The Backstory on That White House Wedding Proposal
The couple who got engaged during the annual White House LGBT Pride Reception went on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry Show this weekend to share their story. But it was Harris-Perry who offered up the big idea of a White House wedding. (Video below.)
For their part, the couple isn't even sure when the date will be. If the anchor gets her way, though, the White House might want a little more background on how their love unfolded.
In her own words below, Liz Margolies shares the story of how she and Scout met, and how it all played into her decision to say "yes" when he got down on one knee at the White House of all places and proposed:
I met Scout at the annual meeting (November 2008) of the National Coalition for LGBT Health. We both run national LGBT health projects; his embedded in the huge Fenway Institute, mine a tiny organization of its own. It was my first time there. I was introduced to him by a mutual friend and, while he was clearly interesting and attractive, I dismissed him immediately as a “player.”
The three of us went to lunch together and I learned that, while he is a vegetarian like I am, he lived in Rhode Island and had three kids. I further dismissed him as too busy and too far.
The three of us also had dinner together and, yes, he was interesting and charismatic, but too young. Before going up to my room at the end of the evening, he asked to kiss my cheek. Kinda cute, kinda gentlemanly. I nonchalantly said “Yes, do it” but was stunned to feel a wave of heat fall slowly down to my ankles. I didn't even mention the kiss to the mutual friend when I got upstairs to our room. Meaningless.
He began texting me the minute I left the conference the next day. We went back and forth during my entire train ride home. The texts turned into emails. They got longer and more carefully worded until they could only be called letters. It was an old fashioned courtship, like Cyrano de Bourgerac, and I slowly fell in love with the brainy writer with an incredible vocabulary, a unique turn of phrase; he was like a bookish gentleman from the 1850s. I called him Poindexter, or Dex. He called me Treeg, short for "Intriguing One."
Within six weeks, I took the train from NYC to his house in Providence. His children were with "the baby mama." I couldn't really remember what he looked like; I was going to see the man who wrote those letters. I was shy and confused when he picked me up at the station. There is no appropriately old fashioned phrase I can muster now to reference the sex we had. It was just great.
Scout and I have the same birthday, but I was born 13 years before he. I have been a lesbian since I came out at 24. It was the radical ‘70s, and I was a radical lesbian feminist, a happy outlaw. Before then, I had been with many men and seriously loved a few, but my lesbian identity was ironclad. No, I was not looking for a trans guy and, in my experience, they only liked high femmes; I am a product of a more androgynous era. But I fell madly in love with Scout.
Being with a trans guy definitely had a learning curve for me. Mainly now, it makes me feel fiercely protective of him. I want to take on everyone who mistakes his gender. I am a mama bear like that.
Scout is the smartest person I have ever met, and I still swoon at his use of language. Sex is still amazing. Every simple act of living is an adventure when we are together. We walked the NYC Marathon last year. It took over six hours. We took our bikes to Amsterdam and rode through the pouring rain every day. We made a project of learning how to make perfect whiskey sours and peanut brittle.
Radical lesbian feminists do not believe in marriage. Children of divorced parents do not believe in forever, although they long to. My politics justified my fears of a legal commitment. I never wanted anyone cramping my style, and I didn't believe in having some stranger-judge decide if I am allowed to break up/divorce. I am skinny but I am tough. I had a child on my own with an unknown sperm donor at the time the vice president was condemning Murphy Brown for doing so on TV. I have my own business as a psychotherapist and I founded the National LGBT Cancer Network. I own my own apartment. I am staunchly independent.
I do believe in love. And only through whispers in the dark did Scout help me find my secret wish for the promise of connection that lasts through old age, a promise that is made with full knowledge of our own conflicts and flaws, the struggles that will ensue. I thought this was our secret.
I was outta my mind about going to the White House. As I said, my organization is tiny and barely funded. I am not used to getting this kind of recognition for it. I agonized over what to wear but made careful plans to take a train that left me two hours to wander from Union Station to the White House. Scout will tell you how he almost didn't make it and then you will understand the differences between us. I was not thinking about a proposal or that ring he claimed to have. For all I knew, he had already lost it.
So, suddenly he fell to his knee. I don't remember what he said. I remember looking around and seeing there were people watching. I didn't know what to do. Scout will tell you that I began to back away, but I don't remember that either. I remember thinking that it would be horrible to say no to him in such a public place, but I couldn't say yes unless I meant it. The promise was gonna have to last longer than the event. I looked back at him, now begging on his knee, My Sweet Sweet Sexy Scout, and I took a breath.
I decided to try to be brave, to try to let myself love him forever, that galumphing puppy of a boyfriend. And I fell to my knees to match him and I said, "yes."
Read Scout's side of the story on the following page.
I was so nervous beforehand I actually missed my plane and almost didn't make it. No lie, I ran out of gas two miles from the airport. I missed my flight, then started begging to get on the next one, but the waiting list was too long, so I ran out of the airport to try against hope to make it to Boston for the very last flight that would arrive in time. I drove like a banshee up to Boston. I flung my car in the parking lot and just starting racing to the plane. Then it kept getting worse. I went to the wrong counter, I was in the wrong terminal, I forgot things in my pockets and need a security search. Then just when I thought I made it on, they announce I'd left my wallet back at security. I literally thought of leaving it but realized I wouldn't get in without an ID. Obviously I did make it, but by the time I was in the plane I'd sweated through my clothes I'd run so far. And I fly probably twice a month — clearly I was just a nervous wreck.
Liz should have known I was going to propose by what I was wearing. She'd helped me go suit shopping (not always easy for a trans guy). We'd found this amazing vintage store that carried Deadstock suits and re-tailored them to be sharp. I'd never been to the White House Pride reception before, so really didn't know what to expect. Mostly the beginning of the event is folk pressing toward where the president will come out, so you can't really mingle much. Then the president comes out and speaks. Surprisingly, it's hard to see him even though we were so close. Then they open up all the rooms and everyone exhales and has some fun.
Time was passing, and I still hadn't figured out what was best way to do the proposal. Maybe, I thought, it'd be better to just skip it? No, must be strong. So I started telling a few friends and they were gathering around the front hall area. We asked the Marine band to stop playing, but they informed us they needed clearance to change even a note of the program. My friends were starting to hang out, and I was worried if I told many more the gathering might clue her in, so I just handed the camera to Matty and went to get her. I pulled her over to the center of the main hall, asked a few folk to step aside and got down on my knee — and promptly forgot everything I had memorized.
What a mess I was. It didn't help that her first reaction was to back up from me. I scooted after her still on that knee and tried to remember my speech: Lisbeth Anne Margolies , because the last three and a half years with you have been such an incredible journey. Because we both know we should get civil rights before marriage, even if the world doesn't agree. Because the thought of spending my life with you fills me with, I admit some trepidation, but mostly profound joy. Because no one tries harder. Because with you I know I will live my best life possible. Lisbeth Anne Margolies, will you marry me?
Of course in reality, nervous me mumbled out maybe half of that while she kept looking around like she wanted to melt into the woodwork. I'm thinking, Remember, you knew about this, right? Remember you were going to say yes. Say yes? Meanwhile she's looking so thunderstruck I was starting to wonder if she'd say no, egads. The seconds stretched on, I took out the ring and reached to her, ‘Please?’ The ring of people around us started with “Say yes!” Then she inched closer and took a little look at the ring, as if maybe if she found it good enough. Everyone laughed. Well apparently she did find it good enough, cause then her eyes lit up and she dropped down beside me with a big “Yes!”
Afterwards we went out with a bunch of our other trans friends from the event for a big dinner. I'd been looking for my buddy Kylar Broadus from Trans People of Color Coalition (the new national trans group) all night, hoping he'd be beside me as it happened. Turns out he and Cecilia Chung were a bit busy because they were pulled backstage for private chats with POTUS! OK, so we let him slide this one time and agreed we'd ask for all marriage presents to be gifts to TPOCC even if he did blow me off for the POTUS. When is the wedding? I think one step at a time. I'd better give Liz a chance to get used to being engaged first.
Writer BRETT EDWARD STOUT reported these stories.