Some Promises I Made Yesterday

apologies for being more than usually inattentive of my newsletter over the last week or so: you see I got married yesterday, and I’m moving to New York today, and it took some time out of my planned schedule to get the big party planned. I’m going to insist on a string quartet for the housewarming in Brooklyn.

In her role as wedding approbationist yesterday, my beloved one Beth Freeman talked of “porosity” - of my wedding to Danny as an attempt to let the world in, to dissolve the barrier that divides private sentiment from public experience. I have wanted to abolish my own isolation for as long as I can remember - and of course the figure of porosity, even if it is not quite a fiction, is an asymptote of desire. It is also a grounds of ethics. We do not yet know what kind of ethics could emerge from a refusal to treat hypocrisy as mandatory, or a conflict between desire and reality, as essential. Even in the New York Times piece I was quoted in, the question that seemed to the author most necessary concerned another manifestation of the same division: this time, between the ethical and the political. The NYT postulated a desire, “we want to stand up for trans rights,” and then introduced a politics - “…but should we?” Whereas a more fundamental question would be, “why are we so sure that the reality principle requires us to negate desire? We know from our experiences in sexual communities - perhaps those above all, but really from any experience of collective embodiment that enables the survivable porosity of affect and mucus: in mass protests, strikes, crowded subways, movie theaters and nightclubs - that the desire of the other hold us and nourish us, when we cannot hold or nourish ourselves.

I remember after a hook-up a few years ago - probably the best one-night-stand of my life, if I’m honest (I’m not built for them, sadly - cuddle puddles, yes) - saying something dopey about sodomy and radical porosity, and then catching myself and saying “oh gosh, this is all getting a bit free-love, I should stop.” And my soon-to-be-erstwhile lover looked at me and said “yeah but they were right.” And so they were, honestly. There is nothing better available in a world made shit by capitalism than our collective potential for sweet, tender sensation. I think New York will be a good place to find sensations of this kind.

My beloved, Danny Ortberg, is the center of my world, and I love him with my heart entire. Here, in the spirit of radical porosity - which is therefore also a profound commitment to radical accountability - are the vows I made to him yesterday.

As an alcoholic who has broken more or less every promise I have ever made, I approach the question of these vows with care. There is one promise that we have made to each other that, so far, I have been able to keep, though on three different occasions I came close to breaking it: that promise is that any time you ask to pause a conversation, or to leave it, I will respect that at once, however painful or difficult I find it. I further promise that I will never end this marriage unless I feel my physical safety threatened by you - which is a high bar, since you are both a creature of profoundest safety, and a person committed to accountability and discussion. I offer you a third vow: that I shall endeavor at all times to celebrate, elevate, and champion everything you do that is right, everything you make that is good, which is everything you have ever made and done. In particular, I shall not scapegoat or punish you for the ways in which you are different from is me, from the ways in which your desire and identity are different from mine; rather than chastising you for the sin of masculinity, I honor, tend, and cherish it - I will lavish affection on your differences, tend your wounds, love the places of pain. By honoring your relation to embodiment, and seeking out other places to process my resentments at masculinity and maleness, I hope we can avoid dwindling into mere heterosexuality. Those three vows, and half of everything I own and am, I give to you today.

Vows are scarce, then, but avowal is the foundation of our ethics. We avow what we are, what we want, and what - by wanting - we therefore are not. So I have one avowal today: you, Danny Lavery, are my person; I love every corner of you, the bright and the dull. I am so utterly proud to claim you today. Which I do.