As happy an occasion as it is, the first birthday of your last baby is also filled with lots of sorrow and nostalgia. Of course I’m glad that we’ve made it through the first 365 days relatively unscathed, although his forehead has had more than his fair share of bruises now that he is cruising around the floor at a respectable pace.
I mean, I want him to develop normally, hitting all the milestones right on time with all the hoopla that comes along with them.
But as cliché as it sounds, it all goes so darn fast, and even faster when it’s your last time through the racecourse. As an example, I cannot believe my son is already in size 4 diapers. He went from N to 4 in the blink of an eye. At least I learned, and this took me three children to learn, to move up faster in diaper size than you think you need to, because before you know it the bodily waste is squirting out the sides and up the back at the worst possible time, like when you are in a rush or when you are far from home and forgot any change of clothes. I also now know that, except for maybe your first purchase of a larger diaper size, stick to small amounts (i.e. don’t buy the huge warehouse-size boxes) so you don’t get caught half way through your supply of diapers that are now too small but you use anyway because these rectangular absorbent things are expensive.
I’m also crying in my pillow about the loss of the use of formula. It says right on it “0 – 12 months” which couldn’t be much clearer. Stop using it! However, I’m stretching out my last couple of cans under the guise of “the transition”, which is the period of time where I feed him formula with increasing amounts of fat-free cow’s milk mixed in. I refuse to throw out even one scoop of this “gold powder”, which costs twice as much as anything I personally eat. And besides the money, I’m really going to miss the convenience of the powder. I just need water, which I always carry, and the powder, and he is fed. In just a few days it’s going to take a LOT more planning. And I know he is going to be a big eater. He has been watching his two older brothers devour food for a whole year, and the little food we have already fed him (a little bite here, a little nibble there) has been no problem for him.
The cute clothes are another thing. Even though I tried to weed out his brothers’ hand-me-downs, there were still some clothes that I never got to even try on him! The hand-me-downs I did get to use allowed me to relive the first years of my older sons – I could picture them in the Gap shirt and the cute overalls as if it were yesterday. Now I have a friend who is pregnant with her third son, so like a conveyor belt the clothes are going from my washer/dryer directly to her storage room, with little more than a tear or two from me.
Have you ever watched a parade, and then at the end of the parade the sanitation workers and the street sweepers are right on its tail, cleaning up to erase any sign that a parade (and the thousands of spectators) had just come by? Our house is starting to feel this way, and I can’t say I’m happy about it. Then again, just the other day my spouse made this statement as we watched our one-year old giggle and clap to music: “The three beautiful boys we have made it easy to imagine having a fourth one.”
Anyone have any newborn hand-me-downs?
By Rob Watson
I did not ask for it to happen. Through an ongoing set of circumstances this year, I was called upon to do something incredibly special. I was asked to officiate for a betrothed couple and marry them. This was an honor that I had not sought out, but the couple knew that I could speak well, write and had a strong sense of spiritual principles—so they asked. I eagerly accepted.
Then another couple asked. I again was thrilled, honored, and accepted. As I met with the two couples on their special days, I reflected back a year to a blog piece I had written about another wedding official, reverend Marian Hale.
Reverend Hale had shared a story with me of her first same gender couple back in the 1990s. This couple was different than the ones I was going to marry – they were marrying for love only, their wedding would bring no legal standing or protection whatsoever.
Reverend Hale felt protective of the couple even though they had acknowledged to her that some of the people in attendance looked on the event somewhat as a joke. They however did not. She was gratified that one of the groom’s parents had flown in specifically for the ceremony, but equally pained by the fact that the mother of the other groom, who lived across town, was specifically boycotting it. Marian fought the specter of rejection due to the absent mother, and worked to keep it from affecting the beauty of the day. Her goal was for her young couple to feel nothing but the love and adoration that was due them. To that end, she created a ceremony by which roses, for one groom, and lilies for the other, would be combined in a crystal vase signifying their union. This blend would be done by the families and friends in attendance.
As the ceremony progressed, Marian noticed the face of the father who had flown in. She could see that he had come as a matter of duty. He sat back gingerly toying with the rose. She could feel her heart sinking as she feared more parental rejection was in the making. Finally he stood and came to the front. As he placed the rose in the bowl, the full weight of what his son was doing hit him. He started to speak, and then weep as, for the first time, the love, respect and honor he felt for his son and his new son in law came spilling out. As the son hugged his tear stained Dad, Marian saw that the father had, in that moment, undergone the process of true acceptance. The spirit of the congregation welled up, and with honor and dignity, the couple was declared as one. They were no longer single, but a family. Reverend Hale observed, “The world had shifted. The words that came almost immediately are these: If that had been a heterosexual wedding at that day and time, there could be all kinds of reasons, agendas if you will, for this event to be taking place. There can be a baby on the way, pressure from the family, even pressure from the church. There can be tax reasons, other financial reasons – or even a Green Card! For this gay wedding, none of these agendas applied.”
The two weddings were different than Reverend Hale’s. These two were legal. The couple Reverend Hale married are likely parents now. The couples that I joined together had no intention of having children. One couple, who are of opposite gender, are looking forward to spending time with their grand children. The other couple, who are of the same gender, have a life of community, dogs and adventures. One couple went miles from home for their wedding venue, the other did it in their living room. One couple used candles and fire to symbolize unity, the other, like Reverend Hale’s couple, used flowers for the same symbolism. My opposite gender couple was similar to Reverend Hale’s couple—they had only known each other for over a year. My same sex couple had been together for twenty seven years. Three couples, so different in so many ways, but in reflecting on the three weddings, they seem almost identical.
They all shared a vision of family, love and community. They all shared a hope and a dream. They all shared the desire to be permitted to define themselves and not apologize to anyone for who they were, and who they would commit themselves to for life. As Reverend Hale stated, “It happened solely because two people wanted to stand side by side and be witnessed making a life commitment to one another, that was the only reason for it. It was, and is so clean, so pure, so simple.”
Weddings… amongst the chaos, the decisions, the pomp, the glory and the fun, they can all be seen that same way. It is so simple. It is love, it is life and we all need the freedom to live it.
Yes, we are two women and yes, we are getting married next year, legally even. So, just like most engaged couples planning their special event, we have a vision . . . a color pallet, an overall idea of what we want our wedding/reception to “feel” and look like. So why is it that most of the invitation designers I’ve seen online think every LGBT wedding’s theme is Gay Pride?
Our wedding colors are tangerine and malibu. That’s fancy talk for orange and blueish. We would like to incorporate our colors into our invitations, like most couples, and luckily, with editing and personalization we will be able to.
So then, what’s my beef? It’s that several companies have decided to be totally stereotypical. Let’s not design and market a bunch of same gender wedding invitations in lots of different colors, let’s sample most of them rainbow and then let’s keep all the other invitations sampled (that are shown in various colors because couples have different styles) strictly straight.
Where’s the rainbow invite for Ben and Tricia? No where to be found.
Where’s the rainbow or two bridal gown invitations for Erin and me? Everywhere. Is there an option with a bridal gown and a tuxedo with boobs because not all lesbian couples wear two dresses or even one.
Why not just market all invitations with various names and pictures? And while I’m on my equality soap box, where in the hell are all the sample photo invitations showcasing interracial couples and couples of color? I have seen the wedding invitation websites and it is WHITE washed, my friends.
Yes, I’m white, but I’m also armed with a set of eyes, a MA in multicultural education and a not so invisible knapsack.
Some may say that the lack of sample invitations with same gender names/photos is because “Gay Marriage” is so new. I call bullshit. If that was the case, then the invitation sites should be flooded with couples of color and interracial couples too. Even Justice Alito knows that the right to marry for people of color, to each other and interracially, is (in fact this time) older than cell phones and the web and catalogs should show as much.
I guess I should be happy in that most of the same gender invitations weren’t sampled as just taking place in the Castro. Baby steps.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Christopher: Well, Brent and I have been together for 14 years. I am a hair stylist at a local salon, and Brent works at a local car dealership. We are not married yet, but are planning a small ceremony next April, on our 15th anniversary.
We have an amazing 2-year-old daughter that we adopted through a local non-profit agency. We were lucky enough to be matched with a local birth mom, and were able to be present at her birth.
And I cannot leave out our parents and my sister and her family. They are incredibly supportive of our family, and there is no way we could survive without their support.
TNF: How did you meet?
Christopher: It’s kind of a cliche, but we met when we were both out with friends. We exchanged numbers that night, and then had our first date about three days later. And we’ve been basically inseparable since.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families?
Christopher: No, I don’t feel different from other families. We just look different, but we work to pay our bills, sit at the table for dinner, and battle bedtime stalling just like every other family that I know. Do I feel like we are held to a “higher standard parenting”?…now, that’s a horse of a different color. As an adoptive gay dad, I feel like I HAVE to be the perfect parent at all times. And I know that it’s totally in my head, and I have gotten better about ignoring it as our daughter continues to grow and surprise us every day.
TNF: Where do you live?
Christopher: We live in a small historic town in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.
TNF: Is it tough being gay where you live?
Christopher: That’s a loaded question…being that I have lived here my whole life, I would have to say “no” now. This area has changed significantly since I came out 16 years ago (at age 17). Being located only an hour or so from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD, has helped to evolve the acceptance level of the area. As a teenager, it was “hush hush” when it came to homosexuality, but nowadays I don’t think most people really care anymore. Now, would I walk down the street holding my fiancé’s hand? No! However, I don’t ever feel paranoid as we walk down the street with our daughter linking us as a family.
Do I feel accepted? …absolutely. But my job exposes me to many people in our community, and I try to be very active in the community. It is a rarity that I go anywhere without running into someone that I know.
TNF: What does having a family mean to you?
Christopher: It is the most exhaustingly fabulous feeling that a person can experience. I have always known I would have a family some day. Even when I came out, I never doubted it. Brent and I agreed early on in our relationship that a family was the ultimate goal. It’s about instilling the core values that my parents instilled in me. It’s about teaching a future adult self-respect, as well as respect for others.
Thank you Christopher and Brent for sharing your story. You have a beautiful family!
By John Jericiau
My spouse and I are coming up on ten awesome years together. We marked the calendar from our first date together: June 11th, 2004. Most of our hetero friends start the clock as of the date of their wedding, but since we weren’t afforded that opportunity until June 21st, 2008 (during a small window when California said we could before putting a stop to all but the first 18,000 gay couples who got hitched), we include the four years prior to our marriage in our calculations. For us I wouldn’t really call it a wedding, since as of yet we have not blurted the “’til death do us part” speech to each other in front of 200 of our closest friends and family at a fabulous venue as we stand ankle-deep in sand on a beautiful tropical beach. Instead I dragged him to the Los Angeles County Clerk’s office in beautiful downtown Norwalk, CA the night before his birthday with our two oldest sons, signed some legal documents, kissed on the lips in front of someone representing religion, and then continued on our way to Newport Beach to enjoy the night in a ritzy hotel.
The almost 10 years have been a whirlwind adventure to say the least. Starting a business together, more job responsibilities for him, the title of stay-at-home dad for me, and another son later, we’re about to start on the second decade of our relationship. It’s mind-boggling. It’s hard to believe. And it’s better than ever.
We have our moments, don’t get me wrong. A lot of them. At times I wonder if two men can actually cohabitate. But that’s the minority of the time. Most of the time it works, and I think it’s because we complement each other.
I say complement, not compliment, although for sure the one with an ‘i’ has helped us through some tough patches as well (do you know how sexy you look when you’re screaming at me?) What I’m really referring to is complement with an ‘e’, which in the dictionary means:
Something that completes, makes up a whole, or brings to perfection.
For us, it’s how the cool, detached man is attracted to the warm, outgoing one. It’s how the disciplined one admires the free spirit. The smart one is in awe of the even smarter one.
We even work well in the parenting department. Not so much as good cop/bad cop, but rather one of us is softer, more inclined to cuddle, and more freely says to the boys “I love you” just because, and uses “don’t worry, everything will work out” for almost any other reason. The other imparts wisdom and shares the tools needed to navigate this great big scary world. In sickness, one of us barely flinches until an offspring has over a 103-degree temperature or has bright red blood spurting out of a major artery. The other worries about the effect of our iPhones on their development, and seriously considers homeschooling a viable option for our boys (I can’t imagine it, although it sounds like it’s working for many families.)
Bottom line is it’s working. We are growing as people, as parents, and as a couple. And I cannot wait to report back in ten more years, because deep in my heart I know that everything will work out. I love you, babe.
By Rob Watson
Universal Studios Hollywood recently pulled the plug early on its Bill & Ted 2013 Halloween hijinks. The B&T shenanigans centered around a cliché-ridden, scantily clad “gay” Superman in numerous homophobia-inspiring situations. The show portrayed gay men as sexual predators and vapid hedonists and included maligning the married and revered out actor George Takei.
The blogger sphere spiked high as video and excerpts from the show spread. At first Universal benignly defended the show. Then they announced its demise.
Of course, the other shoe has to drop on that kind of resolution. Jamie Lee Curtis Taete, West-Coast editor at Vice, who broke the story and criticized the show, called the cancelation “a massive overreaction.”
Some actually talked themselves into thinking that the show was almost…pro-gay. Blogger Scott Weitz stated, “The proudly, openly gay members of the Bill & Ted cast never took offense … I attended this same Bill & Ted show in late September along with friends, some of whom are gay, and no one in our group found any offense in B&T’s over-the-top social satire.” On the GLAAD website a reader complained, “Whoever was offended by this show should go back into the closet they have no business being gay. Thanks for ruining my favorite part of Halloween,” to which Wilson Cruz, national spokesperson for GLAAD, wryly replied, “You’re welcome.”
For some, it brought out the “boogey man” they fear: the Big “PC,” Political Correctness, the talking point Fox News loves to hate the most.
The criticism of “political correctness” is rationalization for something offensive and an excuse not to care that the offense hurts someone else. “PC” might more accurately be known as “perspectives challenged.” Those who are bothered by doing the sensitive, right thing become downright cantankerous about it.
A commentator in the Los Angeles Times, calling himself Computer Forensics Expert, invoked it, “So, I guess Halloween is now subjected to ‘political correctness.’” Blogger Jim Hill complained, “It would really bother me if the politically correct—as part of some well-meaning effort to protect the feelings of the greater gay community —inadvertently wound up taking the edge off of two Halloween traditions.”
So were the criticisms of the show just silly hurt feelings, or were Bill & Ted really doing tangible harm? After all, the people who like campy things actually laughed at the characterizations.
As a parent, I took a degree of interest in this whole situation. My sons are approaching their teen years and being “cool” is important in their book. I try to stay abreast of what is “cool” even if it has the class of a fart joke and about as much intellectual capital. I worried about the “coolness quotient” of Universal Studio’s Bill & Ted show and its moronic satire. As a parent and a witness to what anti-LGBT sentiment causes, my “coolness” was frigid cold. I was not the least bit sorry to hear that the show was going away, so I decided to outline my thanks in an open letter to Larry Kurzwell, president of Universal Studios Hollywood.
Dear Mr. Kurzwell:
As the dad of 10- and 11-year-old boys, I want to thank Universal Studios Hollywood for ending this year’s run of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. I’m sure that this decision was not without its financial and public opinion costs.
For our family, we are glad not to have the image of LGBT people and of Superman melded into a clichéd-sex, wanton embarrassment. My sons were both babies in the foster care system and they appreciated T-shirts I gave them that read, “Superman had foster parents too.” For me, as a single, working, gay dad, I had my own Superman T-shirt. I wore it to bed so that when I got up the next morning and faced a day filled with more challenges than seemed humanly possible, I could look in the mirror and feel I was invincible.
Those who would tell you that canceling this show was a rash or bad decision will cite that you warned patrons. You told them that this was a show for “mature audiences.” Patrons could choose to censor simply by deciding not to purchase tickets.
But this situation is more complicated. Your show really was not for the “mature,” as these critics maintain. (It was Bill & Ted, after all, I mean…come on.) It was also not one that would affect only those who viewed it firsthand. The reaction to it would reverberate further into their world. It was marketed to and recommended for those “over 13 years old.” Believe me, this made it the hottest ticket in town for 12-year-olds.
Your target audience for this show was the exact demographic that currently perpetuates and is victimized by bullying. The homophobic humor and degradation would not be lost on them. They would delight in its irreverence, howl with their perceived superiority, and step out to mimic its spirit: to ridicule any and all people perceived to be gay.
The show fed into an already ripe bullying environment for teens, particularly LGBT teens. The website Bullyingstatistics.org describes that world: “30 percent of teenagers in the U.S. have been involved in bullying …Students who also fall into the gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgendered identity groups report being five times more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe… About 28 percent out of those groups feel forced to drop out of school altogether… Teens are still continuing to bully each other due to sexual orientation …Teens reported that the number two reason they are bullied is because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender expression…About 9 out of 10 LGBT teens have reported being bullied at school within the past year because of their sexual orientation… About 30 percent of all completed suicides have been related to sexual identity crisis.”
The spirit of this Bill & Ted edition easily accelerated the intensity of hatelike behavior targeting LGBT teens, which would expose them to greater depression and possible suicide. Your message through your action is clear—that such harassment is not acceptable.
For that, I thank you.
I hope too that those who mourn the loss of campy low-ball entertainment will come to forgive you and appreciate the greater good you enacted. If you erred, you did so on the side of kindness.
As Mark Twain said, “Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
A gay dad, living the real super man life
By Carol Rood
I have been healthy my entire life. I have never had a broken bone, and have only had the flu once that I remember. However, since I was pregnant when I had the flu that should count as if I had it 3 times. I mean really, it was pretty awful that as soon as I was done with the first trimester nausea, puking nonsense I came down with the flu so I was right back to puking. TOTALLY not fair…..
Seriously, being healthy is a good thing. Karol has many, many health problems she has had to deal with. She has had cervical cancer, eye surgery, surgery to put a prosthetic ear drum and ear bones in her right ear, a Radical hysterectomy, knee surgery, and since she had the hysterectomy she now has lymphadema in her right leg. Oh and lets not forget that fact that she has a brain tumor.
Not only have I always been mostly healthy throughout my life, I have also always had regular periods. Yes periods….I went there. Ladies, you know how important it is to have a regular menstrual cycle. To know when that crap is coming makes life so much easier. Being able to plan for the bloating, cramps, mess, etc is always a good thing. Although, that really makes me think that the whole thing really isn’t quite fair. I mean what do men have to deal with?
Women start out in their early teens dealing with a menstrual cycle, then we have to deal with birth control (which brings it’s own brand of bullshit into your life…weight gain, acne, etc etc), then we have babies if we choose and then deal with the physical aftermath of pregnancy, (which for most of us means weight gain and for those of us with c-sections flabby tummies for LIFE). THEN after childbirth and all the “loveliness” and the pain free experience of that (note the sarcasm), we go back to having our menstrual cycle on a monthly basis, and THEN, when you are in the middle age of your life, and you are through having babies, and by all rights you should just casually and calmly stop having your menstrual cycle, is that how it happens????
My friend Rikki gave me a birthday card with these ladies on it:
My new best friends!!! (thanks Rikki)
After a lifetime of dealing with bleeding on a monthly basis that also includes cramps, bloating, backaches and a million other kinds of nonsense, the Universe is kind enough to have women go through MENOPAUSE. Oh, but you don’t just get to “go into” menopause, nooooo, that would be too easy. Instead of gently just going into menopause, we have this whole period of “perimenopause”. Which in non-medical terms just means your body is going to mess with you and make your life even MORE complicated……. oh, and just to make it a little more interesting, this “perimenopause” can last up to 10 years!!
What a cruel joke!! And oh yeah, by the way, the Universe has a sense of humor, and likes to gain amusement at my expense, it isn’t enough that I have started down this slippery slope of perimenopause, nope, my body decided it was a good idea to start the crap the week I turned 46. Really??? Thanks!! Like I needed that not so gentle reminder I am aging….. NOT!!
I am telling you the truth when I say that unless I was pregnant my cycle has come EVERY 28 days. I was always one of those women who could circle the day on the calendar and KNOW when my cycle was going to start. A few months before before my 46th birthday (two years ago), my cycle was a couple of days early, then the next month a few days late, then I was right back on track. So I thought nothing of it.
THEN the month before my birthday, (September, 2011) I started getting the typical PMS symptoms. Bloating, water weight gain, tender breasts, some mild cramping. The day my cycle was due came….and went. Then it was day after day after day of waiting. Two weeks passed by and still no cycle. So I called a friend who is a couple of years older than me and has gone through this already to get some advice. And what did my wonderful compassionate, loving friend do? She laughed……..LOUDLY! To be honest, she was helpful, after she finished her cackling…
I decided I was not going to let this perimenopause stuff beat me, so I went to my local health food store and bought an herbal supplement that had the most milligrams of every herb I knew to be associated with menopause symptoms and plant hormone regulation and I found a bottle of pills called Mensosense that has Dong Quai, Black Cohosh, and Chaste Berry. After taking these every morning for a week I felt MUCH better, and lo and behold, my cycle started!! Coincidence? Magic?? Herbs?? Probably some of all three. Whatever, I started taking those magical beauties every day……..
In October 2011 after I had that horrible experience in September I had my annual physical. I love my doctor. She is amazing. I told her what I was going through and asked for advice. Did I mention I love my doctor?? Her answer to me was, “Every woman is different, perimenopause can last up to 10 years, and you just have to be prepared for the unpredictability. Carry an extra pair of underwear and all the feminine hygiene products you will need in case of a surprise.”
Wait, that’s it??? All medical science has to offer is “carry extra undies, pads and tampons” ????? That’s it??? So in other words I need a bigger purse than I already have?? Shit! I still do love my doctor though!
Fast forward two years. My symptoms have all but disappeared, except for the fact that my bleeding issue is all over the map now. Worse than it was two years ago. When I went to my physical this year, my doctor told me the same things about the menopause issue, and this time added, “well, your blood pressure is great but even though you have lost over 20 pounds your sugar is still high and we will need to check that again in three months.”
I am surprised my blood pressure was so great to be honest. I live with two teenagers and two non working young adults, am taking Statistics this semester in college, and am also facing the prospect of 10 years of perimenopause, to which the answer is: carry extra undies and period accoutrement. Seriously???
My blood pressure should be higher than 120/72!! To be honest, given what is going on in my life right now 120/72 is amazing blood pressure, not just great!!
Maybe the mensosense is helping my moods enough that it is keeping my blood pressure down…..they truly are little magical pills!!!
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Sara: We are married. June 21st 2002 we were married in a solstice service at a Methodist church here in Montpelier. Our pastor was able to perform the service because, on paper, we were husband and wife. In fact, since we live in VT, we actually had to go through the humiliation of being denied a civil union license because my partner, Danielle, is transgender and her birth certificate still reads “male” though her driver’s license etc… does not. Quirky PA law (she is from Beaver County, PA – hahaha! – totally true) Anyway, she signed on the groom line and we have been legally married for 11 years.
TNF: How did you meet your wife?
Sara: Danielle worked with my Mom as part of a care team for the mentally ill. This was prior to Danielle’s transition, so I knew my present partner as “Dan” first. We spent holidays together for years as my mother would have Dan carry the pager for the clients and she would provide the feast for us (her four kids and families) and Dan would get to come. We became friends and eventually, when Dan transitioned to Danielle, our family was there to support her.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families? If so, how so?
Sara: Let me count the ways… two women heading the household, one of us transgender, four kids from a previous marriage so there is all the step stuff that goes along with that (though I do get along well with my ex and his wife and her kids). Also, Grace, our youngest was adopted at the age of five (with my ex husband) but my husband left before she had been home a year, so Danielle is truly her other parent, though she does have a good relationship with her Dad too.
The thing I miss the most though, if I am to be truly honest, is the social currency I had as a heterosexual. It is all about the little things. My husband and I would go to a restaurant with our children and older couples would smile and nod at us and tell us how well our children behaved. At parent conferences, we were assumed “normal” because we were heterosexual and when Danielle and I attend, it is clear that we need to demonstrate our normalcy – I don’t know how it is communicated, but it really is palpable. As a special educator, I don’t have a picture of Danielle on the wall in my office – just the kids. Not because I was told that it wasn’t OK by anyone and really everyone would say “of course it is fine” – but I know that for some parents, it would only cause uncertainty and fear and sometimes, I just don’t feel like being the poster child for this whole gay, transgender thing.
TNF: Where do you live? Is it tough being a gay couple where you live? Do you feel accepted?
Sara: We live in Vermont and it is the best place in the US to live – it is where the whole movement started and Danielle and I have been truly blessed to have a front seat to the politics of change. We were here when civil unions passed – the first legislation of its kind. No, not marriage, but a start. We literally sat in the well of the House of Representatives when Marriage passed by one vote! And so, in a sense, I do feel accepted. But again, it is the little things. For example, we wanted to celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary at our Episcopal church (a very welcoming community) but we’re not going to be allowed to use the Book of Common Prayer to do so because of anti-gay rules with the higher ups. There is a separate but equal service for the gays. Yeah. I feel like the little things are sometimes worse because outright bigotry is easier to deal with because it is right there on the surface and you can reject it, but this other stuff – the institutional lip service of acceptance when deep down there is still a lurking homophobia and you end up knowing clearly that your place at the table is provisional. Don’t get uppity or back out on the street you will go.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Sara: In a word, everything. They are our legacy. I leave the world a better place for having journeyed alongside these four souls. Now that they are all officially adults (last one just left for college) I can really see the great people they have become. I would choose to hang out with them I think. They are really diverse – I have a country music loving daugher (Annalise) who is engaged to a sweet guy in the military, a son (Alexander) who is a writer/bartender who is headed for adventures in San Francisco but spent his college years racing cars, another son (Christopher) is a talented singer/songwriter who is raising a son on his own and maintaining his sanity and sense of humor, and a daughter (Grace) who is currently taking Boston by storm but whose heart is in Nicaragua with a non profit groups she works with… they are compassionate, funny, wise people with plenty of quirks and charm. Not perfect, mind you, but we definitely support each other and move forward together on the journey.
Thank you Sara and Danielle for sharing your family story.
By Jason Holling
This weekend Justin and I had the niece and nephew spend the night. It was a welcomed change to take our minds off the adoption process while we wait to match with a birthmother. Our niece is 2 ½ and our nephew is 5 years old. We had a great time and enjoyed going out to the Omaha Children’s Museum, making dinner at home, and then heading to church on Sunday morning. We joked this was a “daddy dry run” learning how our lives would be changing with a child. They have left to go home now and the house seems too quiet.
We quickly realized when they arrived how much work we had to get our house ready for a baby of our own. We knew we had some time, so we have been doing little things like tying up the mini-blind cords, putting in outlet covers, or putting in baby gates. But we had underestimated their ability to reach on the cupboard and grab onto things or all the fun looking buttons on stereos that were at the perfect height for little hands. We also have some more furniture that needs to go once our little one is walking around to prevent any bonks to the head during those first steps.
We also gave all our baby supplies we have been buying a dry run. We had our diaper bag in tow filled with pull-ups, snacks, and wet naps. At the children’s museum we were in full swing pulling out juice boxes and crackers so the kids could take breaks. And back at home, we had a pack-and-play for a quick bed. Justin and I practiced popping it up and trying to figure out the trick to make the sides lock together. One big event for us was the nursery got the kid’s seal of approval. When our niece walked in she said, “Oh pretty!”. She loved the monkeys on the bed and changing table.
Later that night, we made dinner at home and watched Bob the Builder before getting ready for bed. Bath time was hilarious and something we are going to enjoy with our own child in the future. Getting the tub full of bubbles, they splashed and the whole house was full of laughter. Justin and I got a bath with all the splashing! At the end they put on their pajamas and we had a hair styling station for them to get their hair dried and combed. I can’t wait in the future to end the day with Justin and our child. There is something satisfying about putting away the electronics and having a special moment together to melt away the stress of the day.
We learned some great lessons in our daddy dry run. Like what to do in church when you get a tug on your sleeve and they say “I have to go potty”. Or in the middle of the night when we had a tap on the shoulder that they were scared of a new place and wanted to come lay with us. We handled them all pretty well. And when someone asked us at church that morning “are you ready for this full time?” our answer was a resounding, “Yes, we can’t wait!”
Weddings come in a lot of flavors. Many are planned, sometimes long before a potential mate is even in the picture. Some come about at the last minute. Some of the opposite sex variety come about because improper birth control was used and the couple “has to.”
Then there are some special ones that occur when marriage equality is finally attained: the weddings of people who have been married in their hearts for a very long time, but only now can be legally and socially recognized.
These kind of weddings will take place in New Jersey this week. Long term couples becoming legally, publicly married and acknowledged. It is about time.
On October 6th — in California, which also recently regained its marriage equality status — I was given the honor and responsibility to officiate at such a wedding. It was the marriage of my friends, Mike and Dan, a gay couple who had been together as partners for twenty seven years.
And as we were going through this amazing experience, across the country, N.J. Governor Chris Christie was trying his best to see that no such couples would experience something similar in his state.
Arnold Schwarzenegger of California also had stopped my friends from getting the legal rights they deserved for years. Our then governor seemed to evolve by the time the issue hit the popular vote in California as Proposition 8. He came out against the mean spirited proposition when it was on the ballot. When it passed and the question to its constitutional legitimacy moved to the courts, he refused to defend it.
What changed in Schwarzenegger’s position? Potentially several factors, but one that certainly must have had impact was that in the interim between his vetoes and Proposition 8 was the fact that he himself had officiated for two same-sex weddings of people who knew better than anyone what real marriage was about.
Christie needs to attend one of these unique weddings. If he was with me when I officiated a few weeks ago, I would have walked him on the grounds the day before the wedding.
It was an outdoor wedding and the grass was green, fresh and vibrant. The aisle lead to a small Greek style temple and the area was enclosed with tall vine cloaked walls. Before we were to rehearse, he could have stepped with me onto the temple steps. There, he could feel the magnitude of the officiating responsibility.
The next day, there would be a hundred people before us, the community of two families. It would not just be the two men who would be unified, but extended families who would mean a little more to each other than they had before.
Because of the unprecedented nature of their situation, I had met with the couple several times and made sure that it spoke to and for them. This was not about some generic marriage commitment, it was about them, their bond, their history, their importance to each other and their own great and unique love for one another.
The following day, I opened the ceremony with part of a poem by Robert Frost. I could see Mike’s eye twinkle with a profound joy with the statement, “Life is only life forevermore, together wing to wing and oar to oar.”
I would ask Mr. Christie to have watched the beaming faces of those present as I described the context of this wedding in the scope of Dan and Mike’s lives:
“This wedding started almost three decades ago when two soon to be lovers sat up all night talking and watching the moon slowly, lazily cross the sky into morning. It was something out of a movie, but only the beginning. Here we are. We are at the destination scene in that fantastic epic movie. Not the final scene, mind you—just one in the middle, of the great beautiful romance called Dan and Mike.”
I would have Mr. Christie think about the value of marriage along with the congregation as I read a quote from the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s landmark decision:
“Marriage is a vital social institution. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution. The decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.” Mr. Christie would have witnessed two men who certainly had earned both cultural and legal recognition to call each other “husbands.”
He would have heard me say, “What Dan and Mike have shown us is that love is stronger than anything. It is stronger than a society that might have denied them this basic right. It is stronger than life’s curves that easily could have killed either one of these men, or at the very least, driven them apart. It is stronger than luck, it is stronger than dogma, it is stronger than life.”
Dan and Mike had been through some of the toughest hurdles that marriages are asked to endure. Dan had been felled at one point with severe and life threatening meningitis. Mike stood by faithfully as his partner battled through it.
Later, only five years prior to their wedding, it was Mike’s turn. He stumbled on a tall cliff and fell a distance that should have killed him. His body was broken and for weeks it was uncertain that he would live.
Dan’s sister made reference to it in her toast at the reception, “Mike, I was there at the hospital for you, and I was scared. I was scared for you, yes, but I was more afraid for my brother who was completely uncertain how he could go on if he lost the one thing he cherished most, you, the love of his life.”
Mike alluded to this period as well in his self-written vow to Dan, “I know without you, I would not be here at all, Dan. You gave me the gift of life itself,” he said.
These are the types of things that the governor needs to observe and ponder in the New Jersey weddings this week: Couples conquering life together.
I would have him meet the families and friends who will be touched, nourished and enriched by these unions, these couples, these marriages. I would have him understand the difference between a hypothetical question asked of a million unaffected outsiders, and the deep impact felt by a now united family.
I would have him feel the community come together in declarations such as the one I made for Dan and Mike:
“Prior to your meeting, you each walked a separate path. Now you remind us that you are not now, and have not been for many years, separate lives. As you two combine into one light, so now are your friends and family joined, through you, into one, reminding us of how important your relationship has been to all of us. With it, you have anchored our community, given us secure harbor and taught us too, love and unity. And so, this day, they declare before all of us that they shall continue to not only live together in the marriage of their hearts but also in the legal marriage they deserve. Today their feelings are new. No longer unrecognized, partners and best friends, you have become husband and husband and can now seal the agreement with a kiss. Today, your kiss is a promise. You have expressed your love to one another through the commitment and vows you have just made. It is with these vows in mind, by the authority vested in me by the State of California, that I pronounce you husbands and partners for life.”
What Dan and Mike experienced that day was important. The public definition of them was appropriate, deserved and necessary. Like “love”, “honor” and “consecration”, the intangible value of “marriage” cannot be seen in physical terms but the impact of is real.
These long term couples, in California, New Jersey and everywhere where marriage has evolved, are nobody’s “political agenda”. They are not fodder to boost up someone’s need to pander to their base of supporters.
The “Dan and Mikes” in New Jersey now may have what their counterparts in California have just experienced.
The state of New Jersey is doing the just thing this week, not only to align itself with the right side of history, but because it is good, pure and core to American values.
The couples in New Jersey who have built and fought for their lives together represent the best that we have to offer. This will be their week. I can’t wait to celebrate with them in spirit from the heart. Their governor should as well.