One of my earliest childhood memories was learning some people, total strangers, hated my family. It didn’t make sense when I was four.
And, funny, almost two decades later and it still doesn’t make sense.
Because hate rarely does. It’s a dirty, ugly emotion and feeling. It’s the part of us we all have about different things — some valid. Some completely irrational. There is a bit of hatred in everyone. But I grew up with the belief love overpowered it. There was enough light, love, goodness, that even the most brutal hate couldn’t win.
A simple good versus evil maybe, because that seems easier to believe as a child. Shades of intolerance are harder to swallow, so I just kept thinking.
Hate = bad
Love = good
I remember being four years old and going out to breakfast with my aunt. I always thought she looked so cool. She had a pixie haircut, wore aviator sunglasses, and slick black tank tops giving her this almost Tomb-Raider-fighter-chick appearance. She walked with a self assuredness and I could just tell when I was with her, I was safe. I didn’t have the vocabulary for it at the time, but I thought my aunt was a badass. And I wanted to be just like her.
As we sat down eating waffles and other sugary things, I announced loudly (because I’ve never been a quiet girl): “Aunt Jackie, when I grow up, I want to like girls just like you do.”
My aunt’s confidence shifted. Her eyes darted about the room and I could feel her shoulders tensing. She smiled awkwardly at the family across from us and gently hushed me. Though I couldn’t understand what exactly was happening at the time, I knew one thing: my aunt’s sexuality was not something she wanted broadcast. I had, unintentionally, embarrassed her. There was a palpable sense of shame floating in the air and I didn’t get it.
I looked at husbands and wives strolling about holding hands and none of it made sense. What was wrong? Why couldn’t I be proud of my aunt and who she loved? Of course, I was four and had no real concept of sexuality. Because I didn’t grow up to love girls, like I told her I wanted. Because it isn’t something you choose or decide upon in Country House Waffles when you’re an overeager toddler.
I’m old enough to know life gets messy and complicated and things don’t always simplify to good vs evil, but I know that today, I’m celebrating.
Today, it feels like good did win. Like love conquered. Like I could go back in time and tell four-year-old me that love is big and beautiful and marriage honors that.
Thank you for granting people I love, people who raised me, people who taught me what it means to be yourself in a world that doesn’t always understand, the right to marry. Thank you for this step in the right direction. There is more work to be done in equality and empowering marginalized groups, as there always is, but today we celebrate.
Because today love won.