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.