I love my family, even when it sometimes seems as though they do not love me. One faction of my family are fundamental Christians, and their disapproval of me and my family has, at times, been palpable. They’ve always been polite to my Traf, and I’ve been grateful for that courtesy and still am.
But, just as the terrorist attack on Pulse Nightclub in Orlando earlier this year caused a niece from that part of the family to reach out and mend fences, I’ve been asked by a nephew who is a leader in his church to answer some questions about my life in general, and gay marriage in particular. He asks a series of questions, and I will answer them one at a time to give him time to digest my answers. Here is the first question and my response:
1) As regards yours and Traf’s journey towards marriage, what were some of your greatest triumphs and setbacks?
You have to understand that until June of 2002 the concept of gay marriage didn’t exist in my mind. I’d never heard of such a thing until someone at Twin Cities Pride asked me to sign a petition. It was a paradigm shift so great it took me several weeks to wrap my head around it.
Until then, our relationships were so clandestine we never talked about them outside of our own homes and close circle of lesbian friends. Our neighbors probably knew we were gay, but they didn’t mention it and neither did we. In May, 2002 Morgan was born, and I became a grandmother. Traf’s daughters had accepted me as their mother’s lover, but when my darling granddaughter entered our lives, we became a true family. A month later, as I registered voters at Pride, I first heard the words ‘gay marriage’ and our world turned upside down.
When we lived outside the law and went unrecognized by our own country, we were second-class citizens. Looking the way I do, I often passed as straight unless I was in Traf’s company. She is such a butch that people immediately recognize we’re a lesbian couple whenever we’re together. We’ve heard conversations about how horrible we are spoken just loud enough to carry to our ears, we’ve been insulted to our faces, called foul names, and denied service in public restaurants.
During the most horrible night of my life, when Traf ended up being transported by ambulance to a hospital with a suspected heart attack (thankfully only angina), the witch behind the glass at the Emergency Room registration desk openly smirked while gleefully telling me I didn’t count as family and wouldn’t be allowed to see her, even after I provided her with a legal document giving me her Power of Attorney. Thank goodness there was glass in place to protect her because I would have gladly killed her in that moment. Her delight in being able to give me even more pain than I was already in was unforgivable. She may be the only person in my life I’ve ever truly hated.
A year later, in 2004, we were visiting your grandmother after she’d been diagnosed with lung cancer and was recovering from the operation that took a portion of one of her lungs. It was my birthday, February 12th, and I was turning forty-seven. Traf was fifty-six. While watching the television we saw a story about the first legal gay marriage taking place in San Francisco. Mayor Gavin Newsom was allowing marriages to take place at City Hall during the long weekend. I thought, How quixotic. They’ll be stopped immediately. But because it was Presidents Day weekend, the government was not in session until Tuesday. Valentine’s Day was Saturday, and Traf and I looked at each other and jumped in the car to drive to San Francisco.
I wrote a piece that answers most of this question here: https://gentasebastian-author.com/2013/03/26/history-is-being-made/ Please read it.
During the bittersweet years following the invalidation of our marriage, we faced the backlash of discrimination as our people fought our own government to be recognized as equal citizens. I’ll answer the next question on your list tomorrow. I think I’ve given you enough to mull over for the time being.