I am a gay husband. I have a gay husband. My husband and I have been gay husbands legally now for 3 years but have been partners for 34 years. We married shortly after it became legal for same sex couples to wed in Maryland. We would have married many years ago had it been legal. Sometimes I am still amazed that we gays have been “permitted” by the straight people of our country to “allow” us the same privilege that they have always enjoyed. Really the only thing that had prevented it from being allowed was that is offended the sensibilities of those that believe that they have the right to control the lives of others (generally speaking Christians). I never understood why there was so much opposition about something that really affected so few so little (the few being oppressive non-gays). My partner and I learned to live with the fact that we were not equal to straight people and they could determine how we would live this one and only life so they could perhaps some day frolic with angels among the clouds in some fictional afterlife. So much of our lives have been and continue to be controlled by straight people and how they react to us. I am married and I am out of the closet, I have been out of the closet for most of my life but so much of how I interact with straight people is filtered by how I think they might deal with my gayness. Such things as being vague about my relationship with my husband, I mean actively working to use words that might not cause them to be uncomfortable or worse yet become irate or violent. I use my words carefully when I refer to him as my spouse rather than husband, or when I say “my family” when the subject of my relationship might come up. When I say the word “HUSBAND” is sounds to me like I am shouting it through a bullhorn even when I whisper the word when speaking to others about this man with whom I share my life.
I really am sick of hearing from straight people, once they have figured out I am gay and are comfortable enough to talk about it, saying “I think gay people should be allowed to live life the way they want to live it”. That’s a given. We do (at least in America… for right now…) have the right be who we are without being “allowed” or sanctioned by our open-minded friends, family, coworkers, and colleagues. Whenever I hear a straight person utter this “allowed” statement I feel as if they are saying they are giving me permission to be gay. I know they are trying to say its okay with them but I think it would be better if they just not comment at all. Why do they feel they have to justify our “ability” to be gay as if they somehow have a say in the matter and by letting us “live our lives the way we want to” it is their way of allowing us to be the people we are…(I don’t know how to end this sentence with “are” at the end, sorry.)
I am grateful that we are accepted by so many and I guess if I were to go back in time to the 80’s hearing straight people give me the permission to live my life the way I want to live it would be a very welcome thing to hear but we are talking three decades now since the marches on Washington DC and only about 4 years away from the Stonewall Riots being 50 years old (a half century!).
What always surprised me about the hatred we gays faced was that most of it came from the so-called “loving” religious people. You know, those people that follow the teaching of Christ, the guy that said “Jesus said unto him, Thou shat love thy Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the “FIRST” commandment. And the “SECOND” is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Of course the bible and Jesus’ words are used by Christians the way diners at Denny’s use a menu…they pick and choose what they want to follow and ignore those items to which they will not personally benefit. If they followed the bible to the letter not only would they be killing us gays but they would still be selling slaves to one another while stoning their cheating spouses in between sacrificing goats. How can they quote Leviticus when it comes to Gays but totally neglect the portions that read “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourself. I am the LORD” or “And the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you”. Laughingly people are getting tattoos indicating the sins they pick and choose not realizing that the tattoo itself is a sin. Or they down a ham sandwich at Arby’s…you know, the meat of the swine”. The arguments are stupid; “Those were different times” or “Those passages were metaphors”. But why is it that the Gay part is decidedly so literal but not the daughter of any priest that decides to whore around “profanes her father” and shall be burned by fire. How can it be that just the passages that the loving Christians decide are truly representative of what they imagine are the thoughts of God are obeyed and others are dismissed based on the mood of the day, the benefits to that particular sinner (we are all sinners), or any person making any interpretation at any given time. Either take it ALL LITERALLY or take is ALL AS METAPHOR. If we use the Gay thing as a metaphor maybe God wasn’t talking about people but was saying don’t put two flowers of the same color in the same vase. How’s that for a stretch?
Things have improved for the gay population, people seem to be more accepting, government is starting to offer protections, companies are developing resource groups and have active programs to help integrate their LGBT employees. We don’t hear so much anymore in the mainstream news about attacks on gay people whether it be physical, verbal. Attempts to limit us now seem be the concern of lone fanatical county clerks believing they are doing the will of their lord who ironically in the eyes of others are bigger sinners than the gay people of whom they are discriminating.
As I noted at the beginning of this soap box speech I met my husband 34 years ago in 1981. I was 17 just turning 18 (just one month shy of my 18th birthday when we met). We were young and would do all the things young gay people and young straight people were doing at the time, actually other than being two males there was virtually no difference between how we acted when compared to a straight couple. We would go out and eat, we would take long drives, we would go dancing, we would go to bars, we would go to amusement parks, etc., anything you could imagine a boy and girl doing at the time we two boys were doing. The news would speak of the gay agenda, our plot to destroy the family unit with our perversions. To eradicate what was always assumed to be the natural order of the world, at least that natural order that was established mostly during the dark ages when the church gained so much of its power.
I brought my “boyfriend” home to meet my family and he took me to meet his. Both our families were more or less accepting of us as a couple. My family had never had any experience at having a gay people (that they knew of) mingling among them but my partner’s family was different. He had a gay uncle, a very flamboyant man who when visiting from New York would always make a grand entrance with his long shoulder length expensively styled hair wearing outlandish outfits that made him stand out such as a white tuxedo or a full length fur coat among other extraordinary accouterments. He would often bring an entourage of gay friends which would sometime include what we referred to at the time as “fag hags”, a largely gay term pretty much long forgotten but used when speaking of women that were tolerant of or in fact preferred the company of gay males. Not sure if lesbians had a comparable phrase for males which would have to be virtually every straight man in the world hoping to see a little girl on girl action.
I have never been a confident man (or boy) and even today I still lack much of the confidence I should have to interact with people, gay or straight as such I found it very difficult to assimilate into my partner’s family. I did my best to be one of the clan, a member of his family, but so often I simply felt like an outsider. His family in return did not seem to accept me as much as others that came in and out, whether someone simply dating, however long or short termed. Even a good friend of one of his family members seemed to garner more regard and acceptance that I would ever hope to enjoy as the life mate of my husband.
The gay uncle of whom I wrote several paragraphs back and his boyfriend had more money than most people had on average and would randomly entertain family in New York, taking them to shows, or restaurants, or the best gay bars in Manhattan at the time. It was nothing to hear at anytime that they were delighting someone with champagne celebrations at such events as the “Lighting of the Tree” at Rockefeller Center. Family members to would find themselves whisked of to Fire Island for a 4th of July weekend or to flown to Florida for an all expense paid weekend in Key West. These were all things that my partner and I were never offered, we were just average Joes and in turn were mostly treated as average Joes. Uncle never invited us on his fabulous excursions and the only time we were ever thought of to be asked to come to New York was if something was needed that the rest of the family that lavished on his social generosity were never available to him, such as driving his car to New York for him when he had to return by other means, leaving the car in Maryland.
I would watch the young straight members bring home young men and women and the family would welcome them with open arms including them in functions, dinners, and outings that I have never been invited to attend. Despite the months, years, and eventually decades that past I was always the outsider looking in. It hurt my heart sometimes especially when I would make strides within the family and feel like was finally being accepted only later to find out whether by conversation or by actions that I was still not as much a member of the family as the young girl that little so and so just started dating, or even that “fag hag” that the uncle brought home for a visit. Seriously I know I didn’t and don’t have the greatest of personalities but to hear that a woman (usually rich) visiting from New York was being treated more like a family member that I would be treated was very disheartening.
The off and on family like treatment I would get from my partner’s family would leave me feeling so defeated that I would purposely begin avoiding those obligatory family events to which I was invited knowing that the only reason I was included on the invite was because my partner. The result was by my not attending I was only fueling the resentment that was building a bit between me and primarily my partner’s sister. There came a time when I would simply refuse to go to her home anymore. She had just married a new guy (yes and he was better accepted in the family that I was, so was the sister’s ex-husband as well as the sister’s ex-husband’s mother-in-law… I was still that odd little gay man that dated her brother) and my refusal to go built as wall between us.
Of course it was never about me, my happiness or social acceptance within the family was secondary to that family to my partner’s happiness within the family, they saw my not attending the family functions as a slap to my partners face, I would not a good (non-legally wedded) spouse. How could a partner allow someone to attend a family Christmas gathering alone?
Like I said I know I’m not a perfect little social butterfly but it would amaze me at times when my partner’s family would seem so surprised that I was accepted by other outlets, they would verbally share how dumbfounded they were when they would hear that I was well accepted groups other than “the family”. The thing was that the other groups with which I would often socialize never made me feel like the outcast my partner’s family would make me feel.
Several years ago Maryland decided to allow gay people to get married and surprising to many, families didn’t start falling apart, the normal order of things did not come crashing around them at their feet. Actually to the contrary gay people in gay relationships were only further accepted as part of the norm. It wasn’t that the heterosexual family paradigm was destroyed but more that the odd gay uncle that no one spoke of was now being accepted by the family, myself included.
At the point we were married we were together for 31 years. My family was (is) essentially decimated. My mother and father (both of whom had always accepted and loved my partner…(after that first few months of them realizing they would never have a female for a “daughter-in-law”), my eldest brother had not lived nor had much contact with my family in decades (he had is own family, children, etc.), my next elder brother found God in the Mormon religion (and aside from the potential of being a murderer.. another story) decided that gays were perverts (ironically his own young son, not quite yet an adult has announced that he too is gay) and my younger brother and I have pretty much a telephone every now and then type relationship. My only family at this point was (is) my partner and his family. So with the announcement of our marriage soon to occur at the county courthouse, I was finding that I was being included and what I perceived as being (however minimally) part of the family.
My husband has had several heart attacks over the years, actually 5 to date (I hate to say “to date” because it makes it sound that there are more to come and I don’t want any more to come) The first heart attack occurred before we were married. I was surprised when I was admitted to the family waiting room because at that time you heard so many horror stories about how same-sex partners were denied access to their partners when an emergency like this occurred however the hospital made me feel as if I were important giving me up to the minute updates and caring about my opinion. This changed ever so slightly after my partner’s sister arrived at the hospital, not to a large degree but to a slight degree the focus became on her when updates were being given, I would get a glance every now at then from the doctor or nurse however the eye contact while the plan of health was being discussed were always on her. I got used to it, and to be honest over the period of the next 4 heart attacks there would be times when she (my sister-in-law) would go out of her way to ensure that the doctors knew that I was the spouse (non-legal). I was always grateful to her when she would acknowledge me in this way but I still felt a bit as a “friend of the family” when 90% of the time all the focus was on her. What was further distressing I had (have) no support group, however the family of my partner (a large family) were always there for my sister-in-law. I would hear the stories especially after my partner had recovered as to how traumatic the situation had been for her, how she had to suffer, how she had to deal with the impact of my partners health.
She is his sister and should anything happen to him she will be (and rightfully so) very distraught. She should be able to express her angst at enduring a first, a second, a third, a forth, a fifth heart attack not to mention all the visits for stents and bouts of congestive heart failure in between the heart attacks but when I am made to feel like a stranger on the sidelines I tend to be somewhat angry when it is my life about to turn topsy-turvy if I lose the man. You can imagine the financial loss and burden I would endure not to mention the loss of the person that I had almost literally spent every day of my life with for the last 34 years. Despite the losses I would endure I still often sit on the sidelines as everyone comforts his sister. Of course this is her brother and a part of her family would be gone, but the biggest loss to her would be the lack of his attendance to her annual Christmas party or the occasional other events that occur at her home.
I assure you I am not oblivious to what it would mean to her emotionally should anything ever happen to him, just as it would be emotionally devastating to him as well should she pass first but I can’t imagine everyone coming to my partner to console him while acting as if her husband was a piece of bric-a-brac.
The last few days have been very hard on me but probably more on my husband. The Saturday after Thanksgiving he woke me around 7 AM complaining that the was having difficulty breathing. He had tried his nebulizer but the air just wasn’t coming in. I asked him if he wanted to go to the Emergency Room and he said yes but before I could even get my pants on he told me to call 911. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and I had told the paramedics that I would be coming behind them that I had to secure my dogs before I left the house. I arrived at the hospital about 45 minutes after my partner had arrived and I was still too early, they asked me to wait in the waiting room until the nurses were finishing with whatever they were doing with him, about a 1/2 hour, I told the person behind the counter who had taken the insurance information I provided that I would go to McDonalds for breakfast and would return after which would take at least 20 minutes. I thought if we were in for a long ER stay I would rather do it on a full stomach than sit in the waiting room looking at a magazine.
When I returned to the hospital the mood in which I was treated was slightly more urgent, I was escorted back to that familiar family consultation/waiting room and I knew that I was in for some bad news and as I suspected, I did get news that he was once again in congestive heart failure. This time it was a little more serious that his past events when they would just increase the drugs necessary to help remove the fluids on his lungs, this time they had inserted a breathing tube and had sedated him to the point of unconsciousness. The worst part was when the doctor told me they pretty much had him stabilized but that things could make a turn for the worse. It was at that point that I called his sister.
His sister has always told me that if anything ever happened to him and I had not called her to come to the hospital that my name would be mud (not in those terms but you get the drift). I lost it as I spoke with her, to the point where I couldn’t say very much other than letting her know we were in the emergency room. She arrived at the hospital within an hour and the two of us visited with my husband bedside. I was astonished how much the power of “marriage” affected the focus on the conversation. When they learned that I was his husband people would tend to focus on me, despite the presence of my sister-in-law. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t what her out of the loop but I certainly don’t want to be ignored either. Each time a doctor or nurse would “ask” about a relationship they would focus on me when we would say “husband”. What is ironic is that while I want to be married to my partner the word husband has been very difficult for me to use, frankly its sounds (or at least until this week sounded) ridiculous so I would tend not to refer to him as that opting for the more familiar “partner”. I learned though this week that “husband” goes a lot further and for the first time I truly understand why the gay community wanted those terms: “marriage”, “husband”, “wife”. During the whole often tedious back and forth (mostly from good loving Christians) as to why they should not be called marriage I used to argue that I didn’t care if we called it the “Gay-Boogety-Boo” as long as we got the same protections a real married couple had now I know that saying “I am married and he is my husband” carries a lot more weight.
What is so funny though is on those occasions during this most recent medical emergency if the doctor or nurse would neglect to ask my position astonishingly all focus return to my sister-in-law. At one point there was a doctor in the room giving us an update and he never once made eye contact with me and never once acknowledged me. I know that times are changing and they are much better than they were but it will be nice when the little things like focus being directed at the spouse rather than sibling will be very welcome. I don’t think its something to make too big a deal about and thought it was an interesting thing to point out in this blog posting. Its just a little thing that unless you are experiencing it would never even occur to most.
So today is day 9 and my husband is still on respiratory, he is still sedated and during the rare moments when his eyes open he doesn’t know how I am at this point, he doesn’t recognize his sister when she is here and doesn’t respond “appropriately” most of the time (Appropriate refers to nodding or shaking his head when asked a question when the nodding or shaking does not fit such as indicating “no” when you ask “Do you know who you are?” or when you ask him to squeeze your hand and he won’t.) The good news is that it appears at this point that he will once again recover and hopefully will be coming home in the next few days so hopefully this gay husband will have his gay husband back and this gay couple can return to being a gay family.