Barbara & Lea Acosta-Meshna
Editors’ Note: This story was written by Andrew Caplan in partnership with Equality Florida.
For the first time in Barbara Acosta-Meshna's life, she felt comfortable enough to walk into her boss’ office and say that her partner and significant other was a woman.
She had been unable to share with many of her coworkers that she was raising two boys with her wife of 26 years.
It was a conversation that might have not taken place if the freedom to marry had not come to Florida on Jan. 6.
“Getting married last year in New York changed everything about me,” Barbara said. “I never had pictures up. I never really confirmed who I was to anybody at work. Getting married woke me up. And then, Jan. 6th blew the cover off it.”
Working as a teacher, she kept her personal life private, skirting from conversations and questions, in fear of a students’ unhappy parents having issues with whom Barbara was outside the classroom.
Barbara, 56, said she thinks the length of her secret has taken its toll. Even though she still feels judged to this day, she believes that the issue is now more other people’s problem than actually hers.
Her wife, Lea Acosta-Meshna works as a practice manager for a dental group. Lea, 57, did not share the same issues at her workplace. Her coworkers were always eager to see the couple together.
However, the couple has faced challenges related to the acceptance of their relationship.
Upon dating Lea for one year, Barbara left her mother a letter detailing her love towards another woman. Her mother thought it was a phase and didn't recognize Barbara and Lea as a couple. The news caused a rift between Barbara and her mother.
It was not until Barbara’s father became sick that her mother came around and began talking to her again. Her father was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, a disease that significantly decreases one’s mental abilities. Knowing her mother couldn’t care for him on her own, Barbara and Lea decided to help out for the next eight years, until his death in 2001.
After the funeral, family members went back to their homes. The following day, Barbara’s mother suffered a heart attack and eight weeks later, she passed away also.
“At the end, when my parents died, I really do think my mother liked Lea better than me,” Barbara said. “It ended up being amazing because I would’ve never thought in a million years that my mother would accept me or Lea. It was one of the most amazing parts of our journey actually, seeing the transformation of my mother.”
The couple stressed their normalcy compared to any other married couple and just want the same rights given to straight couples, like insurance benefits and tax deductions. They were married on their 25th anniversary in Central Park in New York City and celebrated one year on Jan. 25, 2015.
“Love is not a feeling, it’s an action,” Barbara said. “Lea shows me every single day how much she loves me. In my opinion, you don’t really feel love, you might feel attracted to somebody, you might feel excited. But love is an action... And every day, by everything she does, she lets me know how much she appreciates and loves me and the life we have built.”