Lance + Jeff + Marriage Equality

marriage equalityWe live in some amazing times.

As a blog that every-once-in-a-while discusses a marriage between two dudes, I suppose it would be slightly irresponsible to our three readers (hi, Mom and Dad! And person from Singapore!) if I didn’t address the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases in front of the Supreme Court this week, and what they mean to me and us.

Regardless of whether or not the Supreme Court affirms, overturns or invalidates California’s Proposition 8, the tide is turning.  Marriage equality has already won.  As the basically infalliable Nate Silver points out, support for marriage equality has increased about 2% every year over the last decade and a half.  Neither DOMA nor Proposition 8 nor many of the state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage which passed over the past ten years would’ve even been seriously considered today.  To paraphrase analyst (and kinda creep-o) Jeffrey Toobin, the war for marriage equality in the United States is basically over, though the battles (and there are many still) remain.

Like I said, though: we living in amazing, remarkable times, especially from the viewpoint of a young gay man who saw my home state deny my right to marry in 2002 2004; ten years less than ten years later, I legally wed my partner in our nation’s capital.

We have a president who fully supports marriage equality, as does nearly half the Senate.  Nine states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages, and just this past election, Maryland and Washington state were the first states to enact same-sex marriages by popular vote.  Though leaving civil rights up to the population goes against the 14th Amendment and all that, I’ll let these two states slide, since it demonstrates that, yep, we’re on the cusp of change.

This may all be a bit naive.  If the Supreme Court tosses the Proposition 8 case as many are suspecting after oral arguments on Tuesday, no massive change will have occurred; things remain with the status quo, still too slow to curb bullying, too slow to convince LGBTQ youth that there’s something better out there than the quick release of suicide.

But to those youth, I say, yeah, it does get better.  Look at the numbers, man–it’s actually getting better before our eyes.  It might be slow, but a 30-plus point reversal in public opinion in the last 15 years is massive.    You see all those red and pink equality signs on Facebook? Those people have your back.  Did I ever think, as I was figuring out who I was in the early 2000s, that I’d be able to be married and generally un-harassed and surrounded by a strong network of people who either fervently support my rights or at least say, “eh, who cares?”

Marriage equality is coming at the federal and state level.  Non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation will become more prevalent.  State bans will be overturn.  Eventually, the Supreme Court will consider same-sex marriage protected by the Equal Rights Amendment–they’ll have to from a practical perspective, since how long can the country go with half of its states recognizing some marriages but not others?

I will be able to actually check off “married” on my tax returns, and I’ll be able to do it soon.

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The Pizza Code

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There’s something truly gratifying about “cracking” your partner’s secret language, coming to understand their implicit cues and body language.  Especially when you’re pretty dense, like myself.

This isn’t even something I considered until it dawned on me one day that Lance was saying something but meaning something completely different.  It was the same question he’d ask me at least once a week:  “So….what do you want for dinner?”

For months–if not years!–we went back and forth for a half an hour before finally deciding to just order a pizza.  And then there came the day, after experiencing this dozens of times, that I realized Lance only asks that question when he doesn’t want to cook, but is too unmotivated (or broke!) to go out to a restaurant.

“What do you want for dinner” was code (you guessed it!) for pizza.

Now, instead of wasting a half-hour on failing miserably to come to a compromise, I know right away that we’re just going to order pizza and I can spend the next 29 minutes watching old episodes of Louie on Netflix.

Other examples of Lance’s Code include:

  • The “I’m not answering your e-mail so I don’t have to acknowledge whatever you’re proposing” trick (I’m pretty sure Lance swore, “Sonofabitch!” when he found out that I broke this code);
  • The “We need to do X” play, which really means, “You need to do this because I don’t want to, and I’m trying to be diplomatic.” 

Of course, this isn’t to say that I’m without my own “code”–hell, I’m arguably the most passive-aggressive person you’ll ever know. We’re all about codes!–but I’ll leave that to Lance to detail in another post.

National Coming Out Gay

A photo from one of our first dates, where Lance schooled me in bowling. His unnaturally long arms must give him an advantage, like Lance Armstrong’s enlarged heart…and all the performance-enhancing drugs.

Sorry posts have been so sporadic lately, dudes and dudettes! It’s the busiest time of year at work and nobody’s paying me to do this blog full-time, ya know!  Plus, we’re neck-deep (that is a saying, right? Or is it knee-deep? Or chest-deep? Or deep end of the pool?) in planning for our impending trip to Japan and holiday traveling to various theme parks …so, you know, a full plate.

But fear not, semi-loyal readers and spambots: we hath not forsaken thee! In honor of National Coming Out Day (which is a thing, I think), we’re going to jump forward a little bit in our narration of “Jeff + Lance: Secret Origin” to discuss my very own coming out story…

I was 22, and you could probably count the amount of people who I’d come out to on maybe two hands and half of a foot–and none of those phalanges were family members.  Though I’m sure some psych major could Britta me and identify shame, guilt, embarrassment, and a whole slew of other underlying emotions which kept me from stepping loud and proud out of the closet, I knew my conscious mind held me back because I was just so unsure of how things would unfold if I did.  There was a giant question mark in my way whenever I’d try to logically deduce what sort of outcome was in store.  The uncertainty–for somebody who hates not being in control–killed me.

I’d been dating boys for a few years by the time I met Lance, but I did that awful social limbo that all half-closeted gay dudes do where you deny half of your life to the other half and vice versa, coming up with convoluted excuses for this or that to explain away what you did last weekend (“Oh, me and…a friend (yeah, a friend, that’s it!) went apple-picking together.”) I came out to my friends slowly as circumstance forced me to, not usually by choice.

That…and I don’t really like talking about myself.  I mean, I do talk about myself quite a bit, but it’s mostly topical stuff…revealing heavy emotions, man, just isn’t my bag.

There came a time, though, when it became a necessity to tell my parents, and not just because Lance basically forced me to. See, I had just finished my master’s program at Penn and my parents had come down from Michigan to Philadelphia for my graduation.  I was also using their car as an opportunity to move all of my stuff out of my grad dorm and into…you guessed it, Lance’s apartment, since I hadn’t secured a job yet and, without a sizable chunk of money in the bank or a demonstrable source of income, landlords wouldn’t even consider me for an apartment.

Even thinking about trying to come up with a platonic explanation of my “association” with Lance hurt my brain.  There’s no logical reason why I’d ever meet Lance, a guy five years older than me who worked in a non-profit theatre who I’d be bunking up with while I found a place to live, anywhere outside of a gay bar.

Lance, too, was not-so-subtly pushing me to come out to my parents.  “Are you going to tell your parents?” he would ask in a non-sequitur.  “When’s the next time you’ll see them in person to tell them? TELL THEM NOWWWWWW.”

Hrm.  He had a point. Between the total lack of opportunities to actually say something to my parents in person, now that we lived 800 miles away from one another, and the fact that any fake straight-guy explanation for us knowing one another would create a paradox in space-time…well, I had to tell them.

Oh, that and I guess I loved Lance and stuff at that point and I owed it to him as well.  Y’know…that.

So, my parents and I packed up my belongings and were making our way over to “my friend’s” apartment, and I still hadn’t told them.  My dad pulled up outside of Lance’s building, and I still hadn’t told them.

Um…you’re running out of time, dude.

“Uh, guys…there’s something I need to talk about.”

I couldn’t not say anything anymore.  At least if my parents suddenly disowned me (all prior behaviors suggesting otherwise), I was already 800 miles away and could just figure stuff out then.  But hopefully they’d at least let me unload my stuff before they drove off in a bigoted huff!

You know how it goes at this point: I cry (which might be what Medusa looks like), my parents are instantly and unwaveringly supportive, just wanting the best for me and mostly concerned about my safety and well-being in an intolerant world.

I realize how lucky I am.  Not that somebody should ever have to consider having the full love and unconditional support of their parents as “lucky,” but that’s not how the world works, unfortunately.  I am lucky.

My parents were pretty honest with me, too. “Yeah, I suppose we’ve known for awhile,” my mom said, pointing to my perhaps-too-fervent appreciation of *NSYNC as evidence in the case against my straight-hood.

We had a warm and fuzzy, “Don’t worry, we’ve got each other’s backs” family moment.  It was touching!

…but, we were still in the car, out in front of Lance’s apartment.  I’d waited until the last possible moment to come out to my parents; literally, I came out and 10 minutes later they were going to meet my “we’re pretty serious” boyfriend.  A whirlwind of gay!

I called Lance on my cell.  “Uh, hi.  We’re here.”

Lance, who was upstairs in his apartment at the time, said, “You’re with your parents?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “I talked to them and they want to meet you.”

There was dead air on the other line, then a nervous laugh that only barely concealed seething hatred Lance felt for me at that moment.  “You mean, RIGHT NOW?”  Lance was probably upset because he didn’t have nearly enough time to prepare a proper outfit and scent medley for being introduced to my parents.

“Umm…yes?”

My coming-out, basically pulling off the world’s biggest band-aid, as fast as I could!

And, as Lance likes to point out, my parents ended up liking him more than me! What the hell, Mom and Dad?!

Origin Story

Very early in our relationship, my then 22-year-old self made a near-fatal error.  You know that time in your budding romance where you shower each other with compliments, a weird sort of one-upsmanship of “Oooh, you’re so thoughtful!” and “How cute are you?” and so on.

Well, I can’t say that I was always the mature wordsmith that I am today.  When we first started dating [Lance interjects here, screaming, “DATING?!?!”…long story.], relieved and somewhat perplexed that I had snared an extremely attractive fellow, I may have half-jokingly said the following…out loud…to Lance, with a smug look of satisfaction on my face:

“Yep, I scored myself a hot piece of ass.”

See, this was totally meant to be a compliment.  I mean, look at the guy!

Adorable!  You don’t just reel that into your boat and toss it back! You take that home and put it above your fireplace!

Well, as you can probably imagine, Lance was not too thrilled with this line.  He didn’t take it as the obvious compliment it was and instead considered it “objectification”…whatever that is.  I didn’t know how upset he was about it until much later; see, I’d said it during that early point in any relationship where nobody tries to rock the boat too much even if the other person has offended you, so Lance kept his distaste for my comment to himself for quite awhile.

Now how did I get to this point where I considered my future husband essentially a piece of meat?

See, Lance and I are super-shy and were both super-alone about five years ago.  I had recently moved to Philadelphia rack up a lifetime of debt in grad school, not knowing anybody.  When my university was holding a grad student LGBTQXYZ mixer one night, I struggled to overcome my shy awkwardness, eventually getting myself to the event to “mingle” (small talk is quite possibly my least fave thing ever).

Eventually, a group of guys decided to head to the bars; oblivious to the fact that nobody actually wanted me to tag along (yep, THAT guy right here, folks), I goofily followed.  Now, most of these guys were, like, PhD students in religious studies or tax code or something like that, and I’d never seen an episode of Sex and the City in my life, so I was waaay out of my element, a dumb Midwestern hick with nothing to provide to the group conversation.  The awkwardness was pervasive, and I was starting to look for a way to remove myself without looking totally lame. I figured I’d give it one more bar stop, just to see if things improved.

After a stop at the semi-legendary drag show at Bob & Barbara’s, we headed to Woody’s, because, honestly, why wouldn’t you name a gay bar Woody’s?  Woody’s represents the kind of pathetic sadness of Philly’s gay scene: the place at that point was kind of a mess across multiple floors: if I remember correctly, lots of seedy industrial carpet, chunky bartenders, and themed nights like…country line-dancing.

That, and it must be said that Philly’s gay scene, like any other “scene” on the East Coast, is full of people that couldn’t cut it in New York City, so…there’s that.

Anyway, yes, it was country line-dancing night at Woody’s. I’d clearly not had enough to drink for this, and people were starting to peel away from the group with which I came.  Time to start looking for my own exit, I thought to myself.

Then I saw him, sitting at the bar, quite possibly the most attractive boy I’d seen.  Just look at him!

We made eye contact, but me being me, I freaked out and started playing with my phone, you know, because that’s smooth and obviously, so many people were texting me at 11:30 at night.  I didn’t want to embarrass myself by playing eye footsie (eye-sie?) only to find out that the cute guy at the bar was just taking mental notes of how not to dress or something.  There’s no way this guy’d want to talk to me, anyway (low self-esteem leftover from childhood obesity FTW!)

Then, a little pixie popped up next to me.  No, not a gay, but a then-unknown Alix, with her cute little pixie-cut, showed up in my life just then and sprinkled a whole bunch of magic dust on me.  Alix coming over and talking to me at that moment, in Woody’s, was one of the most important interactions I will ever have in my life.

“Heeey,” said Alix (we’re all a little drunk at this point).  “My friend over there wants to talk to you.”

My brain was already fumbling.  Uhh, what?  So, I’m like 22 at this point and nobody has ever sent an emissary over to solicit my attention.  Nobody has ever cold-call approached me before, so I really had no idea what to say.

“Err…hello.  Umm…what?”

Alix motioned over to the bar, in the direction of the cute guy that I’d made eye-contact with earlier.  “The guy over there, he thinks you’re cute.”

Haha.  She must be joking.  When does it ever happen that the person you think is attractive is actually attracted to you as well?  That’s, like, a thing that surely doesn’t happen, right?

“Uhh, well, I don’t really think…” I mumbled.

“Ohh, please.” Alix at this point was already over this act of goodwill.  “Just go talk to him, ya goon.”

Okay.  Okay okay.  So, I had some “evidence” here, just by Alix’s presence, that I wasn’t going to totally embarrass myself by initiating a conversation with this Cute Guy at the Bar.  Still, I needed to leave myself a little bit of an out in case it soured or in case this was just some giant prank.

I walked up to Cute Guy, and basically said in one unbroken word, “UmIhavetoleavesoonbutcanIgetyournumberKThxbyeeeee.”

Cute Guy turned to me, and said, “I’m Lance.”  The rest is history.  We ended up going to another bar, a piano bar, together, where we discussed the merits of “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, as sung by a sixty-year-old chain smoker.

We were both good that night, and went out separate ways, with me writing my number on the cover of a J.Crew catalog that Alix had in her purse.  Lance texted me the next day to ask if I wanted to have dinner, which, by the way, continues to be the only non-birthday meal where Lance has paid for me.

And, in a weird roundabout way as Lance slouches toward his mid-thirties (ooh, man, I’m gonna pay for that comment later…), he now embraces his “hot piece of ass”-ness, wearing it as a badge of honor as he watches many of his contemporaries fall into the sweatpants-in-the-grocery-store disrepair of adulthood.

Through the Queer Window

Our awesome pal Brian recently asked me to further explain my thoughts on gay culture and why I feel so uncomfortable interacting with many other gay men.  Admittedly, I’ve been struggling to come up with a coherent, concise statement that does justice to how I feel.

To sum up: I often feel judged by other gays, and I am not a person to easily tolerate criticism, so I find myself avoiding interacting with other gay men to save myself the grief (this is different from the “hetero judging all us gays, like, all the time” since there’s an added layer of shared “otherness” which should unite us, but usually makes judgment feel like a much bigger betrayal of our commonality).  I’m not psych major, but this seems like a vicious cycle, a recipe for disaster.

I came across the video below on Towleroad today, which I found very illuminating; it also does a much better job of addressing where this sense of judgment comes from than anything I could’ve thrown together. Since it comes from a psychptherapist (who is fabulously dressed/groomed, I must say. #Empowerment!), it actually has some legitimacy, too:

…So, yep, that’s basically my sense of what happens within the gay community, and only rarely do I find some other gay who doesn’t outwardly project that judgment at me, which is why I’m light on gay friends but am a fairly content person.  Of course, we’d love to get to know some more non-judgmental gays…but there isn’t an app for that. 😦