When I was twelve years-old my dads and I had been on vacation outside of the US. Upon returning we were standing in the line waiting to meet a border patrol officer and re-enter our home country. We’re all American citizen with US passports—it should have been easy. After about an hour of waiting in line, we were called forward. As we are one family we presented one customs form. The border patrol officer looked at us, “Which one of you is her father?”
Dad calmly responded, “We’re both her fathers.”
The officer looked at us quizzically. “Well, you two aren’t married, so you need two customs declarations forms, tell her she needs to choose whose form to be on.”
This was all too much for my twelve year old mind to comprehend. Was this guy, who knew nothing about us actually saying that because my parents could not legally get married we weren’t a family? I didn’t understand. My dads raised me. They fed me, clothed me, unconditionally loved me, taught me right from wrong, held me at night when I couldn’t sleep, told me bedtime stories, and had make believe tea parties with me. Did that not make us a family?
Seeing that the officer’s words were affecting me, my parents quickly did everything they could to help this man understand that we are, in fact, a family. Dad pulled out my birth certificate that lists both of my parents (which from my understanding most people don’t need to travel with), they tried to explain that biologically we are all related, too.
He wouldn’t budge.
It had been a long day. I was tired and wanted to go home and the pressure of having to prove to some random person that we were a family became too much. Something had to burst. Turns out it was my nose. In the middle of customs and border control at Los Angeles International Airport I proceeded to get the worst nosebleed I’d ever gotten. I mean, blood. Everywhere. The border control official didn’t know what to do at this point. He was flustered, confused and overwhelmed so he looked at us, looked down at the one form we had handed him, waved his hand, and said with exasperation, “Oh, just go.” And off we went to collect our bags, get me some tissues, and head home…as a family.
Years later, any time marriage became legal in any country or state I would beg my parents to go there and get married. Then, in 2008, for a brief window before Proposition 8 passed, banning gay marriage in the state of California, it was legal in our very own home state. I told Dad and Daddy they had to get married. I begged and pleaded, I wouldn’t let it go. My dad told me, “Honey, it’s just a piece of paper, we know we’re a family, we don’t need that.”
I replied, “But Dad, it’s not just a piece of paper, it’s hundreds of rights that you don’t have otherwise, and finally, everyone will have to see us as a family if you get married. If we’re going to ask for these rights, we need to exercise them.” So many years later what that customs and border patrol officer had said stuck with me. If my dads weren’t married, we weren’t a family. And it was also very true that there are hundreds of rights that are afforded to married couples that are not given to those in a civil union. I had done my research.
So, after much back and forth, when I was fifteen I finally walked my parents down the aisle. It was one of the most glorious days of my life. They had been together for twenty-five years, and for the first time, in the eyes of the law we were going to be seen as a family.
My parents got married on October 11th, 2008—which just also happened to be National Coming Out Day in the US. I still don’t have a better way to put it and I stand by my words, so here is my speech from their wedding that left me and everyone in attendance in tears:
“According to me, marriage is not just a man and a woman, or two people who love each other and promise to be together in sickness and in health. And marriage is not even a beautiful white dress. But what marriage really is, is love blossoming between two individuals and a promise that what they have together can only get better. Marriage is a bond between two people who love each other so much their hearts are bursting with joy and love and compassion for each other, and no one can tell them they don’t belong together, or that they shouldn’t love each other.
My parents are a perfect example of this. Yes, they work hard at their marriage, but they also love each other more than anything in the world. I cannot believe anyone could think Dad and Daddy should not be together because there are no other human beings in the Universe more meant for each other and happier than they are. They are my dads, my role models, and I hope I am one-tenth as happy as they are when I find someone to spend the rest of my life with.”
Today marks the 12th anniversary of my parents legal wedding. Every day I am more and more grateful they are my parents. Every day I watch their love for each other inspire my own marriage to reach new heights. Dad and Daddy, I love you to the sun and the moon and back. Thank you for being an example of what love is not just for same-sex couples, but for all people around the world. You inspire me constantly, and my love for you is beyond words. Happy happy happy anniversary.
To anyone who is struggling with family, friends or the world not accepting who you are—please always remember you are loved, you are worthy of love and life and so much more than you can even imagine. I am here for you. You are important. If my dads hadn’t been brave a long time ago, been true to themselves and come out when they were ready I wouldn’t be here today. Dad and Daddy you were pioneers and you are my inspiration every single day.
I hope you have the happiest of Sundays. I love you and I’m here for you. XOXOX, CAMDW