Because Gay and Lesbian Weddings Are Transformative
A few weeks ago, SpeakeasyDC invited me to join them in their program at the Hillwood Estate and Museum's Annual Gay Day. The larger event celebrated the theme of same sex marriage in honor of the recent legislation in Washington, D.C. allowing same sex couples to marry. As such, Speakeasy DC, a non-profit which promotes and teaches the art of auto-biographical storytelling, coordinated a program of speakers who had something to share on love and LGBT weddings.
Having never done anything like this before, I was a bit nervous and uncertain — at least initially — about what I might share. Then, one day, the first sentence of my "story" popped into my head and the rest followed quickly.
Memorizing it and then "performing" the story was another thing altogether, but, I'll admit it… I hope to do another SpeakeasyDC event again soon!
Without further ado, then, a story to which many of you can probably relate.
Utlimately, it's a story that's all about why I sit here today writing this column. And, it's a story about just how transformative gay weddings can be.
As I heard the chimes of the clock in my grandmother’s living room strike 11, I figured that I’d better just suck it up and get it over with. The night wasn’t getting any younger.
I had been delaying it for hours and was quickly running out of excuses.
It was time to tell her that I was dating a woman.
This really shouldn’t have been a surprise for her (and I don’t really think it was actually). This was, after all, the grandmother who had told me that, if I ever wanted a dress, she’d be happy to take me out and buy me one. And she meant it.
So, here we were. Me, wearing pants. The clock. My grandmother’s living room. An uncomfortable moment, but one which worked out okay in the end.
She didn’t like the news much, but she told me she loved me and, really, in the end, that’s all that mattered. Well, that, and the fact that I had finally gotten the dreaded moment over with.
And, generally, when I tell people about my coming out experiences, I find that I can summarize them relatively simply. My Dallas-based, Republican-leaning family wasn’t really thrilled (or particularly surprised) by the news, but even in their struggle to accept it, they were all able to tell me that they cared about me. So, really, I had it pretty easy.
That is, until my partner and I got “engaged” and the wedding talk started and I had to explain to my mom that I didn’t want to wear a dress.
But, as many of you know, life is full of all sorts of surprises and our wedding was a crucible for many life-altering moments.
For one: surprise! I wore a dress! I think you could even call it a gown. Not a bridal gown — which would ensure that I looked like a lesbian in a dress (awkward) – but a champagne-hued, floor length dress which was elegant in its simplicity and suited me just fine.
Two: our wedding – and this was back in 1999 – which was supposed to be a fun little celebration with friends and family turned into a wedding which launched a business and, if I may brag on my straight mom a little, propelled her — a pioneer — to begin shaping the gay wedding market that we know today.
The short of it is that my mom couldn’t find a wedding album for our shower and was stunned to learn from the shopkeeper at Crossroads, the gay bookstore in Dallas, that they had never heard of anything like that for two brides. As far as they knew, nothing like that existed.
So my mom did what any mom would do, right? She launched an online boutique to offer products to gay and lesbian couples. That’s normal, isn’t it?!?
She hunted high and low for products and made them where she couldn’t find them and otherwise began encouraging gift and wedding suppliers to offer products for same sex couples. And, as you might imagine, even by 2002, after a few years in business, people still looked at her like she was crazy when she introduced herself and told them what she did for a living.
So who’s laughing now, right? My mom is ahead of just about every curve – including the one which predicted in me in a dress on my wedding day.
But, my favorite story is the one of my grandmother (Cue crucible moment #3) who at the time of our wedding was in her early 80s.
When she first received our wedding invitation, she told my mom that she was glad we had used the word “Union” because this wasn’t a wedding. She was very clear about this. Much as she loved my partner and much as she had accepted what I had told her as the clock crept closer to midnight that night of my coming out to her, this was no wedding.
But, my grandmother – a steel magnolia if ever there was one – came to the wedding – I mean union – because she loved me and because it was the “right” thing to do. You know, to be there for me.
So, she came out to the Eastern Shore, with Hurricane Dennis bringing big enough rains to drive our ceremony inside, and met our friends. Drank Mint Juleps with our friends. Shared meals with our friends. And, sat with an open heart through our ceremony. And she danced the night away with me and my friends.
And, then, the next night, we all shared fresh Maryland crabs over a long family style table in a busy restaurant, I watched as my grandmother made her way between tables looking for me and I overheard her say,
“Now, where are my brides?”
It was a moment to last a lifetime and it was a moment that taught me everything I needed to know about love. About love and how it transforms people.
And it is a moment that I hold on to when I wonder if… no, not if. When. It’s a moment I hold on to when I wonder when it is that I’ll be able to legally marry my partner of 17 years.
Seriously. If my gay wedding could transform my middle-aged mom to start an eCommerce movement, and if my lesbian wedding could transform my grandmother to no longer need to parse the difference between “union” and “wedding,” then surely the time is coming soon. Surely the thousands of gay and lesbian weddings which have taken place across the nation in the past 10 years have transformed enough hearts and minds to get us there. Right?! Right?
And I’ll tell you what else… When our day comes again, but this time in the Commonwealth of Virginia, at the courthouse, blocks from my home… When our day comes again, if my grandmother wants to buy me a dress and my mother wants me to wear one… I will.
Do you have a Tranformative story you'd like to share? Let us know!
Wedding innovator Kathryn Hamm (@madebykathryn) is co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014), an Education Expert for WeddingWire and Publisher of GayWeddings.com