New Zealand's first gay couple to be legally wed, Melissa Ray (left) and Natasha Vitali, are thought to have parted.
New Zealand's first gay couple to be legally wed, Melissa Ray (left) and Natasha Vitali, are thought to have parted.

COLUMN: What does a normal marriage look like in 2015?

NESLTED in the mailbox a few weeks ago was a letter from a real estate agent, addressed to my husband and I as "Mr. and Mrs."

It would have been a laughable mistake that I would have written off, had it been a stock mail-out. However, this was actually a personal letter to us; one signed by the agent we'd actually met in real life three times in the weeks prior.

It was obviously just a careless oversight, but I couldn't help but wonder, "Is this the first time you've sold a house to a gay couple?".

Almost one year into my marriage to somebody of the same sex, it's situations like these that remind me that marriage connotes heteronormative conventions and these remain inescapable. This isn't surprising. Society doesn't update its trends in time with Fashion Week.

It's easy to forget that not everybody is down with marriage equality. Even transgender personality Caitlyn Jenner still has her reservations, as was revealed on Ellen last month.

According to Pew Research Centre, in fact, seven per cent of LGBT people still don't actually support same-sex marriage.

This likely stems from the days of gay liberation in the late 1960s and 1970s, when there was a handful of radical LGBT liberationists who believed that long-term, monogamous relationships within the gay community were assimilationist.

They were seen as a heteronormative convention that was, actually, "non-liberating".

I should reiterate that these were radical theorists, there were only a few of them, and they weren't specifically talking about marriage but long-term relationships in general.

While I wouldn't consider myself radical by any measure, I do see the point they were trying to make. Through marriage, or a relationship resembling marriage, it's easy to assimilate into the norms of society.

Let me explain. Decades after gay liberation, the LGBT community has moved on to equality as its mission du jour. But with equality, unfortunately, comes a natural sameness in society.

When cultures stop fighting to prove themselves equal, they also, regrettably, begin to do away with the traits they once used to define themselves as unique.

Rather, when minorities are marginalised they are forced to be strong in who they are; when they become accepted, the requirement for such strength isn't as necessary.

This is visible with all minorities - not just LGBTs - when they start to feel accepted: Just look at the cultural traits upheld by the New Zealand-born children of migrants, and how they differ from those of their parents.

It doesn't need to be this way. Equal marriage doesn't have to mean equal cultural values. Acceptance and the bestowal of full rights doesn't have to mean assimilation.

I know what the finger-waggers of the interwebs are already thinking in reading this: "So, you want a 'queer' version of marriage? You had that with civil unions and they weren't good enough. Make up your minds, gays!"

But that's missing the point. Marriage equality is about allowing identical opportunities to all people; nothing less, nothing more. We don't want a queer version of marriage, we just don't want to stop being queer simply because we're married.

Believe it or not, my husband and I have actually bought a house with a white picket fence. As a perfect metaphor for modern marriage, though, we're not going to keep that picket fence white.

We're going to modernise it, sand it down and change its shape, and paint it a new colour. Though it'll still have the same strong foundations as every other fence, it won't be just another line of white pickets. It'll be our own unique version of it.

The ideology of "heteronormative temporality" - whereby one's life goal should be heterosexual marriage and a happy nuclear family - is well beyond antiquated, even for straight folks. Though many people still strive for this heteronormative narrative and there's nothing wrong with that, it's just not the only narrative of marriage out there.

Marriages can contain suburban houses or inner city apartments, kids or no dependants at all, and cosy Saturday nights in front of the TV or frequent wild nights out on dance floors until 6am.

Heteronormative conventions don't need to affect anybody's matrimony. Old rules can go out the door. This doesn't just go for married gay couples. It applies to all modern married couples.

It's up to all of us, in this age of equality and freedom, to choose our new normal of marriage.

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