and the rest is...
Lots of folks have questions for us - and we're happy to answer them, but just may not have time at the events themselves.
What is spoony?
Spoony is currently Max's favourite word.
Who is Max?
Max is the name Kayla's parents would have used if Kayla had been born male, and is what most folks now use.
What kind of ceremony will it be?
Those of you who attend the ceremony and are familiar with Jewish weddings will find many things comfortably familiar, and some things out of left field. Or the Left Coast.
Some of the Hebrew and English will be changed to reflect modern sensibilities about gender, and our genderqueer selves.
If you haven't been to a traditional Jewish ceremony, you might be interested in finding out more.
For everyone, there will be a program at the ceremony that explains things - and you should follow the links on the itinerary page to find out more if you're new to Jew stuff.
If all goes well, Stefan will graduate with his Master's in Public Health Nursing two weeks before the ceremony. This summer we'll be studying in Jerusalem - Stefan will be improving his meagre Hebrew and Max will be improving things that Stefan doesn't understand enough to explain.
This Fall, Stefan will look for jobs in Food Systems/Security policy or planning (while continuing to work as an RN), and Max will start a PhD program at Stanford in Religious Studies (with a focus on gender in Talmud). We'll be staying in San Francisco.
For those friends and family who haven't heard from Stefan in awhile, or don't know him very well, here's the essay he wrote for his Bet Din in the summer of 2005.
Why a commitment ceremony?
We have different and overlapping reasons for wanting to commit to each other outside the boundaries of marriage - the invitation had some of them - and here's a little rant by Stefan:
"The popular notion about marriage and love is that they are synonymous, that they spring from the same motives, and cover the same human needs. Like most popular notions this also rests not on actual facts, but on superstition."
- Emma Goldman
One of the amusing things about Goldman's essay on Marriage and Love, published in 1911, is her use of statistics to illustrate how the institution of marriage has failed, "One has but to glance over the statistics of divorce to realize how bitter a failure marriage really is, " she wrote. "Nor will the stereotyped Philistine argument that the laxity of divorce laws and the growing looseness of woman account for the fact that: first, every twelfth marriage ends in divorce; second, that since 1870 divorces have increased from 28 to 73 for every hundred thousand population; third, that adultery, since 1867, as ground for divorce, has increased 270.8 per cent.; fourth, that desertion increased 369.8 per cent."
In fact, divorce and adultery rates are not for me why marriage has failed as a social structure. It's failed because it came out of a patriarchal model of ownership and has failed to adapt. It's failed because it should never have been prioritized as the the Be all and End all of human bonding as it has been by modern governments, religions, and diamond importers.
And I do mean Modern - thanks to the invention of heterosexuality and the industrial revolution in the 19th century.
Emma Goldman's numbers today seem staggeringly low.But they document the shift in social life during the industrial revolution from primary rural communities with large households containing multiple generations, farm and domestic laborers, all of whom were considered, "family" to an urban, atomized "nuclear" family model - an entirely new creation which, only in the years previous to Goldman's essay, had been elevated to a central source of personal satisfaction and identity, thereby weakening people's community ties and sense of civic obligation.
And what's that I said about the invention of heterosexuality? When Goldman's essay was published, 'heterosexuality' was a new term that only existed in medical dictionaries as a sexual perversion towards sex acts without reproductive potential, or a 'preoccupation' with male-female eroticism. Prior to this time period people were much freer to form same-sex connections (including sexual ones) and broader networks of attachment. But once 'heterosexuality' became an identity (instead of just the norm) people's attachments and sex lives became more structured and limited - more confined to the nuclear family which has arisen as a breakdown product of larger families during the industrial revolution. Think of how hard it is for two men to hold hands or share a bed - something that Abraham Lincoln did with another man for years without brouhaha.
I believe there absolutely is value to fostering a broad range of human social connections - and the marriage is one of them that has run amok - trampling over many of the others, from male-male affinity to communal living to 'Boston marriages' etc. I believe that modern weddings have evolved from a system of patriarchal ownership - and that if patriarchy was dead, then the exchange of rings could maybe be a pure sharing of gifts instead of symbolic of the brideprice paid by not-so-distant grooms of yore. I also believe that marriage is still one way to protect the economic status of women in our contemporary patriarchy - but that's a bandaid.
Personally, my parents were married until the day my dad died. Although separated for the majority of that time, they stayed great friends. Why never divorced? One reason is that although both my mom and my dad were in love and lived with other people after their separation, they were not permitted by the state (or any major organized religion at the time) to marry those they loved, so there wasn't a reason for a divorce.
So my step-parents couldn't include me in their health insurance, had trouble picking me up at school or camp, needed permission from a 'family member' to visit me in the hospital, needed to explicitly include me in their wills which(as we saw many times among gay couples where one dies from AIDS) could be contested by their family of origin.
I could take the tack that many LGBT people are now taking and asking for an extension of marriage rights to cover us. But I say it's a flawed, exclusionary, sexist and rigid model of social connection that our government and religions promote to the exclusion of nearly any other - and in a post-modern world, one size does not fit all.
And finally - because it may not be obvious to some - Max and I are a queer couple. Whether that's because Max is more boy than girl, or because I'm more queerspawn than straight, the fact is that queer couples can't get married under secular or Jewish law.
Although I'm not convinced that by refusing to receive the unearned privileges of marriage that we will help those who can't get married, I certainly hope so.
So, then, why a commitment ceremony? Well - despite my rantings, there are many good aspects to marriage that we would like to salvage without the bad stuff. Max and I are going somewhat nuclear - and the process forces us to work through things we could otherwise have postponed indefinitely: to name what it is we want from each other, to examine our own unarticulated expectations about the future, to bring us closer to each other's families and friends, to pick a side of the bed and stick to it.
The other reason is, of course, is to have an excuse to make our favourite people dance to disco klezmer. "It's fun to stay at the..Vy, Em, Cee, Oi..."