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.
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.