Matt and Raymie live in Tennessee. On January 9th, they will apply for a marriage license as part of the WE DO Campaign in Hamblen county, where they live. The WE DO Campaign involves LGBT couples in the Southern communities where they live requesting – and being denied – marriage licenses in order to call for full equality under federal law and to resist unjust state laws.
During January, the Campaign for Southern Equality will travel across seven Southern states – Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia – and Washington, D.C. for Stage 4 of the WE DO Campaign. Matt and Raymie have shared their personal story below.
We met just a little over seven years ago, when I was a senior at Wake Forest and Raymie was finishing up at NC School of the Arts and working at Borders bookstore with my one of my best friends, Amy. On the day we met, when some friends and I went to visit Amy at work, I was wearing a three-dollar linen blazer from Goodwill that looked like something out of Miami Vice, which apparently worked in my favor, and Raymie was wearing a flannel shirt that made him look vaguely like a lumberjack, which definitely worked in his. And so, in an incredibly subtle gesture of homosexual romantic interest, I purchased a JUDY GARLAND DVD. Just in case, you know, he couldn’t already tell.
I don’t think there was a moment, necessarily, when we knew that we were meant for each other, that we were in this for good. It was a slow realization, if it was ever anything we had to realize at all. By the time we’d stuck together through four years of living a thousand miles apart, while I was in grad school in Iowa and Raymie was taking care of his sick father, by the time he asked me to move to White Pine and live on a farm with him on the outskirts of a very small, very rural town where I had many times told my friends I could never imagine myself living, saying yes didn’t seem like a decision, or a realization. It was as easy and natural as breathing.
The moments when I know we’re in this for good, mostly, are small, mundane ones: When I clap my hands to my face and scream at some minor domestic mishap, and Raymie knows exactly which scene from Twin Peaks I’m reenacting; when we’re sitting on the couch with our dogs and carrying on conversations in the voices we’ve invented for each of them; when I’m hurrying from one room to another and he leaps out from some spot where he’s hidden himself to scare me. In general, I don’t enjoy being startled by a man jumping out of a corner as though he’s about to murder me, but I think this conveys something that, for me, is at the heart of our relationship: with anyone else in the world, I’m pretty sure, I would quickly become bored. But with him, I never am.
When I think about marriage equality and all the protections that come with it I think first of my now deceased parents who wished the best for me my whole life. I come from a deeply religious and conservative family, but despite our differences I know this: When my parents made me, they projected onto me their best hope. They wished for all my dreams to come true and that I would find someone to share my life with and have the same happiness they had together. I think of my sisters and I as the living poetic perpetuation of their love, made physical. I think of our family tree as it continues to grow, even after my parents’ deaths, with its own particular pattern and blossom.
It makes me sad to think there are people in the world who want take away what my parents wished for me. I believe if they were living today they would still wish the greatest happiness for me and in that effort fight for my equal rights. They would wish for me the same simple day to day pleasures they got to share together. The accumulation of a million moments together in both tenderness and mundanity. The sum of these moments making up the story of our lives together. The story of our ordinary daily tasks; cooking dinner, washing dishes, holding hands, raking leaves. A lazy drive through the mountains. All the familiar post card moments I see left behind in the polaroid pictures of my parents, they wished for me. Our pictures are slightly different. Ours are digital. The clothes on the people in our pictures have two suits, instead of a dress. The love is the same. Our memories lay directly over theirs like perfectly matched tracing paper.
My parents were married close to forty years before my mother died of cancer in 1995. It’s impossible for me to imagine a reality where my father had not been allowed by her bedside during her last, most difficult moments. I can’t imagine that anyone would try to take that away from them. But I think they would be surprised and disappointed to know that’s the world I’ve inherited. That’s just one example, of among over a thousand individual rights that my parents had that I do not because my partner and I are the same sex. I hope that Matthew and I are lucky enough to be beside each other like my parents, in sickness and in health for as long as they were able. I hope that one day I won’t have to worry about our future because we are not equal citizens under the law. I hope that at the end of our lives the last thing we see is each other. It’s what my parents would have wanted.
You can send Matt and Raymie a message of support here. The WE DO Campaign will continue to grow across the South until LGBT people achieve full equality under federal law.