I’ve posted one photo on Facebook of my daughter’s grade 8 graduation; some videos of my freakish hairless cats. I’ve tweeted about the crazy places in the world I’ve travelled. Other than that my public life has been pretty much private. I tell myself it’s not a conscious decision. That it’s my inner bristle at the oversharing phenomenon, where every moment is plastered online. Where we all seem to know each other a little too well, without really knowing each other at all.
And then Orlando.
I have nothing to say about what happened that you haven’t already read or felt, or perhaps still feel, despite our short attention spans for tragedy.
Orlando happened eight weeks and one day after I got married. It was a small ceremony. And it was a surprise. As in, Mel didn’t know. The ruse was this: a fancy birthday dinner out and a faked emergency stop at City Hall for “a story I was working on.” We walked out of the third-floor elevator into the wedding chamber, and Mel still wasn’t sure what was happening. It only sunk in when my three kids, standing at the altar, enveloped us both in a tangle of hugs. The answer, through a stream of tears, was “Yes.” My kids insist that Mel married them that day, as well as me.
It was my 20-year-old son who suggested the surprise wedding as a birthday present: “Mum, Mel is our family. It should be official.” On the day of the wedding, my 15-year-old daughter and I had a magical day, while Mel thought I was at work. We went to the hair salon, raced out to get a dress and laughed at the sheer folly of a surprise wedding. My 12-year-old son and I jokingly played out what-if-the-answer-is-no scenarios.
I’m lucky to have loved and been loved throughout my life. Boyfriends, a husband, parents, siblings, friends and my children. But this is a love I had never experienced before. The truest of loves, a love that has survived and flourished over years—from its infancy as a secret to its maturity in marriage. It’s a love that has been embraced by my 81-year-old mum. A love that I know my dad would have cherished as well. One that had been accepted for years by my friends, colleagues, neighbours and bosses.
It’s a love that some of you hate. And tears are pouring down my face as I write those words. How could something so authentic, so beautiful and so right be a target for hate?
Mel is a woman.
And it’s 2016.
And coming-out stories are so 1990s.
But I went to a memorial in Toronto shortly after the Orlando massacre, and over and over again I heard about the importance of “taking up space,” of living lives openly.
You may think there is no reason for me to share this. Orlando is a reminder that victories for a love like ours can be short. As long as people are living in fear, there’s a reason to tell stories like mine.
I expect there may be some hate coming my way.
But unlike many, I have little to lose in sharing my love with you. I won’t be shunned by my family, as many are. I’m not risking my career, as many still do. I share my love with you because I hope it’s big enough to reach the kid who is being tormented, or those who are doing the tormenting. I hope it reaches the parent who just can’t accept that a love like mine can be filled with family and success and acceptance. And I’m sharing this love with you because I believe, in every last fibre of my being, that it is through the sharing of love that we make true the most beautiful statement of all: love conquers hate.
Avery Haines is a reporter, anchor and host for CityNews in Toronto.