I often get asked where the inspiration for my latest book, Legally Wed, came from. It's a romantic comedy about a gay man's journey to finding real love. My first response is that as a resident of the state of Washington, and as a gay man who married his husband on the first day that same-sex was legal here, it was that historic event that inspired me.
But the truth -- and this didn't even come to me until after I'd finished the book -- is that it mirrors my own life. The whole time I was writing, I thought I was creating a lighthearted tale about a gay man who, disappointed in love and hungering for the commitment he sees in his own family, gets drunk one night and places an ad on Craigslist: "Gay Man Seeks Straight Woman for Marriage." It took me a while to realize that my inspiration was really my own personal journey. See, I was that man.
Unlike my main character in Legally Wed, though, I did not come up with the idea one drunken night. For a young man growing up in the 1970s, the road to fulfillment was through marriage to a woman. Thirty-some years ago, when I married the female love of my life (let's call her "Alison"), there was no other road open.
So I met Alison and fell in love. Unlike my main character in Legally Wed, I was not drunk when I proposed. No, I was filled with hope and with the dreamer's belief that if someone really wanted something bad enough, he could have it.
But like Duncan in Legally Wed, I discovered that a gay/straight marriage was destined for disaster. It took seven years, the birth of our son, and the intervention of a very compassionate therapist to help me see that I was not some damaged thing, needing to hide my true self away. Like Duncan in my book, I realized that I could love women, maybe even prefer them, but ultimately needed to be who I am.
It was hard to say goodbye to Alison, to no longer live under the same roof with our then-6-year-old son Nicholas. There were tears, recriminations, court battles, bitterness, and pain, but all three of us came out the other side still loving one another.
My Duncan and his intended, Marilyn, go through the same struggle, in a more compressed time frame, and came out understanding that even though they weren't meant to be married, they were meant to be great friends. Their friendship and love is a bedrock message of my book. And, to this day, my love for Alison, even though we're separated by many miles, continues to be a bedrock for me.
In Legally Wed, Duncan finds his true love when he's essentially stopped looking. The same was true for me. I thought that after I divorced, I would find a parallel relationship with a special guy. Let's just say I tried on many, many pairs of shoes, but none fit.
Like Duncan, I gave up. And two months after giving up and deciding that I would be just fine living alone, I met him. That was almost 12 years ago now, and he completely spoiled my plans. And I couldn't be happier. Bruce is the man I stood in line with at City Hall on the morning of Dec. 6, 2012, to be one of the first couples in Washington to obtain our marriage license. We had a small wedding three days later. Even though Bruce and I had been together for more than a decade, we both realized, when we woke the next day as a married couple, that we felt different. More committed. More like a family.
I mentioned earlier that Alison and I have a son, Nicholas. The irony is that he too turned out to be gay. When Nicholas met the love of his life and told me they were going to marry, I was ecstatic. By then, he had moved to Montreal, where marriage was already legal for all adult couples in love, and they would be able to make it official.
Would I officiate? One of my many happy endings that I am thankful for is that I got to preside over the wedding of my son and his husband. Bruce was among the happy assembled that day in August when Nicholas and Tarik said their vows. Our own marriage was still a few years off, still something hoped for, but not something we were at all certain we would ever have, which made the day bittersweet.
Alison was also there. We celebrated together and couldn't have been happier for our son. That day my mind strayed to two other weddings, one in my past and another -- hoped for -- in my future. The thought came to me then that these marriages shared one thing: They were about love.
I realized that it's not about what's between our legs but about what's between our ears... and in our hearts.
Love is love.
Why on Earth, or in God's name, would anyone want to deny that to his or her fellow man or woman? We can only be strengthened, as families, as a society, by encouraging and celebrating love and commitment.