On Tumblr last week, a post about LGBT marriage popped up on my dashboard. User propharah had written, “Hearing women say ‘my wife’ and men say ‘my husband’ is therapeutic to be honest.” Coincidentally, I stumbled across this post only an hour or so after coming out as my wife’s wife for probably the five hundredth-plus time in our decade of marriage. I’d already been considering a blog post about the morning’s experiences, so when I saw propharah’s note I opened up Word and wrote a quick reply on Tumblr.
Here it is in its entirety—with a few accompanying illustrations, of course, because this is WordPress not Tumblr ffs.
This morning at our daughter’s swim lessons at the local YMCA, my wife introduced me to an older woman who had just come in: “Sara, this is my wife Kate. Honey, Sara is Aiden’s grandmother.”
At the word “wife,” the other woman’s head whipped around and she looked between us with an expression that seemed to demand, “Wait, are you joking? Is this a joke?”
Kris and I have been married for eleven years (2005, Western Massachusetts), so it’s not like this reaction was entirely new or even a bit unexpected. Ignoring the stranger’s shocked look, I held out my hand and smiled. “It’s nice to meet you, Sara.”
After a brief pause, she shook my hand and then stared unblinking while my daughter ran over and hugged me. As I leaned down to press a kiss to Alex’s forehead, I found myself replying silently to the unvoiced questions hanging in the air: “Yes, we are married. Yes, this is my daughter, too. Yes, we are a family.”
Eventually Aiden’s grandmother recovered her equilibrium and we all sat down and chatted for the next thirty minutes as if that awkward moment had never happened. When I made an offhand comment toward the end of the conversation about Alex having two moms, Sara only nodded and kept right on, her deer-in-the-headlights days apparently behind her.
Later, as I left the Y and headed to work, I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that we were probably the first legally married women this 65-year-old retired widow with two sons and three grandsons (I might have unearthed her life story in the course of a single swim lesson; it’s what writers do) had ever met. Or, at least, the first women who had ever called each other “wives” so easily, so proudly in her presence. Stonewall happened only a few years before I was born, but it happened after Sara became a wife and mother. She had lived through a sea change for LGBT Americans, even if she wasn’t aware of most of those changes.
As I drove toward campus, I also realized what a difference it made to me to be able to meet this straight woman on equal footing; to discuss my family with the weight of legal and governmental, if not cultural, support behind me. When we talked about the simultaneous joy and deep-seated exhaustion that comes with looking after small children, it was as fellow mothers–even though I am not biologically related to my children. When I offered condolences on the recent loss of her husband, it was as a fellow wife who, unfortunately, would someday likely either be in her shoes or be the one to leave my own wife in that position.
Being equal in the eyes of the law makes a difference to me, and it makes a difference to my wife and our daughters, and it makes a difference to all of our friends and family members. It also makes a difference to the myriad strangers we encounter on a daily basis: to those who do double-takes when we use the term “my wife;” to those who silently revolt at our constitutional right to do so; maybe especially to those who inwardly cheer and feel a little bit better about their own lives, their own possibilities, their own futures.
Absolutely, it makes a difference.