by Elle Mills-Warner

So, this has come up quite a bit recently in some of my social circles, so, I figured it was time for mama to put in her two cents on the subject.

Since transitioning, I have had to deconstruct and reassess a lot of what I believe about romance and relationships. When I was living as a man, I had relationships with men and was involved in fighting for marriage equality. I had my childhood dream of marrying a man in mind. I imagined my wedding, I imagined what it would be like to have a home with a man, some pets, the ideal monogamist portrait, Ward and Ward Cleaver.

And once I embraced my gender identity I spent years running from, I actually had visions of the big fancy wedding everyone else got to have with me as the bride. I imagined what it would be like. It still seemed like a fantasy I would one day obtain.

Then I started dating straight men for a minute… no offense to straight men, but that contextualized some things for me. I realized that men who date women often see women as their possessions. I had known for a long time that marriage historically had been an institution founded on owning women. But my God it became a whole different ballgame as a woman. I realized that no matter what I did, no matter how progressive my partner would be, as a married woman, I would always be combatting thousands of years of this being an institution designed around passing a woman from her father to her husband as property. It’s even in our marriage ceremonies today with the father giving away the bride.

We’ve only really been challenging the gender roles of marriage for about 60 years. And marriage is still the ideal of our culture, incentivized with a myriad of rights and privileges, as well as tax and other monetary breaks. Society favors married people as somehow superior to single people. Especially if married people have children.

Me going into a marriage as a man would have been subversive of that institution from the word go. There is no template for what a same-sex marriage can be. And two men occupy the same privilege status with gender.

Then we get into the weeds of me realizing that I’m not only attracted to men, that I’d suppressed my attraction to women and my very strong attraction to nonbinary people. That said, up to this point, I’ve only had romantic feelings towards men, but that could change.

But getting out of the weeds there, I have also come to realize that most of what I’ve been taught about relationships, the default monogamy and fidelity model is probably good for some people, but I don’t know that it’s the healthiest relationship model for a lot of other people.

I am not disparaging you if you’re in a monogamist marriage and happy. If it’s causing you and your partner to feel good and causing you do become better people, I’m glad. Keep doing what you’re doing.

But so much of our ideas of marriage and relationships seem to be based on fear and jealousy. The fear that somebody else could replace you. That the person will find somebody better than you and leave you for them. And also the jealousy of others interacting with your person in ways you see as inappropriate. That they are somehow your property and not your partner. Marriages and commitments are often framed around possessing the other, that you give them your heart and pledge fidelity to them for life. But is that the most realistic thing for most people?

Is love about possession or is love about expansion? I do not believe you give yourself to your beloved. I believe you invite your beloved in. You do not own each other. You expand each other. As such, if you truly love somebody, can anyone actually replace you? Will your relationship with another person ever be the same as your relationship with someone else?

I hear parents all the time say that they love their children in different ways and I believe that is how relationships of all kinds happen.

I believe that with 8 billion people on the planet, the idea of one or two models of relationships being prescribed for everybody is laughable at best and actively harmful at worst.

I’ve been deeply introspective on what I want in a relationship at this point, and I don’t see it involving marriage at this point unless we needed immediate legal protection, in which case it would only be done for legal reasons.

It’s been hard letting go of my childhood dreams of a big wedding and happily ever after with the ONE. But I’m at a point where I just don’t believe that either of these things applies to my life.

Love is complex, relationships take many forms, and I believe you should be free to explore those for yourself without judgment. Here’s my one caveat, do it without extortion, full and enthusiastic consent from those you love, and actively communicate.

In short, I think it’s time we as a culture reassessed marriage and monogamy and looked to alternatives.