A friend texted me back in May, just after Jason Collins made history by coming out as the first openly gay male athlete currently playing in a major U.S. professional sport. Not long after our text conversation, she would marry the woman with whom she is madly, wonderfully in love. Their relationship is everything that we all hope to find in life. They are soul mates, partners, lovers, best friends. They are, as cliché as it might sound, perfect for one another.
This was our text conversation:
My friend: "BTW, That basketball player is totally awesome."
Me: "OMG yes. The article was so good."
My friend: "This is going to sound weird, but it made me a little depressed too."
Me: "That's it's such a big deal?"
My friend: "Yeah I guess. I just had one of those look-how-far-we've-come / look-how-far-we've-got-to-go moments."
Me: "I hear you. I have them all the time. I get it completely."
My friend: "Maybe I should send the article to [my fiancée's] dad. He is sickened by us getting married. Yes, he said that."
Me: "Oh, good Lord. I am so sorry. Like truly, deeply sorry."
I haven't been able to get that conversation out of my head. It's haunted me for months. And as much as it breaks my heart for my friend, I keep thinking about her wife. I keep thinking about all the things that she needed -- as any adult child moving into the next phase of their life needs -- from her father. I keep thinking about all the things that he could have said, and all the things that he didn't, and the one thing -- my God, the one thing -- that he did.
And I wish I could call a do-over for her. I wish I could rewrite his words. I wish I could shake him by the shoulders and show him, make him truly see, their love for each other, make him understand that real love, the kind that matters, the kind that sustains and endures and creates families, transcends gender.
I wish I could show him the beauty of what happens when we allow ourselves the freedom to dig deep enough into ourselves to see that kind of love. I wish I could take him on a journey inside himself, past the hardened, barnacled prejudice, past the learned responses to difference, past what he thinks he's supposed to feel, past what he's been told is right or wrong, pious or sinful, past every lesson that he's been so painstakingly taught from fear.
I wish I could bring him to the place beneath all those layers of outside influence, to the place where truth lives, where it sits like a gift, wrapped in love, real love, selfless love, brave love, love that feels and thinks and knows what it is without having to be defined in relation to anything else, love that does as it will and always, always seeks the light, because it must, because it simply cannot be contained by darkness for long, any more than it can be overtaken by hate, dismissal, or ugliness. Ultimately, it will drown them all, because love is stronger than the fear in which they breed.
I want to make him see what he's missing, but I can't, and because of that my heart breaks nearly as much for him as it does for her, because there is joy in seeing one's child in love. There is pride in knowing that she is adored. There is fulfillment in seeing her happy.
But if you can't get past the fear, there is nothing.
I ache for her. I wish more than anything that I could rewrite his words, that I could give her what she needed, what she so richly deserves, simply by virtue of being human. If I could, they would look something like this:
My precious daughter,
I love you. And because I love you, your happiness is mine.
You will face obstacles in this life. You will encounter those who won't understand your love, those who haven't yet managed their own journeys past fear. Take heart, though, my girl, for bigotry will eventually fatigue when confronted again and again by the fundamental truth of love.
My own shell of prejudice grew hard with the years, but I love you enough to have found my way through it, because that is what it means to love: to do the work to understand.
I am so grateful to you for teaching me that love and fulfillment and compassion and respect and joy are everything as long as we let them be everything, and that our preconceived notions of how one is supposed to come by them are nothing as long as we insist that they be nothing.
This won't be an easy road, my daughter. You will need to be brave, to believe in your love for your wife and your family, just as I will always believe in mine for you.
I wish you well, I love you, and I am here, always.
Jess can be found on her blog, A Diary of a Mom, where she writes about life with her husband, Luau, and their two daughters, 12-year-old Katie and 10-year-old Brooke, who is autistic. She also runs the Diary of a Mom Facebook page, a warm and welcoming community of autistic people, those who love them and some random folks who liked the page and seem to be sticking around just to see what's going to happen next.