flwyd: (Vigelandsparken heels over head)
It's a good thing that planning a wedding is a lot of work, because it provides ample evidence of whether the couple is good at collaborating and communicating with each other. If you have someone else plan your wedding, you might not realize that you and your spouse don't play well together until things get much more complicated.

Most of the critical wedding bits are done or planned and Kelly and I are still totally getting married. Paper invitations should be landing in people's mailboxes over the next day or two. If you want to come and haven't filled out the contact info form, let me know.
flwyd: (tell tale heart)
Be Love and a colorful umbrella
The spiritual heart of Burning Man is the Temple, a beautiful, intricate wood structure. It serves as a blank canvas for the joys and sorrows, hopes and despairs, intention and letting go for the city. After three weeks in construction and a week in communal expression the Temple, along with all its messages and offerings, is burned to the ground as thousands watch in a circle of quiet reflection.

For the last year or so, my girlfriend Kelly has frequently asked if I want to marry her. It became something of a game: "Will you marry me?" "Not right now, I'm going to bed." "Will you marry me now?" "No, there's a cat on my lap." Kelly has played along, but I sensed she was getting annoyed by my non-answers.

On Tuesday of Burning Man, Kelly (aka Oasis) and I went on an art tour adventure in the outer playa, with the temple our final goal, hoping to leave offerings to Margot Adler and Robin Williams, two wonderful spirits the world lost this summer. But with construction delays from the August rains, it was not yet open to visitors.

On Wednesday morning, Kelly had a shift scheduled to give manicures to volunteer Rangers, a great way to keep her hands moisturized in the desert. I slipped away to the Temple with something of a plan. I found a good place for my photos of Margot Adler and Robin Williams and wrote Margot a farewell. I then walked around the inner sanctuary and the outer wall, searching for a blank slate that felt right: right shape, right position, right surrounding energy. I found it in a pair of wooden plates at eye level just north of the west door. After a lot of thought and grounding, I took out a sharpie and wrote on the left piece
Kelly, my love, my oasis,
will you marry me now?
Yours forever, Trevor 石胡子
and on the right wrote
Kelly's response? _________
I cried and smiled and then headed back to camp to await the moment of unveiling.

After a hot afternoon in the shade at Ranger Outpost Berlin I eagerly invited Kelly to ride out to visit the Temple in the sunset light. After five days of the environmental stress that makes Burning Man what it is, we were having trouble communicating when we arrived. I could tell she was stressed; my response was to ask lots of questions about what she wanted to do which just led to more annoyance. To ground and prepare ourselves, we walked a clockwise circle around the outer wall, setting a spontaneous intention to each cardinal direction. We then entered the southern gate and turned to face the inside of the outer wall. The first message we saw was someone else proposing marriage. "Will you marry me now," Kelly asked. "Not… right this minute," I replied. She grumped a bit while I kept a poker face. We continued a counterclockwise walk; I placed a hand on her back because I could sense her energy was still off kilter and I wanted to pass on some calm.

On the east side we saw a photo someone else had left in honor of Robin Williams. Kelly posted her photo of Robin and wrote him a message. As we continued along the north wall I realized there was a kink in my plan: she would see my Robin Williams photos before my proposal and I'd have to think of an excuse. She was angry when she spotted it, upset that I didn't wait to enter the Temple together with her. She continued walking along the west wall, a storm of emotion brewing. As we approached the gate, I placed my hand on her back and gently guided her to turn to the right. As she read the words I wrote, the bundle of tired and grumpy and upset melted into a great big kiss and embrace. I offered her a choice of sharpie colors to fill in her response. "Hell yes!" she wrote and then appended "– Dr. Stone." She's coveted my last name for a while.

With a chaotic summer, I hadn't had a chance to be a ring-seeker. I was also hesitant to buy an engagement ring that Kelly hadn't approved: what would be more awkward than a marriage proposal with an ugly ring as the centerpiece? In place of a circle of metal I brought a small bag of Mayan bracelets from a craft cooperative in Zunil, Guatemala. She selected one for me to tie around her wrist and I picked one for her to encircle mine. We kissed and hugged and cried and laughed and hugged some more and took photos and talked about our love for each other.

Took photos and kissed )

After we celebrated our moment in the west we saw a group of Rangers and artists from Element 11, Utah's regional event, carrying a banner honoring the man who ended his life in the flames of their effigy this July. We stepped into the central pyramid and the honor guard made their way to the west, parting the crowd between Kelly and me. We helped hold space as our comrades marked the tragic loss of a community member. Quick emotional transitions from fighting to uneasy to joyous to sorrowful: this compression of intense feeling is why Burning Man holds such a strong draw. We are fortunate that we could share this vulnerability with each other and we had a fantastic community to support and celebrate our choice.

On Sunday the Temple burned hot, serene in the crowded silence. The bones of the structure held strong as the details fell away and then the core collapsed together in a beautiful spiral a fire dance I've never seen before. The pillar with our proposal was one of the last parts to burn, an auspicious sign for a strong union.

Post Script: So… wedding? We're brainstorming ideas for our wedding in 2015. For family scheduling reasons, Memorial Day weekend is attractive, though no firm plans have yet been made. We're thinking about holding a variety show so our friends can help us celebrate through their many talents. We're also talking about making it a multi-day event so guests can get to know each other and enjoy the Colorado mountains in summer. We may also perform a marriage ritual at Dragonfest in August and we're digging through mythic sources in search of a good wedding story to play with.
flwyd: (Trevor baby stare)
More interview questions, this time from [livejournal.com profile] 477150n.
1. What do you think made Kaleigh such a good mentor for your high school group?
Background: Kaleigh was the first "tech maven" at New Vista High School. Under her guidance, and continuing under later leaders, students (AKA The Admins) were responsible for the school IT and AV work.

Kaleigh put a lot of trust and power in The Admins to make good technical decisions and handle administrative power responsibly. She would gently reign us in if we started going out of bounds and she made sure each of us were learning and growing. Very few high school students get the amount of responsibility and hands-on sysadmin experience that Kaleigh and New Vista afforded us; I know a few years after I graduated, student admins had a lot less power. I think some of the freedom we got from Kaleigh was because she had some personal issues she was dealing with, so we were often left without an adult in charge, but everybody was impressed with the results from The Admins.

2. How do you answer people when they say something like, "Wow, I've never met anyone who actually grew up here! What was it like to grow up in Boulder?"
I think of many visits to the Boulder Public Library, seeing interesting people (like a guy dressed as Yoda) on the mall, and spending a lot of time in parks. My preschool had a garden and a rooster, my elementary school had regular field trips to the planetarium and nature trails, and my high school let students design their own paths to graduation. I think the main advantages to kids growing up in Boulder are the wealth of educational opportunities and the freedom for personal expression.
3. What rituals are important to your day-to-day life?
The eight months I took of from work were an interesting opportunity to step back from daily ritual and see what patterns I naturally fall in to. While traveling, Molly and I often had a daily self-care ritual, eating in the dark, brushing teeth under the sky, checking in with each other on emotions and plans. Back at home, I found that without a ritual structure, I spent a lot of time on the Internet (a lot of it was job search related, a lot was reading interesting stuff, none of it was particularly structured) and not a lot of time hiking. The ritual of weekly or monthly social events -- game days, drum circles, cruiser bike rides -- keeps me from spending too much time computing. Now that I'm employed and once I get a place to live, I need to make sure to work out rituals that ensure exercise, fun, and fascination.
4. If it were up to you, how would you arrange the laws about marriage/civil union (broadly defined)?
From a legal standpoint, I think marriage should be generalized to the concept of a "family unit" providing for things like shared financial responsibility, power of attorney and joint tax returns. It should be open to any set of people who live together (or plan to start doing so right away), including straight couples, gay couples, polyamorous groups, siblings, best friends, etc. I think the process for attaining family unit status should emphasize the rights and responsibilities entailed -- a lot of people who get married don't understand the full ramifications. When you get divorced, both parties have to list their assets and incomes, decide how to split property and handle current responsibilities; it seems like making people figure this out before they get married would be a good idea too.

Moving from hetero-only marriage to gender-doesn't-matter marriage is a process full of political challenges, but not many legal ones; only a few words of law have to change, a few forms need wording tweaks, and Bob and Bob are your uncles. Expanding further to the "family unit" idea requires a little more work. Should there be a limit to the number of parties? I think it's important for a triad to have the same rights as a couple and four sisters living in a house should have just as easy a time with joint ownership and taxes as a couple and their two kids, but would FLDS-like setups lead to abuse? I.e., benefits like tax reduction shouldn't be granted in linear proportion to the number of people involved. Of course, if every person in the current family unit had to approve new additions, prior wives would have a veto on new ones if they felt the husband wasn't caring enough for the wives he already had.

On the casual and religious side of things, I think social groups should develop whatever traditions they like. If your church doesn't want to recognize polygamy, gay marriage, divorce, or interracial marriage, that's fine and your members are free to follow those rules if they want. Socially, adults should be allowed to set up whatever romantic and living situations they want, regardless of whether they apply for legal status or not.

Bonus: The gay marriage argument flowchart.

5. How does constant internet access change people's creative process?
If you have a clever idea like a pun or a band name, you can quickly find out if anybody else has thought of it. You can easily connect with people around the world with similar interests, letting creative collaboration happen regardless of geography; literary movements tied to a location (like Paris a hundred years ago) seems a very pre-Internet concept. In some situations, constant 'net access might be a detractor to creativity; given easy access to everything, people won't have to seek creative solutions.

If you'd like to participate in the shower meme, ask me for five questions in the comments. Answer them in your journal and invite others to solicit questions from you.

Queen Takes Bishop

Saturday, February 28th, 2009 11:48 pm
flwyd: (inner maiden animated no words)
I have nothing against drag queens, but I wouldn't want my daughter to marry one. My son, on the other hand...
flwyd: (tell tale heart)
Tam and I are splitting up.

She got a job as an LPN at the Colorado State Penitentiary infirmary. She's moving to Cañon City at the end of the month. I'll stay in Lakewood (aside from a break I'll post about soon) for the next several months and then make some changes of my own.

Some readers already know this; to others it may be a surprise. I do not at this time wish to write about all of the details of this process, but if you would like to discuss it over lunch or instant messenger, let me know. Over time I'll blog more about my inner perspective on the past, present, and future.

Some key points in FAQ form:
You're breaking up?! Why?!?!
When we agreed to get married, one condition was that after a few years we would reevaluate our relationship and decide if it was worth continuing for the rest of our lives. With the benefit of experience and insight into each other's personalities, we can see that, though our relationship features many positive aspects, we can tell that it's in neither of our best interests to stay together for a long time. Tam has important needs that I can't meet; I have important needs that Tam can't meet.
If you had reservations originally, why did you get married in the first place?
We'd been together for eleven months and lived together for five and a half. Tam was too sick to have a job and be in school at the same time. We didn't know what was wrong, and she was concerned about health insurance and other bills. She asked me to marry her so she could have the support she needed. I had reservations about making a lifetime commitment after knowing each other for less than a year, so I agreed to provide that support "at least through the end of school."
So... you got married for health insurance?
It's not the only reason. We loved each other, and still do. We've taught each other a lot about life. But it is true that we would not have entered into a three-way legal relationship (husband, wife, and State of Colorado) if universal health care were available or if my employer offered health coverage to cohabitants.
Do you guys hate each other now?
No. Our relationship doesn't follow a lot of norms. Just as our marriage didn't have a lot of elements traditionally associated with such an arrangement, we don't fit the stereotype of an angry, bitter divorcing couple. We haven't argued about who gets to keep what stuff. We've probably argued less in the last six months than we did in the first six months we were married (perhaps because now we know what's likely to set it off). I'll help her move at the end of the month; she'll give me a massage after we carry all the stuff in to the apartment. She'll call me when she has a question for a computer nerd; I'll call her when I have a question for a nurse. When your relationship is based on caring and open communication, bringing it to its natural conclusion can be a very healthy and positive process.
Who gets the cats?
We're still working that out, it's the most contentious issue of property division. "You take Kitty Boy!" "No, you take Kitty Boy!" They'll stay with me at least until she moves in. When I go out of town, they'll switch custody. After that? We'll figure it out.


Friday, July 13th, 2007 09:51 am
flwyd: (inner maiden animated no words)
Some of my best friends are husbands, but I wouldn't want my daughter to marry one.
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken face to face)
What follows are the non-situation-specific observations (theory? speculation? humbug?) I just made in response to a friends-locked post in someone's journal. In the spirit of open source living, I thought I'd share them publicly in the hopes that some may find them useful or insightful.

In an arrangement like marriage, it's important for everyone involved to know exactly (or at least generally) what they expect out of the relationship (intrapersonal awareness) and what the other people expect (interpersonal awareness).* Since marriage usually is the sort of situation that's harder to get out of than get in to, tackling expectations, concerns, boundaries, and goals in advance is a lot better than discovering unreconcilable differences part way through. Polyamorists can have an advantage in such matters because they're used to similar discussions. But since each polyamorist marriage tends to be unique, it's not easy to find actual or idealized examples to follow. What form will commitment take? How can the involved parties evaluate the success of the relationship? If things don't work out, what should happen? Stick it out and let it end are both valuable commitments. I think interpersonal awareness of which to expect is key.

When considering marriage, cohabitation, and other situations it's important to weigh mundane concerns with transcendent ones. Even among people who are deeply in love, enough surface conflicts like chronic mess can make living together unwise. On the other hand, my parents have been arguing about that (Point: This crap is unnecessary! Counterpoint: No, I use that!) for nearly 40 years and it doesn't threaten their relationship. There's a balance between putting up with a partner's quirks, loving a partner despite their quirks, and setting enough boundaries on quirks so that everyone's quirks have room to live.

* I can think of another important awareness: extrapersonal. Ironically, a partnership doesn't usually have to work too hard to figure out what to expect from society even though they have less control over how those expectations are met than they do over the other two aspects.

Love Writ Large

Monday, December 11th, 2006 02:19 pm
flwyd: (tell tale heart)
Someone in Long Island City has a creative way to pop the question. (Be sure to close the info balloon to see what's up.)

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] polonius for the discovery.
flwyd: (tell tale heart)
Last weekend I noticed OK Cupid was having a photo contest -- send in a picture of two or more OK Cupid members and perhaps win a prize. So I sent my laptop's background image, taken at Matt Sturtz's wedding by a professional wedding photographer.

[livejournal.com profile] tamheals just called me to tell me that we're on the front page. Sure enough, there we are, along with several messages from OK users impressed with my beard. Seriously, does match.com do anything this cool?

But now I feel a little silly. We didn't sign a Certificate of Common Law Marriage. We signed an Affidavit of Common Law Marriage. A certificate implies it's given by an authoritative entity, but an affidavit is just you saying something.
flwyd: (tell tale heart)
My friends include several people who are queer in one way or another and my friends' friends page has even more folks with non-straight and otherwise unusual opinions about sexual arousal and human desirability. Coming to terms with your own gender and sexuality can prove challenging. Sometimes what your brain and body are saying isn't said by the people around you. Without good role models and sometimes without even good words, enacting gender and sexuality in a well-adjusted manner is an amazing feat. In an attempt to turn the kaleidoscope a bit for a new view, I'll share the following teaching.

In the summer of 1994, my mom and I attended a week-long workshop at Naropa with American Indian storyteller and medicine man Johnny Moses. One of the many fascinating tidbits he shared was about gender in Nootka society on (I think) Vancouver Island. In Nootka language and culture, there are eight genders.
  • There are the straight men, and they're BOOORING.
  • There are the straight women, and they're boring too, so the two of them get together.
  • There are gay men
  • And gay women.
  • Then there's what we'd call bisexuals, but they're comfortable with people of all genders. So I suppose they'd be octosexuals.
  • Then there are men trapped in womens' bodies
  • And women trapped in mens' bodies.
  • Then there are people who feel like their spirit is not human, they're from somewhere else in the universe and were made to inhabit a human body so they could learn a lesson.
  • There are also people who are comfortable with all the genders, but aren't sexual at all. Perhaps they're octoasexual.
Other cultures in the area had different ideas about gender. Some had more, some had less, and others didn't really think about genders -- you just know what you feel like and you relate to people as they are. One group in the area have the concept of a gender whose members can't be sexual unless they pretend to be someone else.

Something bugs me about what passes for political debate and social dialog in America these days. The participants don't spend nearly enough effort in an attempt to understand and properly characterize what the other side actually thinks and why they think that. In our formal way, philosophers usually attribute the best interpretation of a work to its author. If his words can be interpreted in two ways, only one of which is totally absurd, the other should be assumed the intended meaning. Unfortunately, in common political and social thought, people often don't even rise to the level of willful misinterpretation. They start and end with making up positions held by their adversaries and then deriding those. For instance, some people voted for Nixon in 1960 because they didn't want the U.S. president to take orders from the Pope. Kennedy was elected, but the Pope's power in America didn't change.

This seems to be the current state of most of the gay marriage "debate" currently transpiring. It strikes me that a lot of constituents believe that proponents of gay marriage are following an agenda of goals that they do not, in fact, desire. I read somewhere that some anti-gay marriage leaders are intentionally ignoring the distinction between legal marriage and religious marriage. Thus, there may be lots of people who oppose gay marriage because their religion forbids homosexual unions and they don't want the government forcing their church to recognize and perform gay marriages. I don't think anyone on the pro-gay marriage side is claiming anything of the sort, but the misconception is out there. People therefore defend a ban on gay marriage in the name of religious freedom, of all things.

In the hopes of increasing the general level of understanding in the universe, I therefore hope I can make this clear. Religious matrimony and legal matrimony should be two separate (though usually co-occurrent) concepts. Religions should be able to confer the "sanctity of marriage" on relationships at their discretion. If a church's elders or members decide that unions are only holy if both members are of the same religion, race, sexual orientation, or age bracket, so be it. No person should be forced to perform a religious marriage they don't bless, and if a church disapproves of people living together who don't have a sanctified relationship, they may so decree. To the degree that the church's doctrine influences its followers actions, the faithful should follow these guidelines.

Alongside the concept of religiously blessed union should lie the legally blessed union. It could be called almost anything for all I care -- marriage, civil union, 602(d), or whatever. But it should be called the same thing for everyone to which it applies. To qualify for an LBU, the participants must meet certain criteria. They must be of the age of consent, they must agree to the union without duress, and perhaps they should swear an oath indicating some of their duties. The benefits provided by LBUs should be entirely legal in nature -- tax breaks, prevention of housing discrimination, inheritance, partner benefits, and so forth. There should not be a box on the form to describe which party has what sexual organs, because that has absolutely nothing to do with the provided benefits. It should be possible to have a legally blessed union without that union being religiously blessed and vice versa. It should be possible to have a legally blessed union with more than one person at a time, though providing for this would require some careful thought about legal repercussions. It seems questionable to force an employer's partner benefits plan to cover all seventeen of a person's spice, since that could lead to loophole unions where people without a relationship get married purely for free health care. But this sort of thing is a minor issue which can be worked out in legislative committee after sufficient testimony.

Laws restricting marriage to certain gender combinations based on religious tradition is a bit like laws restricting the purchase of meat to certain days based on religious tradition. If your religion says you shouldn't marry another person, don't. (Alternatively, make the switch to a religion that will let you marry the person you love.) If your religion says you shouldn't eat meat on Fridays, or even that you shouldn't eat meat at all, then don't. But don't make a law preventing the sale of meat on Friday.

Finally, the anti-gay agenda is largely doomed. No matter how much people try, they won't stop people from doing any of the following with people with similar sex organs:
  • stimulating sex organs to the point of orgasm
  • living together and sleeping in the same bed
  • creating and raising children
  • sharing finances and possessions
  • holding hands, kissing, or cuddling
  • arguing, fighting, lying, breaking up, harassing, taking revenge, or any of the other not-so-fun things that happen in a relationship.
All that outlawing same-sex unions prevents is tax breaks, access to health care, sensible custody, and reasonable inheritance. And that seems like a really strange set of things to selectively deny to people.

Well, tax breaks, access to health care, child custody, and inheritance are frequently granted to the wealthy while they're harder for poor to obtain, but that's a problem for another time.

In the abortion debate, people who are pro-life want to increase the number of lives and people who are pro-choice want to increase the number of choices. In the gay marriage debate, people who claim to defend marriage and pro-family actually oppose measures which would increase the number of marriages and provide more legal stability to families. To quote Dr. Strangelove, "You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"
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