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Are We Getting Married? Tim Dean and Ramon Soto-Crespo

The First-Ever Artvoice Marriage Equality Issue: Couples Profiles

Tim Dean and Ramón Soto-Crespo

Status: Happy with one another, skeptical of the institution

Tim Dean and his partner, Ramón Soto-Crespo, are professors at UB—Dean in the English Department, Soto-Crepo in American Studies. Dean writes extensively about queer culture and theory, and sent us this reflection on marriage and the campaign for marriage equality.

When I looked at the pictures, in the New York Times this weekend, showing same-sex couples getting married in New York state, I was surprised by how moved I felt, because I’ve always had an instinctive aversion to marriage, ever since I was a child. Even before I came to think of myself as gay, I was vehemently opposed to marriage. And, during the campaign for same-sex marriage, I was critical of the drive toward assimilation—gays trying to be just like straights in order to qualify as “normal.” I don’t want to be normal and I’m pretty skeptical about the desire to conform, which is so strong in this country.

For the past decade or so, I’ve regarded the campaign for same-sex marriage as diverting attention and resources from other issues affecting queer people, such as healthcare and sexual rights. Gays are in a position to create different kinds of relationships, without subsuming them all under the goal of marriage. Marriage, whether same-sex or different-sex, puts a lot of pressure on relationships in a way that’s often unhealthy. The social pressure to get married can destroy a relationship. And then there is the wedding industry, which strikes me as totally out of control.

But when same-sex marriage became a reality in New York state, my feelings changed somewhat. Casting the issue in terms of marriage equality—a very clever strategy—makes the legal victory feel incredibly important. It made me feel that Governor Cuomo and the state legislature were making history, that we’re on the side of progress for a change. Look, something good came out of Albany! Because lesbians and gay men feel like second-class citizens (for all sorts of reasons), winning the right to marry feels enormously significant.

But do I want to take advantage of this new right now that it’s available to me? My partner, Ramón Soto-Crespo, and I are very committed to each other and very happy together, but do we want to get married? If I marry anyone, it’ll be him. But I’m still rather skeptical about the institution of marriage.

A relationship is what you make it; but marriage is an institution that brings a lot of baggage. When you enter an institution, some degree of personal freedom is lost, whether you’re gay or straight, male or female. Since one of the functions of marriage is to validate relationships, unmarried partnerships may look less valid in this light. So, do I want to make my relationship more socially valid by getting married? Or do I want to stay unmarried, now that I really have the choice, as a kind of protest against the whole institution of marriage and its system of recognition?

My partner and I have been together for nearly 14 years. We were in New Hampshire when the news came a month ago, but we were stoked even at that distance. I was sorry not to be in New York at that moment. Yet neither one of us is proposing to the other. Instead, we’re looking at each and saying, “Are we going to get married?” Don’t know.

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