Yesterday I was sitting on stage, waiting to begin my presentation, when I was asked about my introduction and if it was OK for Joe, who was setting up the book table, to be introduced as well. The woman introducing me knew that Joe and I had married earlier this year and I knew that she'd be introducing Joe to the audience as my husband. I quickly, and without reservation, agreed that he too should be acknowledged as he too was working there that day at the book table.
I watched the audience as the word 'husband' registered in their minds. I saw no discernible reaction, other than pleasure to have heard that we had married. Several people came to congratulation one or the other of us over the course of the day. Others mentioned that they knew about the wedding from reading the blog or from watching it on YouTube.
While I have always mentioned Joe in my presentation, he's in a lot of the stories, and I've never hidden my relationship in any way - there is something powerfully clarifying in the use of the word 'husband' that I have come to like. There is no room for wilful misunderstanding of the nature of our relationship.
During the day I needed Joe's help from time to time and I noticed that a few people noticed the kinds of things I needed Joe's help for and the way we interacted when we were accomplishing goals ... like getting up and down the ramp or transferring between chairs. I'm used to that kind of notice anyways but this was a little different. It seemed that people were watching both from a disability curious perspective and also a relationship curious perspective.
I had a brief moment alone at the end of the day and a person from the audience came to me, shook my hand, and got all choked up when thanking me for being out and open about my relationship. They fear being fired. They fear massive rejection. "But you being so natural with your relationship ... um ... and my boss admires you, I think it may be better," a pause, "I hope it gets better. They say such awful things."
I left hoping people had learned from the lecture and, maybe also, learned from seeing two old men in relationship, in love, with each other.