by Lexi Willcoxon:
On November 17, 2014, Missouri legalized gay marriages, according to district. Judge Rex Burlison overturned the ban on gay marriage in St. Louis, stating that the ban was unconstitutional, and this allowed for the freedom of marriage for all people, with no regard to sexuality. On November 18, 2014, Justin Thomas and his fiancé Nik Nelson announced that they were moving their wedding venue back to their birthplace: Missouri.
My Uncle Justin was born in Nevada, Missouri in 1973. He met my mom in 2001, and ever since then he has been adopted into our family, and I have always known him as my uncle. Justin’s fiancé, Nik, was born in Frontenac, Kansas. Although they didn’t meet until 2011, they had similar life experiences. Both men struggled with the same difficulties of life: doing well in school, deciding on a career, moving out of their parents’ house, and coming out of the closet. In a society that places a stigma on being gay, Justin and Nik were fortunate that their families were accepting.
Growing up in such an open household, I never saw anything weird or unnatural about my Uncle Justin being attracted to men. Although Justin had told my brother and I he was gay when we were little kids, he never brought any boyfriends to meet us. My mom and her friends would go on “girls trips”, of course including Justin, to Kansas City, and they would shop, eat, and go to the gay clubs. Even then, Justin never introduced his family to anybody that was special to him. Then came Nik.
It was Christmas 2011, and as we were cleaning up the kitchen, Justin announced that he was leaving early to go meet someone. That is when we first heard about Nik. Of course I was excited to meet Justin’s boyfriend, but at the same time I was reserved: Justin was MY uncle, and I didn’t want someone taking him away from me. How many girls are blessed with an uncle who will sing Broadway songs with you while on the way to go shopping? Still, my family invited Justin and Nik over to watch a football game. That’s right, my gay uncle Justin is a huge football fan, which is why I am not a fan of people stereotyping gay men: just because they’re gay does not mean they aren’t masculine.
As soon as Nik walked in the door, I knew that he was the one. His demeanor, although reserved, indicated that he had heard many stories about my family, and he was even comfortable around our obese house cats, though he was clearly a dog person. Justin was wearing his typical attire: blue jeans, Mizzou sweatshirt, with a sprinkling of glitter, he is a florist, and is constantly being suffocated by bits of glitter and flower petals. Nik, on the other hand, was wearing khakis, a button-down shirt, a gray cashmere sweater, and a pair of pure white tennis shoes that looked like they had never seen the outdoors. Nik’s hair, since he is a hair stylist, was perfectly coiffed into a wave, with highlights accentuating his tanned complexion. Justin and Nik were total opposites in appearance, but their witty banter all night convinced me that Justin had found The One.
Soon, I had taken to calling both Justin and Nik my guncles. It is a term of endearment by combining the words “gay” and “uncle”. We did family trips with Justin and Nik. All holidays were spent with my guncles, experimenting with jello-shots and going over the latest fashion trends. We were one big, happy family.
Three years after Justin and Nik met, they came over for Christmas dinner with exciting news: Justin had proposed. Nik was grinning all night, he was glowing with happiness, and my whole family rejoiced their impending marriage. Nik was going to be an official part of the family. Then came the wedding planning. Since Justin is an expert, it didn’t take long for Nik and Justin to know exactly what they wanted for an ideal ceremony and reception. When Nik and Justin got engaged, gay marriage was illegal in the state of Missouri. Unfazed and still happy at the upcoming nuptials, Justin and Nik simply decided on a Florida venue, a favorite destination and a state that allows gay marriage. But we all knew that the boys would rather have been married at home, where all their family could attend without the worry of travel expenses and vacation time.
Then, in November of 2014, Missouri overturned a ruling on gay marriage. Although the counties that legalized gay marriage were not where my hometown, Joplin, is located, my guncles could finally marry in the state they called home. The euphoria my family experienced was unreal. Justin and Nik are my family, they are in love, and they deserve to be able to marry wherever they choose. As soon as the decision was announced, Justin and Nik changed their plans and are now getting married in a local art museum in Joplin, Missouri, following an official court appearance in St. Louis to get their marriage certificate. Both of their families will be in attendance, as well as their beloved dog, Shelby. Nik and Justin’s relationship has shown me that true love exists, and I have been blessed to be a part of their relationship: from beginning to marriage. In the fall, my guncles will be married, thanks to the slow recognition that gay marriage is not wrong: it is a declaration of love and commitment between two individuals. Isn’t that what we all want?
Lexi Willcoxon is a Junior at the University, and is an English Major with Minors in History and Gender Studies.