Friday, July 15, was a beautiful day to get married in Provincetown, Mass. The sun shone in a nearly cloudless sky, and a light breeze blew in from the water.
I hadn’t planned to attend a wedding that day, in the waning moments of a Provincetown vacation. In fact, if the original plans had held up, I would have been in Canada. But the chance to spend time with friends and fellow bears at P-town Bears Week proved too strong a pull.
Just before noon, I’d walked out onto a granite jetty in far west Provincetown. In front of me was Pilgrim’s First Landing Park, where a crowd of bears gathered. In their midst, two men wore matching red shirts, khaki shorts and flip-flops. Later, I would learn that they were Daniel Boone and David Moore of High Point, N.C.
As a bell rang in the distance, the Rev. Vernon Porter arrived to conduct the ceremony, blending secular and religious traditions.
Several of Daniel and David’s friends were crying, and to my surprise I found myself softly tearing up as well.
I’ve been to many weddings in Texas involving my gay and lesbian friends. I’ve even been a member of the wedding party several times. Two men or two women pledging their love, commitment and honor is old, old news.
It had to be something different, something deeper. And then, I realized it. This was the first wedding I’d attended involving the LGBT community where the union was sanctioned by the government.
This must be what respect feels like, and that’s why I cried.
I cried for those no longer with us, who could have never hoped or dreamed to marry and have it count in the eyes of the law, for those afraid to step out into the light of true acceptance, and for those LGBT community members whose marriages have been challenged, negated or disrespected by those who purport to govern.
I also cried because I’ve never seriously considered the idea of me ever getting married. I’ve dated and been in relationships with several wonderful men. But here were two fellow bears, who met six years earlier at a bear-sponsored group dinner in North Carolina, having the wedding of their dreams in one of the gayest places on Earth.
If it could happen for them, it could happen for me — someday.
The wedding ceremony ended traditionally, with an exchange of rings and a passionate kiss. Here’s what Daniel said about those rings, made from an anniversary ring owned by David’s mother: “When she passed away, she had seven of the diamond stones to go to me, seven to go to David and (the final seven stones) go to his brother. She told David and I to take the stones and make our wedding rings with it. That way, she will always be there with us.”
A small crowd gathered to witness the wedding, and burst into spontaneous applause as the ceremony ended. Somebody in the crowd shouted “Mazel tov!” Two lesbians, who had been riding along the edge of the sand dunes, stopped to watch and spontaneously pulled out their camera to take pictures. I did, also.
And then it happened. I became part of the wedding party. One of the attendees asked if I would take a group picture. I said, sure. Then a second person asked, and a third, and a fourth. Before I knew it, I added “wedding photographer” to my resume.
All too soon, the parties dispersed, and I prepared to leave Cape Cod.
Yet, all weekend, weddings remained on my mind. I’d heard several bears from New York discussing the merits of marrying at Niagara Falls versus the top of the Empire State Building, once weddings start this weekend in New York. When I returned to Texas on Monday, I read Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup’s wedding announcement in the Dallas Morning News.
Both are significant steps toward making our marriages the norm, instead of a novelty.
Someday, in the near future, it won’t be unusual to mark an LGBT wedding. But I will always remember where I was, who and what I saw, and how I felt the first time I witnessed our community’s love sanctified, recognized and deemed legal in the eyes of the state.
Rafael McDonnell is strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas. He is also an active member of the bear community in North Texas.