I used to call him my "partner." It was a vacuous term that we threw out there to people we didn't know too well that implied we were working in a business together. It implied to family and friends that we lived together. But it was as innocuous as the words "friend" or "associate," and served a useful purpose to permit us to hide the depths of our relationship from public scrutiny.
In October we decided to make our 23 year relationship a legal bond. The federal government was willing to make marriage between same sex couples a reality. Casually, one day, we joked about the problems of gay proposals. If two men are together, I asked, who should get on bended knee and beg, "Will you marry me"? And Michael responded, "Whoever loves the other one most." As soon as the words left his lips, we both said in unison, "Will you marry me?"
So in October, under a brilliant, sunny, cloudless sky, at the DACOR House in Washington, D.C., the stunning home of Chief Justice John Marshall, in the garden of the 19th century mansion where Lincoln attended the weddings of his contemporaries, we wed. Our friends and family were there--the men all observing the stylishly formal dress code of coat and tie, and the women in their Sunday best...and we became spouses.
Today, though, was a new milestone for me. I am a subcontractor for other professionals. They are people I do not know personally. But they are people who will ask, "Is your business going well? Do you have family here? Any children?" And they would ask about my associate, my partner of 23 years, whom they may have met on a job months or years ago. "How is Michael doing?" And I would always refer to him as my "partner." Until today.
I was in a room full of business acquaintances, none of whom were on a first name basis with me. One gentleman said to me, "Will you be retiring soon?" And I replied, "I am really semi-retired now. I am gradually turning things over to my husband." I saw one woman quickly turn toward me with surprise, and I sort of caught my breath. I haven't used that word at all, especially with near strangers. My "husband." It was a candor unusual for me. It was an honesty that is new to me. And it was liberating. Michael isn't a partner. He isn't a friend. He isn't a roommate. He is my husband. And suddenly I realized in using that term what "gay pride" is all about. The people at the business meeting went about their business as usual. They appeared to pay little attention to my pronouncement. But it wasn't a day as usual for me. Finally I have found the voice to say aloud what my relationship truly is.
And tonight I repeat to myself my wedding vow I borrowed from the pen of Mr. Auden:
"I will love you 'til the oceans are folded and hung up to dry, and the seven stars go squawking like geese across the sky. I will love you dear until China and Africa meet, and the river jumps over the mountain, and the salmon sing in the street."