Friday, June 26, 2015

Gay. Twice Married.

I am a gay man, and I have been married twice.  These are words I never expected to come from me in my life time.  Growing up gay, Catholic, and Latino, my expectations for my life ahead were no different than my other three brothers.  I was expected to grow up, find a nice girl, get married and have kids.  Yet from a very young age I was well aware that there was something inherently different about me than from my brothers.  

As I grew older it became clear, I was gay, and any future milestones, such as marriage and children, might not look the same as what I was brought up to expect.  My parents were great role models of what marriage and commitment means.  Before my mother’s death my parents had been married for 57 years, and each of my brothers had been married for many years as well.  So what was the plan for me?

I have always been known as one to who makes a plan, then sets out to accomplish it.  Life for the most part came fairly easily for me.  After high school I immediately began attending college, and although I spent many years changing directions within my education, I eventually completed my master’s degree in marriage and family counseling, Ironic, right?

By the time I was in my early 30’s I was still single, and felt the need to move forward with my life plan of having children, so I began the process of adoption, eventually adopting three children at various years along the way.  I was that guy that everyone said, 'you are such a catch, why are you still single'?  Well, ask the many single mother’s that question and you should get a fairly consistent answer, priorities.  When you are a parent, your kid’s needs come first.  It’s as simple as that.

Now you are probably wondering, how is it that this guy has been married twice, when same sex marriage has only recently come into favor?  No, it wasn’t one of those stories of getting carried away while in Las Vegas, and hitting up a drive-thru chapel.  Same sex marriage is not available there quite yet.   And no, I wasn't married to a woman.

As an aside I will share with you that my line of work is also marriage related, or perhaps better described as divorce related.  I am a custody mediator, counseling separating and divorcing couples daily regarding parenting plans for their children.  Each day that I walk into work I see the line of angry or hurt individuals, waiting to begin or end the process of dissolving their marriages.  You might guess that this weighed heavily when the thought of marriage came up for me.  If I can get married, then I could also get divorced.  Is this something I really want to participate in?

I've see in the news almost weekly now that another state has approved same sex marriage, or another is considering it.  I read the dialogue that goes on regarding those that support, and those that oppose, same sex marriage, and I am completely overwhelmed at the positive changes that have occurred.  I find the whole idea odd that my choice to marry would somehow negatively affect the sanctity of someone else’s marriage, yet people will believe what they want to believe.  And yet, when I look around me each day at work I wonder how much these struggling couples thought about their commitment, and what they have truly done to maintain their vows prior to giving up.  I suppose that in my line of work one could easily become quite jaded, getting a much skewed perspective of marriage and its outcome.  Yet, again, I have been blessed with great role models all around me that continues to give me hope that most people do enter into marriage with love and commitment, and by this action, the families they create in turn become that much stronger.

So here is my story, and no it doesn’t end in divorce.  In 2005 I met a wonderful man, and fell in love.  We later combined our homes, and began planning our future together.  In 2007 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and our lives changed completely.  We were told that he would die from this, maybe in 3 months, maybe longer, but in no uncertain terms were we led to believe that time was on our side.  In 2008 California briefly opened to door to same sex marriage, and we had a beautiful traditional wedding atop a hill of a visually stunning golf course.  Our wedding was attended by all of our immediate family and friends.  Our wedding party consisted of each of our best men, as well as his two nieces and nephew, and my three children.  It couldn't have been more perfect.  My husband and I never celebrated a wedding anniversary, as his tumor took him from me one month shy of our first year anniversary.  Just as I never imagined that I would ever have the ability to one day marry, I never imagined that I would one day be a widower, and a gay widower at that.  

Two years later, I was living in a new city, after making a needed change of scenery.  I decided it was time to open myself up to the possibility of a new relationship, and surprisingly, without much effort I met someone.  Accepting new love after experiencing loss is not easy, yet as they say, when you meet the right person, you know.   As was the case with my late husband, this new man and I decided to combine our lives by moving in together.  I never expected marriage again, as it was no longer legal in California.  Yet as timing once again appeared to  to be on my side with the Supreme Court soon to be ruling on proposition 8, we announced our engagement.  The best reaction we got was from my father, who said that he was happy that we were finally doing the right thing, as he and my mother didn’t raise their sons to live with another person outside of marriage.  I laughed, and reminded him that at that moment it was still not legal in California.  The beauty of this was that this small detail didn’t change what my father expected of his son, which was to make a formal commitment through vows of marriage.  

My new husband and I were married in August of  2013, and it was celebrated with family and friends in our own backyard.  It too was a beautiful wedding, filled with color and symbols of our eclectic spirituality.  

So here I am, gay, twice married. It is my hope that in the near future, all people, gay and straight, will be as fortunate as I have been to marry the person they chose without judgment, and without limits.

* This was written by me last year, yet never published on my blog.  Given today's Supreme Court ruling providing gays and lesbians nationwide marriage rights, I thought it was time to share.