08/28/2014 12:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Fight or Flight for Recognition

I get asked quite often if married life is different than before we tied the knot. I always say no, there's just more paperwork. That applies to all marriages, but it really hits home for gay couples.


When my husband and I got married, I was 27 years old and the marriage laws had just gone into effect in New York and we were able to join in state recognized, legal gay marriage. Or, as I like to call it, marriage. However, it wasn't a federally recognized marriage, so it was still a little queer, one could say.

Being recognized as married by your state but not your country is an odd thing. At first, we would have a good laugh as we would drive from New York to a wedding out in Pennsylvania somewhere, passing back and forth over the Hudson river as we wound our way further and further from our safe haven in Manhattan. We went back and forth from being married to being not married about six times... It was the rockiest our relationship has ever been and we smiled and laughed the entire time.

As time went on and we were ready to file our taxes together, we ran into another predicament... Being recognized as married by your state and not your country makes for an interesting tax season and accountants would often scratch their heads and make suggestions as to how we could successfully file for joint state taxes but not joint federal taxes... Essentially, we would need to file jointly for the state return and then file a dummy joint federal tax return that we could reference on our state return. Then we would have to file our actual federal returns individually as well. It could have been a great party trick, but in the end, we opted out of filing together, which saved us a bundle on Advil.

Here we are now, years later, and federal recognition has arrived! We are now able to file jointly across the board like any other married couple. But that's just us here in New York or others in states that have gay marriage laws. What happens to the couples that live in states that don't recognize gay marriage? We have a similar situation where they are recognized by their country but not their state. Whereas before, it was as if we were living in a home where our parents loved us, but went to a high school where everyone else hated us, now some states are living as if they are the most popular kids in school, but come home to find their parents hated them.

If you're lucky enough to live in a liberal state that feels that all citizens deserve equal privileges and protections, then good for you. But what about Texas? What about Alabama? The easy solution is for those gay citizens to just up and move somewhere else, right? Well, I know what it's like to be the most popular kid at school to then come home at night to a father who couldn't look me in the eye. I know what it feels like to not know acceptance in your own home and it's not a good feeling. If I had packed up and left, if I had turned a cold shoulder to my father, I guarantee you he wouldn't have been there to see me walk down the aisle with the man I love. No, I stayed because my home was where I lived and where I grew up. It was where my family was and I wasn't going to let one person's insecurities and confusions prevent me from feeling at home in my home. Yes, it was hard and yes there were tears and fights, but look at us now! I come home for Christmas with my husband's hand in mine and we sit around a Christmas tree and open presents together. That is not because I was lucky enough to have a family that accepts it, it's because my family was lucky enough to have a son that gave them the opportunity to.

My father wasn't comfortable with gay people and that lifestyle until he had a gay son and he wasn't accepting of gay marriage until he had a gay son that wanted to get married. I believe that his mind wouldn't have changed unless he was presented with the opportunity to change. If I had walked away from him as he was doing everything in his power to let me know that he wasn't ok with the life I was living, he would have kept on his path and I would have kept on mine and we, most likely, never would have crossed paths again. I am glad that I stood in his way. I'm proud to say that I kept calling and kept inviting him into my life. Eventually, he realized that I was exactly the man that he always dreamed I would be. I was happy and successful and was living each day to honor the household in which I was raised and the wonderful people that brought me up. Little by little, his preconceived notions chipped away and I was standing in their place. I didn't go somewhere else so that I could have some sort of a father/son relationship. I stayed and did my best to make it work with my actual father. Now, our relationship means so much more to me because it's a relationship that we had to build from the ground up. We may not see eye to eye on everything, but we have a relationship. A great one, at that!

I now say the same thing to those people in Alabama and Texas... Your home is exactly that; your home. Your home is where you live and where you have built a life for yourself and where all of your memories are. It's where your families are and where your futures should be, if you want them. You've worked to build your home from the ground up and why should you leave? Why should you abandon your investment? If you turn your back on your state and allow your state to continue to exist in it's current mindset, nothing will change. But if you stay and if you plant yourself firmly in it's path, people will start to see you for who you are. Not at first, and maybe not anytime soon, but they will start to see you as a human being and not a character they saw on TV or were warned of by their church. You're a whole and complete person who deserves to be seen as such. Yes, here in New York or in Maine or in Massachusetts we see you. But you deserve to be seen where you live. Stay. Stand up. Provide those around you with the opportunity to see you and allow them the opportunity to change. If you leave, who else is gonna do it...?

There is no change without you.