Image: Leslie and Maryellen’s wedding. Me officiating. Los Angeles, CA. 1998.
Most of my millennial friend’s ever-present anxiety is notably absent as we sit in the clutter of their apartment.
I sit, cross legged on a bench, heart filled with delight to see my friend so beautifully mellow.
Jesse adjusts their newly-affixed moustache and moves their body to get comfortable in the large beige recliner.
“Wearing a binder,” they say, as though reviewing a luncheon meat. “Sweaty.”
I’m the associate editor of The Judean, the monthly newsletter of Temple Judea of the West San Fernando Valley. My age is between the ages of my b’mitzvah students and their parents, and that feels awkward.
From The Desk of Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer is my unimaginative byline.
An article I write which will cause an uproar begins with the words, “I want to tell you about a very special wedding I officiated.” I continue with a tour of the beautiful highlights of the Jewish wedding ceremony. All the while, I hide, in plain sight, the fact that both of beloveds were women.
Many congregants will share their very real (at the time) outrage with me. Although, later in life, I suspect, they might tell their grandchildren they were always pro-LGBTQAI+.
The last sentence is my M. Night Shyamalan twist: “It’s a shame more people couldn’t enjoy celebrating the union of Maryellen and Leslie.”
Jesse’s beloved, Margaret, hands them a dark liquor in a hammered short drinking glass. She then passes me a mix of cranberry juice, lime juice, vodka, and Cointreau on the rocks in a pint mason jar.
Margaret comments, “Would you believe I’ve never made a cosmo before?”
I laugh and tease, “What kind of lesbian are you, anyhow?”
She points to her very za-zen, non-binary, moustachioed beloved, and shrugs. She answers, “A very lucky one.”
Three summers pre-Covid, I watch the man in a brown-beige sundress flick a tan pump on and off his foot as he reads a magazine.
We are both waiting our turn for a haircut at The Barbers—a place on 52nd and Sandy—Where Guys Go For Cuts.
I mean, who’s that comfortable with themselves?
Is that allowed?
How do I get that?
*What Jesse looks like*
Jesse doesn’t present as female. Nor, despite the moustache, male.
Jesse looks like Jesse. A pure form of Jesse.
Imagine someone’s suitcase gets lost and they spend the rest of the trip in clothes hastily procured from Target. Then they get home. Take a shower. And they put their own clothes on and sit down. That’s what Jesse looks like: relaxed, comfortable, at one with their environment.
The 2020 summer of COVID, I meet a future bar mitzvah in Grant Park near my house. We sit in camping chairs facing each other, ten feet apart.
To our second such meeting, he wears a long cotton skirt.
I ask about it.
“You know the colors on a palette?” he counters.
“I’m a boy with a larger clothes vocabulary than a lot of people.”
I tell Emmett about this interaction. His cohort, Gen Z (individuals born between 1997 and 2012), believe gender binary is outdated. I express my admiration for his generation’s inclusivity.
He counters: “Dad, we don’t get credit for not being dicks.”
*Jesse and Margaret’s secret non-binary wedding*
I ask Jesse and Margaret to turn their attention to the ketubah—Jewish marriage certificate—on the table in front of us.
I read aloud the boilerplate beginning then put the document into their hands.
“Please read the vows together,” I say.
We all tear up.
I sign my name at the bottom in both English and Hebrew.
Next week, they will add their signatures during a larger, much more public ceremony in front of family and friends. No one will notice that my signature was already there.
It’s a shame more people couldn’t enjoy celebrating with Jesse—with their glued-on mustache—and Margaret.
Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer resides in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder and head of Religion-Outside-The-Box oldrotb.wpengine.com, an internet-based, global group of 3.3K+ digital-age seekers. ROTB produces excellent spiritual content.
The 77% Weekly
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