Broadside: Sometimes you have to travel a long way to come home. At least I did
“Myself and my girlfriend held hands on the street. We kissed in public. In a city that celebrates difference, I forgot that we were.”
Being gay was never part of the plan. The plan, as it was laid out, had clear milestones – college, a job, a husband, children. There was no room in this plan for writing detours to New York, let alone the kind of detour that would lead you to falling in love with a woman. That wasn’t the plan at all.
Sometimes you have to travel a long way to come home. At least I did. Looking back, it’s no surprise that I met the woman who would become my wife here in New York, because it’s where I met myself as well.
Here, I wasn’t the sheepish young woman skulking along Capel Street to Outhouse on a Thursday night, with an excuse at the ready, in case I ran into someone I knew. It wasn’t just my location that had changed, I had changed too.
It’s amazing the things you get used to, that people get used to, and bit by bit
It was hard to find the words to tell my best friend, harder still to find the breath to tell my parents. You see, I had followed those first few stages of the plan and this was news that no-one expected. But it’s amazing the things you get used to, that people get used to, and bit by bit, people were told, until by the time I was packing up to move to New York, everyone knew.
Here, I’ve always been gay – people don’t know me as anything else. My transition was aided by my first job, in a church of all places, where the two straight people on a staff of 12 joked about being a minority.
My girlfriend would point it out, how I was different here. I’d deny it hotly, take her hand to prove it, but some part of me knew she was right
Over lunch, I had chats with other gay women about dating, about rows with our girlfriends. Myself and my girlfriend held hands on the street. We kissed in public. In a city that celebrates difference, I forgot that we were.
And then we’d go back to Ireland and in a hundred little ways, I’d remember. It wasn’t conscious, I hardly noticed it, but my girlfriend would point it out, how I was different here. I’d deny it hotly, take her hand to prove it, but some part of me knew she was right.
I wasn’t able to make it back for the same sex marriage referendum but I was there all the same, living every moment through the media, Facebook, phonecalls with family and friends.
On the big day I sat on a hot stone bench at Columbia University after my morning’s writing and phoned my mum. The anticipated result was the top news item of our conversation, but a close second was the dress she’d bought for my wedding, planned for the following September. We both laughed, saying that it was a fitting day to buy the dress. We both hoped it was a good omen, which, of course, it turned out to be.
On May 24th, 2015, the New York Times led its front page with a photo of the crowds celebrating at Dublin Castle. This photo was no black and white Ireland, no long shadow of our past sins. This photo captured rainbow flags, wide smiles, arms punching the air. This photo captured joy. It captured the future.
I held my wife’s arm tighter. I didn’t need to look at her to know she felt it too – this wave of love that was almost physical, holding us, carrying us, guiding us in
Our wedding was outdoors on what would turn out to be one of the last really hot days that year. We chose to walk up the aisle together, to the song Seasons of Love from the Rent soundtrack.
As we took our first steps to those opening piano notes, I took in the scene in front of me. From the rows of white chairs, everyone was turning around, some sitting, some standing. Some people had cameras, most had phones, some already had tissues. Behind them, the bright blue sky had a tinge of pink to it, and the white streak of a plane.
I held my wife’s arm tighter. I didn’t need to look at her to know she felt it too – this wave of love that was almost physical, holding us, carrying us, guiding us in.
And at the heart of all this love – right there at the hub of it – was our love for each other, which wasn’t just accepted, it was celebrated. And maybe, just maybe, that had been the plan all along.
I’m Right Here by Yvonne Cassidy is published by Hachette Ireland. www.yvonnecassidy.com or @YvonneCassidyNY