We’d only been together for 14 years and 10 months. We weren’t one of the couples of silver-haired people who finally got to legally tie the knot after 50 or more years together. But it still deserved a non-ironic finally. And even though we had been together those years, and I had never doubted his love for me, and couldn’t fathom my life without him, there was something magical and wonderful and powerful about being able to finally call him husband legally.
I had been introducing him as my husband for years. It was a linguistic and political decision I had made before meeting him. Years before Ray died, we had had a commitment ceremony, signed some legal papers (medical power of attorney, wills, that sort of thing). And after that, I called him “my husband.” And now more than 20 years after his death, I still call him “my late husband.”I had tried some of the other words, such as boyfriend or partner. But boyfriend sounded far less serious and fleeting than what our relationship had become. And partner—well, let’s just say that one of the times I used it, an acquaintance literally asked about the business that they thought we were joint owners. So, I started saying husband. And while that sometimes evoked nervous stuttering replies, double-takes, and even the occasional angry comment, it was the word that most accurately described our relationship. And, as I had decided a couple years earlier with the word “queer,” there is power it seizing a word and wielding it like a weapon back in the face of both the actively homophobic and the more thoughtless forms of heterosexism.
I wasn’t surprised that I cried at the wedding (and cried while we were on our way downtown three days earlier, and when strangers handed us rosebuds as we exited the license office, and when a random stranger ran up to us as we were walking away from the courthouse still carrying our roses and gushed “Congratulations!” with tears in her eyes, and when two friends surprised us with a string duet at the ceremony, and… and… and…). There’s an old idiom “he cries at card tricks” to describe those of us who are easily overcome with emotion which most definitely applies to me. But what did surprise me was how, after the ceremony, I would have a little hitch in my voice and feel the surge of my eyes getting watery—not quite tears, but definitely tearing up—whenever I said “husband” for the next several months.
I’d been calling him that (and thinking of him as that) for years, but now it was different. Because for most of my life I had thought I would never be able to legally marry the man I loved. The thought was completely unimaginable! I still have vivid memories of a film they showed us in health class, back in the mid-seventies, during the week we studied “sexual deviancy,” and the film included a scene of two men in pastel tuxedoes walking hand-in-hand down an aisle in what seemed to be a church with the narrator talking about how sexual deviation was so normalized in places like California that people pretended to get married. And it was edited to make it look like they were skipping (you could see the jumps in the flow of the image) with some ridiculous music playing. Meanwhile an entire classroom of my peers were laughing and making gagging sounds all around me.
I had lived through a small number of the most liberal cities in the country setting up domestic partnership registries that carried no actual legal rights, but gave some way to register the relationship so that an employer that decided they wanted to be magnanimous and hand out some benefits to their gay employees, there was a legal-looking paper to point to. And I’d lived through the grudging middle stages, fighting every step as the way, as we got some civil partnership or other half-assed quarter-measure acknowledgement in some states and so forth. I’d watched the bigots spend millions of dollars campaigning against civil unions, angrily insisting that it would destroy the fabric of society and so forth. I had watched, as we slowly won the hearts and minds of a growing percentage of the population, those same bigots suddenly switch to insisted the domestic/civil unions/partnerships were more than adequate and why can’t we live with that so that marriage can be reserved for something special?So intellectually I understand why those same two syllables felt so very different after marriage equality became the law of our home state. As I said after the election, a solid majority of my fellow citizens — a whole bunch of straight people — voted to include us. They staffed phone lines to urge people to vote in favor of equality. They donated money. They showed up and voted. And then hundreds (or more) of those straight people turned up at the courthouses and county offices and so forth on those first days we could get licenses to cheer for people they didn’t know. On the first day the ceremonies could happen, a huge crowd gathered outside city hall to cheer and clap and being the receiving line for a bunch of queer couples — strangers! — who had just been joined legally in matrimony. Knowing that made me cry then. And it makes me tear up long long after any time I’m reminded of it.
Which happens to be every time I refer to my husband…
So! Today is the five-year anniversary of the day we stood in front of many of our loved ones and exchanged vows. We were pronounced husband and husband and I cried. He’s the most wonderful man I know. I really, seriously can’t quite understand why he puts up with me, let alone loves me. But I’m eternally grateful that he does.
Happy Anniversary, Michael!
A note about the title of this post: I’ve been reading the Savage Love advice column for decades, through the years before Dan Savage met his husband, Terry, when they started dating, when they adopting a kid together, when they finally legally married (in Canada), and so forth. After the Canadian wedding, Dan started referring to Terry as his husband in a very exaggerated pronunciation: “mah huzzzzben!” And I always took it as his way of being proud and a bit shocked that marriage equality had arrived in at least some places within his life time. I always thought it was cute. In a recent blog post he answered a question from a reader who felt that the weird pronunciation was an insult to Terry, or something, and Dan explained:
I started calling Terry mah huzzzzben when we got married—more than a dozen years ago—because in all honesty it felt so weird to call him that. To be able to call him that. I never expected that marriage, legal marriage, would happen in our lifetimes. And while I didn’t have a problem calling him my boyfriend, calling him my husband took some getting used to. So I played up my… well, not quite my discomfort with the word. I played up my unfamiliarity with it. It felt strange to say it—the word “husband,” unlike my husband, felt awkward in my mouth—so I said the word in an awkward way. I did what I advise my readers/listeners to do: you gotta embrace awkwardness to get past it. And I am past it now. It no longer feels strange to call Terry my husband, and I’m capable of saying the word these days without hesitation. But you know what? I like calling him mah huzzzzben. It’s less “this is weird and new and feels awkward to say!” and more “this is my own affectionate pet name for him!” And I’m gonna keep saying it.
I still think it’s cute.
Nineteen years and one week ago, Michael and I went on our first official date.
We had known each other for a few years. Ray and I had met him at a NorWesCon a couple years before that, and then again at the next NorWesCon (where he signed up for the Tai-Pan mailing list), and then he came to a Red Dwarf Marathon Party at our place and we started hanging out a lot. Then, when Ray died, Michael was one of the friends who kept me from completely falling apart.
It hadn’t been quite three months since Ray’s death when I asked Michael on a real date. I was nervous, not about the date, because we were already friends, but I wasn’t sure how some of my friends would react to the news. The first person I told was Kehf. She put her fists up, went “Woooo! I hoped something like this was happening. He lights up when you walk into a room.”
And the only thing I could think of was that I wanted to keep making Michael smile. I wanted that smile in my life forever.
I didn’t propose that weekend. But it wasn’t long after. We didn’t tell people, because I was still getting some weird reactions from several friends (and even worse from family) at just the thought that I was dating so soon after Ray’s death. So we made this very sober and rational plan that we would wait until at least November before moving in together. And we might have sticked to it, too. But some weirdness happened with a pair of new roommates at the house he was sharing with several (they weren’t hostile, they just had no sense of boundaries and did weird things like decide to switch rooms with him and moved all of his stuff without consulting first, and other creepy things) and I barely stopped myself from going ballistic. He was being calm and telling me I was overreacting, and I was “No! We’re getting you out of there now!”
So he moved in with me in August of ’98 and we’ve been together ever since.
I would have to go dig around in the filing cabinet to remember the date of our commitment ceremony. My then-employer changed the rules for adding domestic partners to insurance, and we had to have certain papers signed by a particular date, so the times was thrust on us. We decided to sign medical powers of attorney while we were at it, and since you need to have a notary and witnesses for that we made a small party out of it. It was fun, but wasn’t timing of our choosing. Neither to I remember the exact date we officially signed the paperwork for the state level civil unions, when they became legal.
Our wedding when marriage became legal in the state was also a date that wasn’t entirely our choosing (the very first day you could legally do it), but because of when the law passed the previous spring, and its implementation being delayed because of the anti-gay referendum attempt, and ultimately the voters getting to approve marriage by a comfortable margin, we had months to plan. And our friends threw us a great shindig. So that date I remember. It’s an anniversary, legally and otherwise.But while I don’t remember other details of our first date, I do remember it was February 7, 1998, and it was clearly one of the most important days in my life. We didn’t have a meet-cute. We didn’t experience a lot of hijinks or drama. I still can’t quite believe such a funny, smart, talented, wonderful man can put up with me at all, let alone love me. But he does. And clearly I’m completely and totally gone on him. Happy Valentine’s Day, Michael!
For some reason, I thought Saturday was the 9th. And I had Friday off as a vacation day, whereas he was going to be working. And I knew I had to finish the Christmas shopping on Friday, so it would be the perfect time to pick up the fixin’s for the breakfast, right?
Well, Friday we got snow, so at about 5:30am when my hubby usually goes to work he woke me up to tell me he’d decided to take a personal day rather than ride his bike on the ice- and snow- covered roads while Seattle drivers were losing their minds because of snow. Fine, no problem, I could still do this. When I woke up later I was working on some writing and trying to decide when I should go shopping when I finally noticed that my calendar app on the computer had a big ol’ 9 on the icon.
Funny side note: on Thursday, that same calendar app gave me a reminder that a former co-worker’s birthday was Friday. But it didn’t remind me that my anniversary was the same day because genius that I am, I have never entered our anniversary into the calendar. D’oh!
Midmorning I realized that our anniversary wasn’t Saturday, but it was that day. So I went upstairs, wished him a happy anniversary, and apologized for getting the days mixed up. He pointed out that he hadn’t said anything about it, either, so I didn’t really have anything to apologize for.
So, we went out to brunch, then we did the Christmas shopping together, I didn’t pick up the breakfast fixin’s. It was okay.
This morning, I woke up and decided that I would proceed with the plan. So I walked to Ballard Market, picked up flowers, picked up fixin’s for biscuits, gravy, scrambled eggs, and bacon breakfast, and came home and got to work.
I was about midway through cooking when he got out of bed earlier than usual and came downstairs. He expressed surprised I was cooking a big breakfast. I told him that I was in the middle of making a surprise breakfast for him, and shoo-ed him out of the kitchen saying, “Go look at your late Anniversary Flowers!”
And he said, “They aren’t late. They’re Anniversary-plus-one Flowers.”
I don’t deserve him.
“For those alone today, I didn’t find my one until I was 30. She was 50. There’s no ticking clock on finding the right partner.”
I’ll just add that there are many kinds of love. That you can love and be loved without being in a relationship. That you can find love and be loved by more than one person. That a lot of love is discarded or missed by some people because they assume that the relationship escalator is true and that all relationships have to ride that thing to the exact same destination.
And don’t believe the myth that you can’t love others until you learn to love yourself. Sometimes, it works the other way around. Sometimes, letting someone you love into your life is what helps you find the lovable in yourself. Love isn’t always symmetrical and mutual. And it doesn’t have to be.
We’re celebrating a friend’s birthday with a group of mutual friends today. Because love is love.
Part of the reason I kept tearing up was because it was a historic moment. A nice majority of voters in our state has agreed that gay and lesbian couples should be able to legally marry just weeks before, and so we were officially tying the knot on the very first day that it was allowed in our home state. This was over a year before the U.S. Supreme Court extended that same legal right all across the country. So we’d been fighting for the right to marry for a long time, including a previous attempt by the religious right to repeal the state law granting domestic partnerships all the legal rights the state could. So part of the celebration was for the thousands of other couples around the state who were finally able to access such legal rights as hospital visitation and community property and renting, leasing, or buying property jointly (without having to pay extra taxes if one of you predeceased the other), and so on. Much of which doesn’t sound very romantic until you read heart-wrenching stories of people who are kicked out of their own homes or barred from the deathbed of a dying lifelong partner because of homophobic relatives.
Another part of the reason my eyes kept brimming over with tears was because he had already been together for 15 years at that point, and while we had called each other husband and many of our friends saw us that way, we weren’t husbands before the law.
Another part was that so many of our friends had gone to great lengths to make the ceremony I kept referring to as “the elopement” into something a lot more fabulous than I had expected. From the surprise string duo to the incredible number of flowers, to the custom chocolates, and so much more, it was a magical day.
And then there are the friends themselves. Contrary to what some people say (including a lot of the anti-gay folks who try to pretend they aren’t anti-gay), a marriage is not just a private agreement between two people. Legally a marriage isn’t just a piece of paper, nor is it only a contract between two adults, nor even merely the list of over 1000 federal legal rights that were often talked about in the court cases dealing with marriage equality. Legally it is a binding agreement between those two people and the state. The state (and by extension local and federal governments) promise to provide certain rights to the people being wed, and to hold them to certain responsibilities. That’s where all that assurance of property rights and survivor benefits and hospital visitation rights come from, the fact that the government is agreeing to recognize your mutual decision to name each other next of kin.
Likewise, a wedding isn’t just a formality or a ceremony you do for attention. It’s an affirmation and a covenant—not just between the brides and/or grooms, but between the loved ones who attend and those who can’t but offer their support and love. When we attend a wedding, we’re making a promise to support the resulting union.
So our loved ones who attended the wedding, and those who were unable to, but had sent their love and well wishes, were also on my mind that day. And their love and their belief in our love had my heart so full, it nearly burst.
But of course, the biggest reason I kept crying and could barely make my voice work to say the important “I do” when needed, was because Michael is the sweetest, smartest, kindest man I’ve ever known, and for reasons I still can’t quite fathom, he loves me.It may only be officially our third anniversary, but I’ve been privileged to love and live with this man for over seventeen years. Every year with him thus far has been better than the one before. Which means I must be the luckiest guy in the world.
Happy Anniversary, Michael!
And what is the nature of our triumph today? Well, it’s summed up really well in the closing paragraph of the decision:
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 ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
—Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority in the historic Supreme Court decision legalizing marriage equality nation wide.
Our triumph is a love that may endure past death. Our triumph is equal dignity in the eyes of the law. Our triumph is not to be condemned to loneliness. Our triumph is a hope to find another person who we love and loves us in return, and together to become something greater than we were apart.
“Love your way through the darkness.”
Our society is a collection of customs and laws. Those laws exist for the times when customs are not enough to prevent injustice. Some people still claim that love doesn’t need legal protection. The love itself may not, but the people who share it sometimes do.
Sometimes things happen. Our health fails. There is an accident. And suddenly one member of a relationship is no longer able to make decisions for themselves. The law steps in at that time, and if our relationships aren’t recognized by the law, that means that instead of a person we have loved and shared our life with for decades making decisions about our health et cetera, that person is kicked out of our hospital room by bigoted relatives. The person we have loved and shared our life with may find themselves legally barred from entering the home we shared for those years. They may find themselves, like one old friend years ago had to, trying to prove in court that his clothes, personal belongings, and his own family photo albums were his, and not the property of his partner who had died in a car accident.
So while I believe in the power of love, and believe that the best way to get through darkness is love, I also believe in the power of the law. And I and my husband deserve to enjoy the law’s protection exactly the same as anyone else.
“The opposite of injustice is love.”
Not everyone is happy about this, and they can say some pretty irrational things while expressing their disagreement. Others try to act as if this disagreement doesn’t matter. Well, Eleven years ago… my friend Barb, beloved wife of my other friend, Kathy, wrote this essay that says much of what I want to say on that topic. It’s a really great post.
We’d gathered at a friend’s place for gaming, and we were reminded not to turn on a particular light switch because the fixture needed replacing. My husband, Michael, pointed at it and said something along the lines of, “Is there a hardware store nearby?”
“We were going to get someone to come in and—” the friend began.
Michael had already pulled a multitool from his pocket and was checking the wires. “Naw, this will take me a couple minutes, tops.”
Michael and the friend walked to a nearby store while the rest of us set up food and reviewed what happened the previous gaming session. When they got back, Michael set to work.
One of the other friends there looked at me and said, “You’re married to MacGuyver!”
Before I could answer, another one of the friends there said, “You’re just now figuring that out?”
Fixing some badly mangled wires and installing a new fixture is not a super complicated task, obviously (though the number different kinds of things my husband can repair, refurbish, or build is a quite impressive). No, the extraordinary thing is how blithely and eagerly he jumps into such tasks, and the fact that he’s always got a number of tools, spare parts, et al handy.
Sometimes I think he physically feels pain when he sees a machine not functioning correctly. He certainly empathizes strongly with people who are struggling with a device that isn’t working properly. I’m constantly finding computers, phones, or other gadgets stashed around the house in various states of repair he’s got in process. When I ask, about half the time he says, “so-and-so needs a better computer/phone/iPod so I’m trying to get them something newer and more reliable.”
When he doesn’t have someone specifically in mind for a device, he says, “I figured if I get it fixed, I’ll start checking around to see if someone could benefit from the upgrade.”
And those are just a few of his more obvious sterling character traits. I’ve written a few times before about what an incredibly sweet, kind, smart, talented, knowledgeable, skilled, patient, and funny person my husband is. And I am hardly the only person who thinks he’s awesome.
I hope you have a happy birthday, Michael. You’ve more than earned it!
I remember meeting him, at the Northwest Science Fiction Convention, in 1996. I remember meeting him at a room party I was co-hosting. He tells me we actually met the day before, at a panel discussion. I do remember discussing the cute, shy guy from Missouri with Ray after the party. I remember meeting him again, a year later, at NorWesCon. I remember him showing up for a Red Dwarf Marathon Party Ray and I hosted a couple months later, and because by the time the party ended there were no more buses going back to Tacoma, he crashed at our place and we drove him home the next day. By that point, he and Ray had bonded like they had known each other for years. So we started seeing him a lot more often.
When Ray died suddenly (only days after the doctors had given a cautiously optimistic report on how the second round of chemo had gone), Michael was one of many friends who kept me from falling completely to pieces in the aftermath… Read More…
The New Yorker calls it “The Moment for Marriage in Alabama,” while the Religion News Service says, “[the] Handwriting [is] on the wall for gay marriage.”
And they’re both right, at least in the big picture sense. Though we must remember the proverbial warning about counting chicks before they’re hatched. It is clear which way the arc of history is going, but Alabama shows us yet another example of how smooth sailing isn’t in the immediate future—even though In 17 Words, Justice Clarence Thomas All But Declared Marriage Equality Inevitable.
Lots of people have drawn a parallel between the Alabama Chief Justice’s declaration that state officials don’t have to follow the federal court orders about marriage equality to George Wallace’s refusal to let schools integrate racially back in the 1950s. Enough people have drawn that parallel that now op-Ed prices are being written to claim that it isn’t merely “Alabama being Alabama.” According to those pundits, this is somehow not merely prejudice but a manifestation of a deeper-seeded conflict between local and state control versus federal control.
The only way you can make such a ridiculous argument is to be completely ignorant of the history of the struggle for racial equality. Because the argument that it wasn’t prejudice but rather a states’ right claim is exactly what Governor Wallace and the other opponents of segregation and the civil rights movement claimed at the time.
Alabama isn’t the only state where officials are fighting tooth-and-nail against equality for gay people, so in that sense it isn’t just Alabama being Alabama—but it is most definitely bigots being bigoted. If the opponents of LGBT rights were merely (and really) concerned with local control, they wouldn’t (at the same time as they’re making these states’ rights arguments) also be passing state laws to overturn individual cities’ gay rights ordinances.
So, the haters are gonna hate. They’re going to lie and defy. They’ll impede and interfere. But in the end they’re going to lose. Justice will triumph. Equality with reign. Love will prevail.
So, get those lesbian and gay couples to a church, chapel, or courthouse, and let love win the day! And then, let’s dance!
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here!)