Barrie reinterprets the state of marriage, what it means to her, and the benefits associated with having a husband. She bucks Warner's idea that the institution of same-sex marriage is always an ideology of normalization. Barrie does not seek a commitment ceremony with Linnea because she wants to uphold a heterosexual image of purity or to become "civilized". Rather, Barrie acknowledges her current politics and the queer politics of her past. Barrie proves that mainstream gay and lesbian concerns do not ignore the queer politics. Warner's assumption that the two cannot work together provides a dichotomy of the gay and lesbian movement that creates the same hierarchies he intends to indict.
The benefits of marriage for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are very ambiguous. Barrie embraces marriages ambiguity just as she embraces gender ambiguity. She wants to find ways to appropriate and integrate the best of what already exists. This is done through a more formal recognition of her commitment to Linnea. Barrie is looking to celebrate and demonstrate her interpretation of what marriage is. "When I call Linnea my husband I mean that she's the woman who has to lead when we slow dance, who is compelled to try and dip and twirl me? when I call her my husband I mean that she is a woman I saw dressed seriously in a skirt and heels just once" (6 Borich).
Barrie's recognition of ambiguity in her relationship status is parallels her acceptance of Linnea and her butch lesbian sexual identification. Barrie points out that Linnea sticks out in public restrooms "She is a woman who does not look like a man, yet is often mistaken for one" (Borich 7). Just as people mistake Linnea for a man Warner mistakes that all same-sex marriage seekers are actually normalizing to the constraints of heterosexuality. When Warner argues passionately against same-sex marriage he does so because it perpetuates the cultural shame attached to sex between consenting but unmarried adults, not for the more mainstream reasons like homosexuality denigrates the institution of marriage.
Warner claims that when gay men and lesbians try to claim they " re just like "normal folk" they do a profound disservice to other queer folk who do not choose to live in monogamous or matrimonial bliss. He states that escaping into marriage ignores the problems with societal stigmatization. This is done through simply assimilating into monogamy rather than challenging widespread stigma and homophobia. However, I think this view of marriage is short cited. Warner equates the institution of marriage only with monogamy, chastity, and purity. The three do not always have to be linked.
Barrie and Linnea's ceremony and celebration disprove the inherit linkage of marriage and purity that Warner points to. "? our honeymoon entertainment would be front row seats at a topless revue? It's a gay men's chorus with showgirls" (Borich 238-39). Barrie and Linnea openly embrace their sexual identities and that they are not mainstream. They integrate this belief into not only their celebrations but also the commitment itself. Instead of planning the normal commitment ceremony that Warner describes as a more formal way of "coming out" and announcing monogamy to family and friends, Barrie and Linnea take off for Las Vegas.
A town that embraces sexuality, sexual autonomy, and freer interpretations of love embodies not only Barrie and Linnea's relationship but also their queer identity and history. When Barrie asks "what could be the reason Linnea and I would choose this trippy place to get married" (Borich 240) she provokes questions of normalizing marriage. Instead of bucking her past of break-the-rules sex, drugs, and alcohol she embraces her bad-girl past with a new twist. It wasn't morally wrong or absent her identity as a lesbian now that she was getting married, rather it is part of her identity she still embraces and reinforces that identification by choosing the drug, sex, and sin capital of Las Vegas for her wedding sight. Barrie proves that the politics of queer theory and current gay and lesbian mainstream movements are not incompatible. Warner states that "queer" is used to suggest how many people find themselves at odds with straight culture.
Inherently, Barrie and Linnea are challenging notions of straight culture. Linnea's identification as being a butch lesbian challenges gender constructions and Barrie's own lesbian identification embraces the spectrum of sexual promiscuity to monogamy and love. The two embrace the role of sex in their marriage instead of marrying to blend their identity. Warner points to the movement and describes the politics of sexual identity versus sex in a negative light. "Sex and identity can simply be confused with each other. So even an expanded catalog of identities can remain blind to the way people suffer, often indiscriminately, norms of sexual practice, and norms of subjective identification" (Warner 39).
Barrie and Linnea, on the other hand, embrace both identity and sex. The two do not have to be pitted against each other. Warner goes on to state that once lesbian and gay couples begin to marry and are recognized by the state the gay and lesbian movement will die. He states that marriage is not an effective way of dealing with the stigma associated with homosexuality. On the contrary, I believe the economic benefits associated with marriage and the signal of institutional acceptance will lead to more people "coming out of the closet". This is turn, will help more closed minded people to realize how many people do not sexually identify as heterosexual.
The only proven way to end discrimination I have seen is through personal contact. Growing up in a Midwestern conservative environment exposed me to many bigoted beliefs. The openness of a few individuals in my school changed many more minds than any marriage law would. If the institution supports the practice it will become more recognized. The more people that come out, the more people are exposed to different interpretations of sexual identity.
True sexual autonomy means equality. Although Barrie and Linnea received no state recognition of their marriage it sent a signal of their identities. Barrie and Linnea merged thoughts of mainstream gay rights advocates and their identification with queer politics. Warner's assumption that the two cannot work together provides a dichotomy that pits the mainstream gay and lesbian movement against people who identify with queer culture. By classifying one movement as good, effective, and radical and the other as mainstream, misguided, and cosmetic he denies the importance of mainstream lesbian and gay movements. If sexual autonomy is inherently important Warner should recognize that institutional recognition of this autonomy is not completely cosmetic.
Tangible benefits such as health care and legal rights are addressed by the mainstream movement. The queer movement also addresses health issues when dealing with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The two causes share similar concerns. The division of the two creates the same hierarchies of homo and hetero-sexuality that Warner intends to indict. By privileging one movement Warner reinforces an image of what gay and lesbian identities should look like. Barrie's attitude towards marriage proves the two can be merged.