GALAEI: A Queer Latin@ Social Justice Movement executive director Elicia Gonzales proposed to her partner of one year, Megan Hannah, during GALAEI’s parade performance in front of Independence Hall — ultimately stealing the show and coincidentally helping GALAEI win the title of Best Nonprofit at the parade.
It was at Pride 2013 when Gonzales, 39, and Hannah, 30, decided to take their long-term friendship to the next level.
“It was crazy. We both were at Woody’s and we‘ve been there before and have gone out dancing but something was in the air that night,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales added that the transition from friendship to relationship was effortless.
“The thing we kept saying is, it is weird that this is not weird,” she said. “It was an easy and organic transition.”
The pair met several years ago while both were working at Congreso.
Hannah said the two hit it off from the start.
“We shared similar interests and shared the same beliefs and compassions for the kids we served,” she said. “We had such a great time together just as friends.”
Gonzales, however, said she was a bit intimidated by Hannah’s “Philly” tough attitude.
“She is like Philly through and through but I soon realized that was for show. She is the kindest, sweetest person I know,” she said.
They remained close over the years, building a foundation of friendship — something Hannah said has helped make their current relationship stronger.
“There is just an undeniable chemistry there. We didn’t know it was there for the seven or so years we were friends but Pride last year unleashed it all,” she said. “We have fun together, we can be silly and serious and there are no secrets. What I love about her is she is just a pure soul and down to earth.”
Gonzales and Hannah had talked about marriage a few months after their relationship. The conversations evolved into a humorous competition over who would propose first.
“In my mind, I wanted to be the one to ask first and I was getting some beautiful suggestions from people on how to propose but none of them seemed to fit us,” Gonzales said. “Then I had the idea that Pride is our anniversary and we would both be there and GALAEI will be walking in the parade. I knew it would capture her off guard.”
Gonzales said GALAEI co-worker Nikki Lopez helped with the planning, and she also got permission from Philly Pride Presents executive director Fanny Price, but few others knew about the surprise proposal until it happened.
Despite being prepared, Gonzales she was still nervous for the moment.
“I was surprisingly calm throughout most of the day but I didn’t start getting nervous until we turned at Seventh and Market streets and my heart started to race because I could feel the moment coming,” she said. “When I got down on one knee, I was trembling and afterwards Megan commented on how shaky my hands were and that she had never seen me like that before. But the excitement overshadowed the nervousness.”
Hannah said Gonzales pulled the surprise off.
“I was elated,” added Hannah. “We had talked about it for a while and we went back and forth to see who got to be the first one. Obviously she takes the win for this one.”
Hannah said the proposal’s timing could not be any better, coinciding with their anniversary and the recent victory for marriage equality in Pennsylvania.
“All of those things put together make it a magical moment,” she said. “We were pumped up for the weekend in general because it is our one-year anniversary together and with love winning obviously it is great because our marriage can be official and we don’t have to put any other names on it.”
Gonzales has, however, jokingly started referring to Hannah as her “booyance” — due to the pair’s knack for calling each other their “boos.”
The couple said friends and family have been joyous about the engagement. They haven’t set a date but know they want to get married on the beach.
Gonzales said the thrill of their Pride engagement embodies who the couple is, and the future they plan to have together.
“Megan isn’t someone who tries to change who I am or censor me or take some of the zest out. She encourages me to be me. We have the same philosophy about living life to the fullest. We are always having adventures and being silly and goofy,” she said. “Once you are looking at the world in the same view, it seems less scary and more clear. With her, there is nothing we can’t do or achieve and it doesn’t have to be hard to be real. It is just simple and enjoyable and we are simple with each other.”