It seems like a million years since I have written this column and so much has happened! While a large part of last year was spent promoting my book (Not Quite) Out to Pasture and working extra hours at the day job, the first part of this year has been primarily spent promoting my new book, The Elephant Gate, doing research for an odd bit on non-fiction and, well, working extra hours at the day job.
In the meantime, and probably as no surprise to freedom-loving Americans, the Supreme Court ruled Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Sadly, our sweet cat, Magda, passed away just eight days before her twelfth birthday. Oh, and I grew a beard.
When I was growing up in small-town Kansas, the idea of two men or two women getting married was virtually unheard of outside of jokes heard only in high school locker rooms. Roe versus Wade, the constant target of the Right Wing, was barely ten years old, so the idea of marriage equality was nothing but a pipe dream. I honestly never thought that I would be able to legally marry another man unless I decided to visit some hippy utopia in Canada and, honestly, I never thought that the topic deserved that much thought. And I had never been given great role models, either. My mother and biological father’s marriage had been anything but ideal, plagued by alcoholism and physical abuse, and ended (badly) after fifteen years. Why would I want anything like that? As I got older, however, my thoughts on the matter changed. Things that didn’t seem that important in my youth suddenly took on a whole new meaning. Things like retirement, social security and visitation rights forced me to reevaluate my attitudes on the subject of marriage. It’s funny how age can do that.
I’ve been incredibly blessed in my life to have shared it with two wonderful men. The first, Dean, was (and still is) a handsome, loving and intelligent young man with whom I shared a number of years and who should have been the one to change my ideas on marriage. But I was young and stupid and treated him just like my father had treated my mother. And again marriage was impossibility back then, anyway. Before Dean and I moved from Kansas to San Francisco way back in 1987 (Whitney Houston’s album, Whitney, debuted at number one on the Billboard charts that year and Michael Jackson released Bad, for those of you old enough to remember) we both worked r at a Wal-Mart in Pittsburg, Kansas where we did our best to save money for our upcoming move. We were still “officially” closeted back then. I say “officially,” because we never came out as a couple but any idiot who had fairly decent eyesight could have guessed. One of our gossipy co-workers, being one of the aforementioned idiots, apparently did because she came to me at work one day, looking like the cat that had swallowed the proverbial canary.
“I heard a rumor,” she said, dangling the invisible bait in front of me.
“What?” I asked, warily.
“Well, someone,” here she paused for effect, “told me that you and Dean were moving to California to get married!”
Did I already mention that this was 1987?
“Who told you that?” I asked, blushing. I failed to mention that, as far as I knew, gay people still couldn’t marry, even in mystical, far away California.
“I’m not going to say,” she replied, smiling. “I just think you should know what people are saying in case it gets back to management.”
“Well, we aren’t,” I replied, and it was true. But the threat about “management finding out” we were gay was enough to push me further into my self-made closet.
Fast forward to 1992: At this point I have thoroughly screwed up what should have been a wonderful relationship with Dean and slept my way across the West Coast. I was older and, at the old age of twenty-six, had (mostly) learned from my mistakes. For once I was single and enjoying it.
Then Tim came along.
It’s been said that love comes along when you least expect it. I don’t know who the hell originally said that or if it’s an empirical truth but, for me… at that place and time, it was the case. I fell head-over –heels for this curly-haired, green-eyed guy the same year that Bill Clinton was elected as the 42nd President of the United States. (Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack was released and Nirvana’s album, Nevermind reached number one on the Billboard charts, for those of you old enough to remember.)
Tim and I built a home together, we travelled, and we made plans. Things that never mattered to me before suddenly mattered. In 2003, we left San Francisco and made a new home here in St. Louis. Eventually, we bought a house near Tower Grove. Traditional marriage, however, was still not a possibility for us, thanks to the Defense of marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton and a constitutional ban thanks to the state of Missouri. Nevertheless, one of the first things Tim and I did in the garden of our new home was to get married after fifteen years together. Sort of.
I say “sort of,” because we hired a Druid High Priest to preside over a Wiccan Hand-fasting, where our hands were ritually bound together and we exchanged vows and rings, all in front of our closest friends.
“Why a Wiccan Hand-fasting,” you ask?
We reasoned that, since Wicca is, for the most part, friendly to same-sex unions (unlike most Christian-based religions) and since Wicca is recognized by the United States Military as an official religion, this would one day work out in our favor as a couple. We even thought that this reasoning could work in our favor legally, if need be. Now that planning might not have been necessary, although I’m glad that we did it.
We celebrated our 21st anniversary last June and now, for the first time in history, we might be closer to the possibility of legally marrying, thanks to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. Maybe gay marriage will be legal in Missouri by the time Tim and I are ready to retire.
My bet is that it will come sooner.
By CURTIS COMER - COLUMNIST
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