Two Years Later: Removing the Hyphen

What a difference two years can make. On Sunday, July 24, 2011, I was one half of a same-sex couple making history in New York by legally tying the knot. At that time, my new husband and I were considered the "poster children" for young, same-sex love, with mentions of our nuptials in national media outlets such as USA Today, Bloomberg Businessweek and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. Fast-forward 24 months: I'm not planning our anniversary getaway; I'm preparing for our divorce.

Since separating from my soon-to-be-ex-husband last October, I've been anxiously hoping that this day would just disappear. Who wants to go through a day that magnifies an epic fail, especially when the date of that failure is tattooed on your wedding ring finger? The second wedding anniversary gift is supposed to be cotton. Sadly, I'm right on trend. I recently gifted myself cotton, but the difference is that it's protecting a coverup tattoo on my wedding ring finger.

On the eve of July 24, 2013, I am comfortable embracing my newest reality: I'm an African-American man who is a business owner and entrepreneur on the cusp of turning 30 years old. Oh, and I'm divorcing another man. In many ways, I'm a unicorn and perfectly proud of it. Alvin Lopez-Woods has completely checked out, but Alvin Lopez Woods stands tall. Removing the hyphen that connected my last name with his but choosing to keep that name as a part of my business moniker is the definition of empowerment.

Many have asked why I've chosen to keep his last name as a part of my business brand. The answer is simple: I worked damn hard for that brand. Coming to terms with who I am and demanding that my family either accept me or leave me. Holding my head up high as my biological mother publicly humiliated me for marrying a man. Chronicling my story and marriage in a first-of-its-kind relationship book, only to end the partnership as the ink dried. Deciding to love myself and leave a toxic marriage even though the nuptials gained so much attention. Leaving all my belongings to continue building a business while life as I knew it crumbled. All of this was hard work. To quote Angela Bassett's Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do With It?, "I can give up all that other stuff, but only if I get to keep my name. I worked too hard for it, your honor."

In many ways, I thought that I would walk away from my marriage as damaged goods. I just knew that it would take years of therapy to come to terms with the life-altering decision. I was afraid that the confidence I once had would be lost forever. As I sit here journaling my thoughts, I know that all those thoughts were just that: thoughts. My reality is so much better. I'm strong. I'm resilient. I've forgiven. I've healed.

Looking back at photos of us taken on July 24, 2011, I feel like they were taken a lifetime ago. I'll take that feeling as a definitive sign of having moved on. I'm thankful for the true connections that have guided me back toward a state of happiness: my beautiful grandmother, Jatari and Nathan, three individuals whom I don't see my revamped life without. Although my first marriage didn't stand the test of time, my happily-ever-after is waiting, and I'm in no rush to pursue.

For all opponents of marriage equality, I'm sure that my pending divorce puts a big smile on your face. I have a confession to make: It puts a smile on my face too, but for different reasons. With the recent landmark Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Prop 8, please know that we are winning. You are still on the wrong side of history.

To all couples celebrating two years of wedded bliss, be good to one another. I wish you all a lifetime of happiness.