This upcoming weekend marks the 41st anniversary of the Stonewall riots here in New York. Back in 1969, Police routinely raided bars like the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, but on one fateful occasion, the patrons refused to go quietly into the night. They decided they would be seen, and their rage would most definitely be heard. They refused to remain invisible, and the Gay Rights movement was born.
In my own personal life, visibility has also proven a crucial ingredient for gaining equality. When I first met my mother-in-law Dolores, a strict Catholic with a conservative New England sensibility, she was hardly happy to meet me. I was merely a prickly reminder of her son’s sexuality.
For years Dolores tried to deny my place at the table with the family at holiday dinners, but Chris stood by me, and I kept showing up. I did my best to pitch in and help as any family member would. Eventually Dolores learned that I was good at fixing stuff, so on our regular visits when she presented Chris with his list of chores, she also had a “Brad list” containing more complicated repair tasks.
As recently as 5 years ago, when Chris mentioned that we’d eventually have a wedding, Dolores claimed that she wouldn’t want to know anything about it. Chris calmly told her that she would indeed be invited, and what she chose to do with that invitation would be up to her.
A few years ago, after plunking down a sizeable chunk of change to secure the Red Inn for our Provincetown nuptials, the fateful day finally arrived. It was time to officially invite Dolores.
At lunch, after a few poignant pauses in conversation, Chris nervously looked my way, and then said, “Mom… Brad has something he wants to tell you.” After I shot Chris “a look” I turned to Dolores and told her about our plans to hold a party to celebrate our 11th anniversary. It was going to be a wedding, and we wanted her to come. She looked to Chris and said, “you know this will be hard for me.” (Which meant she intended to come!)
That September, Dolores not only attended, but shared a Mother-Son dance with Chris at our reception to the tune of “Dancing Queen.” (Ever since Chris took her to see “Mama Mia”, she’s professed a love for Abba!) Families on both sides attended, as well as friends near and dear to us, and our 11-year relationship deepened in the process. That was two years ago. “Mom Arruda” and I currently enjoy a special relationship. It’s a gift I don’t ever take for granted.
As a community, we may still have a long way to go before we have full equality in the eyes of the courts and our nation’s laws, but the best thing we can do to keep the process moving is to doggedly show up and make our own place at the table!