“Do you think your marriage will change your relationship with Doug?” Linda asked. I was having lunch at a bistro in Chelsea with Linda, my literary agent, and discussing the completion of my book about coming out in midlife and beyond.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Well, the most obvious way is that it will resolve some of the legal complexities we face as an unmarried couple. But it’s much more than that.” I thought for a while, and then I went on.
Doug and I will be married at my United Church of Christ in Des Moines this fall in a small, private ceremony for our immediate family members. We wanted an intimate ceremony because we see this not only as asking the church to bless our vows, but also as a request to our families that each of us be assimilated as a full member in the family of the other. For us, this is a very personal and private moment we want to share only with the people we love the most.
It also changes the level of our commitment to each other. Introducing Doug as my (legal) husband is far different than introducing him as a partner in a civil union. Once, several years ago, I expressed some anxiety to Doug that he might leave me.
He responded, “If I’m still there in the morning, you’ll know I have renewed my commitment,” and then with a smile, “at least for another day.” After finding him there in the morning for 23 years, I no longer feel that anxiety, but marriage does carry with it a bigger promise of commitment and permanence.
A few years ago I received an invitation to my family reunion, along with the usual request to update family information. I didn’t send it back right away, struggling with whether or not to mention Doug since I had never come out to the extended family.
When I arrived at the reunion, I met one of my cousins, and I asked about her family. She mentioned only two of her three kids. I asked about the third. She grew uncomfortable, and said, “He’s involved in reparative therapy for homo-sex-u-als in Wichita,” clearly wanting to end that conversation.
I responded, “That’s pretty difficult work.”
She said, “Yes, it is.”
I was asked to give a talk at the reunion, and I decided to use it as
an opportunity to let them know about my life with Doug, but under the
circumstances, I worried a little about doing it. After the reunion, I
was overjoyed when I received a request from the family genealogist for
information about Doug to be included in our family tree. But now that
we will be married, the line connecting Doug and me in the family
tree will be changed from a dotted to a solid one.
Following the wedding, we will have a big dinner reception, but without
the garter, the tossed bouquet, and the wedding cake with two men in
tuxes. This will be much more than a wedding reception; we will be
celebrating 23 years of living in a faithful and committed relationship
want all of our friends to join in this celebration, our liberal
friends, our conservative ones, and homophobic and homo-naive friends
who are really struggling with the issue of same-sex marriage. It is
our hope that by bringing everyone together, the festivity will help
them understand that our relationship is just like theirs, improving
the level of their tolerance as they come to know each other in the
spirit of the celebration.
Following the wedding, we will make
some media announcements of our marriage. Gay weddings by their very
nature are revolutionary and political. While we rejoice in the fact
that in Iowa we can have full benefit of marriage, our LGBT brothers
and sisters in many other parts of the United States do not have
marriage equality. We hope that as others begin to see our wedding as
socio-normative, some of the barriers will be removed for others.
I look forward to the opportunity to introduce Doug as “my husband.”
For me, our marriage removes the last barrier to full incorporation
into each other’s life.