I'll be attending my first gay wedding this summer and I have mixed feelings about it. Before you throw a high-five or send hate mail, let me explain.
The happy couple are both men and more uniquely, one of them happens to be my father.
My dad came out 14 years ago when I was 21. Since then, my parents have divorced. My mom remarried a few years later while my dad made up for lost time in his gay dating career. Life in our family has been.. interesting.
I don't have any Parent Trap fantasies of my mom and dad getting back together someday. Their divorce, while amicable enough that we all get together for dinner occasionally, is final. I accepted our new family structure years ago and yet, I can still feel the growing pains.
I'm glad my dad has found somebody he wants to spend his life with. I'm thrilled that the law now supports his right to marry. It makes me happy to see him so happy. But it also makes me sad.
When I tell friends that my parents got divorced after 25 years of marriage and four kids because my dad realized he was gay, they usually assume that the "gay dad" aspect was the most traumatic part. But it wasn't. When my dad told me he was gay, it wasn't difficult to accept. Maybe on some level I had known all along. Don't get me wrong, the thought had never before entered my conscious mind. He was my dad, he loved my mom, and we were a family; end of story. That was the narrative I had believed my whole life. Yet somehow, when my dad told me he was gay, I immediately accepted it as the truth. My dad being gay wasn't good or bad. It just... was.
The truth is, the worst part about my parents getting divorced was the fact that they were getting divorced. The reason for the divorce seemed beside the point. I believed that my dad hadn't chosen to be gay and although he chose to get divorced, the circumstances somehow neutralized the possibility of assigning any blame. I didn't care why they were splitting up, because the split, itself, took all my attention.
When my parents separated, I was most worried about their loneliness. Even though I was technically an adult, as their child, it was terrifying for me to see them in such a vulnerable and uncertain state. I wanted them to hurry and find someone new to pair up with so they could go back to being stable adults I could count on. I was so naïve.
The wish for my parents to each find someone new and move on turned out to be more complicated than my 21-year-old self had planned. In my mind, once they'd each found someone new to love, we could go back to being a happy family. Sure, there'd be two new people in the mix but compared to the six people who were already in my family, that seemed like a minority. "We" outnumbered "Them". I honestly believed the actual divorce was going to be the worst part. I thought it was up hill from there.
What I couldn't have known was that alliances would shift and change my family's dynamic. I didn't realize how shameful it would feel to watch my dad go through a second "adolescence" in his 50s. I hadn't anticipated the shock and anger I would experience when my mother chose a man who was the very opposite of everything (I believed) she stood for. I wasn't prepared for how the pain would build walls between my siblings and myself. I had heard about divorce but thought that my family's special circumstances would make it easier to navigate. I thought we'd be better at it.
It's been 14 years since my dad came out and my parents separated. In that time, my family has welcomed new faces and said good-bye to them too. My siblings and I have branched out and started our own limbs on the family tree. I've grown in ways I could have never imagined. Now that I can see that leg of the journey in hindsight, I count it as valuable life experience.
Hawaii legalized same-sex marriage last year and made it possible for thousands of couples to exercise their equal rights. It was a long time coming and makes me feel hopeful about the positive evolution of our society. I am amazed and delighted to realize that in 20 years when my three daughters look back at photos of their grandpas' wedding day, they'll only comment on the fun of being flower girls. My daughters won't know what a groundbreaking experience they were part of. They won't be able to recall a time when two people who loved each other didn't have the right to get married. Imagine that.
This realization gives my mixed feelings a good shake. It is a reminder to look at the big picture and move forward, like my home state of Hawaii has done. The Aloha Spirit now includes Marriage Equality and this wedding season I am proud to be a part of my dad's gay wedding.
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