We met three years ago, a little unconventionally. We went to the same college in Iowa at the same time and knew the same people, floated in the same groups on the outskirts of each other, never actually talking.
Fast forward two years to Seattle, the random place that we both moved to and settled down in. We both have service dogs at the time and were trying to become active in the community. So we set up a meet up with ourselves and one other team on a whim one day. Something drew me to her during our meet up – something in her eyes, something hurting that I wanted to uncover and save.
We continued to hang out after that- watching movies, cooking, talking. Our initial dates turned into hours and hours of connection. I would skip work just to soak up our time together, learning everything about her.
Very quickly, we went through our first hell together. Moments of honesty, revealing secrets, and shameful confessions that I swore I would never tell and leading to friends giving Rowan ultimatums- them or me. I bore my soul, allowed myself to be at my most ashamed, yet she forgave me of my mistakes and chose me. She chose me.
From there on, we quickly knew that our commitment and time together would be for forever. We faced hospitalizations, sicknesses, cross country moves, friend drama. We encountered more in our first few years than most couples will after years of a steady relationship. Our families threw the worst at us. My mom was condemning me, writing me scathing letters riddled with warped bible verses and religious damnations. Letters which I would later set fire to in my tub. Her grandparents were refusing to speak of me, refusing to speak to her at all.
But we pushed on, growing through these jabs and stabs, and trusted in our love for each other. There was no knee. It just was not necessary. Instead, it became an idea, a passage, a conversation, and a vision of the life we wanted together.
We moved across the country to Kansas City. Where we settled down and began planning our wedding and our life together. But trying to plan a wedding in the shadow of a family whose love and support is conditional upon your life choices is like trying to take a walk in a rain shower. Instead, we pushed these shadows aside and surrounded ourselves with those who validated us. Who loved us for who were are and who we are discovering ourselves to be, not who we are “expected” to be.
Our wedding was one of light and happiness. It was a weekend event, full of love for each other, for and from our family and friends who came to support us. We were not allowed to lift a single finger. Instead, we were lifted.
At our bachelorette dinner, which we had together, our maids of honor presented us with a gift. Letters. These letters were from people and families all over the country, even Canada, who are part of a network of allies who offer love and support to people who are LGBTQ+ and lack supportive families. These letters were filled with validation, with love and even gifts. From strangers who did not know us, yet loved us because we exist. Because we deserve love for being the people we are and for loving the way we love. It was the most precious gift we could have received.
The rest of the weekend was magic. There were its challenges: my maid of honor having a family death and needing to leave early, another bridesmaid who didn’t even make it due to a plane delay in a snowstorm, but it was perfect nonetheless. We signed our papers in a coffee shop, said our vows in the woods, and played board games with our friends and family at the reception.
While I would have loved to have my mother at my wedding, and I will forever be sad that she chose her religious ideals over her own daughter’s identity and happiness. I will never have any regrets about that weekend.
I married the love of my life, and nothing can ever take that from me. As Rowan said the other day, “there is a signed paper over there that says you can’t get away from me,” I don’t want to get away from her. Her hand will forever be in mine. And, no matter what shit the world throws at us, she will always be mine. No matter the shadows, no matter the pain, there will always be love.
Photography by The Coe Collective