My best friend and I grew up believing whole heartedly that we were the lost Disney princesses. At any moment, our prince charming would swoop in on his noble steed, ride off into the sunset, and we would be devoted to one another for the rest of our lives. My dad was always concerned about the day a man would take his baby girl away. He would always tell me “You don’t need a prince to be a princess, my love. All you need is you.”
My dad is a pretty conservative man. He is someone I have always looked up to and his opinion means the world to me. Quite frankly, he’s my best friend. As a kid, my mother was constantly working so my weekends were filled laughing with my dad. We rarely did anything extraordinary, but simple rides in the car or walks on the beach are still stored in my head as golden memories. Part of the irony of our strong friendship is that we are complete opposites. He always saw the world for what it ‘really was’ and I was a dreamer. I wanted to save every animal, tree, and person on the planet. My dad always tried to explain to me that the world is a cruel place sometimes and it’s about balance. He’d always end the conversation by saying, “This is the way the world is. If you want it to be different, go change it.” I thought it was his way of giving me the facts while still nurturing my dreamer side. I always felt I could change the world as long as my daddy was standing behind me. My young mind never comprehended the day my dad wouldn’t be there.
I never sat my parents down and told them I was gay. I figured that I didn’t need to. My philosophy was (and still is) that I love who I love. I wouldn’t need to sit them down and say “Hey Mom and Dad, I’m straight” so why bother making my sexuality a big deal. When I first started bringing girls home, my mother picked up on my sexuality right away. She later told me that she used to tell my father she thought I was gay. His response was always, “I don’t think so. She can’t be gay.” It was then my dad was faced with the fact that his baby girl might not be ‘normal.’ In my opinion, his mind went to fear. Fear that I wouldn’t get all of the opportunities I could if I were straight. Fear that I wouldn’t know the feeling of having children with a man I loved. Fear that my life would be harder than it needed to. In general, I think he feared not knowing what my life would be. As I have gotten older, my friends have also aged and had children. When I see their posts on Facebook while pregnant, they write about all of the dreams they have for their little boy or girl. If it’s a girl, I always see pinks, purples, flowers and kittens. If it’s a boy, they write about puppies, tow trucks and their boy learning to be like their daddy. I now understand that as a parent, you have so many aspirations and dreams for your children. When your child takes a path that you never expected, it can blindside you. My dad chose to not process this thought until much later. I think he was waiting for me to come out but again, I never saw the need. The dreamer was about to clash with the conservative dad, although this time, I wasn’t so sure he would say, “This is the way the world is. If you want it to be different, go change it.”
I finally dated a girl I wanted to marry. She is my equal, my love, and the other half of my soul. It was time to officially break the news to my dad but I just couldn’t think of how to start that conversation. Even though I knew he loved me with all his heart, I didn’t know how this fact would conflict with his conservative Catholic values. I was terrified my dad wouldn’t be standing behind me anymore. Everything in my being said, “This isn’t a big deal. Why can’t you just go tell him?” Sarah, my fiance at the time, had grown to love my dad just as much as I did. She decided that having his blessing before proposing was a necessary requirement that could not be overlooked under any circumstance. While I twiddled my thumbs trying to think of the perfect way to start the conversation, Sarah decided that the elephant in the room needed to be acknowledged. She took a trip to my dad’s house, knocked on the door and said she had something to discuss. I can only imagine my dad’s face when he heard the words, “I want your blessing to marry your daughter.” I’m pretty positive that after hearing that phrase, my dad reached for his whiskey and shot glasses.
Surprisingly, the conversation went well. Sarah got his blessing and we got engaged on May 19. After much discussion, we set a date for April 3 of the following year. Throughout our engagement, I could tell that my dad struggled with the concept of our wedding. I can’t answer for him but I think some of those fears started to really creep back in. My mom would call me every once in a while and tell me that my dad was having a hard time wrapping his brain around the idea. I started to tell Sarah that I didn’t want a wedding. If my dad wasn’t going to walk me down the aisle, it just wasn’t worth it. On the same token, I would never want to put him in a compromising situation that hurt his heart in any way. He was my best friend.
On April 3, 2014, I learned what the word devotion meant. Devotion means coming to your daughter’s wedding even when it wasn’t the wedding you pictured for her. Devotion is walking your daughter down the aisle to the woman who will become her wife. Devotion is giving your daughter away and trusting that she is making the right decision. Devotion is standing up at the reception and making a toast welcoming your daughter’s new wife into the family even though your conservative views may not agree. Devotion is love even though you don’t completely agree. After the wedding, I thanked him for walking me down the aisle and his response was, “There is nowhere else I would have wanted to be.” I wish everyone in the LGBTQ community experienced this level of love, acceptance and devotion.
Poppy and Sarah’s Real Wedding will be published on Equally Wed soon. For now, you can read their engagement story.
To submit your essay on devotion or any other topic, send a 700-1,500 word piece in the body of the email to editors AT equallywed DOT com. You retain the rights to your work, but it may not have appeared elsewhere before publication on equallywed.com.
Photo: J.Woodberry Photography