I just spent a beautiful weekend in San Diego where I had the opportunity to officiate the wedding of my dear friends – who happen to be a same-sex couple. Their ceremony told a story of their foundation of friendship, their vows were incredibly raw with emotion, and their wedding rings were passed through each guest’s hands to gain blessing and intention before we sealed the ceremony with the placement of the rings on their hands.
Even in 2016, being LGBTQ often means that your wedding, if you choose to marry, will have challenges that straight & cisgender weddings do not. Venues may choose not to return your call once they hear two female or two male names, or once they meet you and you do not fit an image that they have in their mind. Family members may choose not to attend due to discriminatory religious beliefs – which could mean no father-daughter dance or no toast from the parents or siblings. Often, the wedding party and guest list are made up of chosen family who represent the unconditional love that every couple needs in order to succeed at marriage.
Needless to say, it was an emotional weekend for all who attended as we witnessed this couple of amazing women vow to spend the rest of their days together in matrimony.
I settled into my window seat on Southwest and eventually a middle-aged, mixed-race hetero-couple sat next to me. The ride was a quiet one with no words exchanged, but as we got close to Seattle, I couldn’t help but point out the incredible view of Mt. Rainier to the east. The woman and I began chatting and soon I learned that she and her family had come from a church conference in St. Louis. Now “church” anything is usually a red-flag to LGBTQ people to stop talking and continue on quietly. I hoped the conversation would stop soon…but it didn’t.
Soon she was asking if I was married or had kids. “I’m engaged” I said. She became excited and quickly congratulated me. At this point in these conversations, I usually find a way to quickly say “She” to avoid any assumption that I am marrying a man (and there is always the assumption by straight people that I too am straight.) This time I didn’t have a chance – or perhaps the “church conference” line scared me into avoidance.
Before long, I heard, “What does he do? Does he live with you in Washington?”
Ugh. Here it is. “Coming out” to the third stranger this weekend.
For those of you who are not LGBTQ, I’ll assure you that this continual coming out can bring a particular guttural feeling — as if I were 19 all over again and coming out to my parents. And when I tell people I am bisexual, they get even more confused.
“It’s a she actually, I’m marrying a woman.” I said and quickly turned away to avoid any negative reaction. But when I caught myself turning away, I realized I needed to quickly turn back to see her reaction – in order to guide my next move. The crux.
“So does she live with you in Washington?” she said with a smile.
She had no reaction – the best kind of reaction. I felt a wave of relief fall over my entire body. I felt myself choke up in happiness and ease. We continued to chit-chat and shortly after, I met her husband, a Latino man from LA. She was Asian-American and together perhaps they faced their own share of discrimination from family or church. They were kind and open, not asking any questions out-of-the-norm for a conversation like this.
We reached our gate and she stood up to prepare to deplane. My emotions continued to build and I could not keep the tears back. She kept checking in on me with her eyes, as my gaze moved from the window to the front of the plane.
I needed to tell her thank you – thank you for accepting me. Tears continued and I reached out to her arm. “I have to tell you thank you. It can be really hard coming out to strangers over and over again, and I want to thank you for your kindness and response.”
“Of course. You’re welcome. You should never feel ashamed for who you are,” she said. That struck me as interesting. She didn’t realize that my tears were not about me but rather about her.
“I’m not ashamed,” I assured her, “I had fear of what your response would be. Not everyone responds with kindness. So thank you” Her eyes melted a little in witnessing such rawness with a complete stranger.
“In a time like this, we need more kindness,” she replied.
It is all too true. In the past month we have witnessed the shooting and killing of 49 Latinx LGBTQ members at a queer club in Orlando, and in the past week the police murder of two more black men and the murder of five Dallas police officers. I nodded in agreement.
I turned to the window and continued crying. A few moments later our eyes connected again and she tried to lighten the mood by introducing me to her daughters, 7 and 14. They smiled sweetly. I felt confident that they would be raised to love people unconditionally as their parents seem to, bringing even deeper tears of hope to my eyes.
From my experience with many past circumstances that did not end this well, I am hopeful that we are truly witnessing a shift in acceptance in our world, and a belief that Love truly does Win.