It Is So Ordered

I never thought I would get married.

A lot of women have that dream — wearing a white dress and walking down the aisle. I never did. I never pictured what I would wear, what colors my flowers would be or any of the ceremonial details.

The only thing I really ever wanted was to fall in love.

And I did.

My love story looks a little different from the ones you’ll see in Hollywood.

I knew I was gay by the time I reached middle school. I’ve never been attracted to guys. I can appreciate their beauty, but it comes without desire. I’ve always had a more intimate connection with women. In high school, I kissed a girl for the first time. It felt too comfortable and too right to think I was anyone but whom I was in that moment. I’ve followed that honesty my whole life.

I came out to my parents my junior year of high school, though they knew all along. I’d never brought home a guy, and I kept a certain kind of company. My mother, after we talked, expressed her support and said she was just waiting on me to say it aloud. I’m one of the lucky ones. It’s not easy to be out in the South. It’s not easy to be a lot of things in the South, especially different. It’s a wonderful place but also one deeply rooted in religion, and that doesn’t always translate to open minds. For some, it’s better to stay in the closet and live behind closed doors. But I found acceptance and community.

In 2006, after spending my whole life in Louisiana, including an incredible playing career at LSU, I left home for the first time. I was drafted No. 1 overall by the Minnesota Lynx in the ’06 WNBA Draft. Minnesota, to my surprise, was a big melting pot. I found my place on the team and in the city very quickly. When you’re happy with your career and your environment, but most importantly, with yourself — when you’re your authentic self every single day, without shame — life sort of falls into place.

That’s how I met the woman who would become my wife.

I met LaTaya in a Minneapolis club. I don’t consider myself a club person, so it was something like fate that I even went out that night. We saw each other at the beginning of the evening, but I was too scared to go talk to her. You wouldn’t know it by my play on the court, but I am oftentimes painfully shy. At the end of the night, I worked up the nerve to ask her to dance. There’s something you should know about me: I can’t dance. I kind of stood there, doing the one-two step, while she danced around me. Still, I got her number.

Our first date was a few days later at a theme park. I was too nervous to go by myself, so we went on a double date. She must’ve been nervous, too, because she had her mother call her every 10 minutes. It was new for both of us; we’d each only dated people we somewhat knew from our own inner circles. This time, we were both complete strangers. Maybe it’s better that way — more exciting but also completely terrifying.

The date was perfect. If I lined up all of my days in my short life, I’d still pick that one as one of my favorites, every time. Just two nervous girls — one quiet and shy, and one bubbling over with personality — navigating something new together.

That was eight years ago.

I think part of falling in love is finding someone who can just deal with you — who loves you because of your isms, not despite them. We’re all pretty complex people working to understand ourselves and the world around us. I understood LaTaya pretty quickly because I had a 30-year head start with my dad. They’re a lot alike — both Geminis. They think similarly, express similarly. In the end, we balance each other. She forces me out of my comfort zone — to go out and experience the world and not always default to my homebody personality. She’s opened my mind to new things and new ways of thinking — poetry, travel, adventure. I think I anchor her — bring steadfastness and calm to our lives.

The first year in our relationship, I had to go overseas to play in Russia during the WNBA offseason. It was terrible. I was in a foreign country by myself, didn’t speak the language, couldn’t navigate Moscow and hated the food. I was miserable. The second year, LaTaya came with me. She found her way around the city immediately — how to get to the gym, the grocery store, the clubs. She went out with my teammates and really immersed herself in this new life. I wasn’t miserable anymore. Sure, it’s hard to travel across the world to live in a place with so many fundamental cultural differences, but when you fall in love, home is found in a person, not a city. Moscow felt like home because she did.

Within a few years, we started talking about marriage. Those conversations were double-edged in a way — you’re fantasizing about spending your life with the person you love and celebrating the way any couple would, but also know that legally, your options are limited, if not flat out denied. At the time, marriage for gay couples was only allowed in a handful of states. What happens if we move? Would our marriage be recognized? Would our legal rights be protected? What if one of us got sick or hurt in another state? Why do we even have to ask these questions?

Love always wins, though.

In 2010, I proposed. We were in Miami, around Christmas, just the two of us. I’d arranged for two sandcastles to be built on the beach, with a ribbon going through. We walked down to the sand at sunset, and there was a small crowd forming around the sculptures. “Why don’t you go see what’s going on?” I told her. While she walked towards the sculptures, I pulled the ring out of my pocket. She turned back and saw me with the ring. She started to cry. An older woman in the crowd asked, “Well, what did she say?”

She said yes.

There’s something about being denied the legal right to marry that highlights the true importance of a relationship. LaTaya and I were together not out of legal contract or obligation but because our lives were infinitely better with the other one in it. We simply chose it without any legal safeguard. I’d always been politically aware and involved as far as LGBT issues go, particularly the fight for marriage equality. It’s easy, as a gay person, to get lost in a sea of whys. Why is my relationship of any lesser value? Why are people so discriminatory and cruel? Why is “different” wrong? I don’t think people realize the self-hatred or shame their own hate and ignorance fosters in others. You can only hear you’re lesser than — be discriminated against — so many times before you start to believe it, internalize it.

When I was growing up, there were very few out celebrities or public figures to look to — to visualize what gay meant or looked like. I had to research the issues, to seek out the gay rights visionaries. Let’s say I’d imagined getting married at all — in most places, I was legally banned. Banned from celebrating a love that felt as natural to me as the color of my skin — and just as fixed.

Several states on the East Coast had legalized marriage by the time we got engaged, as had Hawaii and Minnesota. We debated having the ceremony between those two. LaTaya is part-Hawaiian, and her family lives there, so going back home to share this with them was important to her.

Unlike me, LaTaya knew exactly what she wanted her wedding day to look like. She would have her dream wedding, and I would float on with it. There were only two things I asked for: Can I wear sneakers, and can we have red velvet cake?

I got both.

I was nervous the morning of our wedding day. Committing my life to someone wasn’t what had me wrecked — all of the details about the day were. My parents came into my room around 7 a.m., jumping on my bed like, “You’re getting married today!” The wedding wasn’t until 5 p.m., so I had a whole day of anticipation and excited anxiousness. I got dressed as we got closer to time and went outside just to take it all in — the decorations, the setup, the day. Everything looked amazing. The sun was full and shining down. The officiant pointed out all of the symbols around us as signs for a good and happy marriage: a rainbow, birds overhead — symbols of our angelic ancestors looking over us. The entire ceremony was rooted in Hawaiian tradition. I remember all those tiny details.

But what I remember most is LaTaya walking down the aisle. She looked like a dream. There is no one who ever has, or ever will, look more beautiful than she did in that moment. It felt like forever before she got to the end of the aisle to take her place next to me. When I embraced her and took her hand and we exchanged vows, everything felt still and right. This was fated.

Just two months later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality across all 50 states. I was in Seattle that day. I felt so much joy for myself, and the LGBT community. My mind went to a gay couple I’d met, who’d been together for 47 years. They’d been through everything imaginable together. They were anticipating this ruling. I’d asked them, “How did y’all make it through 47 years?” One of them said, “We were there before people accepted homosexuality. If you were gay in our time, you had to hide it. If you didn’t, you were forced to get treatment because people thought your brain wasn’t functioning right. Through all of that, all we had was each other.”

With the Supreme Court ruling, they could solidify their union and move forward with the rest of their lives — on legal record — together. That was a beautiful thing to realize — that they, too, would have some version of happily ever after.

That ruling was landmark. It’s incredible to think that there are children right now, at this very moment, that will grow up only knowing “marriage” and not “gay marriage.” Love is love, and there’s not any one face you can assign to it.

My relationship is just as normal as anybody else’s. I go about my day the same way anyone else would — in the same way a heterosexual couple would go about their day. I wake up in the morning. I tell my wife I love her. I go to work. I come home. We cook dinner together. This is normal. I don’t know what the difference is when people talk about love. As any husband would love his wife, or any wife would love her husband — that’s the same way I love LaTaya. I would give my last breath for her if I had to. If she needed a lung, I would give it to her. If she needed a kidney, I would give it to her.

Our love is the same. And now, it is so ordered.