The only marriage license I’ve ever signed is the one between my dad and step-dad. Signing it was a given, almost to the point that it felt meaningless. What is a squiggle of ink on a leaf of flattened pulp? For that matter, what is the word “marriage” compared to the fact that they have been together since before I can remember, loving and caring for me the whole time? Their “marriage license signing dinner party” was one of the best, but it didn’t change my world.
On June 26th, the world was different.
When I sent my dad a selfie I took exiting the Supreme Court on the day they heard oral arguments for Obergefell v. Hodges (April 28th), he told me how proud he was of me. I was appropriately chuffed, but I texted back that I’m just standing on shoulders. I wasn’t pandering cliché, either; I was distinctly remembering smaller times when I would actually sit on his shoulders, holding onto his hair and learning about the world, literally, from his point of view.
With a profundity that is ringing especially loudly in the ear these days, my dad taught me the absolute importance of being true to yourself. He taught me about belief and conviction. I had to figure out for myself that he was so keen on these lessons because they were the hardest lessons he had to learn for himself. I would have been angry and sad, but by then he had already shown me what it means to live with dignity. Instead I grew, however indirectly, to know the dull heartache that haunts anyone who feels alone in their beliefs.
The Supreme Court’s marriage decision on June 26th was so, so much bigger than more squiggles and leafs of pulp. I daresay it’s even bigger than love. That victory is for anyone who has ever felt alone. For anyone who has ever fought and sacrificed for change they didn’t even expect to see for themselves. That decision shows what faith and conviction can earn.
Thank you, from the depths of my being, to everyone who added their voice to this chorus, to everyone who refused to let anyone suffer this alone. Thank you for being an example, for being brave, for being loud. Thank you for what you’ve given my dad and my step-dad and all their friends and everyone’s families.
But let me be selfish and thank you most for validating everything my dad taught me. Some day there will be a tiny Sheehy on my shoulders, tangled in my hair, and whatever I’m teaching her will be built on the lessons of conviction that come down from her grandfathers. I’ll tell her she can change the world, even if it takes her whole life, if she just stays true to herself.
And when she asks, “Really?” I’ll be able to answer, nostalgically, “Really.”
John Sheehy was raised bi-coastally between his mom in Boston and dad and step-dad in Seattle. After studying linguistics at Brown University, wandering the world, and freelancing in Brooklyn, he attended Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he started writing Queerspawn!, a book gathering stories of individuals who grew up in homes all across the LGBTQ spectrum. Chapter and essay drafts for Queerspawn! are available at https://www.beaconreader.com/john-sheehy, and John would like all agents to note his distinct lack of representation.