I’m straight, and I want to talk about NOH8. And how it affects me.
When I first moved to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, and opened Weddings in Vieques, people cautioned me that I should not plan gay weddings. Let me be clear – this is a gay-friendly island (lots of gay-owned businesses, gay residents, etc.) – so I was baffled. At the time, gay marriage wasn’t legal anywhere in the United States yet (legislation was flying but nothing was settled), so I felt no reason to not offer gay wedding planning services in addition to everything else we do. Fine, call them commitment ceremonies if you prefer. Whatever.
There was a minister-in-a-can working the island at the time who cautioned me that IF anyone on this predominantly Catholic island found out we were performing commitment ceremonies, we would be harassed, threatened, and even – swear to God she said this – somebody would poison our dog. What??? Fortunately, she’s no longer a part of the wedding industry here because she obviously was clueless and biased about performing gay weddings. We don’t need anybody like that on Vieques.
Now Weddings in Vieques has been executing flawless gay and straight weddings for almost seven years. Our staff is mostly straight and we love our gay clients because, usually, they’re a lot of fun. The Catholics on the island aren’t protesting and if anybody has a problem with it, I supposed they should have spoken up by now. We featured a gay wedding on TLC’s “Wedding Island” performed here on Vieques and all I got from that was great feedback about the open attitudes on the island. I did a wedding for gay active duty military police in uniform on one of our beaches. The municipality of the island supports our business and television show, we pay our taxes, and I have never had an unkind word said to me by any Puerto Rican about whether or not we do gay weddings.
Dwayne and Rodney Byrum were married on 12-12-12 on TLC’s
“Wedding Island” by Sandy Malone, owner of Weddings in Vieques
I’ve had a blog here on Purple Unions for several years, and while I try to blog about mostly “gay” topics, I share anything that will be useful to brides and grooms regardless of sexual preference. We’ve maintained excellent relationships with the vast majority of our gay clients and they give me half of my blog ideas. I claimed the self-appointed title of “Queen of Gay Wediquette” a long time ago because no other reputable wedding planner was willing to step up to the plate and advise these lesbian brides and gay grooms about how to navigate the sometimes tricky waters of a gay wedding festivities. So I volunteered because I have to do it on a regular basis. That makes me an authority if there’s nobody else who has done it more and wants to weigh in. I’m all up for learning something new.
End of day – gay couples often need more advice about how to handle the finer points of getting the ceremony to flow smoothly, etc. so that it doesn’t look like the hokey pokey up on the altar. I’m happy to provide it – especially to my clients. They have other questions about how to handle “traditions” in a way where they won’t offend anyone but don’t feel cheated. I help navigate those waters too. My job is to plan the perfect wedding for every client, and if that means helping you figure out what to do about being gay and still having all the bells and whistles the way you want them, I’m up for it.
So I’ve gotta admit I was blown away this week by a Twitter attack from a website the purports to be a LGBT wedding directory. I’ll spare you the gory details but suffice to say we randomly tweeted my Pridezillas blog to them thinking their followers might be interested, and the owner responded with a long-winded, many message discourse that would have been far more appropriate sent by direct message, or hey, wait – maybe via email if you’re interested in doing business with us. Somebody tweeting you a gay-relevant blog doesn’t mean we WANT anything from you. We just thought you might be interested. If you’re not, skip it. That’s what I do with junk I don’t want. But this person took the receipt of blog tweets as an indicator that I wanted to build a relationship. Okay, no problemo. But wouldn’t you send me a private message or an email? It’s not like my contact info is hard to find – I’m everywhere.
I had the misfortune of downloading the new iPhone update (against my will) the same day and instead of “replying” to this person’s tweets, I hit retweet instead on the first two messages. I felt stupid, but I realized the conversation wouldn’t make sense to anybody unless I RTd the other three messages she sent – so I did. Wow. Huge mistake. I received a public nasty-gram from her asking me why I was retweeting. Rather than explain the error had been hers initially (who talks biz via Tweet – we’re not Real Housewives), I simply apologized – via tweet – and that started a huge nasty Twitter war where this woman who claims to be a NOH8 advocate spent literally hours attacking me, totally unprovoked. She accused me of not doing my own tweeting. She attacked my weight, my professionalism, and my commitment to gay marriage equality. Apparently my company isn’t gay enough and my views aren’t gay enough to satisfy her. Really? REALLY?
Now we all know I won that argument the minute she attacked my weight – if you have to talk about appearance, you don’t have anything else bad to say about me. But it didn’t save me trauma of reading through tons of horrifically mean tweets that I can only assume some of her followers were reading too. Then to add icing to the cake, she proceeded to email websites on our island about me, mistakenly assuming that I own all the websites on Vieques Island. I don’t – I own mine. The webmasters kindly forwarded her messages to me. Thanks guys!
This person accused me of not supporting gay rights and marriage equality, she said I’m not a real writer (cited Huffington Post as example of something that isn’t considered “published” – I refrained from replying I’m a former Wall Street Journal columnist too because I was done with the war by then) and repeatedly bragged she has five degrees. Felicidades.
The nastygrams really angered some of my dedicated former clients (the Weddings in Vieques gay mafia… not limited to alumni, just fyi if you want to join) and some very REAL wedding clients of mine started tweeting her back correcting her false statements and citing #NOH8. Her response was to literally start threatening me, repeatedly. I wasn’t participating, just sitting back and watching the war unfold… but she continued to threaten me in response to other people defending me as a NOH8 advocate… and I quote here:
@SandyMalone_ and if you FUCK with me I will CRUSH you. Maybe not tonight. Maybe not this year. But I don’t forget. So? Best to you. BYE!
When a long-time gay friend and client who I actually performed the marriage of on “Wedding Island” (see pic above – Twitter @Dwayne420) fought back and pointed out that I have a long history (well before wedding planning) of supporting gay rights, she got gross and accused him of having a “creepy” relationship with me. Wow. Somebody is off her rocker. But the really sad thing is that she has a NOH8 picture up as her profile photo on Twitter. She’s gotta be one of the biggest, nastiest, haters I’ve ever met. I woke up to more crazy-ass tweets from her than you can even imagine… oh, and the emails she’d sent to all our local websites. Sigh.
So who is this person? I’ve never heard of her, and she doesn’t know me or she wouldn’t have said the untrue things she said (she made herself look stupid – my bios are available in a number of places). The gay mafia started digging since I was in the middle of a bride’s arrival on the island. Turns out, little Miss Nasty is a straight married woman who runs a mostly paid-advertising, gay wedding directory and her husband appears to be a wedding DJ. No, seriously. But because she’s got this website up that says she’s gay friendly, she’s got about 20,000 followers who read the stuff she writes. And she doesn’t write much – she mostly reposts news. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But she decided to trash me because we tweeted a blog to her that we thought her followers (assuming they’re real) might have an interest in. She took that to be an invitation to do business and build a relationship and because I didn’t respond quickly, she freaked. Big time. Reality check, I’m in the middle of a stretch of three weddings… even if she’d emailed me, I’d have had to get back to her next week unless her hair is on fire and she’s standing on my front porch. Priorities. Clients first. But I digress.
I love the NOH8 message. I love the whole NOH8 campaign. But I’m pretty sure that the architects of NOH8 meant for it to go both ways. And they certainly didn’t mean for vendors who serve the gay community to start bashing each other and using NOH8 as a weapon. I’m disgusted. If you are somebody who plans gay and straight weddings, or purports to be a directory of those vendors, you should practice what you preach with the NOH8 message. That means don’t be a mean, hateful person towards any sexual preference – gay, lesbian, straight, bi, trans or whatever. It would be hateful to tell a gay man who watches football he wasn’t “gay enough” or to call a straight man who wears pink he dresses like a “fag,” right? So how can anybody who says she is a LGBT supporter and vendor directory decide to start publicly attacking somebody else for being… I don’t even know how to characterize what she called me – not gay friendly enough? Poorly gay educated? Fat and on TV – comments about my weight are true and yes, I have a television show. But it was rude and completely irrelevant to her insane attack anyway. There’s that NOH8 logo staring at me from these totally malicious, hateful tweets. So nice to wake up to.
A word to the wise: Don’t believe that every vendor out there claiming to be LGBT is really a staunch supporter of gay rights, or even a real business directory or vendor. Do your homework. It didn’t take us long to figure out that “Sybil”, as one of my alum clients following the tweets nicknamed her when she was psycho-tweeting all night long, is nobody but a hater with a fake profile pic of NOH8. She’s not the only one out there. I always warn clients to avoid anybody to claims to be all things to all people – do your homework, check with references and don’t believe everything (or most of) what you read on social media or even company websites til you verify the source. I let my feelings get hurt, or my “knickers in a bunch,” for my British fans, for literally no reason at all. Lesson learned.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!
Sandy Malone, wedding planner (gay and straight) and serious marriage equality supporter.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. She is also the star of TLC’s reality wedding show “Wedding Island,” . Sandy and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings in the Spanish Virgin Islands. Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events. She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004. Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas. She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada. Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island), Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm), and Boutique in Vieques (a clothing and home décor shop). Sandy has a regular column on the Huffington Post and has been rated “Five Rainbows” by her happy gay clients! Follow Sandy on Twitter @SandyMalone_ and @WeddingsinVQS and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SandyMaloneWIV.