In ‘Apocalyptic Times,’ Marching Forward Together
While dancing around a bonfire to the rhythms of a drum circle in May 2013, Melody Christine Dankemeyer, who goes by the name Melody Sage, felt “a tingling rush of energy” course through her body.
It was at that moment when she turned around and caught sight of Rosco Kickingstone Siragusa, who goes by Rosco Kickingstone.
The two introduced themselves, but Ms. Sage could only manage a short conversation with Mr. Kickingstone before she danced away. “I was overwhelmed,” she said, describing the sensation as “such a strong feeling that I had never experienced.”
The day after the bonfire, their paths crossed again. Ms. Sage said that Mr. Kickingstone, who had jumped out of a tree and broke his foot just hours before they met, was not difficult to track down.
“I joke that he was easy prey,” she said.
Their second conversation lasted a lot longer. She told him about her pirate radio show, Chicas Unidas, which featured female guests discussing a range of issues. He talked about his participation in groups including Food Not Bombs, which distributes free vegan and vegetarian meals, and the Occupy Movement born from the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protest in Lower Manhattan.
From then they spent most of the festival in each other’s company, with Ms. Sage often procuring meals for an injured Mr. Kickingstone. Activism, each learned, was not their only common bond.
As teenagers, both had come out as queer — Ms. Sage, who grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., at 18 years old and Mr. Kickingstone, who was raised in San Diego, at 15. Four years later, at 19, Mr. Kickingstone, whose mixed ancestry includes Indigenous American and Mexican roots, came out as a transgender man.
“Coming out so young” helped both learn “to live and be comfortable with ourselves,” said Mr. Kickingstone, who also identifies as Two Spirit, a term that refers to gender non-conforming Indigenous Americans.
Before the end of their week in Oregon, Ms. Sage had initiated their first kiss.
After the festival, they parted ways. Ms. Sage, now 34, was at the time living in Santa Cruz, and Mr. Kickingstone, now 36, in Seattle. But a few weeks later, Ms. Sage traveled to Seattle to visit another friend and ended up staying with Mr. Kickingstone for two weeks. On that trip, they sang a lot of karaoke and she accompanied him to a 30th birthday party for his sister.
Not long after Ms. Sage left Seattle, Mr. Kickingstone visited her in Santa Cruz, in June 2013. While there, they went to the San Francisco Pride celebration, during which they participated in the Trans March supporting the transgender community, an annual event they have since attended regularly.
Though they saw other people in the months that followed, the two continued to grow closer, keeping in touch by phone and via text message, and visiting one another when they could.
“We were so much on the same wavelength, spiritually, emotionally and physically,” Mr. Kickingstone said.
That December, the pair went to Mexico, where they spent a month backpacking in Chiapas and Oaxaca. By the end of the trip, Mr. Kickingstone was ready to take the next step with Ms. Sage.
She, however, felt conflicted. “I’ve always been a bit of a love skeptic,” Ms. Sage said. “Very few relationships of the people in my life have been long-lasting, except for my grandparents.”
In February 2014, Ms. Sage, a graduate of Mills College in Oakland, Calif., moved back to that city to attend a manicuring program at the International College of Cosmetology. When Mr. Kickingstone broached the subject of moving there himself, she at first was skittish, telling him she didn’t want to be the only reason for his move.
He assured her she wasn’t. “I wanted to be around more people of color and radical queer people,” Mr. Kickingstone recalled telling Ms. Sage.
That April he moved to Oakland, into a house with nine roommates — one of whom was Ms. Sage, who found out he was moving in when other housemates told her Mr. Kickingstone was their preferred candidate. (He applied for the room via Craigslist not knowing it was in the house where she lived.) Three months later, ahead of construction on the property, Mr. Kickingstone moved out and into another house.
Once living in the same city, he and Ms. Sage decided to stop seeing other people. They remained monogamous for the next year and a half, before opening up their relationship again in October 2015. Their period of monogamy was a way for the two, who had both previously been in polyamorous relationships, to “establish trust,” Mr. Kickingstone said.
“As someone who’s really flirtatious and had hurt people in the past,” Ms. Sage said, “I didn’t want to hurt him, as I loved him so much.”
That December, they moved into a new place in Oakland together. Ms. Sage, who holds a license from the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, is now a nail artist at Fig & Clover, a local salon. Mr. Kickingstone works as a manufacturing technician at Slingshot Biosciences in Emeryville, Calif.
In the early years of their relationship, neither had much of an interest in marriage. Mr. Kickingstone’s parents divorced soon after he was born, Ms. Sage’s parents were never married and both said the Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage didn’t feel particularly relevant to them.
“This system has never served us,” Ms. Sage said. “We queer people have never been seen as fully human.”
As their romance developed, though, Mr. Kickingstone became more convinced that what they had found was worth celebrating.
“We have to build our own families, often because our own don’t accept us or are just not emotionally available to be the support we need,” he said. “I always wanted a primary partner to maybe build a family with, even though I don’t agree with the whole marriage system, and Melody is my person.”
But when he shared his thoughts about their future with Ms. Sage after her 30th birthday in 2018, she balked. Throwing herself a party that year had been overwhelming enough. “Bring it up in another two or three years,” she recalled telling him.
He didn’t have to wait that long. In 2019, while the couple helped Ms. Sage’s family plan an 80th birthday party for her maternal grandmother that March, she came around to the idea of marrying Mr. Kickingstone.
As Ms. Sage put it, “The world is so turbulent and full of grief and sadness. That Rosco and I can hold and process that together, but also have so much joy together and laugh every day and be able to grow together and make space for each other, is really special.”
Two months later, in May 2019, Mr. Kickingstone proposed while the two were on vacation in Hawaii. In thinking about an engagement, he said that presenting Ms. Sage with a ring as part of a traditional proposal was important to him.
“To have found love and made it into our 30s is kind of a big deal,” Mr. Kickingstone said. “So many trans people don’t make it that far. People outside the queer community don’t really understand the daily struggle to live in this world that is actively trying to kill you or take your rights away.”
After some initial delays caused by the pandemic, they began to plan a wedding — or “celebration of love,” as they called it.
At first, the event was only going to be a symbolic union. But as it neared, the couple decided to incorporate a legal ceremony for purely practical reasons: So Ms. Sage could become entitled to the health benefits offered by Mr. Kickingstone’s job, and so she could make his doctor’s appointments for him.
On June 18, the couple held a symbolic ceremony at Fern Cottage on the grounds of the Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area, in El Sobrante, Calif. Led by a friend, it included a blessing with crystals and the pagan ritual of invoking the four elements: earth, air, fire and water.
At a reception that followed, they and 50 guests sang karaoke and enjoyed salads and agua fresca from Understory Oakland, a worker-led kitchen and restaurant, along with a spread of charcuterie and cheeses.
Less than a week later, on June 24, the two were married at the Helen Diller Playground in San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Park, just before the Trans March kicked off as part of the city’s 2022 Pride celebration. Annie-Rose London, a friend of the couple and a Universal Life minister, officiated.
Both Mr. Kickingstone and Ms. Sage wore white denim vests customized with gold studs, rhinestones and rainbow-colored patterns on the back. He paired his with a fedora and matching white jeans; she paired hers with a white bathing suit, a pink tulle skirt, pink knee socks, platform sneakers and a veil.
Ahead of the ceremony, Ms. London acknowledged the Indigenous Ohlone people — the first inhabitants of the land now known as the Bay Area — before reminding the roughly 30 friends of the couple in attendance of the reason they had gathered that day: So Ms. Sage could get Mr. Kickingstone’s health insurance.
In her remarks, their officiant recognized that Mr. Kickingstone and Ms. Sage were exercising their right to marriage on the same day that the Supreme Court revoked another long-held liberty, the right to abortion, by issuing its decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.
“It’s an honor to show up for love and pride even though you have a broken heart over a million different reasons,” Ms. London said.
The couple then climbed to the top of an extra-wide slide, where two witnesses signed their marriage license using the newlyweds’ backs as hard surfaces. Mr. Kickingstone and Ms. Sage then slid down as their friends waved ribbon wands on either side of them.
“Melody is the one I want to be with in these apocalyptic times,” Mr. Kickingstone said. “I love her with every thread of my being.”
On This Day
When June 24, 2022
Where Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco.
Undress Code Attendees of the couple’s legal ceremony dressed more for the occasion of Pride than their wedding. One friend showed up in a leather harness with rainbow-sticker-covered nipples, and another in red boxer briefs.
Post-Marriage March Following their nuptials, Mr. Kickingstone and Ms. Sage, who was holding an umbrella that said “Just Married,” walked in the Trans March, earning congratulations from fellow participants who included one of Ms. Sage’s former professors.