Packed full of privilege.

I've got this friend, Lydia; she's fabulous. We've had candid and interesting conversations about a number of subjects and lately we've spent a lot of time talking about weddings...our weddings. We've covered any and all of the topics related to weddings, too. Etiquette, decor, stationery, caterers, budget, family and friends. I genuinely feel like I can turn to her for honest and clear thoughts and opinions, and so I took a leap of faith the other day and asked her something I had yet to ask anyone.

I don't often get invited to weddings. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that a vast majority of my friends are gay, and it just doesn't present itself as an option as often, despite it being legal in DC and recognized in Maryland. The other part is a consequence of having a lot of married friends, who were married before I knew them. Prior to the wedding I attended in March, I hadn't been to a wedding in about four years. And before that, since I was a kid. The wedding in March was an eye-opener for me in a lot of ways. One of the most memorable parts of the entire weekend was being stuck in a hotel with hundreds of Pentecostal women who were attending a conference. While I can "pass" as straight, Em and I usually don't as a couple. The front desk staff, some of whom were gay, gave us some non-verbal confidence that we would be treated, at best, with respect. But there was always a lingering fear that we'd get stuck in an elevator with a particularly vigilant (or amped-up) Pentecostal lady who would either engage us in a conversation about sexuality, or start spewing forth vitriol and Biblical justification for her feelings. The looks I got for having short hair were harsh enough! It's incredibly difficult to feel comfortable in your surroundings when you are very clearly not welcome.

In the end, I survived and left Houston feeling braver and more secure in my ability to assert my right to safe space. I tried to convey to the happy couple at one point, in kind of a jocular way, that it would've been nice of them to let us know what we were about to face - a hotel full of gay-hating Pentecostals who, at times, were so energized by their faith that their social graces might have waned. I didn't push, because some people just don't understand, but part of me feels like we would've opted for a different hotel.

The conversations with Lydia, however, are more candid. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that she is a socially liberal and progressive person who happens to have a gaggle of gay friends she loves and cares for, deeply. When I heard that her wedding was in the wilds of Western Maryland, I asked her if she had gauged the gay-friendliness of the area and the hotels she was suggesting to the wedding guests. She didn't know for sure, but I assured her that was just fine. She asked how one might ascertain that information. I said that sometimes all you need to do is ask. Within seconds, she was on the phone with the hotels and resorts, pointedly asking them whether they would treat GLBTQ guests in ways that were different or less than their straight guests, and that if they did, she wouldn't tolerate it. It was both a relief for her and for me. And I'm confident for all of her near and dear queers.

Sometimes I think it's really easy to get caught up. In the context of living, straight privilege sort of backs folks into a comfortable corner, where they can't and don't see the injustices levied at their GLBTQ brethren. Frankly, this obliviousness applies to the privileged friends all marginalized people. Many years ago, a friend of mine was planning a weekend getaway in West Virginia and there were many conversations about the way our racially diverse crowd would be received in the mountains. I can walk into pretty much anywhere in WV and not have to worry. My Black friends? Not so much.

In the context of weddings, it's really easy to get caught up in the me-me-me-ness. Conventional wedding attitudes dictate that this is the bride and groom's opportunity to focus on themselves, on their love and their union. It is not a distraction or detraction from that to ensure that the guests you invite to participate in this joy are comfortable and taken care of in the venues and by the people you asked them to visit. It can seem like a great burden to worry about other people...their feelings, their needs...but in the end, walking away from your wedding knowing that you did right by everyone can only be a gift.

Image courtesy: kewpie, darling


  1. When I got married I made sure the hotel we suggested was nice, clean, and had amenities that out-of-towners would appreciate. I did not ask what kind of conventions they would be hosting that weekend, not because I'm so about "me" but because it didn't occur to me to do so.

    I think if you call just about any hotel and ask them how they treat GLBTQ you will get the same answer, whether it's true or not.

  2. Hi Anonymous - I think the point I was making that the "because it didn't occur to me to do so" is a facet of privilege. It didn't occur to me to worry about my Black friend's safety in the mountains of West Virginia because I'm white and I don't need to worry about it.

    I also feel like your cynicism overrides the point of inquiring with hotels - it sends a clear message when you do express concern AND gives you the opportunity to address inconsistencies with service after the fact, especially with management and/or corporate headquarters.

  3. Sometimes I like to read posts before I reply to them. But then sometimes it just doesn't occur to me to do so.

  4. Sometimes I like to be self-reflective about things I may not understand or think about instead of defensive or critical. But then sometimes it just doesn't occur to me to do so.

  5. Hey Anonymous - why so sassy? Meaghan didn't criticize anyone here, but instead brought to light something that may get overlooked in any kind of event planning.

  6. Hey, hey! Peace. I meant no harm. I understand what she means. I feel like hotels will say anything but I certainly agree if anyone is ever treated with disrespect it should definitely be brought to the attention of management.

  7. I am just naive to think you shouldn't have to have a reference point for poor treatment.

  8. Well I'm feeling slighted :( Don't you even remember being in my wedding as a bridesmaid 11 years ago? Come on, you know you're gonna wear that lavender twinset again!


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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.