I didn’t have an easy time accepting my sexuality. I grew up loved, but I lived in fear of saying that I was gay, let alone acting on that fact. I was 30 before I came out, and essentially lived a second teenage during that decade. I did my share of exploration, but always, I was looking for and not finding another man with whom to share my life.
On May 15, 1984 Stephen Nichols walked into my life for the second time. We had actually met each other in 1981 because Stephen was dating a man that I had earlier dated. I liked Stephen immediately, and I was jealous of my former boyfriend for having something I didn’t. That October day in 1981 the three of us drove up the Mississippi River. As Stephen and John were standing overlooking the beautiful fall day with their arms around each other’s waist, I said to myself, “God, why can’t you ever send me someone like that?!”
Stephen had to leave St. Louis for an out-of-town job, I had my heart broken in another relationship, and I frankly signed off of looking for Mr. Right and decided to make a good life on my own. So I was unprepared for what happened on that fateful day when Stephen knocked on my door, sans John, and clearly was interested in starting a relationship. I fought it for a while, in fact, I had been dating someone else. But as the months rolled on, we got closer and closer, and we tried a trial living together situation, which resulted in the usual joys and challenges. Ultimately, on Nov. 9, 1984, we decided to make our living together a permanent thing. Shortly thereafter, we bought a condo in the Central West End and we began attending Trinity Episcopal Church, which was just down the block. We made many friends there and entered fully into the life of the church. Choir, altar service, vestry, fellowship, usher, you name it, we got involved.
In the early 1990’s Trinity Episcopal in St. Louis under the Rectorship of Father William Chapman had done a few same-sex blessings, some privately and some not private. So in early 1993, I went to Bill and ask him if he would do this for Stephen and me. After talking to both of us, Father Bill announced his decision to the Vestry to perform this Holy Union for us in open church on May 15, 1993. It was a great day, and many friends and family from near and far celebrated with us, including dancing in the street at the reception in the parish hall on Washington Avenue.
I had gone to the Vestry meeting with Bill Chapman as he announced his decision. A member of the Vestry had raised concerns about calling this sacramental event a marriage, and I answered in my somewhat amusing and hot-blooded manner of that faraway time, “Well, when I proposed to Stephen, I didn’t say, “Will you holy union me?, I said, “Will you marry me?” My argument did not carry the day, but it was remembered by Rev. Bill with some amusement. But in fact, Stephen and I got married on that day, before God and humanity.
It was just a couple of years after our original union in 1984 that Harriet’s and Stephen’s daughter Stephanie came to live with us while she finished high school at Rosati-Kain. Stephanie went off to college and fell in love. She called her father one day and said, “Dad, I’ve fallen in love with someone! “What’s his name?,” asked the excited prospective grandfather. “Dad,” Stephanie replied, “It’s not ‘him’, it’s ‘her’.” Dad was shocked. “Oh, now I’ll never have any grandchildren!” Ever cool, Stephanie replied, “Oh, dad, there are lots of ways to have grandchildren!” And we learned and grew.
Years after that, and after Stephanie and her first love had become just friends, Stephanie met Dawn, and they became a permanent item. The two of them had a beautiful ceremony with family and friends, and ultimately were legally married when same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts, where they reside. And now they have a handsome and talented grandson, who is Stephen’s grandson. Zander is Stephen’s grandson, first genealogically and now legally my grandson, too. Today, in this country, which is still a democracy, we are family.
Government should not, and does not now tell anyone who they should love. This is a great day. Thank you, America, for making the choice against bigotry and religious intolerance and for human freedom. I love you, Stephen. We love you, Stephanitz and Dawn and Zander.