All my childhood fantasies about marriage concerned a church. I grew up in a tongues talking, stomping, choral singing, tambourine taking part in black church, the place my grandparents – on either side of my household – have been pastors. I beloved being a church lady – spending each Sunday in a wood pew inside the first 5 rows, as my world revolved across the additional aunts and cousins given to me by this non secular household. I imagined someday strolling up the grand brown steps from the primary entrance, via the vestibule, and down the aisle to my husband-to-be. It is the place my mother and pa bought married over three a long time in the past, and I all the time seemed ahead to beginning my very own fortunately ever after the identical manner.
However my precise marriage ceremony in 2021 was nothing like what I imagined. For starters, the husband of my goals was truly my spouse, Mariah. I could not have considered a greater life accomplice and soul mate if I had tried. However strangeness wasn’t on my bingo card rising up, so after I realized, simply after commencement, that I had emotions for considered one of my greatest mates, every thing modified.
All of a sudden the church, this place I beloved, grew to become a spot of battle. In my church, strangeness was not accepted and definitely not celebrated – that was made clear to me each overtly and subtly. However it was additionally the place I celebrated Black Historical past Month and sang spirituals. It was the place my group organizing started, the place I related to a number of generations of black folks, and the place most of my shut mates spent their time. That is how lengthy my childhood and total cultural id was tied to the black church. We prefer to say love wins, however after I selected love I did not understand how a lot it could change me. For some time I could not make out the prize I had supposedly received.
So when it got here time for Mariah and I to decide on a venue for our marriage ceremony ceremony and reception, we did not even consider exchanging vows in a church. I used to be fearful: Would they take into account our union sacrilegious? Would we learn the lesson of a presiding minister who doesn’t “imagine” in homosexuality? Would I really feel affirmed and beloved that day, or would we fear a few last-minute backlash? It did not really feel proper to ask folks to reject us throughout what was in any other case the happiest day of our lives. Why ought to we permit ourselves to undergo the concern of unrequited care?
In preparation for this subsequent part, I felt lonely for one of many first occasions in my life. My profession began to take off and I had been actively working in the direction of the healthiest relationship I had ever had. However a group that all the time felt like safety to me could not or would not bear witness to the house we would present in one another. Rising up, we have been taught that God is love, so what did it imply that the earthly representatives of affection thought of us unworthy to tie ourselves up in what was alleged to be a sanctuary and a refuge? We have been fortunate sufficient to have great folks in our lives who had supported us from the very starting, however in these early moments of engagement, I got here to comprehend that the one factor I had craved for thus lengthy may by no means be.
The considered having to leap via hoops to discover a church that felt culturally related and keen to simply accept us made me take into consideration all of the hardships we confronted simply by being our genuine selves: the vacations that we spent away from prolonged household. Our fixed inside conflicts round faith. The unending want to lift family members. The family and friends who weren’t there when it mattered most. There was a lot time we’d by no means get again – and a lot disappointment but to return.
I might need drowned in that solitude if it weren’t for the land—89 lush, inexperienced acres of southern land that enabled my paternal grandfather’s retirement and the final years of his life. He affectionately referred to as it Baker Acres: a stretch of land coated with sparse, towering pines and wandering white-tailed deer with two expansive freshwater lakes fed by a meandering stream. It needed to be a secure haven for all his youngsters or grandchildren. And fewer than a decade later, the Baker Acres grew to become a haven for my spouse and I after we mentioned, “I do.” I can not keep in mind precisely after I first got here up with the concept of getting married on my household’s land, however it was like having a music caught in your head. Once I had that thought for even a second, it felt like what I all the time needed to do.
The household land has set me free in additional methods than one. There was no gatekeeper there to inform me that our love was too blasphemous or that the home of the Lord was too holy. As Imani Perry wrote in her bestseller South to America: “The bushes do not know your race, your gender id or your sexuality. The bushes do not drive you out due to rumors or bigotry.’ In reality, the sacred floor modeled what love actually was: the urge to flourish regardless of the circumstances. Through the years, many individuals have lived on this nation; first the native Lumbee folks, adopted by colonizers and eventually we Bakers. Extractive agriculture, pure disasters and overproduction stored the nation precisely who it had all the time been. In good occasions, the land offered bountiful harvests and a base for shelter. In dangerous occasions, the nation listened and realized resilience. She welcomed Mariah and me with out judgment and offered us with a clear slate. As an odd black couple, every thing about it felt too good to show down. With my grandmother’s blessing and my aunt’s help, we set to work planning our special occasion.
When August 14, 2021 lastly rolled round, I not felt alone. I used to be higher at setting boundaries and did not need to be phased by somebody who wasn’t there for the specific objective of celebrating our love. I cherished those that had traveled to be with us. I noticed that the holiness of the day had not been misplaced and that God didn’t want a constructing to make His presence identified. I felt God via my mother and aunt Tyra, who pulled me apart simply earlier than getting dressed for my large day to share marriage knowledge. I felt God as what realistically ought to have been a 90 diploma day was cooled down by a rain that utterly encircled the land – with not more than a drizzle reaching our occasion’s lot. I felt God in my Uncle David, who walked me down the aisle and all the time affirmed that being Christian and being queer will not be mutually unique.
As our sisters helped officiate on the ceremony, I gazed gratefully at my bride. “How fortunate am I,” I assumed to myself, “that God noticed match to ship me a life accomplice and use this marriage ceremony as a reminder that the Church exists throughout us.” I considered my ancestors who have been enslaved on this county and will have labored this land with their soiled fingers. I considered the white males who tried to power this land and its stewards into submission, however failed. I thought of what it meant to construct a love robust sufficient to resist not solely the take a look at of time but additionally concern – to be courageous sufficient to seek out God and love in all places I am going .
In a 1996 article for Orion journal referred to as “Touching the Earth”, bell hooks wrote:
For a few years, and even right this moment, generations of black individuals who migrated north to flee life within the south returned house in the hunt for non secular nourishment, a therapeutic, essentially linked with reaffirming one’s reference to nature… sacred to us, our physique may also be sacred to us.
On this manner, I’m grateful for each closed door that led my spouse and me to the nation. Since then I have never seemed again.
Brea Baker is a racial and gender justice activist who works regionally and nationally for the liberation of all oppressed folks, with an emphasis on black folks and girls. When she’s not organizing, you may see her touring the world, listening to Beyonce, or manifesting the life her ancestors deserved.