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It Was All About Pride


At the end of June, we’ll celebrate one of APW’s most beloved traditions: Pride Week. In that week, all our posts will be from LGBTQ voices. It’s one of my favorite weeks of the year. But today, I wanted to lead with a post from someone who has always been proud of her gay brother, even in moments where he struggled to be proud of himself. For me, it epitomizes why the fight for gay rights is everyone’s fight. All of us who love gay friends or family members, and have watched them struggle for acceptance, know just how important this is—for all of us.

Meg

It Was All About Pride | A Practical Wedding

by Jen

My brother got married in June last year. He held a civil ceremony in the centre of London, where he lives and works. It was a beautiful location, a gorgeous Georgian town house. The ceremony took place in the downstairs morning room, and the rest of the house opened out like a concertina for the rest of the day to a leafy shady courtyard garden, an orangery for the reception, and a secretly secluded, goddamn awesome, checkerboard dance floor at the back. We smiled, we laughed, we cried, but most of all we felt? What we felt was pride.

Firstly, because my brother is gay, and was marrying* his partner of five years.

I was the first person my brother had come out to in the family. It happened on the first night I had moved to London for work, sofa surfing at his flat before I found my own place. We were out for some cocktails and after more booze than either of us would care to remember, a guy came up to flirt with him. My brother turned to me with a desperate stare, and although I hadn’t guessed, hadn’t known, hadn’t even begun to consider his sexuality, everything that second just clicked and I hugged him as hard as I could saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay, I already know and it’s okay.”

What followed was a week or so of his deliberating how to tell our parents, which he did by our visiting them the following weekend. There was a small amount of surprise, then hugs, and the mantra repeated to us by our parents since we were small: “We just want you to be happy.”

After a time coming to terms with himself, which took longer, I think, for him than for his family and friends, he met his life partner online. (We wrote his first letter of introduction together, this time from the flat I’d moved to a few miles away from his.) They smiled, they laughed, and they cried themselves towards a life together that would lead them to a proposal and civil partnership on that gorgeous sunny day in June.

Secondly, we felt pride because, despite the room on the day of the wedding being filled with friends and family, we knew there were some people in the room that didn’t condone their relationship. One person in particular. Our grandparents and other extended family had been delightfully forward thinking and accepting, and in fact the message came from someone of our own generation. They didn’t agree with the idea of love between two men, but stated they would “forgive” my brother, and still attended the wedding. In lots of other families, this would have caused heartache, arguments, alienation. In ours: gentleness, sympathy. I’m damn proud of the way that situation was dealt with. My brother’s reaction especially. Being told, in a direct and, to be honest, patronising fashion, that he would be forgiven for falling in love with a strong, capable, and caring man, being told that he’s done something wrong, but still welcoming that person to his day, still sharing his joy and happiness, still wanting bonds of family to stick… that’s strong, that’s mature, that’s proud.

And that brings me to the final, third reason. My brother was so afraid of being a disappointment to the family, that despite knowing he was gay since he was a teen, and perhaps even younger than that, he never told us. He worked hard, became a star pupil, won awards, became a talented amateur actor, went to Oxford, came top of his year, went to law school, and now works at one of the best firms in the city. He had a nervous breakdown; he has depression. He cares about his husband so incredibly deeply. That final third reason, why we felt and feel so much pride is simply because my brother is just so damn amazing. He, despite his achievements, the relationships he’s built, the relationships he’s managed, is the last person to feel proud of himself. But he should; above all things, he should.

*Gay marriage in the UK wasn’t allowed then, but I use the term to signify a union between two people.

Photo from Jen’s personal collection.

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  • Rachel

    Whew…I got chills at that last line!

  • Catherine

    Wow, tears. How beautiful. I am engaged to a woman (the most amazing human ever) and am scared and hurting over the fact that people on my side of the family will probably not be supportive. My only living grandparent will definitely disapprove…I told my parents about my relationship a year and a half ago and my mom was devastated, and although she is coming around, she has tried to keep it hush hush (they live on the other side of the country along with my family). Not meaning to go on about myself, just that it’s hard because my news is quite sudden to family members, since lots of them didn’t even know I was in a relationship with a woman, and now I’m engaged. I’m honestly scared of seeing my grandpa the next time I do. Scared of how he will look at me or treat me. I don’t want to disappoint anyone and it’s hard to know that you are doing the right thing, not doing anything wrong, doing something that is completely natural, and have people try to make you feel ashamed because they are ignorant and truly don’t understand it or know about it….Sorry had to vent there.

    I just thought it was so beautiful how your brother handled that person at his wedding. So graceful.

    • http://thevanillabride@blogspot.com Sonarisa

      Graceful. Exactly.

      Our relationship is traditional in a lot of ways, but the few ways we do shift away from the norm have attracted a fair amount of attention from some family members. In the eyes of our friends, and many people in our generation, we’re pretty normal, but some of the previous generations have had some things to say about it. In the upcoming wedding, I’m nervous that I won’t be able to show the same grace- to welcome people to our celebration- for lesser slights than your brother bore.

      I’m not sure if he’ll read the comments today, so if he doesn’t please pass on the fact that his acceptance and grace is inspiring. That I’m going to try and welcome people into my life this month, and over the course of the next year, despite things they feel and say. And that perhaps, if I try hard enough, I’ll be able to respond to them with compassion and sympathy and dissuade any negative emotions from occurring now, or during the big day.

      Finally, thank you for sharing. This was a beautifully written post.

      • http://seasofgales.wordpress.com/ KH_Tas

        “I’m nervous that I won’t be able to show the same grace- to welcome people to our celebration- for lesser slights than your brother bore”

        I was thinking the same thing. Inspiring piece, and I will do my best to live up to the example.

    • ANOTHER MEG

      Ugh. That’s rough. I’m so sorry that’s happening. I’m sorry that the people who love you could cause a shadow on such a bright event.

      Hugs.

      I agree- graceful is a good word to describe his attitude and actions. Classy and mature.

    • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

      Hi Catherine,

      You can do it. It might be hard, and some relatives might not accept you, but that will be their loss. As you’ve already seen with your parents, some people who take it really hard at first can eventually soften up and grow in time.

      And. Others might even surprise you with their acceptance. This happened with me and my grandfather recently. I was terrified to come out to him, as a 93-year-old man who was raised in a totally different time. But he was accepting of me and my then-girlfriend.

      You never know what can happen. It may bring more closeness with you and your relatives.

      Good luck and stay strong!

  • Corrie

    What beautiful words – especially that last paragraph. Props to your family for being so accepting and loving. Sometimes it seems so hard to take pride in our own lives/acheivements when we feel like we’re still struggling through a lot. I imagine that is especially the case for people like your brother, who’ve accomplished so much, had support of family, and yet are still fighting recognition of something so fundamental to their personal identity, whether that fight be in outright or subtle ways every day.

  • http://www.sarahhoppes.com SarahHoppes

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jenni

    Excellent post. You and your family’s support and love for your brother really shines through. You inspired me to email my (lesbian) best friend. I always tell her I love her–this time, I’ll tell her I’m proud of her.

    And further, this month I’m going to focus on telling the people in my life why I’m proud of them.

  • http://teaandcookiesblog.com tea_austen

    I sobbed through this, in the best way possible. :-)
    Thank you for sharing your love and pride–it’s beautiful and inspiring, and so true that sometimes the hardest struggle is the one that goes on inside the individual. Hopefully with time, and the continued support and affection of family and community, it will even out. You all sound so lovely to each other.
    Wishing your brother and brother-in-law a lifetime of love together!

  • Karen

    Thank you for being such a wonderful sister and being there for your brother. As a lesbian, it always warms my heart when family are so accepting. You give us hope.

  • April

    Oh, my – tears at my desk at 13:00! And my heart just grew two sizes. Thank you for sharing with us. What a loving, wonderful sister you are to support your brother and his husband so wholly and truly. Just beautiful.

  • KW

    What a perfect post to kick off the new month! Thank you for sharing your pride and love for your brother in such an eloquent way.

  • Shannon

    This is lovely, and as a lesbian it also reminds me to be proud of my amazing family when they do things that are not just accepting of me, but challenging to the homophobia that I have to encounter in the world.

    My sister, who stands up to those in her conservative community who don’t believe in equal rights; my dad, who, when I came out, only asked me if I was happy because that’s all that mattered, and who has celebrated with me every political and social victory of the past few years; my mom, who, though startled and surprised at first, has taken my opening up about my sexuality as an opportunity to educate herself and, now that she feels pretty good about many of the issues, to educate others, too.

    I am proud of any family who can recognize that what their queer family member might be going through is something they will never know, personally, and still fight for them, lend support, and do whatever they can to help them find happiness. Especially those who are vocal not only to their loved one, but to others, because visibility from queers especially, but also allies, is what will make a change in the world.

  • Steven

    This is a great post! Made me feel so hopeful :)

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    “falling in love with a strong, capable, and caring man” is such a thing to be proud of all on its own, which makes it even more infuriating that someone would think it was something to be forgiven. I think we forget to be proud of ourselves for making a good choice in a partner and doing the work of building a healthy relationship with that person. After so many years of making so many bad choices in men, I am proud that I chose a good and kind man and your brother should be as well. I don’t know where he found the strength to be gracious to a person who tried to make him feel otherwise. No wonder you are clearly so proud to be his sister.

  • http://www.foreveryoungadult.com erin

    Your brother is a braver, nicer, gentler, kinder and more loving person than I. The first person who told me they’d “forgive” me for living my life would get a punch in their face.

  • Dodie

    Tears. Many tears. Thank you for sharing this. I needed to hear it.