Yesterday I went to Vita's Holiday Party. This is always a bit of a struggle for Joe and I, not because we don't want to go but because it requires us to stay up past 8PM. We are very much creatures of habit the two of us and this was a real shift in our routine.
But, as we knew we would, we had a good time.
Now we had a good time for all the reasons people have a good time at big parties and celebrations. We got to see people we hadn't seen for a long time. Most of the time, at work, when I see people it's because there are concerns or problems. It's nice to have just social time with people. Laugh and listen, listen and laugh - yep, we had fun.
But, for me, my pleasure at being there goes much deeper. I am an openly gay man accompanied by my partner of 45 years to a huge celebration - and we are welcomed. Completely, utterly, welcomed. There isn't the slightest hint from anyone that Joe and I aren't a legitimate couple and that we are not completely a part of what makes Vita, Vita.
And, of course, I have a disability. I am a wheelchair user. The venue chosen is accessible and I don't have to think, at all about my chair and I never, not even once, as I made my way through the crowd, felt that I was in the way. In a kind of magical way, everyone seemed to know how to be in a place where someone used a wheelchair. I'm not used to that. Simply. Not.
We all know how people love to talk about respecting and honouring diversity. Let me tell you, as someone who is often on the other end of that - when those two things are done, it's an astonishing feeling.
So we had a good time.
And, best of all, we felt the warm embrace of true welcome.