Just after Valentine's Day, my happy little world was thrown into turmoil when I publicly challenged Weddings Unveiled magazine's rejection of my ad featuring a same-sex couple on their wedding day.
It's hard to describe how overwhelmed I felt. I'd wanted to bring attention to an issue I believed in, but I never dreamed I would get so much personal attention. People who didn't know me from Adam said I was brave, or misguided, or right, or an asshole. "I hope you burn in hell," one e-mail said.
One night, maybe three days after I'd shared my open letter, I sat on the couch with my husband and cried. And cried and cried. All of my overwhelmed-ness exploded out of me in tears and snot and embarrassing sobs. And when I was done crying, I told Dan, "If I'm crying right now, then I know Terri and Brooke have cried."
I don't truly "know" how Terri and Brooke, the Weddings Unveiled editors, felt when they sat at home that night. I don't know if they cried, or rolled their eyes, or hated me, or wanted to hide from the world. But I imagine they probably did all of those things at different times. Just like I did.
See, just like Terri and Brooke, I'm a Southerner. I grew up in a conservative, traditional community. I was taught that being gay (or anything other than straight) was, at the very least, socially unacceptable; at worst, a sin. In high school, I interned for a photographer who told me that if a same-sex couple ever called and asked him to shoot their wedding, he would tell them he was booked. And that made sense to me at the time.
I didn't really question these views until I was 19. I left Georgia for photography school in Massachusetts, and quickly made friends with one of the kindest, funniest, most creative guys I've ever known. And one night in the car, that guy came out to me. He told me he was gay. And everything I'd ever learned and believed just... imploded. Because I KNEW him. I SAW him. I LOVED him. And the person sitting next to me in the car... well... he WAS me. We both had dreams. We both wanted love and to be loved. Who we were attracted to was irrelevant. All that mattered was our insides. And inside, where it counted, we were the same.
Since that night, I've been on a journey. My beliefs have evolved; my heart has grown; my eyes have opened.
The only difference between myself and the Weddings Unveiled editors? I started that journey sooner. And I walked it in private.
When Weddings Unveiled chose to write a public apology in response to my letter, I was floored. They could've stuck to their guns, defending their decision and sticking by it. They could've denied it happened. They could've had their attorney call me. Believe me: I played each of those scenarios out in my head over and over again.
Instead they apologized and, very publicly, very bravely, they took a new stand. They offered to run my ad; and I accepted their offer.
And today, in the magazine aisle at Publix, I flipped through the 2013 spring issue of Weddings Unveiled magazine, and found my photograph:
Weddings Unveiled printed a full-bleed ad, just a few pages in. They published the first EVER photograph of a same-sex couple in their very southern wedding magazine.
To those who supported my cause, but who said, "too little, too late," I just have one request of you: go buy this magazine.
Because it is NEVER too late for anyone be better, to be braver, to be bolder. I am better than I was in high school, braver than I was in college, and oh-so-much bolder than I was before any of this happened. And I'm pretty sure Terri and Brooke are, too.
Because we are all on a journey.
Because we are all the same.