THEY HAVE TO SAY they met online – but the truth is, Lindsay and Crystal had noticed each other in the halls at work long before they exchanged the first message. It was only after non-stop chatting and texting that they realized that they were colleagues! Crystal admits she had eyed Lindsay in the halls quite a few times: “How many butches are there in the office?” she jokes while Lindsay shrugs. And Lindsay explains that she first noticed Crystal because of her tattoos.
Despite Crystal’s initial fear of taking the next step and formally meeting, they had their first date at a place that would become one of their favorites: the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. It was November, during their annual Zoolights. It was meant to be romantic – until Lindsay’s friend called with a crisis and they had to end the date early. Luckily, that didn’t deter Lindsay and Crystal’s relationship. They love to spend time fishing and camping (“We don’t rough it up!” admits Lindsay), and they like attending auctions and yard sales and hunting for antiques together. Separately, Lindsay loves to refinish wood and repurpose old furniture, while Crystal is an avid baker. (At this point in the interview, Crystal asks, “We don’t sound boring, do we?”)
They also both share a love for tattoos. Lindsay says, “I feel mine are a roadmap to my life; each one has a story.” Though Lindsay has been all over, she now has a “Ohio” tattoo because Ohio is now her home. She also got the word “liberty” tattooed the day DOMA was overturned.
After 10 months and much anticipation, Lindsay finally decided to pop the question. For the location, she chose to relive their first date at the Columbus Zoo. She repurposed an old piece of wood with the question: “BE MY FOREVER?” And thoughtfully, she decided to enlist the help of a professional photographer (me!) to capture the moment – and leave the sign in a place where Crystal would find it while casually exploring the Asia exhibit. Admittedly, Lindsay was nervous as it all went down, but played it off as being fidgety over low blood sugar. It almost backfired when Crystal insisted on getting Lindsay something to eat! But luckily, she stumbled upon the proposal sign first. Both Lindsay and Crystal later recall that neither of them said a word; Crystal read the sign and took the ring! And I greeted them after they had a moment to take it all in.
Crystal and Lindsay are now hard at work on two upcoming major life events – buying their first home and planning their wedding next fall. They hope to settle in a farm-style home with lots of land, and lots of space for refinishing wood and baking cakes!
“Columbus needs more teachers like Laurel”, says Julie, a chemist for the city of Columbus. “I’ve seen how her students react to her - it’s like a moth to a flame.” In fact, old students continue to keep in touch with Laurel long after they’ve graduated – even after they’ve returned from deployment in Afghanistan. And for the majority of her teaching years, Laurel has been out to her students, their parents and her colleagues.
And it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the fact that’s she’s gay. Not all of her students are gay, but all of them do a have a role model upon whom they can rely. Laurel has created a safe environment for her students in her classroom: a place where they can avoid being scared, bullied, or harassed. She stands up for students who may not fit in, for whatever reason, and she makes a difference in the lives of her students by simply being true to herself. She may not get paid enough to put up with the crazy antics of middle schoolers, but she doesn’t do it for the money, but as Julie explains, “she does it for the love of it.”
That’s not to say she hasn’t had parents knocking at her door asking, “where’s the gay teacher?” But once they give Laurel a moment to explain, they are won over. “I explain, I am who I am,” Laurel says. “I’m not going to hide who I am, because I want them to be who they are.” She stands up for others because she stands up for herself. “Once you explain that to them, they realize, ‘oh, you love my kid; okay.’”
Columbus Schools has also been supportive of her authenticity, as their nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation, and they provide same-sex benefits. The Teacher Union, also supportive, even marches at Pride with school’s Gay-Straight Alliance – also co-run by Laurel.
Laurel, originally from Cincinnati, came to Columbus seeking a teaching opportunity at a diverse school within an inclusive city. She and Julie met through their own children, when Julie’s ex moved into Laurel’s neighborhood in 2010. Together they’ve created a blended family, with Maddie, 9 and Grace, 7. “It’s cool because we’re the only blended family we know,
and stepfamilies in the gay community are especially rare,” says Laurel. “The kids can’t wait for us to get married so they
can be sisters!”
But for now, despite some discussions about running off to New York to get hitched, Laurel and Julie are holding off on getting married until the laws in Ohio change. “If it became legal, I’d drag her [Julie’s] ass downtown,” says Laurel with a laugh. “Quick, before someone appeals this!”
In the meantime, this fall, you can expect to see former students stopping her Clintonville home to say hello, or offering to help put together her classroom for the school year. Says Julie: “If every school had someone like Laurel, Columbus would
be a better place to go to school.”
Photos | Amy Tannenbaum
Couple | Family