I was wearing my orange jumpsuit with black tennis shoes on my wedding day. And I was not able to kiss my wife.
We got married in San Francisco County Jail on Aug. 19, 2008. I remember it like it was yesterday. The jail staff told me this was the first time a same-sex marriage happened there. I was so scared and nervous.
I signed the marriage license papers in front of the notary lady from the bail bonds place across the street. My wife-to-be, Shayonna, wasn’t allowed upstairs, so we signed it separately. After that, a guard took me into this little room where Shayonna was waiting. She looked so pretty. Her hair was in this little cute bun with a ponytail. She had braids and little spikes coming out of the bun. She was wearing a silver skirt with a champagne-colored shirt and orange shoes. The only thing I could do special was my hair — I put a little ponytail at the top of my single braids.
We said our vows, and I cried like a big baby, because I couldn’t believe I was really getting married to this beautiful woman. We both said “I do,” and then we took a picture. We were about to touch each other — but the guard said we couldn’t.
It was very hard for me to say “I do” and not kiss the love of my life. She had to walk out first and then they let me walk out. I was singing “Ready for Love” by India Arie.
I proposed to Shayonna soon after I landed in jail. I told her, “Now is a good time for us to get married, because we might not be able to get married when I get out of jail because same-sex marriage might not be allowed in California anymore.”
She said yes.
The first pastor we found said he couldn’t marry us when he found out I was a woman. But we eventually found one.
After we were married, everybody, both the guards and the inmates, were like, “Oh congratulations!”
“I’m so happy!” I replied to everybody. And I cried out, “I’m married!”
Then I went to my bunk and cried myself to sleep because I was so sad I wasn’t able to touch her or kiss her. I had friends who got married to someone of the opposite sex in the same county jail, and they had been allowed to kiss. We assumed that the same thing would go for us.
The next day all of my friends in county jail gave me a little wedding reception during free time. They made me a cake out of honey buns with Snickers melted on it. We had burritos with noodles and chicken, beef jerky sticks, cheese puffs and club crackers. We bought most of the food from the canteen, but saved the chicken pieces from our trays the night before. Then they made me a card that everybody in the whole D-pod signed.
I first met Shayonna in front of my house in April 2008. I saw a pretty dark-skinned purple- and black-haired girl sitting in a car right by the house with another girl I knew from the neighborhood who worked as a prostitute. I thought this girl did the same thing, but I still wanted to meet her. Later, I found out that she worked as a certified nurse assistant. She wasn’t involved in the street life.
At this time I was making fast money selling large quantities of dope (crack). I was also doing powder (cocaine). My grandmother had suspected I was gay and kicked me out, so I was paying my rent and making my money through dope. I couldn’t get a regular job because I was a felon, so I just gave up. (I got the felony in 2004 for selling crack.)
Soon after I met Shayonna, I realized that I was in love, and I stopped smoking weed and doing powder.
She took me to my first gay club. She thought I couldn’t dance, but I went crazy on the dance floor. I think that made her like me more. I knew a lot of people at the club, and I introduced Shayonna to them as my wife. She felt like wife material to me. She was already more to me than what my other girlfriends had been.
I was still selling dope every day, although I was slowing down a bit because she started feeding me and telling me to stay home. The police finally got on me in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. I called Shayonna and told her I was going to jail. I told her, “If you don’t want to be with me, I understand because I’m about to either go to prison or I’m going to get a county year.”
She told me that she was very much in love with me and she was not going to give up on us so fast. When my court date came up, the only person who came to court was Shayonna.
When they told me that they were going to give me a year for possession of crack cocaine, intent to sell and transportation, I almost died. Shayonna said, “Don’t worry, I’m going to be here for you every step of the way.” I called her every day when I was in jail, and she made sure she had money on my books and a phone that I could call collect.
I have been married now for a year and four months, and my life has changed a lot. Since getting out of jail I have not gone back to the street, and because I love my life today I haven’t touched powder.
My family thinks that Shayonna just controls me or something. But I think they just can’t accept the fact that I married a woman. I will always love my family; they are my family. But my wife has shown me the right way to live, and I love it. We have our ups and downs, but I know we are going to be together for a long time because we still talk every night as if we’d just met. I know I am part of the small exclusive group of people in California who have been able to marry someone of the same sex. Sometimes when my wife and I fight, I tell myself I need to stay and work it out, because I can’t get married to another woman. It makes me feel even more committed.
And when she kisses me, my heart still drops.