Down a Different Kind of Aisle

By Jaime Woo

Imagine a gorgeous autumn day, one where the wind gently sways the red and brown leaves on trees and the weather’s nice enough to go without a jacket, but you still need a fashionablesweater or wrap to be comfortable. I’m standing inches away from this amazing, wonderful guy, one I had no idea I would fall madly, deeply, truly in love with, and after a few weeks'—okay, maybe a few months'—worth of effort, we’re going legal.

Today is my wedding day and I’m dressed in something inappropriate, but so me—maybe, that backless tunic I love by Rad Hourani—and my soon-to-be better half is decked out in the John Varvatos I picked out for him. In a field are rows of chairs filled by an army of loved ones, of friends and family, of all different ages and backgrounds, who have come in support. There’s my mom, unable to hold back her tears of joy. My cousins are standing with their children in front of them, placing their hands on the shoulders of my restless nephew and niece to keep them still. (Like their uncle, they want to get to the dancing part already, or maybe even more like me, they’re itching to get back to their video games.) My best friend, one of the first people I came out to, is taking way too many photos, and I’ll end up with a few hundred “tagged photo” notifications on Facebook.

This might be how my wedding goes. I'm not sure: it's a first draft. This, in all honesty, sitting down with my laptop and a cup of coffee, is the first time I’ve ever pictured my wedding. Sure, I’ve made vague plans before, usually in a joking manner. I say that I’ll probably never end up getting married and have sworn that next year when I’m 30 I’ll get married to a cause instead. Probably the Archives, which I volunteer for. There will be a big party and I’ve already decided there will be a gospel choir, poutine and pho as far as the eye can see, and a mud wrestling pit to be used for our after-meal entertainment. I will be registered at the Archives, naturally, and people can give to that to help out an organization that is dear to my heart. Not bad for a faux wedding, eh?

I’ve never been the type to think of having a wedding. Maybe it was because for so long in my life same-sex marriage wasn’t legal and I grew up thinking the ceremony was for other people. (Congrats, New York, by the way!) Not that marriage is the be-all and end-all: there are plenty of people happy to not get married or to stay single. At the same time, I wanted to have something like what my parents have—not a perfect marriage, but one where each partner grew with the other and supported one another—because I work better in solid partnerships, business-wise or romantic-wise.

I realize that even now, years and years after the legalization of same-sex marriage, my mind hasn’t quite caught up to this reality. Cognitively, I know it’s possible, but I haven’t let it sink in. Maybe it’d be easier if I was ten years younger and marriage had been legal for more of my life in school—oh, isn’t it a shame we sometimes cling to our formative years when it doesn’t relate to our current lives at all anymore—but maybe not. I wonder how it is like for my parents and their generation, what does it mean to them now that two men or two women can get married?

My dad is a pretty traditional Chinese father (although he does have a wicked sense of humour). He once got into a fight with my mom over her encouraging me to get an earring stud and swore he’d disown a son that got a tattoo. And with age, he has mellowed out and become less rigid. Now, he tells my brother that he hopes I find someone to love—no matter the gender—because, and I am so lucky to know, he has my best interest at heart. (And, for the record, I still have no tattoos, while my mom has got a few.)

Sometimes blanket statements are made that assume the worst in people. I imagine cynical political strategists saying, “Oh, the ethnic minorities, they’re so against the gays,” while rubbing their hands together and twirling their moustaches. People from the Middle East or India or China must believe in traditional values, they reason. It could be true for now, but it won't last. I won’t speak on behalf of all ethnic minorities—who could and how pompous would it be to try?—but I know for my parents, for my family, even for myself, confusion over queer culture came from a lack of exposure. Over dinner I once mentioned a killer pair of boots I had bought in New York, and my cousin asked me half-jokingly if they were thigh-high hooker shoes. Similar to my never having thought through my wedding, she had probably never thought through queer people. There was a need for awareness that led to understanding. On a broader scale, to believe that ethnic communities are immovable in their stance on queers is to do everyone a disservice.

Faced with something unfamiliar, it can be instinctual to reject. Intolerance can sometimes be a form of protection, a way to shield from fears. For any parent whose child comes out, there are concerns for their safety. Looking through the comments that people wrote supporting our Mayor’s decision to skip the Parade, I got a chilling reminder that even with a city as safe as ours—and it is safe—there are people who don’t know me, but hate the idea of me. I loathe defining my life by the possible violence that can be inflicted, because there really is a lot to celebrate, but the threat of violence still lingers.

However, we can’t live our lives based on fear—I quell those questions in my head of who might reject me or who might hate me or who might hurt me. My mother has noted that after coming out, I became comfortable with myself and grew into who I was meant to be; I think what she sees is my overcoming those fears, and she’s come to terms with my sexuality in part by knowing that I am safe.

I wish I could read minds, so I could decisively say why people don’t support queer rights. I suspect it has a lot to do with fear. I do know, however, that pandering to a community’s fear, a hope that people will stagnate, is condescending. I believe in progress. I believe in change. I believe that my immigrant family that came from poverty and can see the decency in having equal rights for everyone is not an outlier.

If by circumstance and by choice I decide to get married, there may be some people uncomfortable that I will be gaining a husband. Maybe it’ll be the start of gossip. Maybe it’ll be the start of a dialogue. In the end, although it wasn’t until today that I imagined my wedding, I’ve never had trouble imagining my friends and family standing behind me after we’ve said “I do.”