**A word of warning: This post deals with the topic of incest. If this is a trigger for you, please read with care. This may also not be safe for reading at work.**
Over the years, we’ve discussed at length on APW (and in the book, at further length) how planning a wedding can make you come to terms with how you wish things were, versus how things are. This can come in huge variations, and while sometimes it’s the pain of having a bridesmaid that’s not really there for you, sometimes it’s the life-changing pain of coping with how profoundly damaged your family is, or your childhood was. For Jenni (who wrote about her legal ceremony, the first legal same-sex wedding in Dobbs Ferry, NY, and who is now planning her big-party wedding) history hit home for her in a massive and painful way.
The process of planning our big queer vintage Hindu wedding is heart wrenching and painful with moments of sheer bliss thrown in. There are two forces running parallel to one another throughout this yearlong planning process. My partner, our community, and I are elated and supportive of this momentous occasion, while the family that raised me is furious and unsupportive. This tumultuous environment has created a very emotional and often unsettling year of wedding planning.
Like many APW readers, my partner and I are queer, but we are also from different countries, religions, and ethnicities. This may sound like a wedding planning disaster with so many cultural, religious, and ethnic differences to navigate, but it has actually been quite the opposite. I am having a ridiculous amount of fun planning this wedding, and we are growing as a couple. We talk in depth about her Hindu religion, family dynamics, our future as a family, and my ever-growing love of all things pin-up and vintage. Every decision is made through discussion, consideration, and love. There were no arguments over wedding colors or outfits. Our neighbors are donating items for our DIY photobooth, a co-worker is growing all the plants for our centerpieces, my boss is paying for the wine at the reception, and a friend is donating her parents’ summer home for our honeymoon. We are surrounded by so much love, it is sometimes hard to take in.
The encouragement my partner and I are experiencing during the wedding planning process stands in sharp contrast to my family dynamic over the past year. Let me give you some background information. I grew up in a Southern Baptist, evangelical Christian, Republican household (yeah, I know, that’s a lot to wrap your head around). Except, what my parents claimed to believe was not in line with how they treated me at home. Although I grew up in a wealthy, suburban household, I was abused and neglected from a very young age. I was frequently left alone with no fresh food in the house, which meant most of my dinners growing up consisted of cereal at the dining room table alone. There’s more to this story, which I will expand on later in this post.
Needless to say, my parents were against my relationship with my partner from day one. In many ways, she never stood a chance—she’s brown, foreign, and Hindu. She would stick out like a sore thumb among the lily white, well-manicured laws of suburban Georgia. They were furious when we got engaged a year ago and continue to argue with me every step of the way. About five months ago, I decided that all the nonsense with my family was too overwhelming and stopped talking to them. For four blissful months, I wedding planned without any rantings and ravings from family members. I was more happy and sane than ever before. Like most things we try to shove under the rug, this state of calm wedding-planning bliss did not last for long.
My beautiful, darling grandmother (one of two extended family members who supported me when I came out years ago) has been steadily declining as her dementia progresses, and it was decided on a whim to place her in assisted living. As a social gerontologist and an advocate for older adults everywhere, I decided to call up the assisted living facility only to discover that it was pretty much HELL for older adults. We’re talking a 60 Minutes undercover special kind of hell.
At this point, my world came crashing down. I realized that my four-month impenetrable wedding planning bubble of bliss was about to burst. I picked up the phone to call my mother and advocate for my darling grandmother. I needed to give my parents a chance to do the right thing and find a nice assisted living facility before I flew out there and hired a damn good attorney to save my darling grandmother.
This is where my story gets really juicy and completely fucked up so don’t stop reading just yet. I failed to mention that in addition to being a loving partner and advocate for older adults, I’m also a survivor of incest. I’ve actually never used that term until right-this-moment. This unfortunate truth is still setting in, and I decided that in addition to advocating for my grandmother I was going to tell my mother about the eleven years of sexual abuse I endured at the hand of my father (i.e. the man she is married to and currently living with).
I mustered up all my courage and told my mother about my childhood sexual abuse one month before my wedding. I wish I could say that she reassured me with loving words and told me everything was going to be alright. Unfortunately, she called me a liar, drama queen, and storyteller. She told me that she will defend my father’s innocence until the day she dies.
To say that I am devastated is a complete understatement. My heart and soul are shattered and torn into a million tiny pieces. At my most vulnerable moment, I was not only shut down but stepped on with sharp, spiky steel-toed boots. The weeks that passed felt like a dream. I literally blacked out from the childhood flashbacks at home and in public. Last night at a fundraiser for Callen Lourde Community Health Center, I fainted and vomited during a reading by the infamous author Kate Bornstein after her story triggered a flashback. As I was sitting in the back of the ambulance on a busy street in the Lower East Side, I realized then and there that this was it. This was the moment where I had to decide whether I was going to stay in touch with my toxic family or make a break.
Today I chose to make a break. I chose happiness. I chose love. I chose my friends, neighbors, partner, and son.
So, here I am—a month from my wedding and in the midst of a psychological and emotional crisis, but I take refuge in the fact that this wedding is the beginning of something beautiful and new. This wedding is my welcome party. This wedding is a celebration of everything that I accomplished despite my horrible childhood. This wedding is about what I built together with my amazing partner and rock star son.
I chose to embrace life now, and my wedding is going to be fucking gorgeous on September twenty-second.
Photo by: My flaming gay Uncle James (the other family member who supported me when I came out) took this photo of me as a kid, which I included because I looked so happy and adorable, but also because I was (and still am) really tough and kick ass! So this photo represents me, makin’ it and finding my own little happiness then and now… despite the chaos at home.
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