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Dealing with homophobic family at your gay wedding

The homophobe at the wedding

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Your special day is coming up. You’re thrilled, ecstatic, excited! You sit down with your partner to put together your guest list and your heart sinks, just a little. How is your sister or father or brother going to react to your fabulous news?

Many of us are very lucky to have wonderful, supportive families and friends who rejoice with our happiness when we decide to marry, but some of us also struggle with the disappointment and heartbreak of homophobia.

Homophobia touches each of us at some time, but when it hits home at your wedding, it can be particularly heart wrenching. So, what do you do when a family member or friend can’t share in the joy of your wedding day?

Perhaps these stories will be helpful if homophobia comes to your wedding.

• In the seven years that Bernadette Coveney Smith has been planning same-sex weddings, she has seen her share of homophobia. She recalls two brides from North Carolina who traveled to Boston in 2010 to marry. They invited 50 guests, including their families, who had consistently been supportive of their 20-year relationship. Despite having welcomed his daughter’s partner in his home for quite some time and treated her like a daughter, the father of one of the brides decided he was simply too uncomfortable to attend his daughter’s wedding. His wife, his other daughter, and his grandchild went, but no prodding could get him to change his mind. Marriage is a big deal. People who have supported you before might not support you in your desire to legally wed. Prepare yourself.

“Moments like that cast a sadness over what should be a joyous celebration,” Smith said. “The bride was heartbroken. It was always on her mind. She couldn’t let it go. It was bittersweet.”

Post script: The father and daughter reconciled, but the wedding was never spoken of again.

• Sometimes there’s just nothing that anyone can do to “win over” a loved one. It’s important to anticipate the possibility that someone may not be ready to celebrate your big day. Don’t be taken a back and do your best to prepare yourself to be able to “let it go,” if homophobia comes to your wedding.

Tyson Perez and Malcolm Harris were wed in August in Manhattan. Perez told Wedding Pride, “I knew my sister would be my best woman. She was always 100 percent behind me, but I also knew that two of my three brothers might not come. I had to decide early on that I wasn’t going to force them or hold it against them.”

Harris’s family is extremely religious.

“I am inviting my mother and sister, and if they don’t come, that’s OK. There is no malice attached to the invitation.”

• Some stories have wonderfully happy endings. Smith officiated the wedding of a transgender bride (male to female) who had come out as transgender in her 50s. Despite the fact that her father and brothers had accepted her as a lesbian woman, she feared their reactions to her choosing to marry her partner. Even being a transgender woman seemed like less of a possible affront than being a married gay couple. Thankfully, her fears were unwarranted. Her 80-year old-father walked her down the aisle, her niece was one of her bridesmaids, and her nephew was an aisle attendant.

There is so much weight to marriage in our culture. It’s a big deal to others and to us. Take the time to think through the meaning of this moment for you and your partner. There’s nothing more meaningful than the actual ceremony. It’s transformative. Enjoy it, protect it, honor it, and each other. If homophobia comes to your wedding, combat it with the love you have for each other. Nothing is stronger than love.

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