National Cathedral

There’s a reason they call it that, you know.

Hundreds of people who never thought marriage equality would happen in their children’s lifetimes, much less theirs, gathered in the church, one by one and then five by five and then ten by ten until it was all of us together. Some people, like for instance, me, were weeping. I am a sympathetic cryer anyway, but no sympathy needed. The straight woman next to me said, “I don’t know why you’re crying, but you’re making my husband and me cry, too.” I looked at her a little bit startled, and said, “I never thought this day would come.” I thought a moment, and said, “and also because the church has spent years hurting people like us, and yet, here we are.”

I’m sitting in a Whole Foods in Georgetown stuffing down sweet and sour tofu with vegetable fried rice, because I needed comfort food to decompress and debrief. The music was so glorious, and I won’t lie. The last hymn was “Marching to Zion,” and I turned on my Diane-Syrcle-opera-voice afterburners, the kind where when I do it, Wendy calls me a “descant whore.” And then, after Dana and I moved to Houston, she started calling me a descant whore in Wendy’s place. It just felt so glorious, though, soaring above the people next to me and yet, just blending in. The tenors behind me were obviously descant whores as well, so I leaned into their sound and it was all of us together. After the last note (A with attitude), we patted each other on the back and smiled in the musician’s fraternity sort of way, that knowing look we all have when we know we are not reading from the approved notes on the page. We also sang the descant on First Song of Isaiah, because I cannot remember the last time I didn’t. If you’re wondering why I am telling you all this, just being a diva all over the place, it’s because it wasn’t until that moment I realized with pain in my chest and shortness of breath that Dana and Argo weren’t there. Dana wasn’t there to be half embarrassed and half amazed, and I have long told Argo that all I wanted to do in DC was hit the B-flat at the end of something where she could hear it.

And then, I had a Dana moment so severe I had to sit down. I had to borrow a pen. I went up to a woman and said, “I notice that you have a bag. Might there be a pen in it I could borrow?” Her partner said, “she is the woman with a pen,” and pulls it off the clip on her shirt. I said, completely second nature, “I know that woman. I have that woman at home.” And all of the sudden it came crashing back that no, I don’t. It was just my standard response for the last 12 years coming out of my mouth before I could stop it. The concept of not being a “we” is fine most of the time until these things happen… the moments when I forget that standard responses no longer apply. I got the dean of the cathedral to sign my BCP, and he said, “Andy Doyle confirmed you? I was just at a meeting with him last week!” I said, “Bishop Doyle is one of the most fantastic people on earth, and he is doing God’s work down there.” He looked at me and smiled and said something about the audacity of Texas to refuse the SCOTUS opinion while I looked at the Maryland flag above me and tried not to flood out, because I still had to give back the pen.

I walked over to the woman and gave her back her pen, begrudgingly, because it was a fantastic one… and then went to a chair with a kneeling pad and said a quick prayer for the end of my own marriage, just an Episcopal “forgive me for the things I have done, and the things I have left undone.”

Then, I headed toward the preacher, a Baptist (I KNOW). I told her that I was a preacher and writer myself, and her sermon was well put-together and really spoke of a sense of occasion.

And it did.

She preached about the fight. The struggle. The people that have died to get us this right, because they have. You might think that’s stretching a bit, but it is definitely not. Gay rights started in earnest after the fight between the cops and the drag queens at Stonewall Inn in New York City, and have slowly come to the rest of the nation since 1969. Harvey Milk was gunned down in cold blood, and there have been no shortage of people that have killed themselves due to the hopelessness that gay bashing has produced… so, not only have people been beaten to death and shot, people have killed themselves because they thought that they were next- the situation was hopeless. 

She spoke of the current fight, sitting on boards and councils and being on TV while people yelled at her, cursed her out, called her ministry unfit. Treated her like a sad, lost dog that only needed to be pointed in the direction of the “correct” God. She did not say if she was a lesbian herself, but if she is straight, that almost makes her more worthy of respect because she chose to enter that fight willingly, and DID NOT BACK DOWN when it got hard.

It was hard on all of us together, but we made it. In joining together at the NATIONAL cathedral, I would like to think that we represented a nation whose mourning had come to an end, the morning after a long night’s journey without stars.

That’s why I had to let the last note ring in the cathedral. Some of that win was for me.

Amen.

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