STORIES: MJ & Talia

MJ & Talia: All You Need is Love

Talia and I met when I was 19 and she was 20. It started as a friendship and grew into something more. For the 4 years we dated before our marriage, we went through a lot together, especially regarding my parents, who were staunch Evangelical Christians and did not accept our relationship–at first.

As a teenager, I went through “treatment” at a Focus on the Family sponsored therapy center to “become straight.” This was not effective and highly traumatic, pushing me into a deep estrangement with my family.

When I met Talia in college, I was a wild child, making good grades, but hurting deeply from the estrangement with my family. I had made great friends who supported me, but still acted recklessly and without much regard for myself or others.

Talia changed everything. She was smart, incredibly funny, and grounded. Her family was the most important thing in her life, and they welcomed me with open arms. From the moment I met her, I knew she would become a significant part of my life.

About a year into our relationship, my parents were in a near-fatal car accident on the interstate. Although my mother walked away with minor injuries, my father suffered severe injuries including a broken neck, though miraculously he was not paralyzed.

Talia and I spent a week in the ICU with my parents in Rockford, IL. This was the most significant amount of time all of us had ever spent together.

Talia was a rock, taking care of all of the little details for my shell-shocked family. From that point on, as my father began a long recovery process, our relationship as a family began to heal.

We were all granted a new lease on life, and the love that we shared as a family prevailed over the ignorance and fear promoted by an anti-gay, anti-family ideology.

I proposed to Talia one month before Iowa’s landmark ruling on marriage equality. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

On the day of that ruling, we both stood awestruck, tears in our eyes, in front of the Old Capitol in Iowa City and celebrated with hundreds of happy friends, families, and couples. We felt unbelievably blessed. Although we were prepared to make a lifelong commitment to one another in our hearts and minds, we were now granted the opportunity to marry officially, legally, and with the full recognition granted to any other married couple.

We married roughly one year later in the same Unitarian church that Talia’s parents were married in. Both sets of our parents walked us down the aisle, and all four spoke at our wedding, my father leading the congregation in a rendition of  “All You Need is Love” at the end.

Our wedding parade (yes, of course we had a parade!) marched right past the same spot we had stood a year before, when we realized that our marriage would be recognized, not only in our eyes, but in the eyes of our state and community.

We have been married over a year now, together for 6 years, and going strong. We own a home together, pay taxes (though we still can’t file together federally), and both work with at-risk youth.

Talia is in grad-school for social work and runs a mentoring program for children with a parent in the penal system. I work as a youth counselor at a shelter for homeless teenagers. Talia and I are a family.

Someday soon, we will raise children together, and those children will know that their family is as legitimate, loving, and valuable as any other family. They will have two loving parents, four loving grandparents, along with aunts, uncles, and cousins.

The recognition of our marriage by the state, and hopefully someday the nation, is more than a mere formality, it is a vital part of our status and protection as a family.

-MJ & Talia

Video courtesy of Mika Kiburz

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