Gay at a Straight Wedding

10/27/2011 05:18 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Like the narrator in my latest Nick Hoffman mystery, I've been out for decades. But there are still times when I unexpectedly feel exposed.

My spouse and I recently went to a straight friend's wedding, and it started for us like Four Weddings and a Funeral. The ride should have taken only about 15 minutes, but we hit every single red light along the way, and it was over half an hour. As we pulled up outside and parked, I could hear organ music echoing from the very traditional-looking Episcopalian church. "Run!" I said.

Of course it's hard to run into a church quietly (unless you're a ninja, I guess), so everyone turned as we dashed in and fell panting into seats at the back. Nice entrance.

The bride followed only a minute or two later, looking much more dignified, and to lovely piano music: the Promenade from "Pictures at an Exhibition." My partner and I held hands during the beautiful ceremony, and I was moved to tears, feeling as if we were getting married again, too.

We were almost the last people to get to the reception, and there were hardly any open seats. It was a bit like first day at a new school, complicated by the fact that my friend had told me she and her fiancé had some fundamentalist relatives coming to the wedding. Standing there, I realized how unmistakeably a couple my spouse and I were: black slacks and black shirts, and matching, elaborate wedding rings.

Our only choice was a table with a single man and a couple with three young girls. My warning bells went off when I heard the man say something to his neighbor about living in Grand Rapids, a very conservative town, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Charlie was a retired, very liberal Episcopalian minister and had just come from an Occupy Wall Street rally.

We had a lot to talk about, especially how much more diverse the city had become over his many years living there. And Iris, the smiling woman opposite me, very soon said, "I love your wedding rings -- did you have them made?" We told her we bought them in P-town and had been together for 26 years, and legally married for five of those years.

Conversation was relaxed and enjoyable, ranging over a host of subjects -- including how diverse her daughter's school was: there were children from about 20 different countries enrolled. So we lucked out and had a great time, despite some awkwardness. Driving away later, I thought about the woman's children, how they had seen their parents chatting in total comfort with a gay, married couple, and how this one evening could, in its own small way, help change the world.