangers.
I have a bias, this is what I do for a living, but regardless of if the wedding is considered legal, if it is between two people or a dozen, if it is for the future of settling down and having children, or for mutual care, travelling, keeping lizards together, the idea of publicly declaring your love for a person, still feels pretty exciting to me.