Monday, October 5, 2015

Of Bamberg, Gay Marriage and Being an "Other"

I think the weather had something to do with it. After our unbelievable good luck with weather this whole trip, we encountered rain yesterday in Bamberg. It wasn't pouring, for which I was grateful. It was, rather, a steady drizzle - just enough to require keeping my umbrella up and to give everything a patina of dullness.

The fact that it was Sunday probably also contributed to it. All the stores were closed, and the only people wandering the streets were groups of tourists following or huddled around a guide, sometimes (in the words of our own guide) spilling like ants out of a side street into view. We were some of those ants.

These factors no doubt contributed to it, but it was really something else that caused a feeling of malaise in me yesterday as we toured Bamberg. As we walked from our ship moored at the harbor to the buses that would transport us into the old city, as we descended and formed into smaller and more manageable groups, and as we walked and huddled around tour leaders, I began to sense that I was an "other," marginalized and excluded.

"Centurion I" by Igor Mitoraj. I think this is my favorite photograph of the day
because this sculpture expresses, in a way, what I was feeling at the time of being
a "half-person." I find that the sculpture is, at the same time, very sensuous and, in my eyes,
depictive of a sensitive yet very strong and athletic man.

It wasn't anything that anyone said. It wasn't attributable to any one person or groups of persons. It was just ... there. When we went to get off the bus, the fact that Mark and I were together, a couple, wasn't acknowledged. We were just two guys, and people apparently didn't think anything about stepping between us. People wouldn't have done that to a heterosexual couple because it is understood that they are "together." It wouldn't have been given it a second thought.

The same thing happened when we walked to the center of the old city with all the other passengers or when we stood in groups around a guide while on the tour. Courtesies that would be extended without a thought to a "normal" couple were not extended to us. At one point on the tour, I turned to Mark and quietly said, "They just don't get it, do they? That we're a couple just like they're a couple?" 

When we arrived back at the ship and were descending from the bus, couples were taking turns. When it was our turn, I stepped into the staircase ahead of a woman and her husband. As I descended, I heard the man who had been behind me (who wasn't Mark, because he had let another "couple" go ahead of him) say to this woman, "Go ahead," to which she replied in a very pronounced tone with a tinge of indignation, "Thank you!" I could just picture her nose in the air.

After arriving back at the ship and having lunch, I sat down to write in my journal about the experience I had had that morning. I wrote, "Most of these straight couples just don't get that we are a couple, just like they are." And then it hit me: of course they don't. Many of them - if they are a representative sample of people over the age of 55-60, which I think they are - Mark and I not only shouldn't be a "married" couple nor expect to be treated like one; they don't "believe" in homosexuality. And should we dare to show the least sign of affection publicly - such as holding hands or walking arm in arm - there would certainly be indignation.

This is my second favorite picture. Shadows. Light. Aloneness.

Our marriage, our home, our family deserves the same respect as that of any heterosexual couple. I can't demand this, but that doesn't mean I can't expect it.

I took this very happy picture in the "Venice" section of Bamberg.

As I write this, I hear numerous voices in my head that aren't mine: "Of course you're experiencing this. What did you expect?" or "You're imagining this. I'm sure these people didn't mean to act in such ways." or "You can be an ambassador to those who don't understand, who are still 'evolving.'" or "You need to be patient. Remember how far you've come."

There is some degree of truth in all of these statements (as well as some patronizing). But that doesn't invalidate how I felt. Having said that, I now have a task ahead of me the rest of this week to look for the good in others and try to ignore the types of behavior I've written about. I have the task ahead of me to make the most of this week on my/our terms. And I have the task of embracing and enjoying this time that Mark and I have to spend together.

I think I'm up to the tasks.

Meanwhile, the weather is supposed to be good today, AND we are going to Rothenburg! I've wanted to go there ever since December 1988, when I first saw "Christmas in Germany," a film I've referred to in previous posts. Mark has already warned me that he read that the town is one of Germany's best shopping towns. Good weather, uber-quaintness and shopping with my husband. Sounds good to me.

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