I was invited to a straight wedding recently. The bride was an old high school friend, but other than her and my date (one of my best friends from high school) I didn’t expect to know anybody there. It was to be held near my rural home town, and while I had no reason to suspect that those present would be anything other than friendly and gracious, in the weeks leading up to it, I found those old gay fears surfacing just this same.
Maybe this is something queers of my generation never get over. What was I afraid of? That I’d get called out for looking/acting/dancing like a fag. That some burly group of backwoods groomsmen would take me behind the reception hall and beat me up. It was irrational and I didn’t let it get to me, but still it was.
My date was a bridesmaid so I sat alone during the ceremony. A group of guys sat in the pew behind me. One of them opened his mouth and talked and though visions of gay bells danced in my head, I still assumed he was straight.
My assumption that I wouldn’t know anybody proved true, but by the time my salad was served at the reception I was too buzzed to give a shit about that or anything else. At my table was the wedding photographer. A few weeks ago she refused to photograph several high school seniors who’d posted bullying comments on another girl’s Facebook page. She wrote a blog post about it that went viral, then made national news. She’s going to be interviewed by Anderson Cooper in a few weeks. Others at the table reflected on the fact that something we’d had to simply suck up and deal with when we were in school – bullying – is now a cause, an issue.
I danced like a goon and then danced goonier. I sat out the slow songs. The last song hit and that’s when I spotted the guy I’d heard behind me at the ceremony, slow dancing with a young man who was clearly his partner. They weren’t hiding behind anybody else – they were right up there, on a stage, for the whole wedding party to see. I swooned.
The DJ shut down so me and the rest of the professional partiers headed to the hotel bar, where a cover band played popular radio hits. The place was packed – eighty percent with the bro-iest bros imaginable and the rest with girls enjoying/enduring their drunken attention. Some girl pulled at my tie on the dance floor then tried to rip off my shirt. “This is my good shirt,” I said, wrenching away. She managed to pop off one button – I was more annoyed than flattered (but flattered just the same).
The band started in on Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” A group of bachelor party brahs stood right up front, pumping their fists to lyrics that shout out to sexual minorities – that shout out to me. Were they paying attention to what they were dancing to? Were they sneering inwardly? Did it matter as we danced together and it washed over us all in a wave of pop bliss? It’s only music – I know this – but just then it felt downright revolutionary.