She grew up covered in the dirt of her softball fields and her grandparent’s farm. I grew up covered in the prayers of my family, celebrating Sabbath with the sacraments. She grew up hearing the blare of the train by her bedroom, I grew up sitting on my rooftop listening to the sounds coming from the train yard. She grew up in public school and small church, where neighbors knew your comings and goings. I grew up homeschooling and attending church in rented buildings, where I imagined no one knew anything about me. With sunset-red hair, freckles blooming over her skin in the summer, and strong, sturdy hands, her body bore witness to her country heritage. I, brown sugar hair and big eyes and a penchant to emote through theatre, bowed to the city.
Gwen and I grew up in opposites regarding family, schooling, hobbies, and hometowns, so when we met at a Mennonite camp we were both working at, there wasn’t a lot of common ground for us to talk about, other than our love for softball and how excited we were for campers to arrive. We spent that summer forming a small bond of friendship, and both idly wondered if that would last the test of distance and time. Lo and behold: here we are, five summers later, each with two new degrees notched into our belts and a set of rings adorning our fingers. Not long after I met her, I knew that this girl, with impeccable memory, sharp wit, and a kind smile, complemented my absent-mindedness and ceaseless fiery and unapologetic passion. We were in the car, and she was running an errand for someone else on her birthday because that’s who she is, and Paramore’s “The Only Exception” came on the radio. I looked at this beautiful, talented, selfless woman sitting next to me and knew it to be true: she was, always, my only exception. “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once,” (John Green).
On October 17, my love and I made vows to each other in front of those who fill our lives with love and support; the final lines of our vows filling the space between us: “I choose you to embark upon this great journey with me. I am stronger with you than alone. I promise to be there for you for all your life, come what may.” We celebrated with paper flowers and candlelight, with cake pops and notes, with dances with our friends and fathers.
Of course, Gwen and I don’t have a legitimate relationship. Our country has decided, in a fit of religious zeal, that we should allow the whims of the majority to decide the rights of the minority (Ayn Rand) by favoring one group’s moral code over all others. Gwen and I are not wife and wife because, to some people, that is an abomination; it weirds them out, it disappoints God, it is part of an agenda, it doesn’t lead to natural childbirth. GOT IT. Those people have made all of their messages loud and clear. I have seen the “fags burn in Hell” signs, I have seen the protesters ordering me to repent, I have been witness to the laws that neither recognize my marriage nor protect me and my wife from hate crimes. We have been told, my country mouse and I, that we are far less than and more deviant than any couple that contains one man and one woman.
A large portion of my contention for all of this comes from how subjective some things are. You say “homosexuality is a choice.” I would like to clarify what you mean. You mean having sexual acts with someone is a choice, because that’s what you’ve boiled down all LGBTQ+ people’s existence to: sex. We aren’t anything but our sexuality to you. So when you say “it’s a choice,” being part of this welcoming community, I want to take two steps back and say being queer is not a choice. I would have been super gay whether or not Gwen and I found one another. That wasn’t a choice on my part; I was not approached with a “be gay today, get a free t-shirt” offer, nor was there a time when I flipped a coin for what type of people I would be attracted to. I didn’t choose a path that has been the source of hurtful conversations, lost friendships, restricted rights, and exclusion from religious communities. What I did choose was to pursue a relationship with someone who makes me a better person, who encourages me and shares coffee with me, who writes me notes and goes on walks with me. I chose to pursue a relationship, the same way that all of my friends and family who have partners have chosen to pursue their relationships. No one chooses who they are attracted to. You choose whom you invest in.
I’ve clearly chosen to invest in my relationship with Gwen. Whether or not this falls under someone else’s moral code is really of no concern to me. What is a concern to me is that our tiny family is protected under the law like all tiny families should be. The Supreme Court is currently ruling on whether or not we deserve the right to legally marry, an issue that was denied us by our own State. For Gwen and I, at this point in our lives, this is primarily about being told by our government that we are equal to other couples. For other couples, this is about both being on their children’s birth certificates, or having hospital visitation rights, or being on their partner’s health insurance. You say that marriage equality isn’t giving LGBTQ+ equal rights, but is giving us special rights. Giving a group of people the same rights as yourself is not giving them special rights, it is recognizing that group of people as human beings who deserve respect and protection under the law. Our nation is not a Christian nation. You cannot plaster one religion’s beliefs on an entire nation. I understand that this nation has an extensive history of being overbearing with every minority group, but I believe it is high time for this cycle to end. #LoveCantWait. Couples deserve to say “I do” and be recognized in the eyes of the law. Children deserve to live authentically and be protected under the law from bullies and bigoted teachers. Teens coming out as anything other straight deserve to be shown respect and acceptance rather than rejection and conversion therapy. Gay men deserve to be able to donate blood. Trans individuals deserve to be called by the right name, the right pronouns, and to not be told that their identity is a mental illness. Aging couples deserve the peace of mind in knowing that their partners will be financially cared for after they die. My country mouse and I deserve to be married. We deserve not to be fired from a job just because of our sexual orientation. We deserve to have our own beliefs rather than someone else’s. Respectfully, it is not your job to police others’ actions by your own moral code.
The SCOTUS ruling for marriage equality won’t change everything, because there are many more issues that our community is facing that are far more pressing, but it’s a damn good place to start.