Hi there, faithful friends and family. It has been a year since we walked out of that courtroom, a forever family. I had stupid hair, my husband had an amazing smile, and we exited the courthouse with our son like a scene from an action movie, flanked in slow-motion by those closest to us, a living testament to hard work, love, and support.
It has been the most unbelievable year, and as we wake up on the one-year anniversary of the legal affirmation of our family’s place in the world, the finalization of our son’s adoption, waiting for our increasingly less-tiny blond boy to greet his day, it’s difficult to understate the importance of the day.
A year ago, we woke up and gave Gabe his morning bottle. Today, it’ll be french toast sticks, fresh-cut strawberries, and turkey sausage. He will tell us when he is all done, he’ll hold a napkin and wipe his mouth, his cheeks, and his hands. He’ll want to clean his tray with a wipe. He’ll tell us that he is ready to get out of his high-chair, the same chair in which my husband was fed as a baby. And then he’ll walk away.
A year ago, we carried Gabe out of the house, a family of two and a half, en route to the courthouse. Today, three of us will walk out of the house, six strong legs on our way to the zoo, where Gabe will make choices about which animals he’d like to see, where he’ll decide how much time he’d like to spend at each exhibit. We will watch him pick, and choose.
A year ago, we stood in front of our friends and family, and pledged to protect Gabe. We swore it in front of everyone who would listen. Today, we swear it again, in the way we’ll swing Gabe while he holds our hands, just to hear him laugh. We’ll swear it when he says “Go!” while sitting on our shoulders, before we take off running, our son bouncing with every step.
Because “forever” means something more to our family now. It isn’t just a promise of what’s to come in the future, of what will someday be. Finalizing the adoption of our son has created a permanent unit that is legally indistinguishable from any other family. It has made us real, valid, counted.
But look, while it’s easy to take note of how lucky we are to be parents, it’s also impossible to exclude from consideration the very real ways our world has changed over the course of the last year.
Waking up now is different than it was a year ago. Last year, it was mildly entertaining to read the bombastic headlines of a presidential campaign. Now, I’d say the headlines are a little less, well, humorous. In the time between the flutter of my eyelids and Gabe saying “Da-deeeee, Da-deeeee” these days, I reach for my cell phone, fearing what may have happened overnight, or waiting for a seemingly endless array of shoes to continue dropping.
Last year felt a bit more free. Now, we are vigilant, reminded that our family is one executive order away from being less equal, from having all that we’ve earned through hard work and determination and grit and sheer force of will, taken. We are not trans, but we’ve seen our trans friends targeted. We are not Muslim, but we’ve seen our Muslim friends pushed aside and marginalized. We are not immigrants or refugees, but our hearts ache for those who are. Because today, it is not us. Tomorrow? We rise daily with bated breath and anxiety, hoping to just maintain what we’ve achieved.
There’s a scene in HBO’s “Big Little Lies”, where Shailene Woodley’s character is running along the beaches of Monterrey. She is exhausted, both chasing after and being chased by her own demons. She can run no further, and at the place where the sea kisses the sand, all that is left for her to do is to scream.
We have reached the beach.
Last year, we saw the first woman nominated to represent a major political party, talking about families like mine, pledging that she would fight for us, with us, alongside us. This year? We have a President who calls the White House “a real dump,” denies election meddling, incites and encourages police brutality, cyber-bullies his own Cabinet members, burns through senior staff like Gabe burns through diapers, and shies away from any opportunity to positively impact anyone other than his political base.
I have to teach my son consequences in a climate where it feels like they don’t exist.
It is a very complicated time to be a father. I don’t sleep well.
Navigating the road of first-time parenthood presents its own challenges and learning curve. The road, now? It’s like driving a car in a falling rock zone, in full fog with my high beams on, waiting for a deer to jump in front of me.
A year ago, we crossed a bridge to forever. Today, we remember what we earned by remembering why we fight. We fought for equality because we didn’t have it. Now we fight because we have it, and we aren’t yielding it back.
So today, August 4, we remember the smart men who’ve come before us who remind us still that a dream is a wish your heart makes. We have dreamed that dream, we have wished on stars, and we have made it happen. And we recommit, as smart men, to fight for our son and our family with every breath, through the tumult and chaos of an uncertain future. To protect and defend, yes. Our family is forever. And we aren’t going back.
Today is a big day for Gabe. But so is tomorrow.
Keep walking with us.