The Courage to Love

By Marchel Alverson
The Courage to Love

In a scene in Shakespeare’s romantic play, Romeo and Juliet, Juliet takes her place atop the balcony and says, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Translation: A rose will always be a rose.  

More than a famous line, these words remind us that love can never be anything other than love, and it blooms inside our hearts, regardless of sexual orientation.

Such is the case with Annie Scholl and her partner, Michelle, and Rev. Ken Daigle and his partner, JD, two same-sex couples who keep spirituality and togetherness at their core.

Annie Scholl and Michelle
When Annie Scholl met her future partner, Michelle, she had no idea how much it would change her life. From the beginning, it was clear to her the universe had brought them together.

“At the time, I didn’t know we’d end up together, but there was such an intensity in our meeting that could not be ignored,” Annie said. “It was so clear we came together for a reason. When I met Michelle … being with Michelle … it feels so much more than intellectual or physical, it’s from the soul. There is something at work that’s at a much higher level.”

Annie, a freelance writer and photographer who often writes for Unity Magazine®, recently relocated to Brooklyn, New York to be with Michelle. The move to the Big Apple, with its bustling activity, has been an adjustment for Annie, who hails from a small city in Iowa.

This is Annie’s first full-fledged same-sex relationship. She was previously married twice to men—marriages she describes as “good.” Yet she always felt that something was missing from her life and she found that missing link in Michelle and a newfound awareness about herself and her sexuality.

“At first, I had this misconception that this relationship would be easier because we’re both women, but there are still dynamics that make it challenging,” said Annie. “But our deep commitment to each other keeps me from walking away when things become difficult. It’s so clear to me that we came together for a reason.”

Respecting Each Other
Annie describes the differences in their life together as “gee-golly” moments that involve gender stereotypes, such as who should hold the umbrella and protect the other from getting splashed while walking on the street—concerns that would seem irrelevant if she were with a man. “Most of our issues involve the kitchen. We don’t have the same tastes in food,” she said. “But, if I’m making soup, I’ll check with her before I go the store and buy the ingredients. I’m respectful of her, and this is much more of a partnership to me.

“I’m really committed to seeing myself clearly in this relationship. She holds a mirror up for me, and I hold one up for her. There is no blame, because we are so committed to getting to know one another and our being together is very important to the both of us,” she added.

Being together, however, sometimes presents challenges. Some of Annie’s family members struggle with the idea of her being in a same-sex relationship. Holding hands in certain places presents a safety issue, and then there are the looks from strangers. But Annie isn’t bothered by other people’s opinions—she’s past that point. “Sometimes, I want to hold her hand in a restaurant, and I will, because I’m no longer bothered by what other people are thinking,” she said. “It’s more important to me that Michelle and I get us versus the world getting us.”

The love Annie shares with Michelle is stronger than any other that she’s had in her life. It’s a love worth fighting for, and it’s changed her for the better.

“I finally feel like I’m living my authentic life,” said Annie. “Some people celebrate that, and some don’t. I’m okay with that. I feel safe with my heart in her hands. Someone once replied to a picture I posted of us on Facebook that they were seeing the ‘real Annie’ for the first time. Another friend said it looked as if I had found myself, and I guess I really have.”

Ken Daigle and JD
Not too many people can boast that they have three wedding anniversaries, Ken Daigle, lead minister at Unity of Fremont, and JD, a professor at Stanford, were first married in Canada in 2007. Once stateside, the couple held a celebration ceremony in front of friends and family in New Orleans that same year. They married again in October 2008, at Unity Palo Alto, after same-sex marriage briefly became legal in California.

For Ken, who grew up believing that marriage would never become an option, each ceremony—the rituals, tradition, and vows—exemplified his deep commitment to remain in the relationship and stay faithful in every sense of the word.

“I was ready, on so many levels, to make the commitment to marriage,” Ken said. “Although JD is the one who is better at remembering all of our anniversary dates.”

Though they started out as friends, Ken and JD were on the fast track to marriage once the romance blossomed. “The day we realized we were in love happened when JD was traveling overnight. He’d had a terrible flight and had to drive a rental car in order to be at his destination by the next morning. He called me and we talked for three hours. It was an endless conversation where we weren’t being anything other than present for each other. When JD accepted a job offer at Stanford, I knew I wanted to follow him,” said Ken, who is originally from New York City.

“Being intimately involved with another human being, it means you genuinely are invested in his care and support,” he added. “You only want the best for him and you extend yourself beyond what you think is possible so that he is more secure and fulfilled.”

Ken and JD make it a priority to spend time together despite the demands of their careers. Laughing tops their list of must-do’s. Every night they enjoy watching their favorite comedies. “Occasionally, when JD is gone, I will watch the same shows on TV, but I don’t laugh as often. We laugh more together,” he said.

Traveling and skiing are also high on the couple’s itinerary.  They keep an apartment in New York, where they see shows and dine with family and friends. Their deep spirituality binds them together in all aspects of their lives, and Spirit is what has helped them overcome any obstacles.

Common Denominators
Like any couple, Ken and JD faced financial issues early on, and they also had to deal with the lack of acceptance at that time. There was also the aspect of moving across the country.

“I think people have this perception that our relationship is somehow different from others, but it’s not in any way, shape, or form. The stereotype seems to be that things are better,” said Ken. “But the gender of parties in intimate relationships makes little difference. It’s more about how the personalities interact. There are common denominators in all of life’s challenges.”

A strong belief in oneness with God forms the center of Ken’s happiness with himself and his marriage. “In every one of my talks, I always point out that we’re all one. The things that separate us are artificial delineations. In Spirit, we are all one creation,” he said. “We all want to love and be loved, and having this relationship, this marriage, has freed me in innumerable ways to minister to other people, and to create a ministry of service."

“Having JD in my life has freed me to take risks, to stretch myself to be of service to the world in ways I don’t know if could do if I were alone,” Ken added. “It’s an immense blessing … our love, our commitment to each other serves so much more than us.”

Ken and JD are adding to their blessings by expanding their family. The couple is currently going through an open adoption process, and hopes to become parents of an infant within the next year. Ken is excited about the prospect of fatherhood.

Like a rose that blooms, their relationship is evidence that with the right tools and nurturing, love can only grow.