It finally happened. After lots of “can’t wait to celebrate” RSVP cards rolling in, we finally got the RSVP we were dreading. Not the one where someone can’t come because they are going to be on a fabulous European vacation. We got the RSVP that came enclosed in a long, handwritten note from one of Anne’s childhood friends. Though they don’t see each other often, this person has been a wonderful support to Anne this past year, keeping Anne in her thoughts and prayers, sending cute cards and funny old photos, small things that have been bright spots for Anne while she fought her way out of depression. And in what we thought might be another cute card from her, we read “After much consideration, I decided not to attend your ceremony…I pray that we will remain friends despite my absence.”
There was a lot said in that ellipsis that mentioned her path to faith, her Christian convictions, and a few bible quotes about seeking guidance from God, and making peace. Anne’s friend is super Christian, and her faith is clearly an important part of her life. And I think that’s great for her. Anne and I were both raised with church-going Christian families. Anne is still actively involved in her Episcopalian church, while I consider myself a recovering Catholic. I respect her right to live a life based on her beliefs and values. But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little bit crushed that one of Anne’s oldest friends (who I barely know, but know is important to Anne), one of her best supporters during a difficult time in her life, was choosing to stay away from us while we celebrate such a wonderful milestone. It was surprising. We were at her wedding, to her non-Christian husband. I felt that her love and support of Anne all these years, her acceptance of her non-Christian husband into her family, meant that maybe she was one of those super-Christians with a super open mind and heart. And maybe she still is. But it hurts to know that one of the two oldest friends Anne wanted to be there won’t be, because she does not accept Anne fully for who she is and who she loves. One the one hand I respect Anne’s friend for standing behind her beliefs, which are clearly stronger than her desire to accept us as we are. But I wish she’d lied to us and said she was out of town, it may have hurt less. I hurt for Anne, for the disappointment I saw on her face when she realized this wasn’t going to be a cheerful thinking-of-you card, it was a rejection on religious grounds.
In my shock, disappointment, sadness and eventual indignation, I started to realize that there are likely other invited guests who have chosen not to attend for similar reasons, but who leave us guessing as to their justifications for “can’t make it” responses. I realize that it is not exactly my business why someone opts out of our wedding. Maybe they don’t want to travel, maybe they are busy, maybe it’s a school/work night. Maybe our wedding is – gasp – not nearly as important to them as it is to me. I get that, and I have to accept that. But maybe their rejection of our invitation stems from their rejection of me, of Anne, of our choice to be together. And that part, that possibility that others – and the certainty that Anne’s friend – have rejected us because of being gay just breaks my heart a little bit, into tiny sharp pieces that keep sneaking into my thoughts and hurting me all over again.
At these times, when I feel the sharp sting of rejection, I need to remind myself of the dozens of people who have with their time, talents, voices, or silent support chosen to be with us at the wedding, and in all other aspects of our life together. I must think of those of you who are reading this and in doing so open your hearts just a little bit more to us, and to all the others in the world out there like us, to the notion that we are all deserving of love and equal treatment even from the most conservative of you. We are so incredibly grateful for the love and support of so many other of our friends and families. I am so proud of my aunt and cousin, who out of the kindness of their hearts threw us a bridal shower this weekend. I am so grateful for my Catholic grandmother for hugging me, for celebrating our upcoming marriage over sandwiches and gift-wrapped kitchen wares, for getting to know Anne’s mother, sister, aunt and cousin. I am so glad for our friends who want to participate in our wedding planning, who are reaching out to help with un-started crafts, tagging along to boring appointments with a tailor, excitedly looking forward to dancing with us.
We are filled at once with love and loss. I wonder how many others in our lives (wedding guests or otherwise) are made uncomfortable by the very thing that we are celebrating – our relationship, our unabashed care and love for each other, our public display of our promises to each other. What is so wrong with that? Why can’t the people who are such foundational parts of our lives – our family, our oldest friends – set aside their religious beliefs to celebrate what I feel is the true driving force of all faith: love one another. At what point do I balance asking others to accept and respect me, and Anne, and marriage equality, and human rights, with my acceptance and respect for their own beliefs? I realize that religion, politics, and etiquette are tough topics to tackle on their own, and that they become infinitely entangled when we consider them together. But what do we do? How do we let our friends and families who have rejected us know that we are sad because of it? That we want them to make room for us in their hearts? That loving us and celebrating our love for each other will not make them any less faithful?
How have you handled a lack of support, the hollow silence, explicit rejection or other absences in your lives as you work towards a wedding and marriage, or other aspects of your life?