In 2009, my step-father Dennis passed away. Just two months later, Maine banned same-sex marriage. It was about this time that I got this tattoo.
The symbol I wear on my right wrist is a symbol that was adopted by people who just wished to be accepted under law. I got this to remember Dennis. I get asked if he was gay – and I explain that he was the most fair and judicious person I met. Though no one in my family is openly gay, I found this symbol fitting at the time to honor Dennis, but also to say publicly that family is family – and sometimes that family isn’t “traditional.”
My family is non-traditional in that my dad (your Gimpy) has been married three times. My mom (your Nanny) has been divorced, and then lived with Dennis for 15 years out of wedlock. No one thought that their love at the time was worthy or unworthy. No one thought their relationship needed to be held up to national scrutiny. Though, there were problems after Dennis’ death with his Will and what was considered “family,” no one who knew us thought that we were anything less than part of his family.
When he died, it was terrible. People came out of the woodwork and questioned our relationship. It was all in the context of heightened emotions in the wake of his death. The funeral director looked down her nose at us and asked, “who are you” in the same tone that reminded me of a hostess in a 5-star restaurant judging my income and worth to sit somewhere for dinner. It was insulting. It was hurtful. It was not something anyone should go through in the wake of a loved ones death where emotions are at the rawest possible point a human can endure. We were demoted in the obituary to “friends.”
So when a mere two months later, my home state put the rights of many of my friends and their loved ones, their families, to a vote that said loud and clear, “YOU ARE LESS THAN THIS OTHER GROUP,” I wept.
I wept because that one instance in an otherwise 18 year relationship with a really great father figure overshadows everything else. When someone says “Dennis,” it’s unfortunate the first thing I think of is the way we were treated after his death. It might be fleeting and it might not last, but it’s always the first thing I think of before everything else.
I’m not saying what me, your Uncle Bud and Aunt Heather was anything close to what an entire group of people went through day, after day, after day, after day. They spent their lives fighting to see dying spouses in hospitals and being turned away because “legal spouses only are allowed”; “you can’t go on your partner’s insurance because you aren’t married in the eyes of the law”; people were killed because they were considered an abomination. That doesn’t even cover all the legal, emotional, and difficult decisions that were made to keep families together, often at very high costs.
Things that your dad and I are afforded with no extra steps, hoops, or national fanfare. For free. Because we’re married.
Today, that inequality for same-sex couples ended. Everyone can just be married.No gay marriage vs straight marriage. Just married. Just families. Families and marriage can be tough enough without the added drama of unfairness under the law, and for that I’m glad equality under law as the constitution intended (and explicitly states).
You’ll look back and think this is ludicris, and how backwards we were in 2015 just passing marriage equality. I wonder what the cause of your generation will be….but if you are gay, straight, or a tutu-wearing engineer on the moon, your dad and I will love to to the stars and back. I hope no on ever looks at you and says “and who are you,” because no one deserves to feel like that – even for one second.