On November 5th, the Saturday before the election, my spouse and I were in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to attend our nephew Andrew’s wedding. For most of my life I’ve looked forward to attending weddings with the same enthusiasm that I’ve always mustered for getting a root canal or passing a kidney stone. That is, not at all.
But I must admit, other than the day when Viv and I married, Andrew’s and Shannon’s wedding was the happiest I’ve ever witnessed. The weather was picture perfect, the Heinz chapel looked splendid in all of its Gothic glory, the groomsmen were radiant in their red high-top sneakers, the bride beamed with joy, the bride’s and groom’s pledges to each other were tenderly delivered, and the thoughts on support and unity were taken from J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” Perfect, dear readers.
Later in the day, it was clear that everyone who arrived for the reception’s cocktail hour and dinner came to party. “Everyone” included the ring bearers, the flower girls (all of whom were younger than six,) a mature eighty-two year old, and yes, even yours truly. It’s no secret that I’m shy when it comes to socializing, and extremely shy about dancing. Dancing in a gay setting is one thing. Dancing with one’s same gender partner in a predominantly heterosexual setting is another kettle of chips.
Halfway through the evening the DJ announced a dance for couples who had been married for one year or less. Then he called upon those who’d been hitched for two years. I knew what was coming.
I looked at Viv, with a “what-are-we-going-to-do?” expression flashing through my eyes.
The DJ called for couples who’d been married for two to five years.
Viv grabbed my hand and said, “Let’s dance!”
Do you know what happened as a result of our taking to the dance floor and holding each other close? Absolutely nothing other than a woman and her husband who danced close enough to us to smile and say, “Congratulations.”
That was a memorable moment, one that found us feeling a sense of wholeness, of legitimacy, a feeling of being recognized as two people who have formalized their love before the world. We’ve experienced that feeling several times since we wed.
I’ve heard people refer to Pennsylvania as Pennsyltucky and say that Alabama lies between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Judging by the number of Trump signs we saw displayed along the PA Turnpike, I’d say the Pennsyltucky label is correct. Three days after we celebrated Andrew’s and Shannon’s wedding, my state voted red for the first time in many electoral cycles.
The three positive shreds to which I cling are the fact that Hillary Clinton received the majority of the popular vote, tho possibility that there were result “irregularities” in three of the swing states (among them, Pennsylvania,) and the demonstrations that are occurring in quite a few cities. These items provide evidence that there are Americans who aren’t wrapped up in hatred and bigotry.
I’m so glad Andrew’s and Shannon’s wedding took place BEFORE the election. Had it been scheduled for the next Saturday, I’m not so sure Viv and I would have rushed to the dance floor during the reception. You see, I’m a long time survivor in my skin, gender, and sexuality. Survival is important to me. What I lack in bravura, I try to compensate for with common sense and being able to perceive how safe I am in any environment.
If I redirect my disappointment, anger, sadness, and fear to my writing, maybe I can be of use to our movement for equality, safety, and a peaceful existence. I may not always dance at a wedding where I’m in the minority because I’d rather live to write another day.
Renee Bess is the author of: LEAVE OF ABSENCE; BREAKING JAIE; RE:BUILDING SASHA; THE BUTTERFLY MOMENTS; and THE RULES. Currently she and Lee Lynch are gathering stories, essays, and poems for an anthology, HAPPY HOURS – OUR LIVES IN THE GAY BARS. Please visit her website: http://www.reneebess.com