It was three days before the wedding when I got the call.
“Josh, I’m so sorry,” my best friend Kristen said, her voice breaking. “I don’t know why this is happening.”
She was clearly crying. Immediately, my mind started to panic. Was she hurt? Did something happen? Was the wedding off for some reason?
“What is it?” I asked, trying to keep my voice level.
There was a long pause.
“His parents are saying they won’t come to the wedding if you are in it,” she finally confessed. “You know his parents, they are just super conservative and don’t understand. But obviously you know we love you and…”
Pretty soon, her words started to drown out.
Ah, so there it was. I was officially being banned from standing in my best friend’s wedding because I was gay. In the year 2016. “What the fuck? ” was all I could think to say.
“You can still come to the wedding, and I want you there,” she clarified. “You just can’t, well, you know. I’m so sorry.”
Here I was, sitting on the phone with my best friend of five years. The same friend who helped me through countless breakups, who laughed with me through endless mishaps, and who fangirled with me over Vampire Eric every summer (RIP True Blood). All of our friends said we were basically the same person, with the same obnoxious laugh and positive outlook on life. It was certainly known (and said) that we would be in each other’s wedding one day. And yet, here I was, suddenly not allowed to take part in the most important, happiest day of her life.
“You know, it’s okay,” I lied, after gathering my thoughts and holding back tears. “Besides, this day is not about me – it’s about you, and I just want to see you happy.” Obviously, my best friend already felt terrible. I didn’t want to make her feel worse.
After hanging up, I immediately texted my boyfriend Kyle and informed him of the situation.
“That’s fucked up,” he said. “If my best friend called me to cancel me from their wedding because someone didn’t like that I was gay, I wouldn’t be their best friend. You do you though. I’m not going.”
And with that, I decided I would attend the wedding on my own. After all, it was important for me to show support to my best friend. It wasn’t her fault her future in-laws were complete bigots… bigots who, I later found out, didn’t pay a dime toward the wedding.
It wasn’t until the rehearsal dinner, after standing awkwardly on the sidelines and watching everyone run through the wedding (who doesn’t love some good ol’ self-sabotage?!) that I broke down. Having just watched the groom’s brother practice handing out the rings (the job meant for me) I realized I couldn’t hide my disappointment any longer.
I pulled my friend aside.
“I’m really sorry,” I told her. “This shouldn’t be about me… it’s just, it’s really hard to watch everyone practice and know I can’t be a part of it.”
“I know,” she replied, tears rolling down her cheeks. “My entire family is so upset over this too. If we could all speak our minds, we would.”
That night, I thought of all the things I would say to the groom’s parents the next day. I wanted them to know just how badly I was hurt, and how badly my friend was hurt, and how narrow-minded people like them represented everything that was wrong in America. Hell, maybe I wouldn’t even attend the wedding. Surely, that would make a statement!
It wasn’t until I had turned out the lights and was lying in bed, when I realized maybe that wasn’t the best approach. Maybe, instead of “getting revenge,” I thought, I should show them that, by attending, their bigotry would not win in the end, and it would not stop me from celebrating my best friend.
I decided I would show them that my “gayness” did not make me some sexual deviant. I would show that, in the end, love wins, and would ultimately prevail.
The day of the wedding, I did just that. That morning, I unpacked the “Love is Love” shirt I had previously rolled up in my backpack and wore it underneath my suit. It was my subtle and, admittedly, slightly passive aggressive way of saying “F-U.”And I was able to laugh, celebrate and ultimately ugly-cry as I watched my best friend tie the knot with the guy she loved.
I even managed to muster a polite smile at the groom’s parents when I noticed them staring down their noses at my shirt from across the reception hall.
In the end, yes, it sucked being banned from taking part in my best friend’s wedding. And maybe I took the “easy” way out by not putting up more of a fight. But at the same time, it showed me that, sometimes, simply showing up and exuding love can be louder and more powerful than any words.
After all, love is love. Or so says my shirt.