Sunday, June 14, 2009


Complex emotions swirled through me, though trust me, bitterness wasn't one of them. I'm not sure I could find emoticons that would identify every one of the others. We went to the wedding of a woman I work with yesterday. She is someone I both like and admire, a fine person, a good heart, a blazing smile. Joe and I were both thrilled that our travel schedule allowed us to say 'yes' to the invite. We got home from our latest trip on Friday night, the wedding was at 3 the next day. As tired as we were we got ourselves scrubbed up and went.

We haven't been to a lot of weddings. Being gay over the last several decades made it such that weddings weren't really part of the lifestyle of our gay friends and we were usually not included in the guests lists of our hetero friends - where to seat us and how to explain us made it just to difficult. So, we didn't do weddings.

There was a time, when I was very young that I desperately wanted a wedding. I wanted to stand and proclaim how much I loved Joe and how much I believed in the relationship we had. But the idea of gay marriage, as we have seen, can bring the bigot out in even the most tender of people. The idea of our relationship was spat upon, the concept of our love was denigrated into sinfulness, the fact of 'us' simply angered otherwise sane people.

So, I thought about the long hard fight for the recognition of gay relationships ... I understood without equivocation that it was a fight for the recognition of our hearts and our souls. I thought about standing in Washington at a giant wedding ceremony and writing our names in chalk on pavement. No amount of rain, no accumulation of snow will ever entirely erase what we wrote there that day.

I pushed this aside. This wasn't a day for me to think about me. It was a day for me to celebrate the love of someone I care about. I watched her come in, beautiful in every way that it is possible to be, on her father's arm. I almost cried when I saw her father give her a quick, private kiss on her forehead. His blessing, his child, his farewell. It was lovely.

Two rows in front of me were a group of women with intellectual disabilities. They were there to celebrate as well. I saw them smile, beam, as the bride entered the room. One of them, a woman with an enormous presence and a hideous past, had a tear in the corner of her eye as she watched the bride slowly walk up the aisle. I wondered, then, if she too had conflicting feelings.

I was no where near the first voice, but I was one of the loudest voices in the fight for the right of people with disabilities to have relationships. You see, I knew it was a fight for the recognition of heart and soul. I remember my early publications being called 'filth' and 'pornography' just because I suggested that people with intellectual disabilities had the same right to love, sex and relationships.

Those were the days where people with disabilities did not marry. Did not love openly. Those were the times where we took the scalpel to the genitals of men and women with disabilities leaving them bloodied and sterile. Those were the days where we punished loving with electric shock and forced separation. Those were the days where men were locked in wards long long away from women who were similarly caged.

As the ceremony progressed I watched her. The one who spent her life down at the end of a long and lonely corridor. The one who spent her life waiting for change. The one who is old now. Alone still. Her feet walked miles of corridors but will never, like mine, walk down an aisle.

So here we are, she and me. People who lived through the battle won. We look at this fresh love from old eyes. We look at this gathering of family from the perspective of outsiders. She and me. Me and she. But then ...

The priest called for us all to give each other the sign of peace, she turned around to me, tears glittering in her eyes. She shoved her hand out and called, 'David!' I took her hand in mine and said 'Peace' she smiled and said, 'You too'. She is in a way part of the family of those considered not good enough, part of the geneology of those considered sinful and damaged, her history and mine brought us here together. Invited by a bride with a huge, huge heart.


JudiElise said...

As always, your insights are mind-opening, your sentiments beautifully illustrated and your thoughts, a welcome respite from the inane chatter of the Net.

Thank you for talking about this subject.

datri said...

When we were on vacation at Disney World, when we were waiting for the buses, right before us in line was a couple of developmentally disabled young adults in scooters with huge JUST MARRIED banners on them. I spoke to the mother of the young woman and was in tears because she gave me so much hope for my little girl.

CJ said...

Wonderful! Two weeks ago I ran into a disabled married couple who are served by our agency. I had met the husband, but not the wife. We were at a local fast food place. My heart sings whenever I think of them for I know where they would have been and what their lives would have been like.

Dave, my husband is a photographer part time. Not too long ago he photographed both a Bar Mitzvah and the wedding of his grandmothers. When someone at work asked him what he had done that weekend he told them. The person remarked (upon being told of the wedding) "I wonder how long that will last." My husband looked at him quietly and said "they've already been together for 37 years."

By the way, the Rabbi who wed them is gay.

Twenty two years ago, when my husband and I got married, the Cantor was gay and so was the best man.

Not all religious traditions bar gay clergy and loving marriages.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog. I haven't seen it in quite some time. You make me want to be a part of it all when I do finally think to take a moment to visit what's Rolling Around. While there are so many stirrings of thoughts after reading each entry, putting those thoughts into words worthy of reading seem to escape me. I've spent so much of my life trying to see all sides of an issue, that I don't have strong opinons about many things. There are a few fundamental values that cling to me though. A gracious spirit is one of those. Yet, I find myself lacking Grace. I hope that if we ever meet that I wouldn't be an ass. My heart is big but what comes from my mouth is often fumbled. For you, I would want to say something wonderful because you are a poet. For you, I would want to say something profound because you know pain and the beauty that is birthed from it. And I would want to somehow give you the most wonderful news you ever imagined possible because you appreciate little things. I would love to see what you would do with something really, really, big. Something really really David Hingsburger's best-dream-ever.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. Please erase that last line. See! I fumble words. At least this is unintendedly funny. Next time, I'll just stick to reading and forget about the writing. Laughing quite hard with a very red face.

Shan said...

I love weddings.

I want to hear more about that Washington story.

ivanova said...

I really hear you on this one. For a while I had decided to tell people that I didn't recognize straight marriage, to turn things on their head a bit. But then some of my best friends, who are straight, got engaged and I couldn't go through with my witty lines, because I was so happy for them.

Aside from the love and the hearts and the souls, there's also the prosaic in a wedding. In lieu of marriage, my girlfriend and I went to a lawyer and got wills and health care proxies. We are both AB, NT, normies, not disabled, however you want to say it. We also put in writing what we would like done for us in case of various calamities. Mine basically said "Please don't smother me if I am brain injured, thanks." The whole thing was not as cool as a big ceremony and party but all this paperwork makes me feel a bit better. I still worry sometimes, though. Just last winter, a family from Washington state was on vacation in Florida when one of the moms had a heart attack. The other mom was not allowed to see her or give any medical instructions even though she had the health care proxy, power of attorney, etc. She was finally able to see her partner right before she died, but their three (legally adopted) children were not allowed in. The state of Florida doesn't consider them a family, no matter what documents they had. Anyway, thank you, because your blog really got me thinking about how we are all in the same boat (the queers and the people with intellectual disabilities.) Even if we can't get married, it was easy for me and my girlfriend to live together and then go to the lawyer and do all this stuff. I can only imagine the obstacles if a couple with intellectual disabilities tried this back door approach. ("No, I'm sorry, you aren't considered mentally competent.") And the challenges for the people who are gay and have intellectual disabilities? If you have any more inspiring stories up your sleeve about that, please share!

wendy said...

Just WOW

Anonymous said...

"where to seat us and how to explain us made it just to difficult"

"They're our friends."

Katie said...

you are right, she has the most beautiful heart. I feel honored to know her and call her friend, as i am sure the Ladies in front of us do too!!

Anonymous said...

lovely just lovely thanks for sharing

theknapper said...

I think this just became my favourite post!!!