What a difference a decade makes. In 2004 I was in a pretty low spot in my life. I had just lost my father after his long struggle with ALS. I came out to him a few years before. My heart was broken, but that broken heart gave me a sense of expediency, and I came out to him. He was on a ventilator and unable to speak, but I knew I had his approval and love. Sometimes you don’t need words to understand, and while his love was unspoken, it was communicated nevertheless.
He had a bit of a rebellious streak. Having emigrated from India when he was seventeen, he would have otherwise been expected to enter an arranged marriage. Instead he returned years later married to my mother, a Mexican-American woman he met at their University. Marrying in this fashion, where love is the impetus rather than a potential result, was met by surprise. However, it eventually gave way to acceptance.
Losing my dad was incredibly hard for me, but I am grateful to have known him, and allowed him to know me as I really am.
It was an era where I can recall being surrounded by a sadness that was difficult for me to shake. I had been hospitalized a number of times in my youth for having bouts of depression that resulted in suicide attempts. I cursed the way I was, and felt ostracized from everyone around me, including my friends and family. Even though I had tremendous support, I still felt alien…and alone.
There was not much I thought I could hope for, I didn’t feel strong enough to contend with a whole world of prejudice and hatred. The future seemed bleak. Ballot Measure 36 was passed, inscribing discrimination into our State Constitution, and the media and arguments made in its favor didn’t do much for my sense of self-worth. While I advocated for equal rights, a person can only be called a monster so often.
However, even in those dark days, there was a seed of hope. I met the man who later would become the love of my life. Sharp, boisterous, and a devout father, he is everything I had dreamed about. It didn’t happen overnight. I first had to learn to love myself and mentally separate myself from the ugly castigation of others. The sadness that I had grown accustomed to, which had followed me around for many years, began to fade. I was able to see beyond it.
Now I am a happily married man. My wedding day in New York City was the happiest day of my life. My husband’s children welcomed me into their family. I found that I had what I once thought was impossible. They mean the world to me, as does all my family. In my wedding reception toast, I toasted our extended families that were now blended together.
Click here to see Ajai and Mark’s engagement page.
That’s what marriage is all about, in a way: blending families together. And knowing that I was just as accepted as my other heterosexual family members on their wedding day meant a lot to me. The fact that my mom was there and my husband’s parents were there to show their support made me overwhelmingly grateful. When I hear people say, “It gets better,” I fervently know it to be true because, for me, it did. I wouldn’t want to miss this part of my life, even though the path to get here was difficult.
A year before I was in Amsterdam with my partner. Walking to the Homomonument, he seemed a little nervous, which is uncharacteristic of him. We were at the steps on the side of the canal, and he got down on one knee, and it suddenly hit me. I gasped. He asked me to marry him. Tears in my eyes, I said, “Yes.” Then I remembered what I wanted to do, should I ever find myself in this situation. After a kiss, I got down on my knee, and asked him if he would marry me. This was going to be an equal partnership. He said, “Yes,” and we kissed. The church bells behind us started to ring, because it was noon. That husband of mine, he has pretty good timing. We looked on at the canal, and a school group of blond Dutch children ran up all around us. They were on a field trip with their class. “Homomonument!” they laughed and shouted, “Homomonument!” They were very excited to be there. It was one of those perfect moments. My husband looked at me and said, “This is the future.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ajai Terrazas Tripathi is originally from Corvallis, Oregon, where he graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Theatre Arts. During his time at OSU he acted in many memorable roles, and directed several plays, including Doric Wilson’s Street Theater. In addition, he produced Stories of Discrimination, two original plays The Death Rattle, and The Anti-Bullying Project, both based on real life stories for the non-profit Rainbow Health Resources. Currently, in addition to acting, Ajai is also the assistant grant writer for programs with the Miracle Theatre Group, in Portland. He tours across the country with Teatro Milagro as a Teaching Artist leading workshops in acting, art, and social justice theatre.