Yes, I do feel more validated since I got married in September.
I do feel that my relationship has more legitimacy, I do have more confidence, and I am even further out of the closet!
Growing up in the 70′s, realizing I was gay was not easy. I tried to sublimate it as much as possible. I tried to participate in sports as a way to hide my feeling of inadequacy, and lord knows that was not a help! Although I did make it as far as the varsity swim team for my freshman year of college. My son and spouse have instructions to bury me in my varsity swim jacket when the time comes. I earned that.
Coming out in college to my family and friends in the early 80′s was not a huge deal, but the scars of self hatred never fully leave you, they are something that have to be dealt with and resolved over long periods of time. Like most, I am a work in progress, and I am OK with that.
My coming out coincided with that period of time when HIV/Aids was also growing in the gay population. That was the perfect excuse to drink instead of date. That pretty much sums up my 20′s.
In my 30′s, with the new found strength I received through the help of a 12 step program,, I began to take control of my life and face my own imagined fears as they related to my life. I even got up the nerve to put an ad in the Village Voice to look for a mate! As I joke, but it is really the truth, 6 months and 24 interviews later, Peter landed the job.
We had a strong connection right away, and during one of our dates, where we would walk all over Manhattan we ended up in a toy store and discussed kids. He thought as a gay man he couldn’t have kids, I on the other hand stated that I fully intended on adopting as I had seen my younger brother have a child, ,and if he could accomplish it, then I surely could! I ignored the fact that I was in debt up to my ears and broke, (and I didn’t mention that my brother had a baby the easy way, figure that one out for yourself!), because I had hope. I think that hearing that having kids was an option for gay people cemented our relationship that day for my new boyfriend and me.
Eventually we went to a gay support group, Wannabe Dads and Moms, and the message that rang out for me was that our child would get a sense of us from how we interacted with the world. That meant if we wanted him to have a positive message about his gay parents, we would have to present that positive message to the world as proud gay men. I have a neighbor who ran into us that fateful night, she said I did not come out of the closet to her, I flew out!. Yes, you already know I get carried away easily, and no fairy wing jokes please!
By the time we adopted our infant son it was no longer uncommon for gay people to have kids. Of course we did beat Elton John and Doogie Howser to it, but we were not really pioneers. I became daddy Mitch to my son’s entire daycare, even the adults and other parents, and I could not be happier.
We live in NYC, we did all the legal paperwork, but for 13 years of the 20 we have been together, our relationship was still that of only domestic partners.
Then Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York got the gay marriage bill passed and it became law at the end of 2011. Sensing the moment had come, seeing the direction that shows like Will & Grace and Modern Family had helped move the country toward, and feeling the Supreme Court of the United States of America would soon hear a gay marriage case, I proposed:
“We need to get married for the benefits, and to be ready for the Supreme Court OK’ing our civil rights, or we need to end everything now and get separated.” I was as romantic as I could muster!
Eventually, with a lot of negotiation, we took the plunge!
So guess what? I feel legal now. I have a husband! And so does he. I really feel that I am legitimized as a gay man now. As hard as I have worked towards this goal my whole adult life, I finally feel the support of my government, even if it is only on the state level.
What does this mean? It means I don’t wait for folks to assume we are a gay couple with a kid, I come right out and state that fact, more vehemently than I ever have before. I have to anyway, some people think I am the kids grandpa, and one cabbie thought I was my spouse’s dad!
I have a pride in myself that I never had before. We leased a car last week and I walked around the dealership with a puffed out chest, “Yeah, we’re married, what about it?” Not that anyone cared of course, but 2 sales folk did mention how they loved the gays, but you know a good salesman will say anything!
So I look forward to the day that I am eligible for my spouse’s social security benefits, and the day the federal government grants me the same rights as you straights In the meantime, my state stepped up to the issue, and I feel more empowered than ever before!