A Tale of Two Brothers

young joe isaacMy brother came out to me at the height of both of our darknesses. Post-graduation from University, he knew little of his way forward. Still living at home, aimless on the job front, forced to countenance the evil of conversion therapy, certain of his sexuality but afraid to come out, he let me step into his closet so we could walk out together.

I’d just returned from two dismal years of study in Israel. I was a mess, both physically and psychically, with no conceivable light in my future. I was deeply depressed, anxious, and besieged by obsessive thoughts I could not control. Whereas my brother’s darkness felt imposed by externals: society and a dogmatic religious culture, my darkness felt like they grew out of the soil of my heart. Starting in senior year of high school, I began sensing, seeing, feeling viscerally, vivid images of violent homosexual activities. While these thoughts haunted me, they did allow me to connect with an older brother who only knew apathy toward me. We learned to share our secrets and the hidden pains we were forced to carry around because of shame.

Yet, somehow my brother moved on where I stagnated. He chose: to leave home, to get a job, any job that would give him enough money to live on his own, to move in with a more progressive group of friends, to explore his sexuality with other men.


Joe, left, and Isaac

Where I wallowed in religious thought, a quirk of our personality differences, he opened door after door to the unknown. Eventually, I followed in his footsteps, sometimes wearing his hand me down shoes, on the path toward maturity, autonomy, toward a confidence to make my own choices. I used to joke that my parents were more tolerant toward my deviance from their path only because Isaac made my dalliances seem tame, desirable, and of course that remains true.

But more than that — he tamed the outside, secular world, that world we both learned to fear and therefore avoid. He explored where I followed, and would patiently teach me how to live, one advocated shower at a time.

Whereas he lived a proud gay life, I shouted for gay rights from every rooftop I could find.

Maybe I could fight for him this time, I thought, taking up the torch. Picking up his fight worked to awaken me to the worlds of those that society push out of the boundaries of acceptable. Ultimately, his proud life allowed me to feel comfortable with my own sexual identity. He’s built, from scratch, a life for himself, and like many gay people, has been forced to serve as a heroic role model, an example of the possibilities of happiness within a gay life.

Somehow, together, we overcame the cages of our past to create a vibrant present. In a depressingly broken world of suffering everywhere it’s hard to know what it means to celebrate, but this past weekend felt different.

Not only because of the historic Supreme Court ruling, but because this past Sunday I stood as the officiant of my brother’s wedding.

On the right, I am holding the mic as the officiant of the wedding. My brother stands on the left, holding the hand of his husband.

On the right, I am holding the mic as the officiant of the wedding. My brother stands on the left, holding the hand of his husband.

In the backyard of his and his partner’s cottage, I married off my brother, which I can already tell, will serve as the pinnacle of cool for my life.

However, In the rush to proclaim that “Love Won,” it’s too easy to forget what it took for love to win. It took a type of heroism that only fear and hate can engender: the heroism of living your life in the face of deep discrimination. This Pride month therefore demands not only personal celebrations, but public acknowledgments of the ways that many gay people chose to drag many of us into the forefront of morality and equality. Some, like my brother, prefer to do it through living a great life, while others take a more vocal approach: both are heroes regardless and deserve our praise.

We started out as two frightened brothers, uncertain where to go but to each other for help.

And now, somehow, we brothers stood together under the canopy to celebrate life and love on a historic weekend.

If this is not happiness, I don’t know what is.

Happy Pride!!!



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