I’m actually sitting here at a loss for words. Shocking. Yesterday I was jumping up and down, crying, pumping my fists in the air, and trying to mouth the words, “it passed!” to K who was on the phone in a meeting for work. It was a comedy of sorts. She involved in her meeting, me jumping and crying and trying to shout without saying a word. She mouthed the words, “what’s up?” and I just kept whispering that it passed. We had a mini failure to communicate until she just asked the person on the phone to wait a second, held her hand over the headset mic, and said, “what’s going on?”. I could then finally answer aloud. “It passed! It passed!” She got excited, had to tell the person she was on the phone with what I’d just said. Finally, we could semi celebrate together. When she got off the phone we hugged each other. I was still crying.
I spent over two hours yesterday with headphones on, computer tabbed to the state house feed, listening and watching the debate about the Illinois marriage bill. It was infuriating, enlightening, glorious, encouraging, a tad scary at times, and ultimately wonderful. Whether people said things I agreed with, or not, it was fascinating to watch and listen to the process. When the vote finally came it happened so fast it was almost anticlimactic. They vote electronically so it took less than 10 seconds. Bam. Done.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this. After all, there are many people, who for religious reasons, feel my right to marry who I love is wrong. And, oh well. I don’t expect people to agree. It’s a divisive issue. Always has been. I see it as the civil rights issue of our time, and others see it as a religious issue. I could argue that, as I have in the past on this blog, but today I won’t. Today I guess maybe I want to write about love.
I am in love. Since April of 2003, and if I really admit it to myself it was probably a couple of months earlier, I’ve been in love. In the beginning I was scared as hell. Me being in love with a woman was not something my family would expect and at that point didn’t know anything about. So I was scared. In love, but scared. Would they accept her, would they cast me out, would they turn their backs or talk behind mine? One of the reasons I kept being gay a secret for so long was because I didn’t want to go from being Tam to being gay Tam. Because whether people mean to or not, that’s exactly what happens. You suddenly become something different from what you were to other people. Not always in a bad way, but different none the less. I didn’t want that first perceived difference, until I met her, and then I didn’t want to keep it a secret or hide her from everyone in my life. I wanted her to be a part of my family. I wanted to live a whole and authentic life and to do that I had to tell my truth. So I did. And yes, I became gay Tam. But then — then I was just Tam again.
A lot happened right after the coming out thing, as you can imagine, but what mostly happened was a whole bunch of acceptance and love. Love. I have friends who are pretty religious people, but they still loved me. One of them, a super spiritual Christian guy, came to see me in person and ended up telling me he loved me, no matter what, and that it wasn’t his job to judge or condemn me. You know, the judge not lest ye be judged thing. I love him for that. I respect him for that. And I respect his beliefs. We differ, but that’s OK. My grandmother, who my mom elected to tell (with my permission of course) said, and I quote, it was about time I came out. ha ha ha! That still makes me smile and laugh. She’d suspected, she kind of already knew, she was OK with it, and had been impatient for me to just say it already.
I think I was surprised at how well people just sort of accepted K into our family, into our lives. Friends I’d had forever accepted her as well. People treated us as if we were just like every other couple. Because, you know, we were. We are. We’re the same — mortgage, dogs, making dinner, working, pulling weeds in the garden, going for walks, taking vacations, watching dumb television shows, having the occasional argument, babysitting the grand boys, grocery shopping. Same. We love. We are loved.
I’m lucky. I know this. When I say it’s not every day people find the kind of relationship we have, I mean anyone. Gay, straight, somewhere in the middle. People strive for this, this thing we have. This absolute certainty that we are. We are more than just meant for each other or made for each other or any of that. We are. Simple. When I met her it was as if everything snapped into place, an audible click. Home. I still feel that way. Lucky.
Yes, alright — we argue and somehow she puts up with me when I get too emotional. I put up with her need to do a million things at once which sometimes leads to her not listening as well as I’d like. We do struggle at times. Of course we do. We aren’t perfect. What’s great is that no matter how much we struggle or how angry we get or how hard things sometimes feel there’s never a feeling of wanting to end it, or go, or take a break, or any of that. The tough stuff always makes us stronger as a couple if we let it. We let it. We can’t imagine our lives without each other in them.
We’ve already been married twice. To each other. This makes me smile. The first time we got married we were alone on a beach in Hawaii. We’d purchased rings and found our spot and did it ourselves. Words spoken, rings exchanged, happy tears shed, poetry, and a sand ceremony she’d surprised me with. We still have that bottle of sand. We’ve considered ourselves married since then. I think, really, we’ve considered ourselves married since that first date. I know I was. It’s why we count our anniversaries from then. But the ceremony in Hawaii was a real marriage for us. Maybe not sanctified or certified or papered in any way, but real none the less. The second time we got married Oregon had just passed a domestic partnership law. I worked for a county in Oregon at the time so during a break I walked down to the proper desk, paid the fee, we filled out the paperwork, and a week later there it was, our certificate of domestic partnership. Not really a marriage, but a legal thing, even if it seemed slightly empty in a way. We laughed, but at least that, combined with the $1600 in paperwork we’d done with an attorney, sort of protected us as a couple. Sort of. I say this because later, when at different times we were each hospitalized, we had to give the hospital with our powers of attorney, etc. so that we could make decisions for each other. It added a stress regular couples don’t have to deal with. Nothing like worrying if you’ll be kicked out of your wife’s room because she isn’t legally your wife. Luckily those strangers were kind and gentle and accepting. So much so one of the nurses mentioned to us how fantastic our relationship was and that she rarely saw a couple so devoted. It was a compliment. It was a commentary. It spoke directly to the we that is us.
We’ve never had an actual ceremony in front of people. A ceremony the kids and my mom and my brothers and sisters and K’s brother and sister and parents and our friends, etc., etc., could attend. As a young woman I never thought I’d be able to have a wedding. It was so far out of the consciousness I literally never even imagined it. Later, K and I vowed not to do it until/unless it became federally legal. Our paperwork and our own private marriage were what we’ve had. And on one hand they’ve been enough. The hand that says we don’t need anyone telling us our relationship is valid and important and real. We know it is. We live it and feel it every day. On the other hand not being able to legally wed has denied us many rights other couples who can get married enjoy and take for granted every day. Some of those rights legal, like getting the same rights for the taxes we pay, and some human, like being recognized in the same way as all other couples who love each other and last are when they are married.
And again, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything here. I’m just speaking to my own personal experience. Yesterday, when marriage happened for us in Illinois, I cried. I cried because it’s another step toward being culturally real. Toward begin a part of something bigger than just us. It’s being looked at, from the outside, as legit and meaningful in the same ways as other couples who are devoted to each other, who have taken that step. It means my mom can be at my wedding, the kids can be there, our family and friends can be there. It means we can celebrate and rejoice and affirm the love we have and have had for each other for over 10 years and our families and friends can hug us and share in that moment. I means all the same protections and privileges will then apply to us. It means inclusion, not exclusion. And it means so much more than I can even put into words. Which, as I said in the beginning of this, sometimes fail me.
There is nothing more important in this life than the people we love and who love us. Period, the end. Love is beautiful and special and precious and real. Man, woman, gay or straight. Ours is. Our love for each other and our love for the people in our lives. This latest happening in Illinois is a victory for love. It’s very existence has advanced us, as a species. It’s propelled us a bit closer toward a place and time when all people will be loved and accepted and celebrated for who they are. A time and a place that’s hopefully not too far off in the future. Love always wins. Eventually. Love of our spouses, our children, our families, our friends, our fellow man and woman. I believe this.
I believe in love.