Category Archives: Gay Marriage

Double Hunks of the Day: Rick Twombley & Griff King

Some Hunk of the Day features are more special than others, and this is one of those posts. FaceBook may not be good for much more than a headache in  these days of political turmoil, but every once in a while it brings to light something like this. It was a casual lip-syncing of a Little Mermaid song that caught my eye, and won my heart. Meet one of the all-too-rare Double Hunks of the Day: Rick Twombley and his fiancé Griff King. The gentlemen recently got engaged and will marry in the fall (more on that in a possible Couple Profile later one). For now, feast your eyes on the glory that comes of two creative artists coming together in love.

This super-sized Hunk of the Day post is barely enough to contain all the incredible feats these two have accomplished – individually, personally, and professionally. (It’s also barely big enough to contain their bodacious bodies – not always a prerequisite to be so honored, but certainly a welcome boon. And if you want to see even more, check out their adorably sexy Instagram account @Rick_and_the_Griffopotamus.)

On their own, they have carved out impressive artistic careers. Mr. Twombley is currently heading up Rick Twombley Fitness (hence that killer form), and prior to that was a professional dancer, choreographer, and aerialist. Mr. King is an illustrator, graphic designer, rendering artist and masterful marketing rep, in addition to all his lip-syncing and vocal prowess (he actually has a very fine voice).

These gentlemen clearly heed that old adage of the couple that plays together, stays together. A simple dinner-preparation can be made into a joyful event of Ursula proportions, while a car-ride amid a traffic jam is an opportunity to excise frustration in wonderfully-wicked-witch style. For Gay Pride Month they put together this fun Avenue Q homage, and for an everyday shower they went way Out There.

At a time when a certain political party wants to turn back time and strip us of our right to marry, one of the more powerful pronouncements against such hate is the simple love-filled life that Twombley and King so gleefully represent. Glimpsing their fun together, and the exuberance and enjoyment that they find in each other, is a testament that love will always trump hate.

Of course, it helps that these gentlemen are Hunks in every sense of the word – and if you read this blog at all you know we enjoy a Renaissance hunk more than anything else. Art, creativity, expression, and above all else a heady dose of fabulousness – they each inform this very special Double Hunk of the Day, thanks to Griff King and Rick Twombley.

{And keep your eyes here for much more on this dynamic duo…}

Continue reading ...

This Really Happened Last Night

As proud and lucky as I’ve always felt to be an American, I’ve never felt more proud than seeing our White House resplendent in the rainbow last night. When love wins, everyone wins.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of  civilization’s oldest institutions. They as for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Continue reading ...

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Though we’ve been together for almost fourteen years (yes, I started dating Andy when I was twelve), today only marks our fourth wedding anniversary. Listen to me toss around words like ‘only’ when four years is a grand achievement any way you look at it. So here’s to us, Andy!

And here’s to a nifty recap of that beautiful May day in the Boston Public Garden four years ago:

Part 1: The Arrival & Accommodations

Part 2: The Rehearsal Dinner

Part 3: The Last Call of a Bachelor

Part 4: The Dawn of the Wedding Day

Part 5: The Ceremony

Part 6: The Perfect Day in the Park

Part 7: The Wedding Lunch

Part 8: The Wedding Dinner

Bonus Post: The Residual Glow of Marriage

Continue reading ...

Giving Out: Remember the Date

May is the month when it all happens. The height of spring, the roll-out to summer, the race to Memorial Day. This year proves no exception – in fact, there’s even more happening than usual. Mark down this date:  Thursday, May 15, 2014.

This will be Give Out Day, a 24-hour period of online giving for the LGBTQ community and our allies. Last year, the Pride Center of the Capital Region did exceptionally well in raising funds for its mission, and this year they’re looking to do even better. The Pride Center has always held a special place in my heart, not only for my work as the manager of the Romaine Brooks Gallery, but also for the vital role they play in the community.

On May 15, 2014, the plan is to get as many donations as possible in a 24-hour period. Last year, the Pride Center was the #1 fundraiser of smaller non-profit groups. In so many ways, this is the little organization that could. It bears repeating that the Pride Center of the Capital Region is the longest continually-operating LGBTQ center in the country. That says a lot for us, and it’s the people who have made it such a lasting operation.

If you’d like to give, be sure to do so at any time on May 15, 2014. (You can also contribute now so you don’t forget, with this neat feature set up to tabulate contributions on May 15 – a boon to those of us who find our days over-run with busy-ness.) Since this is mainly an online event, there’s no need to get dolled up and dressy about it, but there are opportunities for that as well. Two Happy Hours at two of my favorite places (Mingle and Oh Bar) will take place from 4 to 6 PM on that day as well. However, the best part of this is that your support and help can all be done online without leaving the comfort of your home or the palm of your hand. For further information, visit the Pride Center’s website here.

Engage. Support. Give.

Online fundraising for Give OUT Day - Alan Bennett Ilagan

Continue reading ...

The Wedding of Eric & Lonnie

A friendship that starts on FaceBook is not usually something that goes beyond a few ‘Likes’ or ‘Comments’, but since Eric and Lonnie live near Ogunquit, we took a chance and took them up on their offer to meet up at an opening night cast party for a production at the Ogunquit Playhouse. It was an instant friendship, as Andy took to them as quickly as I did – and we hung out whenever we could in Ogunquit.

It was a joy to hear that they were getting legally married at long last (after fighting the good fight for marriage equality in Maine), and it was an honor to make it onto their coveted invite list. Their wedding was the impetus for this vacation in fact, and the reason for our journey to Portland, onto which we piggy-backed our anniversary celebration in Ogunquit.

Their home is an exquisite respite in Gray, ME – a gorgeous combination of old and new, and the perfect conjoining of two complementary personalities who have served as an inspiration to any couple looking to make it last.

As often happens to me at weddings, I found myself incredibly moved ~ even more-so when talk turned to the trials and travails of what it took to reach such a moment in history. if you’ve never been denied the right to marry the person you love, you can’t know the joyous appreciation of when it finally happens.

The ceremony was simple and casual, but somehow more meaningful for it. Both Eric and Lonnie spoke from the heart, in vows that brought us all to tears, and it was a brush with grace to be in the presence of such love. It’s something that emboldens all of us as human beings ~ the universal good-will felt towards two people who love one another, and who have lived a life together and made the promise to keep going. It never fails to affect me.

On the beautiful grounds of their home, the guests gathered and surrounded the happy couple. It was an idyllic moment ~ the heat-wave subsided as a cool breeze arrived, the storms stayed away, and the company of well-wishers – and the wonderfully fun friends and family of Lonnie and Eric – made for an unforgettable day.

A fun side-note: I have always wanted to attend a party or event where a harpist played, and it finally happened at this wedding. I followed this charming young woman around as she plucked her strings and brought such heavenly music to the surroundings. I asked if I could take her picture, explaining how it had always been a dream of mine to have a harpist at a party. She was gracious and happily posed for my exuberant picture-taking. I think she thought I was a little touched. She was very intuitive that way. 

The gardens were at their bountiful peak, spilling forth dahlias and daylilies, as grand urns overflowed with colorful petunias and begonias. It was as if the entire landscape had conspired to decorate itself for the wedding.

Some things are just meant to be.

Continue reading ...

A Bus Full of Love, Headed for Marriage

My artist pal Paul Richmond (who so generously and graciously immortalized me a distant summer or two ago) is embarking on what may be the greatest ride of his life. He’s one of 25 gay couples heading to Washington, DC to get married as part of the “C-Bus Of Love” – a project sponsored by MarriageEvolved. He and his fiancé Dennis will travel to the Supreme Court with 24 other couples to get married in June, as the court makes its determination for marriage equality. (Be sure to check out the C-Bus site, especially the page with the couple bios – my favorite.)

Mr. Richmond must have had an eye on the future when he originally painted a work entitled “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise.” According to the artist himself, “I painted a grand ark/cruise ship filled with happy gay and lesbian animal couples and a few human guests too (like Ellen DeGeneres/Portia de Rossi, and Elton John/David Furnish). There are even some drowning sinners (such as Ann Coulter, Larry Craig, Sally Kern, and Fred Phelps)!” It was a witty, colorful way of expressing some very serious topics, done with the whimsy, humor, and sharp political intent inherent in Richmond’s most powerful work.

In honor of his dedication to the cause at hand, Richmond has updated his piece to include the founders of MarriageEvolved, Joshua and Steve Snyder-Hill. The new “Noah’s Gay Wedding Cruise: MarriageEvolved Edition” will be available on Richmond’s website (in three different sizes), and 100% of the proceeds from sales of the limited edition print will go toward the ‘C-Bus of Love’. Please check out the story of this worthy adventure, and donate if you can. When you think about it on the human level, when you see and read about these couples and realize their love and dedication and commitment – it seems inhumane and criminal to deny them the right of marriage.

Continue reading ...

These Kids Are Screwed, But They’re Smiling About It

To be honest, it makes me wonder whether their parents are just trying to sabotage them. Why else would you go out of your way to teach your kids to hate like this? The photos here were taken from this rather upsetting post, where Matt Stopera asked the youngsters demonstrating against marriage equality to write down why they thought marriage should only be between one woman and one man. First things first: a little humor to lighten the situation, because that’s the best way to deal with the sort of anger I feel about this. (All captions are solely the inappropriate ramblings of my own mind.)

“One man and one women” – I think you are a little confused over the use of the singular versus the use of the plural. Get it straight – you should be good at that.

Aside from the unfortunate eye-make-up (ewww indeed – and we will never help you out with that if you don’t change your hateful ways) here is another instance of that tricky woman/women confusion. One would think that, being so staunchly against being with another woman, she would be less confused.

You know he’s on FaceBook angering everyone with this sort of misplaced-apostrophe madness.

Wait, marriage unites parents to their children? Umm, no. “Marriage is a child-centered institution, not an adult-centered one…”? Okay, that’s gross, and you are dumb.

Bitch, please. (What? She can call her Dad a ‘Queen’ but I can’t call her a bitch?)

YOLO? In your case, here’s hoping…

Oh you poor thing, it’s spelled “marriage”. And “believe” – look, you even got it right the first time!

Everyone makes mistakes.

_________________________________________________________________________

Now onto some slightly more serious commentary on these photos. They’re sad, disturbing, infuriating, and insulting on a number of levels. First and foremost, if you’re teaching your kids to hate like this, they’re going to have pretty miserable lives. I don’t care how much they’re smiling now, they’re in for a rough ride. Along those lines, if this is how you prepare your kids for the real world, they’re going to be in even deeper trouble. (Unless you’re going to work in a church, reciting Bible verses will get you nowhere.) But more troubling than that, an attitude of exclusion and narrow-minded thinking will set you even further back. We’re already starting to lag behind the rest of the world on this issue.

Finally, in what may be most damaging for the children here, consenting to have your picture taken with such signs will have lasting effects. These pictures are going to be their legacy. It will be a legacy of intolerance and ignorance. It will be a legacy of hate. These smiling portraits of active suppression will be their lasting contribution to the world. From this moment forward these photos will live on – in posts like this, on people’s hard drives, on FaceBook – and they will never be completely eradicated. They have cemented their status of being on the wrong side of history. Their own children may one day look with shame upon these pictures, wondering at how the mother or father they loved so much could put forth such hateful words against innocent people they never even met.

As upset as this makes me, as wrong and ignorant as it is, it won’t change my love or affect my future. It’s only going to affect theirs. That’s the saddest thing of all.

UPDATE:

The best rebuttal ever, by the pro-marriage-equality side, when asked to write a message to those who oppose marriage equality. (I don’t even need to correct – or add – anything, and it was much classier than mine.)

Continue reading ...

The Couple Profile: Cody & Wayne

The pair of photographs popped up on my FaceBook feed in the middle of the day. I was sitting in Starbucks idly scrolling down through the various shirtless guys, food entrees, and grumpy cats that my “friends” put out there (and of which I am equally guilty) when two smiling young men appeared. A recent version of them, and then another one taken many years earlier. It was so moving, so raw and natural, that it jarred me out of my FaceBook trance. The way one of the gentlemen was gazing at the other was an unguarded moment of adoration. It was, quite simply, the look of love.

Out of all of the bad news, this small sliver of hope pierced the cynical haze, instantly and wonderfully reclaiming all the goodness of the world in one simple shot. I was touched by the depiction of love, and the resulting follow-up that showed the same two gentlemen in the same pose eighteen years later.

I wanted to do something more than just highlighting those photos – I wanted to give a fuller sense of these two men and what they meant to each other. The world doesn’t always get to see the normality of gay couples – far too often we have to be either perfect or perfectly outrageous, when really we’re just as boring and mundane as any other couple. That said, there is nothing dull about lasting love – and these days it seems to be more and more rare – so when I see a couple like this one, I want to celebrate and spotlight it. This is the premiere of ‘The Couple Profile‘, and it begins with the tale of Wayne and Cody.

Cody (left) & Wayne (right)

Every once in a while, a love story comes along that is destined to last through the ages. It may not be the stuff of swashbuckling action or fairy-tale perfection, but it rings of something deeper and more resonant in the simple way that love occasionally does. Sometimes you don’t need a wedding in a castle – sometimes love is much more than that – and true love, the kind of love that lasts, only requires two partners who find solace in one another. Almost two decades ago, Cody Braswell and Wayne Self found that in each other.

New Orleans has a way of working its charm and magic on the most resilient of souls. If there is a place on earth where it is conducive to falling in love, the French Quarter may be it. From its ornate balconies to its hints of debauchery, it reeks of romance, both ribald and true. From the rollicking fervor and hurricane-fueled excess of Bourbon Street to the richness of the pralines, the gumbo, and the jambalaya so gorgeously influenced by the West Indies, it’s something you can see, taste, and hear. There is music everywhere – small bands, big bands, blues and jazz, soloists, drummers, and drunken serenaders. The city of beignets and bitter chicory coffee, bordered by the Mississippi and emptying into a grand delta, is so imbued with romance and mystery that the secrets to a happy life seem suddenly within grasp, if slightly hidden.

That was the scene of the first photograph, taken in a buggy ride on their first trip to New Orleans together in 1994. Cody gazes at Wayne with unabashed affection. Wayne has the unguarded smile of youth on his face. It is one of those times in life that is exciting and thrilling – the start of a new romance, the possibility of true love, the hope and vision of all that is yet to come. On that day, in the back of a buggy ride, a love began taking root ~ a love that would carry them across the country, across time, and across all the lives they would and will touch. But for that moment, the ride took them just a few blocks. They had the rest of their lives to go the rest of the way.

Their story actually began a while before that, a few hours north, in Shreveport, LA. They made their initial acquaintance old-school style, back when fate or destiny could subtly step in and give a gentle nudge – the kind of thing lost in today’s online shuffle of Match and Grindr. Not contrived, not planned, not sought out – just an old-fashioned and now-quaint meeting that happens when it’s meant to happen, and not a day sooner.

As Wayne remembers it, “I first laid eyes on Cody as he was walking across campus at Centenary College of Louisiana, where we both went to school, but I didn’t meet him until later, at a frat party, where we shared a cigarette. Still later, we had Spanish class together. It was early-morning and I was very busy with editing the campus newspaper, so I rarely made an appearance. When I did, he was always surrounded by so many female admirers that I could hardly approach him. Truth was, he was in a relationship with a friend of mine. I had to wait until he was available before I could pursue, but my timing was always off, since there was always someone after him.” As for whether it was love at first sight, Wayne is more reticent. “It was definitely lust at first sight,” he admits, “But more than lust. Interest. I wanted to know him. I wanted to spend time with him. But he was also the forbidden fruit.”

 

Cody remembers things in much the same way. “Wayne and I ‘officially’ met in Spanish Class during my Junior year of college… (Honestly, the very first time we met was at a frat party – I think sometime earlier in the year – I forget who bummed a smoke from whom – maybe we just shared one…anyway, I remember thinking then “Wow.”)  We really didn’t talk much during class. I was dating someone else at the time and was still in the closet. Wayne was a ‘bad-boy’ – out and proud – [and you were] instantly outed if you hung out with him. We didn’t start talking until the summer after I went through a rather nasty breakup.” For Cody too, it was “more like lust at first sight. I can’t imagine a relationship getting started without that initial physical attraction, right? It was instant attraction at that very first encounter, but as I mentioned, I was in a relationship at the time. Love was quick to come once we actually spent some time together.”

 

Cody recalls those early days in the way that we remember the most shaping moments of our lives. They’re the times that inform everything we are to become, and they remain imbued with something more than the average days that come later and eventually run together. Not only was he at the start of a great romance, but he was also on the verge of coming out as a gay man.

“I had made a promise to myself that I would not go into another relationship while still in the closet,” he says. “I came out to my parents before we started dating which added a whole new level of freedom and excitement. He and I had so much in common – discovering that not only could we be falling in love, but we could also be best friends!”

In a way, theirs was a romance written in the stars, sprinkled by some cosmic dust of destiny as they realized they had always been close – very close in fact – and going back all the way to their childhoods.

“We discovered we had grown up just a short distance apart in rural Louisiana – but separated by a swamp/lake,” Cody explains. Not only that, but, “Our parents knew each other back in the 1960’s. Wayne’s Mom worked with my Dad. My parents would go listen to Wayne’s Dad’s band down on the lake on weekends. Wayne’s sister and I had common friends in high school.”

Yet after their initial attraction, there were the usual bumps and hesitancies that accompany every relationship in its infant stages. Wayne especially, while thrilled with Cody, was somewhat reluctant regarding how quickly things were moving, along with what he viewed as the class differences between them.

 

“Once we finally started seeing each other, after his previous relationship ended, everything happened at speeds that were practically Lesbian,” Wayne says. “Our first kiss happened during our first time alone. Our first sex happened during our first date. We had moved in together within a month. It was pretty-much a textbook case of what NOT to do. I remember feeling very uncomfortable, at times, due to my perceived difference in our status. I come from really “low country” people. Trailer houses. Outhouses. Cars on blocks. The whole thing ~ though my dad was educated, valued education, and strived to make sure I got a good education. Cody, I felt, came from “high country” people, who owned a lot of land, lived in a nice big house, and were generally more civilized and genteel. I remember showing Cody where my family lived with no small amount of shame. And I remember him telling me his own family’s history and kind of forcing me to look past my assumptions. Every family has its struggles, and sometimes they are not at all apparent to an outsider.”

Yet it seemed that both gentlemen had little to worry about, especially once Cody’s parents heard Wayne play the piano. “Cody was newly out to his parents, and I was introduced to them,” he recalls. “I felt like a test case. I remember playing the piano for his Mom and Dad, playing old gospel songs, which are some of my favorite things to play. That won them over.”

The merging of two people into a relationship is fraught with its own stumbles and roadblocks. When the merging of a family is involved, it can become even more stressful. There are choices and sacrifices that need to be made, difficult determinations that must be decided, and these are the true tests that ultimately reveal whether a couple can handle the ebb and flow of life. For Cody and Wayne, that first test ended up lasting a dozen years.

“My Dad passed away unexpectedly close to fifteen years ago,” Cody begins. “We were in Ohio, Mom was left in Louisiana with a big house, a farm, just too much to take care of. She sold everything and stayed with my sister for a while, but decided she might want to come stay with us for a bit. That bit turned into almost twelve years with us. It had it advantages and challenges, but I’m glad we had the opportunity to do that for her and thankful for all she did for us during her stay. I’m also thankful for how well she and Wayne got along. There’s no words to express how grateful I am to Wayne for enduring this experience with me – there are not many couples, gay or straight, that can successfully manage a relationship with a parent in the house. There’s lots of interesting stories there. Before moving again we decided it was time she get back in Louisiana. She’s down there now with a little place of her own next door to my sister, close to her two grand and four great-grand children – it’s really good for her.”

Wayne agrees that it was a definite test, but one which came with some surprising rewards. “That was the biggest challenge,” he admits about that period of time. “We’re not talking about a mother-in-law suite or a cottage on the property. We’re talking about a smallish condo. She didn’t drive or get out much. It was taxing, to say the least. But it had its plusses. It kept us grounded, kept us out of the party scene, and kept us focused on the idea of ourselves not just as a couple of guys, but as a nuclear family, with an important role to play in the larger family to which we belong.”

There are lessons in their story for everyone, particularly for those of us in long-term relationships, as Cody and Wayne have mastered the art of maintaining the sense of excitement and adventure that they’ve had since the early days of their courtship. According to Cody, this is integral to making it work. “We’ve seen a lot of couples have major issues and/or break up, particularly over careers, one wanting to move for a job the other not, one wanting to change careers but the other not willing to compromise with living on a lesser income while the other goes to school,” he says. “None of these had to do with loss of love but rather loss of adventure. Wayne and I have moved several times – big moves… These moves have all been made pretty much blindly – we knew virtually no one at any of these final destinations – we had to start our social life from scratch, relying on each other and make a life together in each of the places we’ve lived.” That sort of courage comes with its own set of difficulties, and both men realize this, but also understand how valuable it can be. “Probably some of the things that make our relationship exciting and interesting are also those things that make it the most challenging,” Cody continues. “Moving to new places, not knowing anyone and having to rely on each other for almost all social interactions can be difficult – sometimes you end up just expecting too much from each other.  We’ve learned, adjusted, and obviously made it through.”

Wayne agrees: “We haven’t been afraid to shake things up. We moved away from Louisiana after just over a year together. We moved away from a very comfortable life in Ohio to start over in San Francisco just because we wanted the adventure. We then moved away from San Francisco to see what SoCal had to offer. I think people can get stuck in a rut, and the comfort of the routine can cause people to compromise on stressors that they would otherwise not allow. Your job is terrible, but you stay because you have a house. Your house is terrible, but you stay because you have a job. Things just get tedious. We don’t mind upsetting the apple cart, from time to time, and taking a chance for a better life.”

Those chances have allowed the couple to grow, and to appreciate things about each other that might otherwise have gotten lost in the dull trudge to monotony. They are also quick to point out what they love about each other. Regarding Cody, Wayne is enamored of “his compassion, his sense of humor, his ambition. I don’t mean careerism, because we’re not really like that. But he has a drive to do things right and well, and to make things nice, and to live a good life.”

Cody is equally enraptured, declaring that, “Wayne is the love of my life and my best friend.  He’s loving, caring and strong. He’s supportive, insightful and thoughtful. He’s incredibly intelligent, witty and creative. He brings me joy and happiness. He balances me out – makes me continue to grow, think and learn. He challenges me. He loves me, unconditionally.”

On their own they are hilarious, but together they rise to another level. (Witness the fun that ensued when the self-professed “complete opposites” were featured on an episode of HGTV’s ‘House Hunters’.) They may banter as any couple who has been together for almost two decades is wont to do, but it’s apparent that they have fun and genuinely enjoy one another’s company. It sounds like such a simple thing, but it’s the lynch-pin of any good relationship. When asked what traits about each other that they don’t like, the responses are as typical as they are comical.

According to Wayne, “Cody gets car-sick if he doesn’t drive. That would be fine if he were a better driver. Sometimes, I would swear that he drives with one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake (he doesn’t).”

Cody has problems with Wayne’s messiness: “Wayne attracts clutter.  House, cars – you can tell where Wayne has been. It can be a bit of a challenge for a slightly OCD neat and tidy [person].”

Upon delving deeper, there are issues that might constitute something more than minor annoyances, and it’s here where one gets a better understanding at how their relationship works.

“Sometimes, I feel he gets his priorities out of whack, at least compared to mine,” Wayne says of Cody. “He elevates things that I think are inconsequential and doesn’t think about the things that are really important. Usually, this is temporary, as his priorities do align with mine, but I think he forgets, occasionally, that art trumps comfort, people trump things, relationships trump pique.”

 

Yet these very variations are what make the couple grow stronger together, and the very areas in which one might need a little work are the strengths of the other. Wayne has reconciled these sometimes-conflicting views, and sees only benefits to them. “I think what makes our relationship work is how different we are from each other, on some levels,” he explains. “I’m into imagination, he’s into his surroundings. I’m into spirit, he’s into science. I’m chaotic, he’s orderly. I’m prone to outbursts of anger when I get vexed, while he’s more likely to fume. I’m overbearing, he’s relatively quiet. I’m a liberal democrat, he’s… a liberal democrat. We have to draw the line somewhere! He’s become more expressive of his passions, preferences, and annoyances over the years, which is entirely a function of having been around me for so long.”

Cody too sees the various disparities between them as enhancements rather than detractions. As he puts it, “We are pretty much as polar opposite as you can get but somehow it works. That being said, we complement each other very well – I keep Wayne’s feet on the ground; he keeps my feet from being set in concrete. I think we appreciate what the other brings to the relationship. Have we changed each other? No. Have we made each other better? Yes.”

Every long-term couple has their own bit of wisdom to offer to the world, and though neither Wayne nor Cody was immodest enough to impose their advice on others, upon further pressing they offered some helpful hints on what has worked for them.

 

“We have never aspired to heterosexist ideals about coupledom, family, or sex, even if our ideals sometimes dovetail with those,” Wayne proclaims. “We tend to learn what “commitment” means from the straights on TV, or from our straight parents, but that idea of commitment has led to lots of divorce and lots of unhappy couples. I think, before deciding to commit as a couple, people should think hard about what that might mean to them. Are they committing to monogamy? Are they committing to care for one another’s elderly parents? To clean and care for one another in illness? To following one another after crazy schemes and ideas? To putting someone else’s priorities before their own a good chunk of the time? The answers are between those two partners, and should not be subject to the judgments of friends or family, gay or straight. There’s no manual. Don’t let anyone force one on you, but write your own. And if you can’t agree on what commitment means? A partner is not a must-have accessory. It’s perfectly wonderful to be single.”

Cody has a similar take on what makes their partnership function so well. “You have to be best friends and share all the things you do with your best friend.  Don’t gossip or talk about your partner/relationship with your friends – talk to your partner (your best friend),” he advises. “Other friends may not necessarily have the best interest of your relationship at heart – just a good friend agreeing with your gripes can seed resentment and discontent in the relationship. Wayne and I have never broken-up in the eighteen years we’ve been together – not once, it’s just never been an option for us. If you allow it as an option, then you open the relationship up to being dependent on every argument hinging on who’s going to toss out “let’s breakup”. We’ve never spent the night apart in anger. That being said, we’ve sat up quite a few nights because we don’t allow ourselves to go to bed angry at one another. You both have to be equally invested in the relationship. You have to put each other and the relationship first.”

 

It’s a testament to the enduring qualities of their love that they have crafted such a relationship in a country where the majority of states have not passed marriage equality, and it’s both startling and sad to think that a couple like this has been denied such a basic right. “Straight couples have the privilege of marriage and societal acceptance to help bind them together,” Cody says. “Wayne and I have not had that – we’ve simply had to rely on our commitment to one another – nothing is legally holding us together with the exception of a joint checking account and a house title.”

A couple that works not only to make their own relationship work, but to remember and honor the relationships of the gay men and women who came before, and who will come after, deserves special appreciation. Love can lead men to do great deeds. It can inspire us to accomplish dreams, and in the best circumstances to become better than we would be on our own. Cody and Wayne are a living testimony to this. This summer will hopefully be bringing them back to the place where they had that first buggy ride, in service of Wayne’s new theatrical production, ‘Upstairs’, a musical documenting the 1973 arson fire that destroyed a gay bar in New Orleans and killed 32 people. He hopes to have the funding in place to mount a production in time for the 40th anniversary of the fire in the city where it happened.

It’s a fitting place to end this story, back in the city that spawned that first photograph. Looking at the picture again, it takes on new meaning now that we know them a little better. What had first struck me was how simple and normal it was, but also how powerful it was because of that. After having to fight for rights for so many years, it seems many of us have forgotten that the most significant way to effect change is simply through living our lives openly and honestly, without fanfare or hype. I am suddenly touched by how deeply the love between two people can change the world, inspiring some or reminding others of how things might be. There will always be something worthy in the telling of a love story, some sense of reason and right in an often-mad world.

“Our relationship hasn’t changed my life – it is my life,” Cody states with an elegant simplicity. “He and I have been together the vast majority of my adult years – I don’t really have another point of reference – what little I do have cannot even begin to compare to what I’ve experienced in this relationship. We’ve shared and been through so much together, I can’t imagine Wayne not being the most important part of my life. We do our thing. We are who we are. We help our family and friends as best we can. We try our best to set a good example. There’s not much more you can do.”

Wayne credits his partner with just as much, revealing a new take on the picture that inspired so many: “Cody didn’t just change my life; he saved it. It’s not at all apparent in that picture, but I was what you’d call an “angry young man.” Angry at myself. Angry at the world around me. Angry at God. AIDS was a fear, bigotry was rampant, and I was condemned to hell by my religion. What was the point? I wasn’t at all suicidal, but I didn’t think I’d live to see 30. This didn’t manifest with drugs or alcohol, but with a tendency to give the finger to authority figures in general, an assumption that I had no future, and general rage and nihilism. I didn’t care. Cody gave me something to care about, something to work toward, a reason to try. Today, I care about so much, and that is independent of Cody. But it was Cody who got me over that patch of nihilism and gave me reason to hope for the future, for myself and for gays in general. And just look how those hopes have been rewarded!”

As of this writing, Cody and Wayne are finishing up furnishing their new home. A FaceBook post reveals that the curtains and rods are being hung, along with a new chandelier. Both gentlemen are also busy at work on ‘Upstairs’. As has been the case over the last eighteen years, they’re in the midst of a happily shared life. It’s such a simple thing, but it’s the simplest things that most move the heart.

———————————————————————————————————

Wayne Self’s new musical play, Upstairs, is about the 1973 arson fire that took 32 LGBT lives. This deadliest crime against LGBT people in U.S. History has been virtually ignored by the media and its victims largely forgotten. Wayne’s play, currently in workshops, tells the amazing stories of many victims and survivors, but he needs your help to bring the play to New Orleans in time for the 40th Anniversary of the fire. To become a Kickstarter backer, follow this link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1050849868/upstairs-a-new-musical-new-orleans-anniversary-sho

 

Continue reading ...

Profile of a Straight Ally: Adam “Skip” Montross

The man sits in the midst of a sea of young girls and a smattering of their gay pals, yet he is alone. It is the 10:20 showing of ‘The Hunger Games’, and a solo gentleman in a baseball cap courting his mid-thirties may make for a suspicious visage to some, but he is relatively unfazed. He checks his phone, as much out of habit as self-conscious distraction, and fires off a quick FaceBook post, both betraying a sophomoric excitement and self-deprecating belittlement of his attendance at such a movie. There’s a certain respect that must be given to those who can retain a sense of boyhood wonder, as well as those with the self-possession to see such a movie alone. That sort of self-possession is why some straight guys don’t have a problem with gay men. It takes a secure, confident, and sure-of-himself guy to not pause at the notion of hanging out with guys who are attracted to other guys. It takes a brave and courageous man to not fear being called or considered ‘gay’ when stepping out of traditionally masculine roles. And it takes a guy with an impressive set of balls to so closely and fiercely align himself with fighting for equality for all. In this premiere installment of the straight ally series, Skip Montross is that guy.

Most of my straight male friends, and more than a few of the gay ones, don’t have that kind of confidence. Sometimes I don’t even have that confidence. Luckily, there are people like Skip who have enough for the rest of us, who inspire us to find that confidence within ourselves, empowering us with their vision of equality. These are our allies – the formidable straight people who realize that this is their fight too, the fight for a better world.

In some ways they are more admirable. They don’t need to do it, but they realize that it’s the right thing to do, that to stay silent is its own form of oppression, and that acquiescence can be a crime in itself, and a more insidious one at that. Skip understands this, and explains his views with passionate reason, making irrefutable points grounded in disciplined intelligence, all the while speaking from the heart:

“You ask why this means a lot to me and I say that it’s for the same reason that it SHOULD mean a lot to everyone; because it is right, because it is just, and because it is fair. Take a good look at our history. Study it well. The heroes whose names we all learn as school children are always those who championed the rights of a minority against the aggressive opposition of those who preached contempt, division, and often hate under the guise of false righteousness. Likewise, the passage of time and the clarity of hindsight is never kind to those who fire-walled progress. Rather, it shines a spotlight on their ignorance and bigotry. Martin Luther King Jr’s defining quote may well be, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Governor George Wallace? “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Which side of history are you willing to place yourself upon? We are at this place again, having taken far too long to get here. America is ridding herself of an unsightly scar. The process is long and painful but wholly worthy.”

“It is assured that the generations that follow us will view the voices of today, those who say that traditional marriage is a right reserved for only straight couples, with the same bitter disdain that we reserve for those who believed that separate could ever be equal… That is why it means so much to me… not because I benefit but because it is right… I feel the need, nay the duty, to stand up to radical ignorance and hypocrisy. It boils my blood when individuals, or collectives of a like minded ignorance, stand behind obscure passages in the bible and use them as an armor of righteousness with which to cloak and shield their transparent and hateful bigotry. It is reckless and woefully misleading when someone quotes biblical passage as a justification to oppose gay marriage. There are so many philosophical and ideological miscarriages when using the bible as a defense of marriage that it boggles the mind. Freely they cite Leviticus 20:13 as, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination” as they preach it to the heavens. Yet they freely dismiss the abomination levied upon those who dare eat shellfish or get a tattoo? Protest a gay marriage? “Where and when do we show up.” Protest a Red Lobster? “Aww but man, they have the best cheddar biscuits.” It’s this kind of hypocrisy that tears at me with vicious claws. Clearly, adherence to the bible is flexible enough to ignore instructions that are inconvenient, such as murdering one’s children for disobedience, but when it’s convenient to justify hate… well then it’s gospel. It’s the ultimate in passive aggressive bigotry. If you’re afraid of gay people… we get it. If lesbians creep you out… that’s fine. Just stand up and have the courage to fucking say it. Hiding behind an obscure passage makes you not only a homophobe but a weak one at that.”

In this era of political-correctness, it’s refreshing to find someone so willing to simply state it, to call out the bigots and name the hypocrisy – because, really, that’s what it is: bigotry and hatred. It takes a lot to put that out there, and most of us are too insecure of what might be said back to us to stand behind it. It took Skip a while to reach that point too.

“Like most adolescents and young adults, I wasn’t always supremely confident in myself,” he recalls. “A teenage boy who admits that he cries at earnest and touching character films can take a lot of slack from friends and cliques. While I always knew what I liked, I was sometimes afraid of being honest based on what others might think. I feel like I completely grew into myself somewhere in my early to mid twenties. It was at that point when I realized that I know exactly who I am through and through. I sometimes get the feeling that not everyone enjoys that benefit. I think that once you truly know who you are you find that, with the exception to those that you love and hold close, you couldn’t care less what anyone else in the world thinks. I am a nearly-35-year-old husband and Dad who has been going bald for as long as anyone can remember, who enjoys watching “So You Think You Can Dance” and singing songs from “Wicked” just as much as I enjoy giving fantasy football advice while fixing your computer. I am who I am and I like what I like. Thus, I am afforded the ability to speak loudly about that which I hold true.”

 

That ability also gives him the bravery to sit alone at a showing of ‘The Hunger Games’, as we return to the original scene of this piece. The movie nears its final stretch, and the clock closes in on midnight. At home, his wife and daughter rest in peaceful slumber. A son is on the way too, but for now, for this midnight, he is on his own. Every husband and father has his own way of carving out time alone. The Don Drapers of the world get drunk and skip out on their daughter’s birthday party while others find more innocent and constructive ways of retaining sanity, of holding on to the wild navy nights of their youth.

 

He often references those nights, with a laugh and bravado at how he was able to survive – sometimes with bloody noses, sometimes with bruised limbs, sometimes with suppressed tears. I’ve heard him reminisce about being a part of a group that unfailingly supports one another, bound by oaths and promises and the simple shared dignity of fighting for your country. These days, the macho bonds of brotherhood, instilled by the navy and its fiendishly dichotomous life of regimented strictness and shore-leave abandon, have been supplanted by the comfort and excitement in taking care of his kids – a job that sometimes requires the efficiency and discipline of a navy admiral.

There are terrors and frights that accompany such a family life – resignations and appeals and a bartering system that all married folks realize and master and come to terms with, happily or unhappily, and in the end most of us do what we can to survive, hopefully not hurting the ones we love too much along the way. We both see that, we both love our partners, but we’re not blind to sacrifice, and all that goes along with being loved. It is life’s great balancing act – how to love and be loved, and though difficult at times, we are fortunate enough to have found it amply rewarding as well.

It helps that we’ve fostered outlets for such sacrifice through creative expression, and Skip’s skills are more varied than mine; he’s even been known to sculpt a relief of a baseball player for a family member’s birthday gift, or compose a poem for a special occasion. Like my wedding.

If there were any lingering doubts as to our friendship, and Skip’s taking up the mantle of a straight ally, they were obliterated with his wedding gift to Andy and me. Amid a wealth of generous offerings and exquisite gifts, his remains one of our favorites. It was a poem, simply framed and gorgeously rendered, and I’m reprinting it here because it perfectly captures the essence of Skip and what he means to us:

HIS & HIS TOWELS ~ By Skip Montross

 

We searched both high and low,
For the perfect gift to give.
Something that you’d remember,
For as long as you both shall live.
 
 
 
But they don’t make his and his towels you see,
What you’re doing is kind of new.
Sadly the world isn’t there yet,
They’ve not caught up to you.
 
 
 
Some people are convinced,
That theirs is the only way.
They say marriage is not the right of every man,
Especially those who are gay.
 
 
 
But yet you’re both defiant,
And your love you do not hide.
Brave and boastful you share it,
Full of both beauty and of pride.
 
 
 
Those of us who’ve known you,
Through your long and storied past,
Know that yours is the truest of loves,
The kind to ever last.
 
 
 
And as you drink and dance and laugh,
Take a look at your gathered friends,
For in the face of arrogant ignorance,
They stand with you till the end.
 
 
 
But worry not of that this night,
Just bask in joy and glory.
For tonight we choose to celebrate,
The “Andy and Alan” story.

That it was a straight man who so eloquently portrayed our love was proof that this battle for acceptance and equality is one that both gay and straight people will need to take up. But more than that, it cemented Skip’s status as a close friend, one whom I respected both for his heart, as well as his talent. In addition to the occasional foray into poetry and sculpture, Skip is perhaps best known for his stand-up comic skills, having performed from Broadway Joe’s to Waterworks. He’s got an uncanny knack for impressions, and his humor is both smart and sly, clever and witty. Like many comedians, however, Skip is capable of, and often prone to, going dark at times. Not just bad-mood dark, but a darkness that overtakes days and sometimes longer stretches of time. He’ll disappear from FaceBook or the comedy clubs, only to return – re-energized, reinvigorated – with a kick-ass stellar set, and then he’ll be gone again.

Though he claims that nothing embarrasses him, he has a certain undisguised sensitivity in the way the world can hurt people, himself included ~ it’s a heightened sensitivity that goes hand-in-hand with an empathy and understanding of the bullied and the oppressed. When asked how he would address someone who was looking for some way to survive, he offers the following:

“To me the answer is painfully simple yet very difficult for one to accept. At the end of the day it all boils down to understanding, knowing undoubtedly and accepting fully one simple sentence: It’s not you, it’s them. Every time I hear a story about a young person committing suicide because of bullying, I feel a deep swell of utter pity. I pity that they never had a fighting chance. As I said earlier, having a clearly and confidently defined sense of self is one of the keys to a fulfilling life. If you know who you truly are and you can love that person truly then life can be joyful. I imagine a poor soul who is tortured because they are meant to feel ashamed of their identity. I wish that in every instance there was someone who could have said, “You are good and you are worthy and you are loved and you are not wrong for feeling whatever it is that you feel.” Because I’ve enjoyed the great fortune of being surrounded by those who fostered me to be whoever I wanted to be, it is difficult to imagine feeling anything other than support by those closest to me. What a fortified and solitary existence that must create, surrounded by walls of defense and self doubt. Why are there not enough of us who can recognize this and say to them, “It is not you. It is them. You are not wrong or sinful or ugly or less because someone has told you that. When someone tells you that it is because they themselves are afraid and angry. What you are, in fact, is better. You are better than someone who would turn you on yourself in hateful judgment. You are better than you believe yourself to be. Someday in the future you will look back and feel angry that you ever felt this way because you will be proud of, and have faith in, yourself. You just need to know that it is not you, it is them.” To live with constant self-doubt and self-hate is what I imagine to be a dark place. And I imagine that coming out of that place, as it were, must take a warrior’s courage. To risk everything on the chance to simply be okay with yourself is a courageous and, I imagine, frightening endeavor. We’ve progressed as a culture where being different and unique is significantly more accepted than it was as little as a generation ago… but it is still a monumental task.”

“I have never had to experience what the weight of that doubt and fear and shame feels like… but I can imagine. And that is why I have the utmost respect for anyone who has had the courage to openly admit their sexuality and also for those struggling to find it.”

 

Skip makes an interesting analogy of homophobia being the real disease, not homosexuality. He turns the traditional notion of equating gay people with those having an affliction on its head, reversing that vulgar thought. It highlights an important social construction: the problems that many gay people have may not be a failing in the fact that they’re gay, but a failing in the way the world treats them. It’s not being gay that’s killing these kids, it’s the hatred heaped upon them for being gay that makes them kill themselves.

“A friend by definition is someone who you’ve chosen to be company, someone who shares similar ideals and values and someone who’s of value to you as a person,” Skip explains. “Anything that affects that person is something that you should feel by proxy. Say for instance you have a friend who has been diagnosed with a disease such as cancer or Multiple Sclerosis. You’re naturally inclined to learn more about it and become a proponent for its eventual cure. You do this because though its effect on you is indirect, it is still something that means something to you because it means something to them. In this regard, I feel like having several close gay and lesbian friends certainly influences my actions and beliefs. The disease analogy is apt here because my friends do suffer from a disease. Not the disease of their sexual orientation as some segments of society would have you believe. Rather, they all are crippled with the disease that is the intolerance and contempt of a society who, by and large, forces them to be labeled, categorized, identified as different and deemed unworthy of basic rights. It is not their own diagnosis, but the diagnosis of a sometimes hateful society, which nonetheless has symptoms and complications. It is for this reason that I choose to, in much the same way that a friend of someone who has cancer would, speak and actively seek to find a cure. I don’t want to cure my friends of gayness (because a world without gays and lesbians would suck big time). I want to cure others of misguided ignorance and unsubstantiated fear.”

The first time I met him in person was at one of my holiday parties. He arrived with his wife Sherri (then his girlfriend), one of my co-worker friends whom I trusted implicitly not to bring riff-raff into my home. He wore a snazzy newsboy cap and pin-stripe jacket ~ semi-metrosexual bordering on a then-hipster style. Greeting him in red tulle and matching spray-painted hair, I didn’t really have a fashion-leg to stand on – it was my Venetian Vanity party after all. (Insert Skip’s disparaging Cyndi Lauper hair quip here.) As the evening unfolded, I was impressed and ultimately won over by his wit and limitless knowledge of useless trivia and entertainment facts, underscored by a self-effacing sense of humor and a sensitivity hidden just below the surface. 

While he embraces, sometimes ironically, a well-tread suburban dream, one gets the sense that part of him yearns for more. At his soul, he has an artistic temperament, and it finds expression like most artists – in the unlikeliest of places and moments, and in any way possible – the aforementioned plaster reproduction of a sports plaque, a quirky color on the basement man-cave wall, an uproarious FaceBook post that comes out of nowhere, or the gift of a poem for a wedding.

When Sherri later mentioned how happy he was that I had approved of his outfit, something touched me on a deeper level. That’s when I realized that straight guys were just as insecure as gay guys, and required as much, if not more, validation. In that small sliver of a moment, a mind-set was changed, altered forever after, and straight men were suddenly a lot less scary to me.

 

In the ensuing years Skip and I forged a sometimes unlikely friendship, with occasional dovetail moments like a shared love of ‘Wicked’ and the Red Sox, and I recognized in him a sort of boundless creativity somewhat tempered by his stereotypical role in the world. Straight guys yearn to be more than just “straight guys” as much as gay guys yearn to be more than just “gay guys”. The binding constraints of stereotypes cut into everyone. We each found ways of breaking through such limiting bounds by pushing against the confines that society wanted so badly to impose upon us. In our shared quest for creative fulfillment there exists a commonality that transcends sexuality. It is upon this common ground that our friendship is based.

Yet we can’t get around the fact that being friends with a gay guy and acting as a straight ally continues to raise questions of one’s own sexuality. There will always be those who assume and believe that any brush with gay issues instantly makes one gay as well. The absurdity of this is not lost on Skip, nor does it bother him.

“I’m sure that there have been people that have thought I was gay on a number of occasions,” he surmises. “One girl I worked with was convinced I was mostly because I wore suit jackets every day for the first week at the job. And I’ll admit that I can see how a guy who openly sings show-tunes and ranks “The Birdcage” among his favorite comedies is someone who you might question. If they think that, it’s not because I’ve showed the slightest inclination towards finding the male physique the least bit enticing. It’s just not the way that my clock ticks. I knew I liked girls from around the time that I kissed my neighbor, a cute Japanese girl named Shawna, when I was about 5 years old. Or when I stumbled upon my first playboy and tried to understand what that new found warm tingling feeling was. They think that because I fit some external stereotypical profile that they’ve set up on ‘who’s gay’ based on a bunch of factors that have nothing to do with sexual preference.”

“I could care less if everyone in the world thought I was gay. For two reasons: A) That’s not a bad thing to me. I’d take it as a compliment because someone thought that I was boisterous and had good taste. B) To me, being angry or defensive about someone thinking I was gay is as absurd as getting angry over being confused for a Shaolin Monk. I’m not. I know that. So why on earth would it adversely affect me what anyone else thinks?”

“I think that often, maybe not always but often, the negative reaction someone has to being called something that they are not is a by-product of the internal fear that maybe they are. So when I read a message board boasting that someone is afraid that a young boy watching two boys kiss on “Glee” will give them gay inclinations I have to just shake my head. Watching two boys kiss when I myself was a boy would illicit no reaction other than perhaps an odd curiosity. It certainly wouldn’t have given me any kind of response based on desire. I feel like when someone indicates that they feel differently than that, like watching this would confuse them or persuade them towards similar exploration, it always makes me wonder how shaky their own sexual inclinations might actually be. I have no issue with someone who could feel a hormonal or sexual response from this type of stimuli and thinks that it could be enticing. I just think that when you suggest that it’s a possibility then you’re announcing something to the world that maybe you didn’t intend if you get my drift. Socrates said that, “From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.””

Skip is able to laugh off some of his stereotypically gay traits, but sagely reasons that those traits really have nothing to do with sexuality at all. It’s a reminder that pertains to everyone, and when I took the time to truly think about it, it was startling in its resonance. “I joke about being a ‘few steps away from being a gay man’ because it’s my way of playing off of some people’s misguided perception of me based on what I like,” he explains. “These perceptions seem always to be based off of someone noticing my proclivity for show tunes, my desire to have the interior of my living space present nicely while colors co-ordinate and decorations flourish, my yearly joy during the Oscar Awards or my unabashed love of all things Gaga. To them, these are the things that they consider to be “red flags.” It never ceases to amaze me that the things that make me “a few steps away from being gay” are things that have literally nothing at all to do with sexual preference. They’re just the things I like. And they’re the things that I’ve always liked.”

Such stereotypes run along the same lines of limited reason that makes some people question whether all straight allies are gay. Fortunately, that kind of ignorance is dying out, whether they want to believe it or not. Future generations have made it clear that being gay does not matter to them. They will continue to operate and vote with that in mind. The world is catching up to the fact that marriage equality is one of the last human rights not being afforded to everyone. Righting inequality is never an easy or quick task, but it feels like we are on the tipping point. The next generation will continue this, and largely because of people like Skip – and the children he is raising (even if his propensity for crafting a serviceable French braid in his daughter’s hair raises more eyebrows).

“Having a daughter has seemed to only make people’s questions multiply,” he claims. “I can braid my daughter’s hair, I help her make changes to her various dolls’ wardrobes to enhance their “fashion” (as she likes to put it) and I often serve as the “Reigning Queen” for her tea parties. I do this because it’s what she likes and I like playing with her and having fun. I also do this so that she knows that in this big wide world she’ll experience with age that she’ll run into boys who like dresses and girls who like flannel shirts… and that just makes them different and unique, which are traits that I want my daughter to value in others and even strive for herself.”

It is here where Skip’s value as a straight ally is most admirably pronounced. His greatest accomplishments won’t be in teaching me sports or HTML, but in raising his daughter and son to be loving and accepting of all people. It’s not only a boon to the world as a whole, but to his kids as well. Those who don’t open their children’s minds to the possibility of difference do them a grave disservice in preparing them to be successful and productive members of society. That’s what’s always confused me about those who indoctrinate hate and dissension into their children: those kids are going to grow up unable to successfully navigate a diverse world, trapped by the shackles of ignorance and held back by an inability to get along with others.

Skip and Sherri are giving their children the best start in life, teaching them how to love, and instilling a sense of what it’s like to be loved. Fittingly, that’s where this story ends – with the future. Skip’s legacy will be two more people who don’t see difference as a bad thing, but who accept and embrace it as something of value. He is teaching them to be inquisitive and open, accepting and non-judgmental. It is the basic tenet of a straight ally. That sort of thing will always move me. It’s one thing to say you’re my friend – it’s quite another to put your actions behind it.

He closes with a succinct summation: “If you feel that something as simple as one single trait (of the countless traits that make up a person), the bio-chemically predetermined factor of a human being’s sexual preference, is a tool which you can use to judge or admonish them, then I say that you are either woefully misinformed… or that you are yourself, at heart, simply not a good person. Life is far too short, and is already fraught with far too many heartaches. No human being should waste a solitary thought nor spend a single breath in attempt to make another human being doubt or lament their own identity. Nor can anyone truly believe in earnest that they are afforded a right with which to wrestle, from another, a right which is inalienably theirs. Love, no matter what manifestation it may be found, is the most precious commodity we have on this earth. Don’t shit on it; lest progress and history shit on you.”

His words ring with the blunt edge of inevitable change, the charged future for a better world. It is the sound of a dying branch of shame finally breaking off in the winds of righteousness, the reclaiming of a religion twisted and abused in the name of hatred, and the last gasp of an irrational and unreasonable group of people afraid of anything different. It is a clarion call for honesty, for being the people we were born to be – a demand for acceptance, for equality, for every individual to be afforded the right to love. It is, at its heart, the wish and hope and dream of a better world.

“I believe that there are far too many people who spend time trying to present an image to the world, constantly manicuring a representation of what they think people want or expect to see while never exploring or developing the person they actually are. The moment that you’ve handcuffed perception with identity is the moment that you’ve censored both your voice and your beliefs.” ~ Skip Montross
Continue reading ...

Profile of a Straight Ally: A Series

A straight ally is a heterosexual man or woman who has contributed in some way to fostering equality for all human beings, particularly in regards to battling homophobia, ending discrimination, and supporting marriage equality. A straight ally fights for human rights, especially those denied gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, with the knowledge that to deny equality to one segment of the population is to diminish all of us as human beings.

It’s not enough to stand alone, because no matter how tall one may stand this sort of social revolution will not be accomplished by one person. It will take a collective effort from all of us – gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, male and female – and change ~ true, lasting, meaningful change ~ can only begin with understanding and kindness, friendship and love.

We stand on the precipice of something great – a moment that matters. We have in our reach the power to make a difference, to make a change, to make the world a better place – whether that’s in something as simple as a shared laugh, or as deeply felt as a new way of thinking about what you may hold closest to your heart.

Tomorrow marks the premiere installment of a new series, “Profile of a Straight Ally”, in which I write a feature on a straight ally who has especially moved or impressed me in some way, specifically regarding their stance on equality. When it was time to pop my straight ally cherry for this series, it came down to a few choice contenders. Ben Cohen and Hudson Taylor were at the top of the list, and both luminaries will be profiled in the coming months, but for my first straight ally profile, I wanted to get a little more personal and select someone closer to me: Adam “Skip” Montross – my friend and webmaster.

Continue reading ...

It’s Too Late for Me… But I’ve Got A Lot of Gay Friends

I’m also a little late posting this, but it’s still damn funny.

Continue reading ...

The Wedding Coat ~ The Holiday Card 2010

Being that Andy and I were married in 2010, the only suitable photo card for that year was my first-ever joint picture. It depicts us in our wedding finery (the coat was what I wore for our reception/celebration, while Andy’s outfit is what he wore for the ceremony.) Taken by the pool on one of those glorious summer nights, it was proof that I didn’t mind sharing the billing, and a nifty commemoration of that special year.

Continue reading ...

No Liberty At Liberty Ridge Farm

It’s one thing to hear about places that turn down same-sex weddings at their venues – I assume, disappointedly, that it happens far more than we’re aware of – but it’s quite another to hear about it happening in your own backyard. Say what you will about upstate New York, there are still a great number of wonderful people and places here that you can’t get anywhere else, and I take a certain amount of pride in living and having been raised here. Yet when I hear about something like this, it makes me sad to be a in a place where such beliefs still exist.

Liberty Ridge Farm recently turned down a same-sex couple who wanted to have a wedding at their venue. In a story reported at Kristi’s On the Edge blog and on WNYT, the owners of Liberty Ridge Farm politely turned down not just one gay wedding, but a total of three gay weddings, at their site in the past year.

If it is indeed a private establishment, does Liberty Ridge have the right to refuse service to someone? Absolutely.

Do I have the right to object to that decision and recommend a boycott? Absolutely.

That’s the beauty of the liberty that this country is founded upon. Unfortunately for Liberty Farms, it’s just bad business. It’s also hypocritical, as I have no doubt that at least a few of the folks who have been married there had been divorced previously, so if you’re going to espouse religious beliefs, at least be consistent about it. Picking and choosing is where the bigotry and discrimination come into play.

It’s upsetting to think that there are businesses that still refuse service to certain people based on their sexual identity. That is no different than denying service to someone based on their race, gender, religion, or other aspect. And if being gay is a choice, where does that leave religion? Surely that is more of a choice than being gay. What if a company were to deny service to someone because they were Mormon or Jewish or Catholic? Would you support a business like that, no matter how much you liked what they were offering? Would you support a business that turned customers away or refused service because they were black? Personally, I can’t, and I won’t.

What may be most insidious about this whole thing is that all reports indicate that the owners of Liberty Farm Ridge denied this couple their wedding in the most polite and nice way, even apologizing to the two young women that they couldn’t accommodate them. As if that excuses homophobia. As if it’s okay to say, “I hate gay people and don’t believe they deserve the same rights as me,” so long as you do it with a smile and an apology.

Well I’m sorry too. Sorry that Liberty Ridge Farm is such a homophobic establishment that they chose to turn down at least three loving couples who wanted only to get married in a beautiful place. Sorry that though they may have the right to deny the use of their land to anyone, they chose to do so based on someone’s sexual identity. Sorry that I refuse to just accept it and pretend it’s not a homophobic act. And sorry that thanks to the news of social media (and their own website, FaceBook page, and Twitter account), people know exactly what sort of hateful, homophobic practices go down at Liberty Ridge Farm, and how to get in touch with them. Most of all, I’m sorry that while I am sincerely asking any and all of those who decide to reach out to them to be polite and respectful (and doing so with a smile on my face), some simply won’t listen.  (Super sorry about that last one.)

Continue reading ...

Proud to be an American

This will hopefully remain a blog relatively free of politics, because there’s enough of that out there, and I’ve always wanted this space to be a respite for such polarizing issues. Yet as a gay man in this country at this time, I cannot be completely silent, especially when I see the differences between the Democratic and Republican platforms. It should be no secret whose side I’m on, but I think Michelle Obama puts it far more eloquently than I ever could. At the 7:00 mark, I started to get chills.

“If proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love, then surely, surely, we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American dream… because in the end, in the end, more than anything else, that is the story of this country – the story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle.”

Continue reading ...

Super Moon, Super Fight

The Super Moon rose a few Saturdays ago – on our anniversary weekend no less, when we were ensconced in Boston and enjoying a dinner at Clio – and wreaked havoc with our evening in the form of a big fight. Exerting its pull and its crazy power to upend things, the moon worked to wreck a very fine dinner as Andy and I fell prey to its advances and went into warrior mode.

We’re not one of those couples who yells or screams all the time – that’s not the way we operate. Our style – the one that works (or doesn’t always work) for us is smooth sailing for a long time, then a big huge fight that brings up everything that’s bothered us over the previous few months, then a few days when it all dies down and goes back to normal.

I’m not saying this is the best way to deal with things – most of my perfectly-married friends say we need to work on communication – but I was not raised that way, and every time I did communicate, well, it ended in a fight anyway so why even bother?

Personally, I’d rather have one or two days every few months where things are brought up and discussed (or yelled about) and enjoy the majority of peaceful time in-between, rather than deal with every single squabble that comes up and potentially ruining every other hour.

Every marriage has its rainy days. Andy and I are lucky to have not had many storms. Still, one has to be wary, always aware of potential hurricanes on the horizon, (or super moons) and keep them at bay with kindness, compromise, and that magic, elusive ingredient that solves so many problems – forgiveness.
Continue reading ...