Today was Pride in London, as it was in many cities around the world. What a wonderful celebration, and what wonderful news in the US. I cried with tears of joy in the office when I read BBC News’ breaking news alert. My Facebook wall is awash with people’s rainbow filtered profile pics and I love what an open society I am able to thrive in, and that I have friends who would never question the validity of same-sex love and its place in the institution of marriage.
I had no idea that today would be such a trigger for grief, however. I haven’t been to Pride since my wife died. It wasn’t a conscious thing; I just preferred to spend my birthday (which falls next week) abroad getting hammered on cocktails in the Caribbean on a holiday I really couldn’t afford. This year, I’m home.
On this particularly special celebratory day where the sun was beaming down on London in all its glory, I saw happy coupes all around. Happy same-sex couples who are like me and my wife were – out and proud, affectionate, energetic and totally in love. But I’m not that anymore and, fucking hell, it hurts. Day to day, I am invisible as a gay woman because I’m not in a couple. Add to that, I’m invisible as a widow.
Wife adored Pride – being gay was her identity and the party was one of the highlights of the summer. She’d drink cans of lukewarm beer in Soho Square on the patchy grass, don her rainbow flag and put rainbow stripe face paint on her cheeks. She looked ridiculous. Every year, she’d get face paint all over our posh pillowcases, having drunkenly danced at the street parties (sometimes only partially clothed), until I’d shepherded her home and plopped her in a sweaty pile on the bed. Sexy it was not, but I loved that woman and she was so super proud to hold my hand and boast she’d put that ring on my finger.
Nowadays, the rings are on my right hand. My wife should have been marching with me today. She should have been competing with me to blow whistles louder. Instead, I had the gay flag she wore over my shoulders. I marched with her old colleagues, and I carried her in my heart. She’s my big gay rainbow shining down on me. Wife’s company had provided placards to wave where you could fill in the blank: “My pride hero is…“. I filled mine in to say “My pride hero is… my wife and my mum” (mum is gay too; it’s in the genes) and I waved that sign as high as I could. People who didn’t know me asked where my wife was. People in the crowd pointed and smiled and gave me a thumbs up. I kept my Fendi sunglasses on the whole time to hide my tears. I felt mixture of joy at the memory and devastation at the loss, and I marched and I danced and I made as much noise as I could. I smiled.
Some people don’t get it. They don’t get how someone can be gay. They don’t get why we would want to marry. Well get this – I lost the love of my life and that pain is just as real. I wanted to spend eternity with my wife, and it was supposed to be a lot fucking longer than 6 years. Love is love. When your soul mate is taken away from you, my God do gay widows wail just as loudly as the next widow. We want that recognised – in life and in death.
I’ve come home exhausted having been on my feet for six hours and burst into tears. This is not what I signed up for. Where is her face paint? Why aren’t her sweaty clothes on a heap in the middle of the hall? Why isn’t she on the floor of the en suite hugging the toilet and being sick? Why isn’t she slurring her words? Why am I not shouting at her for flashing her boobs in the nightclub? All I have is a pain in my heart, and the noise of drunken strangers singing as they are walking past on the street.
Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling is a giant step, although we have a long way to go to change societal attitudes. But congratulations to all. Long live love and equality, in life and in death.
Happy Pride, darling.