I thought it was all about the wedding,
but boy, was I wrong. As they say, a wedding is tying the knot. You
sign papers, make public vows, and accept the support of friends and
family. You also tell your spouse that this is forever. And ever. And
Once upon a time, there was nothing to
signify a gay joining but a bedroom and an overstuffed VW hauling
furniture, the stereo and a cat in a carrier. All too often, a few
months or years went by and the VW would head off in another
direction, plus or minus a cat. But that didn’t always happen. You
just didn’t hear much about the knots that stayed tied.
Recently, my sweetheart and I were
invited to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of a couple who didn’t
have the advantage of a formal knot-tying ceremony. They fell in love
in high school and had nothing but their love to keep them together.
It couldn’t have been easy. Certainly my early relationships
succumbed to the wrath of the closet, which could scar one with a
habit of easy dishonesty, especially within oneself. If you’re not
honest with yourself, how can you be with your partner? You end up
stumbling around inside a house with no foundation, in a maze of lies
and denial that make it impossible to sustain a relationship.
These days, I know of so many couples
who stayed together till death did them part, and I know more who
have hit the 25 mark, the 35 mark, 40 years and beyond. By the time I
was 40, I’d learned how to stay, but back in my twenties and
thirties, I only knew how to unravel the rope, never mind tie a
lasting knot. And even at 40, I didn’t know enough to make good
choices. That took another 20 years. How did these long-lasting
couples who’ve come out since Stonewall know who to choose and how
to make it work?
Our 25th anniversary friends had no
guides. Those of us who came before sure didn’t set a good example.
I think this couple must have had gumption, hard-headed determination
and respect for themselves, for each other and for their non-anointed
Not that we didn’t have gumption
before 1969. We had it all right, but most of us used it all up
fighting the wrong fights. We fought ourselves because we’d been
told we were demons. We had trouble respecting our unions. How could
I think well of my partner if she chose a demon like me? How could I
trust a relationship between demons? How could I even want it, much
less confidently promise forever? It was always easier to get in the
weighted down VW and move on than to face my own demons.
Then, suddenly, the Stonewall riots,
which scared me because I believed that shining a light on gay people
was dangerous. Those rioters flipped on the whole circuit breaker.
Closets melted in the heat of the lights. A glimmer of self-respect
shone into our souls. At the same time, teenagers in small town
America were falling in love and looking at the marching gay people
on T.V. and understanding they were not the only ones, that they were
not demons, that they were people of great value.
It still wasn’t easy for our friends,
because they loved in a world that continued to demonize people like
them. It was dangerous outside each other’s arms, but they didn’t
drown their fears in liquor, or sabotage their tie by moving away.
They never found gay books until 2003, but they played sports and got
good jobs and stayed together and saved money and bought a home with
a good foundation. For their first dozen years they were so closeted
they had no gay friends. Finally, a friend at work came out to them
and they had another couple who could share the special moments in
their lives. They announced at the celebration that they made it this
long partly because of that friendship.
My sweetheart and I drove 25 hours
round trip to witness their accomplishment. Relatively new ourselves,
it was important. In the large convivial room there was a glow of
accomplishment. The couples’ two families were there as were work
friends and team buddies. I imagined, afterward, the heart-rending
moments of rejection and eventual acceptance that made this day
possible. This couple, whose gumption surely must have wavered now
and then, gifted all of us by bringing us together to toast their
example and their achievement.
See, their smiles seemed to say,
there’s no demons in this room. Not in us, not in you. They can’t
untie this knot.
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 12 books. Her latest, Beggar
of Love, was called “Lee
Lynch's richest and most candid portrayals of lesbian life” by
Katherine V. Forrest. You can reach Lynch at
Copyright 2011 Lee Lynch