My partner/wife Anne and I have been together 36 years, married 5 years. During that time, we have been present to many changes in consciousness about and reactions to LGBTQ people. It is a time of great expansion on this planet. At the moment, it can feel like everything is going backwards, but it’s really just the rising and falling of waves of change. Awareness is definitely continuing to open and flower, even in the most unexpected places.
As a couple, Anne and I have experienced one particularly humorous reaction/interaction over the years that has repeated itself in place after place, with slight variations. After looking at us curiously for a moment, complete strangers will ask either “Are you twins?” or “Are you sisters?” When we say “no,” their faces register disbelief. This was especially true 30 years ago when the general public had little awareness about same-sex couples.
On one occasion, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, two individuals came into a store just to ask if we were twins. We found this particularly funny because we were in the midst of a conversation with the storeowner who was asking the same thing! When this kind of inquiry first began to happen, we said little other than “no” (especially while traveling) because acts of hatred and violence against those in the LGBTQ community were not uncommon, and we knew we had to be cautious in what we revealed to strangers. Anne would often divert the conversation by saying that she had a twin brother.
As the gay/lesbian rights movement grew over the years and more and more people courageously came out in their lives, a dramatic shift in the collective consciousness began to occur. In May 2004, Massachusetts (where we lived at the time) became the first state to allow legal marriages of same-sex couples. State after state followed. In 2013, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down, and it became legal at the federal level. Thousands joyfully flew rainbow flags throughout the nation, and rainbow lights even graced the White House. It became much more commonplace for people to recognize a same-sex couple when they saw one, particularly in Massachusetts.
Today, of course, negative opinions about LGBTQ individuals and anyone else considered “different” are re-surfacing, all fed by fear. But those on the receiving end of these attitudes are not turning back and becoming invisible, even in the face of threats, anger, and violence. Acceptance and love has entered the collective conversation at the national and international level, and that is a genie that cannot be returned to the bottle.
When Anne and I married in 2014, we were surrounded by those who loved us, and waves of love radiated out from all of those present in the most magical of ways. We continue to live in that radiance in spite of whatever divisiveness is playing out in the national media and in the underside of public consciousness. Our openness about being who we are has been tested recently as we moved from Massachusetts to Florida, a state historically not known for its support of LGBTQ rights. We didn’t know what to expect, but we have been pleasantly surprised so far.
Yes, there have been replays of the “twins” conversation, but sweet ones. In January, we were celebrating our 36th anniversary at the local botanical garden. As we stood waiting to enter, a woman next to us struck up a conversation, and soon that familiar series of questions began: “Are you twins?” “No.” “Sisters?” “No” “Oh, just really good friends then?” At this point, I said: “We’re married—5 years. And today we’re celebrating 36 years together.” The woman immediately responded, “That’s wonderful! Congratulations!” And the woman next to her echoed, “Congratulations!” with a big smile on her face. The man beside her wished us a “Happy Anniversary.” Smiles all around.
Assumptions, yours or mine, can separate us from each other. I’m finding that you can never assume anything about someone else’s beliefs or lifestyle. You just have to be willing to be yourself and to hold love in your heart. Generally, that is what you will receive in return. Just yesterday, we had a mini-replay of the above conversation, and when the woman heard we had been together 36 years, her face lit up and her eyes softened with tears as she looked back and forth at us. “That’s so wonderful and so unusual for anyone to stay together that long. You are blessed.” Yes, we are. And may such blessings as these multiply and circle the globe, filling every heart with limitless love.