On the final weekend of 2019, Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris of the US Women’s National Team got married. TO EACH OTHER. This was the lesbian sports social event of the decade, and teammates like Crystal Dunn and Megan Rapinoe and family members like Ali’s brother Kyle—as well as the two brides themselves—did the rest of us a solid by sharing bits and pieces on social media.
Like many lesbian soccer fans (possibly even some of you…?), I spent the evening refreshing the #KrashlynWedding and #TheOtherRoyalWedding tags on Instagram and Twitter and sharing the fun updates with my wife and daughters. Our girls were especially impressed by the rainbow cake the newlyweds shared, even as I waxed on about the growth of LGBTQ+ rights in America in general and in the lesbian sports world in particular, as evidenced by this beautiful wedding attended by many members of the USWNT past and present.
One of my favorite tweets came from WoSo fan @thrace (rainbow gradient mine):
Not only were the brides, the cake, and many of the attendees of the rainbow variety, the reception tables were named after LGBTQ+ trailblazers like Sally Ride, Marsha P. Johnson, Billie Jean King, and Ellen DeGeneres, among others. Ali and Ashlyn, who have been together nearly a decade but only officially came out after their engagement last year, danced proudly and kissed openly on the social media feeds of their friends and family members while a production crew from Timeline Video Productions recorded their every move. Ali’s brother Kyle is a gay influencer, and he also recorded a vlog of the day’s events. Both videos are embedded at the bottom of this post for your queer viewing enjoyment.
So why am I writing a post about the Harris-Krieger wedding? Because it was more than just “catnip for queer fans,” as Christina Cauterucci writes in Slate. I mean, it was that too, obviously. But to witness queer sports icons so willing to share their happiness with the world, a healthy lesbian relationship on display for all to see, the abundant love and support of the couple’s family and friends in a country currently led by the bigoted head of a political party that celebrates white supremacists, rapists, queer bashers, and pedophiles—all of these things feel like the perfect counterpoint to the GOP’s cynical, decades-long attack on LGBTQ+ Americans from atop their hypocritical “family values” platform. This super gay same-sex wedding between teammates from the world’s number one women’s soccer team happened at the very end of a decade that permanently changed the conversation around queer love in America, and the joy of everyone involved in Ali and Ashlyn’s big day was real and visible. That shit is inspiring not just to young LGBTQ+ people but to us older ones, too.
As Kyle, Ali’s brother, pointed out in his wedding toast, queer representation in the media is still a mixed bag with mostly unhappy endings. But in the Krieger-Harris wedding, LGBTQ+ fans of the beautiful game got to see a real-life happy ending between two world-class athletes. For sporty lesbian types, this wedding wasn’t mere catnip and it wasn’t simply an inspiration. It was also a compelling portrait of hope, pride, and unapologetic joy.
We don’t get to see many fairy tales that feature members of our community experiencing love and affirmation. Instead, we are supposed to feel fortunate to be gifted with novels and films that are “poignant” and “bittersweet,” with mostly unhappy endings that critics laud as both realistic and “inevitable.” In my own writing, I try to interrogate those underlying cultural assumptions that same-sex relationships—especially the ones between women—must end badly on screen, on the page, and in real life. There is so much evidence to the contrary, even for relationships that have long been hidden: Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, AKA the Ladies of Llangollen; Anne Lister and Ann Walker; Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas; and Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer. Even Ellen and Portia have been married for twelve years, and those are just the famous unions! What about the long-term lesbian relationships no one had ever heard of until recently, like Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake?
Autostraddle has an awesome article titled “16 Lesbian Power Couples From History Who Got Shit Done, Together” that is chock full of women you’ve never heard of and some you have. Or, at least, some that I as a women’s history major at a women’s college definitely learned about. The point is, these are the relationships I want to read about, not the doomed lesbian romances depicted in uber-depressing novels like The Friendly Young Ladies or The Well of Loneliness. I want to watch on-screen love stories with happy endings like Saving Face and Kiss Me, Carol and But I’m a Cheerleader, not the ones with tragic conclusions like Lost & Delirious, High Art, A Perfect Ending, or even Loving Annabelle minus the alternate ending. (Does anyone else pause Loving Annabelle just before the sad ending, return to the menu, and select the alternate happy-ish ending to watch all while pretending the switch is seamless? Or is that just me…?)
I’m not claiming that all lesbian relationships end happily. As a 48-year-old queer person, I am well aware that just like straight relationships, LGBTQ+ unions often struggle. Marriage is difficult, and even as adults, we grow and change at different rates, which means we sometimes outgrow even what might start out as the happiest of unions. What I am saying is that not all lesbian relationships end badly, despite the messages of disaster our patriarchal culture habitually serves up. The Krashlyn wedding, with its individual parts live-streamed on social media and the entire event offered up later as a professionally produced video, serves as a valuable contrast to the consistently negative, homophobic and misogynist narratives that historians, novelists, and filmmakers alike have long produced. It’s a fairy tale ending, but at the same time, we know that it isn’t a fairy tale at all.
Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris are real people, gifted athletes who have dedicated their professional lives to playing for club and country, their personal lives to a relationship that society in general—and sports fans in particular—don’t always tolerate. Their marriage isn’t an ending, either; it’s the beginning of the next stage of their already long-term relationship, one they’ve graciously opted to share with the public in the hopes of positively impacting queer youth.
The challenges Krieger and Harris have faced as queer professional athletes—spending long periods of time apart; dodging fans and media desperate for information about their private lives; trying to decide whether or not to come out publicly—provide interesting fodder for fiction. At least, that belief is what inspired me to create Emma Blakeley and Jamie Maxwell, the main characters in my Girls of Summer series and the two halves of #Blakewell. The series was actually inspired years ago by the rumors I heard about a possible real-life romance on the USWNT. The idea of two gay-leaning female soccer stars falling in love against the backdrop of professional women’s soccer made my lesbian, soccer-loving writer’s brain light up, and down the rabbit hole I fell.
Five books later, I’m still falling. The Equal Pay battle at the top level, the struggles to establish the NWSL, and of course the sports drama of losing badly in the Olympics only to (spoiler alert) become the only women’s team in history to win back-to-back World Cups—these external events provide a vivid, intense setting where Emma and Jamie can thrive (or struggle) both personally and professionally, together and apart. So while I thought book 5 might round out the series nicely, I am now finding that as long as readers show an interest, I still want to write about Jamie and Emma. I love soccer, I love these characters, and I love writing about strong female athletes who celebrate incredible accomplishments and persevere through personal and professional struggles—almost as much as I love writing about (and reading about, and watching on screen) happy endings that aren’t really endings at all.
After Kris and I got married 15 years ago, we said to each other and to anyone who asked (and many who didn’t), “What a perfect day our wedding was! We had everyone we loved around us in one place pledging their love and support of our relationship, and it was LEGAL.” That kind of celebration and affirmation is life-changing—especially for queer people who have traditionally been denied access to the privileged institution of marriage.
In her first interview back at USWNT camp a week after the wedding, Krieger said similar things: “It was amazing! It was the best day of my life, and it was an incredibly magic day. All our friends and family and obviously our close teammates were there… It was a huge celebration, and we were so happy that I just want to do it all over again.”
Hear, hear—and congratulations to the happy, badass, trailblazing couple!
Kyle Krieger’s vlog
Timeline Video Productions official wedding feature