Gay Respectability and How Our Families Reacted to Our Wedding

lesbian wedding
People who did celebrate our wedding. Photo credit: Jared Wickerham

Today marks our two week wedding anniversary. We had originally planned to celebrate with Mexican food and a Henry Louis Gates marathon, but the frigid temps make it patently unfair to ask any human being to go out into the weather to deliver food. So it is soup from the pantry and HLG marathon.

Married life is pretty much the same, except I have the peace of mind that comes from knowing we are legal.

What I don’t have is much acknowledgement, much less celebration from our families. And that hurts. I thought weddings were a reason to celebrate, not just like a Facebook post. But I seem to be wrong as only one person in our entire extended family has acknowledged and celebrated with the most lovelist card and message that you could ever want. A few others liked a Facebook post. And that’s that.

Granted we’ve been together almost 18 years and had a very small wedding with no guests beyon our three witnesses and no advance warning, but we didn’t exactly elope to a Gretna Green. Nor is it like we intentionally set out to snub anyone or exclude them from our pandemic wedding.

And also granted people may be waiting for a larger celebration, a delayed reception perhaps. We’ve certainly discussed that, but it is not a realistic option until the summer of 2022 at the soonest.

Plus, why would any of this stop someone from sending a note or a card? From our families?

Laura thinks I’m overthinking this, but I strongly suspect this would not happen to an opposite sex couple – even during a pandemic. In fact, I think this is a result of the unique fusion of being a proponent of a semi-equality status for LGBTQ families with the increasing Trumpian nature of regional Republicans.

This fusion looks like the “quiet” acceptance of gay family members and their suitable partners as long as no one overtly talks about it or says things that makes the kids asks questions or even remotely hints at being sexual beings. It is a guise a lot of white cisgender gay men and lesbians have leaned into for decades to survive. It is more of a dressing room with a gauzy curtain rather than a full fledged closet. My family all really like Laura, but I can’t help but wonder if the reality that she’s a white middle-aged lawyer with her own house, car, and a fondness for LL Bean gender neutral aesthetic softened her queerness and by extension, mine?


But if we can’t even generate the “here are some towels, good luck” level of emotional deflection and go straight to total apathy, what does that mean?


Now I should not be surprised there is no celebration. No one from our families reads my blog. No one from our families congratulated me on being nominated four times or winning a national award for this blogging or any other milestone. No one among them comments on the posts, clips them, shares them, encourages their friends to read, nothing. I mean nothing. If anything, they mock me and refer to you (readers) as my fanbase as if I’m a ridiculous overexposed Instagram influencer hawking hashtags. No one has ever apologized for drunk posting on my Facebook or hitting me over the head with their religious beliefs or voting for Trump or screaming horrible things about me. 90% of my family have unfriended me on Facebook.

This is one of the reasons I really wanted a very small wedding all along. I didn’t want people showing up who weren’t genuinely happy for us. I didn’t want to worry about all of the emotional hoops I had witnessed them go through at their own weddings over the decades. I didn’t want anyone to “what if?” or ask about an old boyfriend or worry that I might tag them in a social media mention about the lesbian wedding.

I just did not want that legacy of invisibility and erasure to seep into our day. I didn’t want to be invisible or forced to subdue myself at my own wedding, to have to worry about anyone’s feelings but Laura’s and my own.

I did not want anyone at my own wedding telling me not to talk about politics, for pete’s sake. I’ve held my tongue for so many family events, I can hardly keep track. I show up, hand over my gift, eat the chicken, say kind and thoughtful things focusing on the happy couple, etc. Like you do. I don’t mention Hillary Clinton or Rick Santorum.

But I didn’t expect this radio silence to hurt.

I am so very grateful for people who have kindly acknowledged our milestone – with cards, notes, phone calls, and gifts from the registry.

Ah, the registry. Isn’t that the default want to lean into acknowledgement without making a big deal about it – send some towels or a set of soup bowls with a little gift note? I spoke with my therapist about my hurt feelings and she said she had never heard of sending a wedding gift or card if she wasn’t invited to the wedding. But she acknowledged that she would not consider a Facebook like or comment to be appropriate – for her – to acknowledge a friend or loved one’s wedding. And we both agreed that expectations for a wedding 18 years into the relationship during a pandemic in the middle of the winter are probably not as clear on any side.

But if we can’t even generate the “here are some towels, good luck” level of emotional deflection and go straight to total apathy, what does that mean?

Technically, we are supposed to send out announcements. That feels contrived to me because we’ve already told all these people. The announcement I guess is the gentle nudge to the recipient to do or say something. Maybe a Facebook like is the appropriate response for the Facebook announcement? But, Jesus, if I tell my cousin J about our wedding, isn’t that something you’d expect them to share with their siblings and other cousins IF we were a heterosexual cisgender couple?

But to my larger point, I truly think there is a strand of that old school white middle class homophobia at play here. I can assure you from firsthand knowledge that the weddings of our family peers, plus one generation back and one generation after us, were vastly different. That’s where I got my expectations as do most kids, especially girls. Weddings and marriage traditions are ingrained early on in our society.

We didn’t get fancy clothes, lovely music, very few friends attending. We didn’t get a reception, flowers, candles, a theme, a color palette, an aesthetique. We didn’t get champagne toasts, a first dance, or any of that. We didn’t get to hug our best friends, our officiant, or the Mayor. We didn’t even get to be warm in spite of our friend’s valiant efforts with the fire pit.

We didn’t have any of the family traditions – no dances, no toasts from our siblings, no family mementos to carry with us, no real chance to share this joyful occasion with our families.

And those are choices we made, a tradeoff we had to make for the legal sanctity of this quick wedding.


I’ve held my tongue for so many family events, I can hardly keep track. I show up, hand over my gift, eat the chicken, say kind and thoughtful things focusing on the happy couple, etc. Like you do. I don’t mention Hillary Clinton or Rick Santorum.


But, I did expect we would get good wishes from our family and friends beyond the annual birthday acknowledgement. I’m struggling not to let their subtle erasure define my story.

Tonight on PBS ‘Finding Your Roots’ host Henry Louis Gates said to a guest something to the effect of “Testifying is a way of defying. Testifying is a way of not allowing your soul to be crushed.” He was speaking about an account of an ancestor published in a newspaper circa 1930 about her childhood experiences and her knowledge of family lore and experiences.

Marrying in a pandemic was a way to define my family. Expectations any of my cishet cousins would reasonably have for their own weddings is defying the quiet gay erasure that still deeply permeates many conservative Southwestern Pennsylvania families who may tolerate, but not celebrate same sex weddings. Sharing this less than rosy part of our wedding experience is a way to refuse to be crushed by that ongoing tacit oppression.

Writing a blog post defies the cultural and social challenges of being queer in this culture. If you think ‘marriage equality’ is a done deal, you are not paying attention. It will be inevitably a done deal, but there will be pain along the way. Even for white middle class, middle aged cisgender lesbians with lots and lots of privilege – our refusal to be erased from marriage culture is a defiant act that shows all of us LGBTQIA+ folx are still second-class in many eyes. Our refusal to be good gays strips some of our unspoken privilege away and puts us closer to “those queer people.”

It breaks my heart that our families refuse to acknowledge this very big moment, this celebration and affirmation of our love and the relationship we’ve built over the years. I can’t say I’m surprised by their inaction, but I love them enough that it still has the power to wound me that they couldn’t take five minutes to write a card and put it in the mail.

Even more so, it grieves me that embracing our full identities and relationship would interfere with their political, religious, and/or economic priorities. So they compromise with this gay acceptance crap that should tell you how far we have to go and how deeply embedded MAGA culture is in white middle and upper middle class folx in this region.

(If you’d like to read about our wedding, it is all preserved on this page. (Yep, including the registries.) And if you have experienced erasure or pressure to be ‘quietly gay’ from your family, I hear you, friend. It is not acceptable. You deserve to be celebrated and appreciated fully, not just rewarded for your respectability.

Nonetheless, as the gays and queers know …

 

I’ve always known that most of the folks who read this blog are not people whom I know in real life (analytics!) but the number of people who 1) didn’t know we married or 2) didn’t know details, registry, cookie table requests, etc clearly gives me even more latitude to get personal in this blog because they’ll never know. LOL.

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