Pantsuit Nation—Meet Peter and Aaron

by Libby Chamberlain

June 3, 2017

Multiple award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet and memoirist Maya Angelou said it best: “In diversity, there is beauty and there is strength.” Peter and Aaron accept the true value of diversity and how it benefits America’s future.

Peter, Massachusetts

Just a couple of Muslim refugees (Iraqi civilians who worked as interpreters) and I together in Baghdad and now here in the US. I’m so thankful I never let fear win and got to know two of the greatest and selfless individuals I will ever know: men I consider to be my best friends and who sacrificed more for this country than 99.9 percent of those spewing nonsense and hate related to Muslims and refugees.

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Peter, Massachusetts – Photo by Maj, Alex

Aaron, Michigan

Aaron, Michigan

Aaron, Michigan – Photo by Aaron R. Rieder

I know it’s not a pantsuit, but this is what I wear when I am doing some of my most important work. Being a minister can come with some baggage. Many people in this group have not always had the best interactions with members of the clergy. I carry that burden with me every day. It is a shame that so many ministers have abandoned their role in opening doors and have instead acted like gatekeepers.

I know that this group has members of many different religions as well. I have loved reading your stories, and I thank you for the opportunity to share mine.

I have always tried to be a loving pastor, I have always tried to be welcoming to people of all walks of life. But I never considered the issue of same-sex marriage very much. I wasn’t gay, nobody in my family was gay, and same-sex marriage wasn’t legal anyway. I know that I was wrong. Unfortunately many people don’t realize that yet. This is the reason why so many voters could ignore the fact that a person was misogynistic, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic. Those things don’t affect them, so it was far too easy to look past them.

Then one day a woman visited my church and contacted me a few days later to ask me my thoughts on the subject of same-sex marriage. Her granddaughter had met a woman she had fallen in love with and wanted to get married. They wanted to get married in a church and needed a minister to perform the ceremony.

As I was wrestling with my own thoughts on the issue, things were changing in my own life. My wife and I had been struggling for several years with infertility. After many doctors, tens of thousands of dollars, and a lot of tears, we were now overjoyed to finally be holding our beautiful baby boy in our arms. Like all new parents, I spent a lot of time thinking and dreaming about what this tiny little human would someday grow up to be.

So I forced myself to consider what I would do if my son told me he was gay. How would I respond when he told me he had met that special guy he wanted to spend the rest of his life with? Would I welcome this man as my own son? What if they wanted to have children? Would I consider them my grandchildren? Really, these are such ridiculous questions. I was so completely in love with this tiny person that none of these questions really mattered. I wanted the best for him and of course I would want him to enjoy the same benefits all married couples enjoy. I would also want my church to be welcoming to him. If I would want that for my child, I should be willing to offer that to everyone else. Everyone is someone’s child. Isn’t that what “Love your neighbor as yourself” really means?

That’s really the problem with conservative logic. It’s easy to be judgmental until it affects you or someone you love.

So I officiated the wedding and it was one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever done.

I am not content any longer to live in a world that doesn’t allow everyone access to the same rights and privileges that white, straight, Christian men have enjoyed from the beginning. I think the problem with so many people in my demographic is that they believe that allowing other people to have the rights and privileges they have will somehow diminish what they have. Not only is this false but it is actually harmful. What if the cure for cancer doesn’t happen because a smart kid from the inner city couldn’t afford college? What if the next breakthrough in engineering doesn’t happen because a girl is tired of hearing that her preferred field is a man’s field and chooses a different profession?

This society can only be its best when everyone gets a seat at the table. That’s why I’m still with her, and I’m with all of you.

* * *

Check back tomorrow for final stories from Joe and Hilary!

Missed previous stories? Read stories from Adrian and Addie, Rachel, Rajib and Lauren, Karen, and Brianna and Jia!

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Libby Chamberlain is the founder of Pantsuit Nation. She lives in coastal Maine with her husband and two young children.