Thursday, July 16, 2015
Riding on a Whim, Because We Can
My family is unique, in that we are made up of two gay couples. We share a home, and we have lived through so much for so many years, that we are forever bonded in memories, worry, hope, and absolute love. We rarely consider big plans without the other's involvement. Several months now, for example, we have been planning to attend a family wedding in Pensacola, Florida.
My family and I were recently dis-invited to that wedding taking place in Pensacola, Florida. A nephew of ours - a beautiful soul related to one of us and who we watched grow to a gentleman; well, he has a soon-to-be father-in-law who claims he's a Christian minister and who also claims God told him to not allow the gays into his daughter's wedding.
No one on this side of the family, our nephew's mother and father especially, knew how to deal with such outright stupidity and cowardice. For three weeks, they had to deal with this without our even knowing about it. They decided to call me yesterday afternoon, in hopes that I could break it softly to my partner of 24 years and to my close friends - my roommates, my brothers - on why we cannot go to the wedding.
I tried to put a stop to their anguish by steering the focus on what was more important, and that was the bride and groom's happiness. We are only...secondary, I explained as I pulled out honeysuckle and stink vines from my English Ivy and did not want to stop moving. We'd rather see their wedding take place without any further drama. Don't worry about it; the man has hurt more people than just us. We'll be fine, I implored, and no matter. I yanked out more vines. I made a pile of stinking vine.
I was convincing. The call ended on a happy, reassuring note. Hopeful, even. I washed my hands and face, called everyone into the room, and I informed my family that our 'vacation' plans have changed. Their response was silence, at first, then defensive, and then quickly turned to 'the hell with him' brush offs. It's not about us, they concluded; that's their problem. 'Imagine the kinds of strife our nephew will be marrying into...' 'Imagine the kinds of decisions his bride will have to make between daughter and wife...' 'That man will always be trouble'...
And while they were talking, my only thoughts were how I could protect them from this? How can I keep my family safe from such hateful acts in the future?
I had no clue. I could still smell stink vine on my clothes.
We decided to go on a bike ride, since the weather was nice, and since my family thinks I need more exercise. We crossed a lonely Westfield Boulevard on that bright, early evening, and then we turned onto 75th Street and stopped...unsure which way to go on the Monon Trail. Anywhere you want, my partner said to me.
I decided to take us south, to Broad Ripple. I led them across the village, and then along College Avenue. I took us to the canal and rode the gravel Tow path, slowing down whenever I saw a turtle gulp some air. I took us over the swollen canal and through the dark, green canopied hills and shiny streets of the Butler campus. I kept our pace, crossing busy blocks to College, and then turned us back north past Broad Ripple, past our house, and up all the way to 86th street. We ended up having a light dinner at Steak and Shake -ordered to go and ate outside like a fast food picnic. When the sun fell below the tree lines, I led us back to the sleepy trail where we sliced our wheels through pools of shadow as dark as mud.
That was the clue I needed.
Hate took a stab at our whole existence, and we responded to our first discriminatory bruising by staying together and functioning as a family. The best way to respond to hate is, frankly, survive. And ride. Ride on a whim and to places free, because we are free to ride to places, even on a whim. And staying together renders hate to insignificance, too. Staying together and exploring our trails, our campuses, our villages, our Earth, and our freedom.