After Twenty Years – A Gay Couple Looks Back, And Ahead

Written by scott on April 14th, 2012

Mark and ScottSo here we are at Twenty.

Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary together. Twenty years – it’s funny how it seems so long, like we’ve always been together, and yet it also seems like we just met the day before yesterday.

Twenty years ago yesterday, I showed up for a “rap group” – a men’s discussion group – at Berkeley’s Pacific Center, a meeting place for the LGBT community.

As a 23 year old gay guy just out of the closet, I was looking for a place to connect with the community, and to maybe find The Guy. I’d heard about this place where you could go and just talk to other men, and that night, I decided “what the heck”. That one decision changed my life.

Mark and I met, ironically enough, at a group entitled “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” My first, short-term boyfriend had stopped returning my overeager calls, and Mark’s partner had recently died of AIDS.

We sat across the small office from each other with maybe five or six other guys, and each of us talked about how we’d lost a partner, a boyfriend, someone important.

Afterwards, I remember the moderator telling us that guys often headed over to the Bison Brewery around the corner to talk a little more after the sessions, to get to know one another. Going down the stairs of the old Victorian that housed the Center, I turned around and there was Mark, coming down the stairs behind me.

I asked him… “what do you think, wanna go get a drink?”, and the rest was, as they say, history.

He made me tremble. Literally, tremble at the thought of him, a delicious, shivery, excited kind of thing. That first night, he took me up to the hills of Oakland, where we parked in a burned out garage (the big fire had been just weeks before) and looked out at the city lights.

We made a date for later that week, and when he came over, we watched 90210 together (I had a man-crush on Brandon), and when I asked him if he wanted to stay the night, he smiled and said “I brought extra clothes!”

We moved in together after just two weeks, because we lived an hour apart, and it was just too hard to be that far apart.

We went through all the things new couples go through – the honeymoon, the silly fights, the move to the first place that really belonged to the two of us, the purchase of our first place together, the mingling of our bank accounts, and finally, a huge step – starting our own business together.

We married in 2004, but that one didn’t stick – the state Supreme Court stepped in and divorced us. So we tried it again n 2008, and here we are. Now we spend almost every hour of every day together. I know, I know – but somehow it works for us.

Anniversary CakeIn the days leading up to our anniversary this week, I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means to be a gay couple in this day and age. Sure, same love, and all that. But the law makes some things are different.

For one thing, my grandparents were together for fifty years, and by together I mean married. They celebrated their wedding anniversaries with the whole family, and everyone knew what an accomplishment it was to reach that milestone.

Mark and I will likely never reach our 50th wedding anniversary. We got started too late – we weren’t even allowed to marry until 2008, and only squeaked through that brief window.

And so our original anniversary, the day we met, has taken on a special significance for us. While we’ve only recently passed our fourth “real” anniversary, we continue to honor the anniversary of the day we met. Other long-term gay and lesbian couples know what I mean.

And look how far things have come since Mark and I met! In 1992, the idea that we could someday be legally married seemed almost impossible. Now, at least here in California for those of us lucky enough to have made that window, it’s a reality. And the poll numbers are moving in our direction quickly. Remember when Vermont’s civil unions seemed so daring?

On the other hand, we have so far to go. We’re still far from full marriage equality, as we’re reminded every year at tax time.

We’re also far from being an open and accepting society when it comes to being LGBT. Remember that old quote, “If you ever forget you’re a Jew, a Gentile will remind you.”? It applies to being gay too.

Not too long ago, we were at a local restaurant proudly wearing the matching scarves Mark’s mother had knitted for us, enjoying dinner as a couple. Not as a gay couple – just as two people together.

One of the other male patrons actually sneered at us, mocking us for being two grown men who dressed alike. The underlying meaning was clear – only queers do that sort of thing.

But we have hope. For every jerk we encounter, we have two more friends who love us and would put anyone in their place who tried to question our love and devotion for each other as a couple.

Twenty years later, and that one decision has brought the two of us here to this place, and this moment. What have we learned?

  • Never go to sleep angry.
  • All of our time together counts.
  • Find the thing you love, and do that together.
  • Things do get better.
  • He’s still as handsome as the day we met.
  • Love is the most important thing.I think we’re ready for the next twenty years – and I hope to be amazed at the progress we’ll make by our Fortieth.

8 Comments so far ↓

  1. My husband and I will celebrate 20 years in November! Congrats and that advice is wonderful!

  2. scott says:

    hey Wesley – congrats to you guys too! 🙂 –Scott & Mark

  3. Walt says:

    Really nice advice!! Robert and I have been together for almost 5 years and legally married in Iowa for almost 3. Still love him as much if not more than the day we met. Can’t imagine my life without him. Hope we too will see our 20th

  4. scott says:

    Congrats – five years is a big deal, too. 🙂 Just remember to always talk with each other, and you guys will have a great life together.

  5. Brian Benamati says:

    Your story sounds so comforting and so familiar. Tony and I met in Anchorage and will be celebrating 15 years this Labor Day. We also married in 2004, thanks to Gavin, but were also forceably divorced that summer and remarried in 2008. Congratulations to you both and here’s to the coming decades!

  6. scott says:

    LOL… I wonder how many of us have the same story. Fifteen years, that’s great!

  7. Larry Bacon says:

    Very touching, guys. Cross your fingers for Rhode Island this year. My partner and I celebrated 35 years in January. We’re hopeful. Happiness, Larry (and Dave)

  8. scott says:

    Fingers crossed…

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