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When Advocate arts and entertainment editor Corey Scholibo goes home to Houston to take part in a friend's wedding, he discovers that his role in the ceremony befits his status--not best man, not bridesmaid, but an honored gay place of his own.

As I enter the tail end of my 20s, it seems the time has come when everyone I know is getting married. My mother assures me this is just the age, while inquiring about my own prospects.Living in Los Angeles, I have managed to shield myself from having to attend too many weddings, but I am from Houston, land of the debutante.

In Houston, at the age of 20 society girls still purchase a $5,000 wedding dress and circle the ballroom of the River Oaks Country Club--squired by escorts such as yours truly--performing a particularly difficult floor-level curtsy called "The Texas Dip." (You might have seen something similar from Donna on 90210 in the '90s) In Houston, getting married is not a fortunate series of events, it's the end goal. Those of you who follow sports could liken it to football, which is also big in Texas, and imagine the ambitious bride with her eye on the end zone. Nothing matters but that.

That being said, I was delighted recently when my best friend Renee called me to tell me she was engaged. "You're going to be in my wedding, for sure," she told me, and quickly followed it with "I am not sure yet exactly what you will be doing. Probably reading or something. But I definitely want you in it." In this case I approved of her marriage and awaited my assignment.

A few years ago I was asked by another friend, in exactly the same way, to be in her wedding. She was marrying a man with a Mexican heritage, and though I was not a groomsman, I wore the traditional Mexican wedding shirt and stood on his side of the ceremony--for symmetry, I assume. You see, it is one thing, it seems, to put your gay best friend in your wedding. It is quite another to have him stand up next to your other girlfriends in matching pastel dresses. My friend did tell me that though I was standing on the groom's side, she wanted some ownership of me in the proceedings.

That "ownership," it turned out, entailed walking down the aisle to special music. The groom and his attendant processed, then the music changed, then I walked down the aisle by myself, then the music changed again to signal the bridesmaids and the bride. Luckily, my song was something nondescript and not "It's Raining Men."

After the wedding I took pictures with the groom's party, the bride's party, and the whole group. I may have in fact been more photographed than the bride. It was an honor to be in her wedding, and though for some reason I longed for the inclusion of being a seamless member of her side of the affair, I began to embrace my outsider status.

I was more prepared then for my most recent wedding, again back in Houston. I had received a save-the-date card that outlined the wedding party's responsibilities for the weekend. But you see, when you are the gay friend, you have to ask questions. When something says "the bride and her attendants," that does not necessarily mean you. For instance, I was not explicitly invited to the bridesmaid lunch the day of the rehearsal dinner, and though my friend asked me the night before if I wanted to come, I decided this was probably not the best idea.

When I was growing up gay in Houston, I had a lot of female friends. My experiences with them were very positive, and those friendships, like my marrying friend, have lasted many years. But back then specifically (and I think, in some respects, today) there existed a refined sense of gender roles that is perhaps true only to the South but, I suspect, a widely held tradition. Many times there were dinners, lunches, nights out to the movies that I was not invited to, even though all of the attendants were some of my closest friends. The reason given, and always accepted without question, was that the outing was specifically "just the girls."

For a young gay man this is mildly insulting. I considered myself, to some extent, one of the girls. I was their confidant: listening to their dating problems, escorting them to dances, and even spending the night over curled up in our pajamas, eating Taco Cabana and watching The Princess Bride. But in the end I was still a guy, and though I appreciated that fact then and now, I wanted (and still want today, somewhat) to have it both ways.

So for this wedding I decided to embrace my honored gay place. I went to a shower thrown by my friend's work--a specifically LGBT law firm at which she was an associate. No other friend had made the cut, and her colleagues fawned over me and seemed to know a lot about me. At the rehearsal I was given my assignment for the ceremony. I was to read out loud a passage from the Prophet, a passage about love. It was a tag-team effort--her lesbian sister read a short passage, then I read the closing, then there were the vows.

As it turns out, I had a bit of a starring role in the proceedings. While my other best friend was standing up there throughout as the maid of honor, I got nearly 10 minutes of uninterrupted microphone time before the entire audience. I was also seated in the front row, which, in order from the aisle, included the bride's mother and father, her gay brother (an usher), her lesbian sister (the fellow reader), the crazy aunt whom no one talked to, then myself. An honored place indeed.

As I got up to read and began to hear my voice echo across the hall, full of people I had not seen in 10 years and some of my closest friends, what I had anecdotally accepted as my negotiated gay place in the wedding began to really sink in as a privilege. I read out loud: "Love possesses not, nor would it be possessed; for love is sufficient unto love." I realized, looking at her and her soon-to-be husband, whom I adored, that my friend had specifically chosen this passage for me to read. I began to get choked up, and looking at them looking at me, I felt like this was my moment to give her away or give my blessing. I missed certain words, getting a little lost in the moment, but no one seemed to notice, and as I sat I could feel myself beaming, and that feeling being returned all around me. To have been a bridesmaid or a groomsmen would have been the more traditional role, but I suddenly remembered one of the things I loved most about being gay--standing out.

After the ceremony there were pictures, and as the gay friend I waited till instructed to be in the cast photo. No one specifically asked me to stand in, and as I was with the mother of the bride watching it all go down, I thought it would be rude to be so assertive as to go and position myself in. I did feel like I had missed an opportunity there to be included, but it comes with the territory. I was the hit of the reception, however, with everyone congratulating me on my oration, including the groom's family--the first family, somewhat, of the Tabasco empire, among whom I was already a big hit. When the groom had been hunting one season and I got on the phone to ask how many ducks he had killed, he told me he was killing doves, not ducks. I remarked, "You were slaughtering the international bird of peace?" This is, apparently, one of the funniest things the groom's family had ever heard, making me an infamous figure among their clan and leading to the family matriarch, an elderly Southern woman who is called simply Banana, to demand to meet me.

I was wearing my recently purchased vintage Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo, a slightly shimmery fabric from the Tom Ford era; pony hair Taryn Rose tuxedo shoes; and pink striped socks, the reputation of which had made the rounds, so I was constantly asked to lift my pant leg to show them off. The gay friend's job at a wedding also includes dancing first, and often when no one else will. Thus my missing cast photo seems unnecessary, as nearly every photo from the reception in the proof sheet is of me in some form of dance.

By the time the evening had come to a close, I can safely say that I had secured my position in both the groom's and bride's family, including an invitation by the groom's mother to come stay with them on their plantation in Louisiana. No small feat, and all accomplished by doing anything but blending in. The groom was later heard to proclaim not only that my tuxedo was the best he had ever seen but that I was in fact his favorite of his wife's friends. I found this all out from her the next morning, and I sensed pride in her voice and in mine that I could serve that function.

As we exchanged I-love-yous for the hundredth time that weekend, I thought: If my place at weddings is to be endlessly charming and impressive, then so be it. One day perhaps I will be allowed to and lucky enough to find someone to marry, and I hope that everyone involved in my wedding will feel as special as I did that day.

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Corey Scholibo