I never imagined in a million years the answer to this question would be, “no”.
Two years ago, the love of my life and I made the decision to get married. We were so excited. We decided together that we would ask our closest friends and family to be a part of our special day. I would ask my brother to be my best man, my best friend to be my matron of honor and the rest of our inner circle would be included in the wedding party.
We immediately started calling all of our friends spreading the wonderful news. Of course, my one and only brother was at the top of the list. And why wouldn’t he be? Our relationship was better than it had ever been. We saw each other about once a week and I had built solid relationships with his children.
When I called to tell him the news, I asked him to be my best man. He accepted.
I was thrilled. My brother would be standing next to me on our wedding day the same way that I stood next to him many years ago.
Unfortunately, the feeling of bliss would not last.
Two weeks later, I got a very odd email from him asking to meet for dinner. Typically, we grabbed a quick lunch together or I would go to his house for a visit. I had never met up with him after work, so naturally, the request seemed odd.
But he’s my brother, so I accepted his invitation.
I left my office one gorgeous summer night to meet him at Founding Farmers Restaurant. I arrived first and he arrived shortly thereafter. Ironically, I had just completed one of the best days of work I ever had. However, in my heart of hearts, I knew that this day would not end on a high.
We sat down at the table and the waiter handed us our menus. As we looked them over, there was an awkward silence in the air.
The waiter came back to take our orders and turned away quickly. I didn’t want him to go, because I knew what was going to happen next.
In a deep breath, my brother retracted his acceptance to be the best man in our wedding. I looked him straight in the eyes as the tears welled up. I couldn’t keep them in and I started crying right in front of him. I felt flushed and couldn’t breathe. Never in a million years did I think this would happen to me.
Immediately, I asked him why he couldn’t be a part of our special day. All he could tell me was that his religion wouldn’t allow it.
My mind was racing. I had flashbacks to all the rejection I endured throughout my life. I couldn’t believe that my own flesh and blood was rejecting me in the harshest way I’ve ever been rejected.
I swallowed my tears and finished my meal. I had to. I could not leave defeated. I had to face my enemy for the next hour; and I did just that.
We left the restaurant and walked to the Farragut North Metro station. We said our goodbyes. He turned and walked down the escalator into the dark tunnel. As I saw the top of his head disappear, I knew that our relationship would never be the same. I wondered if we would ever speak again.
I started walking back to my apartment on 13 & L. The tears began rolling down my face. I could not hold the emotion back any longer. The religion that tormented me my entire life had just slapped me in the face and took my breath away. It felt like time was at a standstill.
When I got to 15th Street, I completely lost my cool. I was weeping uncontrollably. It was the deepest pain I had ever endured.
Rejected. Denied. Turned Down. By my own brother. “Why did this happen?” I asked myself. “I am healthier and happier than I have ever been in my entire life. Can’t he see that? Everyone around me has noticed the change. Why couldn’t he? Why would he choose to hurt me instead of support me?”
These thoughts repeated over and over in my head a million times. The answer was clear; the horrid belief system that I knew so well had come back to haunt me. The belief system that does not accept me or my marriage was being carried out by my own flesh and blood. I can’t even fathom that this is still an issue in today’s society; much less my own family.
Many months passed and I realized that this happened for a reason. I needed to know who my true supporters were. And as hard as it was to be rejected by my own brother, I learned to accept it. “I am better than this belief system,” I told myself. It had knocked me down in the past, but it was not going to this time. This belief system would not kill the happiest moment of my life, and it didn’t.
My brother chose religion over family, but I did not. I chose myself over rejection and discrimination. We have barely spoken in the last two years, but it has been for the best. I am a much better person for knowing who my true friends and family are.
On October 23, 2010, I married the love of my life. My best friend, and matron of honor, stood next to me on the left; the way god intended. My four closest friends stood beside her. Five of my dearest classmates, college and adult friends read the most meaningful poetry ever written. Three of my friends from NYC escorted people to their seats. And most importantly, my parents walked me down the aisle. Not once during the highlight of my earthly existence did I think about him or what he had put me through. The only thing I could think about was that everyone who has ever loved us was in that hotel, celebrating our lives and loving us for the people we are.