"Shit." Sob. (head down on table) "Fuck."
"Don't ever let me catch you in a pride parade. And don't worry about dying of AIDS if you get it. I'll kill you first."
These were my mother's loving words when I told her I was gay.
This is not a eulogy.
I've said goodbye for the final time to my mother. It had nothing to do with a funeral. It had to do with a lifetime of prevarication for convenience and smokescreen acceptance. It had to do with decades of personal revisionism and a failure of respect. Let me share with you the final straw.
I married the love of my life in California this past September. When I initially proposed, we had planned for a Canada wedding; but then California opened her arms to us, for that brief five months, and we took advantage of that window to share our love and lifelong commitment to one another with the people we care about most. I'll never forget standing in the eternal majesty of the redwoods, declaring my love for the most amazing person I know, guided by a radiantly happy minister whose wife of two weeks had been her ladyfriend of 20 years. When she declared us married, my husband wept in my arms.
We made tough decisions in planning our wedding. The toughest was whether or not to invite family. My family is marginally supportive. They wanted me to bring him home to meet the family, but then told us not to act like a couple in front of children. You can imagine the nature of our reaction to that. It was a fiasco. This was almost a year before we married.
His family are far less supportive. I think the better term would be "condemnatory". They are the followers from whom we hope Jesus will protect us all. They are the epitomy of the Bible Belt. They are our personal Pharisees.
When it came time to send invitations, we wavered for a moment, but then erred on the side of generosity. Err on the side of inclusion, we thought. Err on the side of loving. So we invited all of my family, and all of his...with trepidations.
Our rewards:- a letter from his mother which I can only describe as pathetic. "We don't understand why you chose to get help to accept your sexuality rather than to overcome it," she wrote. They declined to attend (she can't even mention me in letters), and she fell and broke a bone the day before our wedding. Bless her heart. - attendance on the part of my parents and siblings. Our wedding night, my brother exemplified the hypocrisy of the "sanctity of marriage" argument, cheating on his wife with another wedding guest. - not three weeks after attending our wedding, we were informed that we would be welcome to join the family for holidays, but, again, we were not to act as a couple in front of the children. We have done our best to reason with my mother as to why this is beyond inappropriate, and how flatly insulting it is after they attended our wedding. She refuses to get the picture. She once had immense status and respect in my life as my mother. She has squandered every last opportunity she had to regain any respect.
We erred on the side of inclusion. What's clearest is that we erred in making the invitations. We set an example which none of our family followed.
It was the culmination of long suffering on both our parts with our families -- and the exclamation point on that final sentence in the stories of our familial trials. We have broken free of their bigotry, but my family are still in our wedding pictures. It's sad, but that makes them less wonderful to see. My family's appearance in them tarnishes the memory, even though we wish we could magically feel otherwise.
Next Thursday, the California Supreme Court will hear arguments on Proposition 8, whose passage we fought as best we could from afar. Kenneth Starr will argue before the Court that Proposition 8 invalidates our marriage. While on one hand that invalidation would revisit upon us and thousands of other couples the disconsolate devastation we experienced even as now-President Obama swept to victory in November, it would offer my husband and me the opportunity to marry once again. The advantage of that second ceremony? We would be surrounded only in the most loving of support, and devoid of people to whom we're unfortunately related. I'll marry him in every state and country if I have to -- in fact, I've LOVE to -- one state a year for the next fifty years would be a lifetime of love. Maybe that's what it'll take.
It is perverse that our own families' bigoted behavior would make for a silver lining if the court upholds Proposition 8. But what's truly ludicrous is that thousands of families like ours are still waiting in limbo, suffering what's already a shattered economy, afraid that, like a tablecloth from under finest china, the legal net that equal protection under the law affords them will be yanked from under their very hearts.
Please pray, for us, with us, that the Court overturns Proposition 8, and that we will have more than just Hope.