This past Wednesday was my twenty-sixth wedding anniversary. Three years ago, we were celebrating our twenty-third and our in-laws’ fiftieth in Hawaii when I woke up to something decidedly less celebratory. Ever since the Pulse shooting in Orlando in 2016, our marriage has joined hands with a gruesome tragedy.
Each year, as we’re getting dressed up for a nice dinner, my Facebook feed is filled with remembrances of Pulse. Being out of town and on vacation, I was a little disconnected. My Facebook feed is also filled with vacation pictures. The algorithmic digital memories swing me from joy to grief. As a person of privilege, this is exactly the tension I should feel.
I remember when marriage equality cleared the Supreme Court. We all went down to the church, then in the dentist’s office on 10th and Rosemont, and we drank champagne and painted the windows with rainbows and “LOVE WINS!” We really thought it did. The thing we had never even imagined when we were young, but hoped for desperately as adults, was suddenly real. And now, the thing we were sure was settled, is in jeopardy.
There is an assault on queer people in the backlash, the death pangs, of the heteropatriarchy. The children of same-sex couples are having their citizenship denied. Adoptions by same-sex couples are being denied with claims of religious freedom. Work benefits, such as parental leave and insurance, are being denied to same-sex couples. Bathroom bills. Trans discharge from the armed forces. Mainline denominations are still unable to welcome and affirm queer people in ministry and leadership. All of these are moves around the edges of LGBTQ+ rights that will, if left unchecked, eventually add up to the reversal of Obergefell v. Hodges, just like what is happening with Roe v. Wade. Those are just the legal challenges.
I like to tell myself that I was only distracted by my vacation and anniversary, but the truth is you don’t know what you don’t know. Here in Oak Cliff, I spend a lot of time around queer people and it is unusual for anyone in this bubble to look sideways at queer couples or trans people. That and the rising tide of rights lulled me into believing that my friends were safe. Because gay bars have never been a place I called home, the place I went when nothing else made sense, when the whole world told me my feelings weren’t real, I didn’t understand the resonance of Pulse. So I was surprised to hear that my friends were afraid to hold hands in public or kiss each other goodbye when dropped off at work.
The physical safety of queer people is increasingly at risk. Here in Dallas, the death of Muhlaysia Booker was just the latest in a string of murders of trans women of color. And don’t forget she was beaten by a mob just weeks before her death. Hate crimes against queer people (along with other hate crimes, actually) have risen steadily since 2016. It’s hard to imagine that the hateful rhetoric and policies of this administration and its evangelical allies have not emboldened those who would enact that rhetoric with violence. The Pulse shooting, just a year after Obergefell, was just one sign that love has not, in fact, won.
Each year, as my marriage is affirmed and celebrated, I am reminded of those that are not. I’m reminded of how far we still have to travel. Looking back through the events of 2016, I’m also reminded that, about six months after Pulse, I married Courtney and Hollis. And now they have a beautiful child. And I know that I and the church that ordained me will do anything to keep that family safe. If love is to win, it will be because we constantly enact it, constantly call it to the forefront, constantly fight for it against hate and indifference. Love has not yet won, but by God it will.