NEWS

My Valentine: Freedoms built on the lives of those who came before me

By John-Paul Markides

 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lay down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12).

These words are engraved on a Quaich; a Celtic wedding cup that was shared by my husband and I on the day of our wedding. I would like to share my experience with you if you will indulge me … I believe this to be an excellent example of love in my life.

This morning I got up and, like every morning, I put on the coffee and turned on the news. I made my morning devotions as breakfast perfumed the air with its sweet and spicy aromas. My husband slowly made his way into the kitchen, kissed me gently on the cheek and took the coffee I made for him. His greeting was full-hearted, even if a little groggy.

No sword of Damocles… just eggs, bacon, and enjoying each other’s company… And a well-deserved, long walk with our dogs.

As we sat down and enjoyed our breakfast, and laughing at posts on social media. We also shared news about our week and the struggle of the COVID pandemic, our studies, and work-life. It was a good morning because we indulged in our shared life, not the fear of being discovered or ridiculed for who we are. No sword of Damocles… just eggs, bacon, and enjoying each other’s company.

Later in the day, we took our dogs for a well-deserved, long walk. We bundled up tightly and head out on the path arm-in-arm. The glacial air pricked at our ears and noses, the gentle but bright dusting of snow blowing about us, and the sunlight playing in between the branches reminded us we were alive. We laughed as our dogs played with a stick and wrestling. Our eyes caught; a sting of pain as we feel the loss of not having children to share this day with; quickly followed with a gentle squeeze as we held each other, watching our dogs enjoy the life our family was able to provide.

Coming in from the cold, we warmed up with a shower and some hot tea. We snuggled on the couch with our books and simply enjoying each other’s company once again. It was a good day, filled with intimacy and love. That is the gift — the legacy — given to me by those before me who fought valiantly for the rights just to live and love.

This may not seem like an exciting day, or maybe it sounds like the carefree wanderings of the privileged. But after a lifetime of existential worry about the salvation of my soul, fearing the feelings of love and the touch of another, it is Heaven on Earth. I can say without a few exceptions, it’s one of the best days of my life, because I was able to share it with someone I love; my soulmate, with no fear or shame. The day’s beauty was made from the magnificence of someone loving me for me and me loving them.

February, and more specifically Valentine’s Day, can be a time of great excitement; of new love found, and of romances. Some endure while others don’t. I have had my share of all that life has to offer, maybe not all, but enough. I have come to find, in my life with its limited scope, that past all the excitement, the romance, and the bright enticing flames of excitement; I prefer the warm glow of these coals, a hand holding my hand, and the knowledge that I am loved. These are the warmest and most incomprehensible experiences of my life. If this is not a sharing in the life of Christ, I don’t know what is. Today was a good day.

I’ve spent the better part of a month trying to decide how to best describe the experience of Valentine’s Day or romance as I have come to see it for myself, as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community. I need to share how my freedoms to love are built on the lives of those who came before me. How I look at people like Harvey Milk or Marsha P. Johnson, who formed the foundations of my ability to have this day. I look to them and so many others like them, in the same way most people look at war veterans — because in history, they are our freedom fighters. There was a time in very recent history when my kind of love: gay love, was “a love that dare not speak its name”.

Today, we speak it out and proudly! We must remember those who came before us, as we stand together in AIDS vigils, Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremonies, and pride parades. We speak its name by living a life of love, freedom, and solidarity. We speak its name when we declare in the light those things done in the dark. We cannot be anything but horrified at the atrocities committed to members of our own community today, especially people of color and two-spirit individuals. We must also be mindful particularly of the high rates of suicide among LGBTQ2S+ individuals, particularly among youth.

The struggle for the privilege to have a “normal” day like this; for the freedoms of our people are far from over. We are morally bound to those seeking the same basic privileges and rights, including Indigenous siblings and siblings of color, and all those seeking equity and freedom from a patriarchal systemic of oppression. We must work to be out of the decaying shadow of colonial mentalities far past their expiration date. We are stronger together when we speak up for each other and fight for the equity and freedom of all.

Two are better than one. Today was a good day. A day with my husband; it is what others may take for granted. I thank God for all those who helped me to have these rights. I pray that we all may never forget those who are still waiting for such “normal” basic rights, and that together we seek to create a world where everyone is safe, loved, and affirmed.

Brother John-Paul Markides (he/him/his) is a lay representative on the Proud Anglicans of Huron committee.