LOVE WON

How amazing was yesterday? It is now legal for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters to get married in ALL, say it again, ALL 50 states. YES!


This is S and I on our wedding day – May 16, 2014. I’m so happy that we can celebrate this victory during the month of PRIDE, and that others can now have a happy-cake-cutting-moment without having to travel outside of their home cities.

I’m so proud of the country. There is still a lot of learning and growing to be done in America when it comes to equality, but this is a giant step. Everyone celebrate. Have a drink or eat some carbs. We did it!

My Black Thoughts

I’ve always said that I’m bad about following the news, and keeping track of things that are going on around the world and in my country. “Twitter is where I get my news!” is what I usually say when people ask me if I’d seen some story on the eleven-o-clock news the night before. I’ve never been one to sit down and watch the news on television, read a newspaper, or actively search for developments in current events, but here recently, I’m having a hard time NOT checking the news. The list of unspeakable treatment of Black Americans is growing at an alarming rate, and the deaths of Black Americans – wrongfully killed – was a large list to begin with.  As a black man I have to follow these stories. I have to keep track of stories like this for my own safety, to educate myself further on the existence of racism in America, and to gain strength for my people.

I was extremely saddened to learn about the event that took place in South Carolina, where nine black church attendees lost their lives after a young white male sat in their prayer meeting for an hour before opening fire on the peaceful group of people.  I cried reading this story in my cubicle at work, because, what did these people do to deserve this? Sadly, this is a question Black Americans have had to ask ourselves a lot recently when following news stories to learn of more black deaths in our country. Before the South Carolina tragedy, we lost the lives of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and a more black lives that didn’t make the news. All of these innocent black men lost their lives due to pure ignorance, and nothing else. In the Walter Scott’s footage – and thank goodness for mobile recording technology because now police can be held accountable for wrongful treatment of any individual they handle – we saw the white cop try to create a false crime scene; tossing a weapon near Scott’s already dead, and unstirring body.  What gives?! I don’t not know.

The people in Ferguson and Baltimore lead peaceful protests and candlelight vigils after the loss of their community members, and unfortunately some protest activities turned into violence and riots. Violence is never the answer and Deray Mckesson framed the rioting in Baltimore the best in an on-air talk with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer, excuse me, CNN – because Blitzer was just their sacrificial lamb when it came to talking to the “angry black people” in Baltimore – seemed to be more worried about Baltimore property damage than the wrongful death of Gray. Blitzer kept pushing for Mckesson to say the violence wasn’t necessary, and in response Mckesson stated “There should be peaceful protests, but I don’t have to condone it to understand it, right? The pain that people feel is real.”

A good, white friend of mine – and it’s sad I need to even tell you his race, but in the hopes of promoting good interracial relations, there you go – asked me if the strides the gay community have made in recent years can be linked to the stand the black community is taking in the face of all the recent negativity and deaths. This is was interesting to me. I’m black, gay, and from Alaska. I was always aware of race issues when I was growing up, but I never really faced any racism until I moved to Indiana. There have only been a couple non-violent instances when it comes to my experience with racism, and I am definitely more aware than I ever was when I lived in Alaska. When I think about there being a link between the success the gay community has seen in their fight for equality, and the black community’s current fight, I think there are similarities and differences.

There were major strides made in the original civil rights movement between the years of 1954 and 1968. Things were made fair(ish), everyone could move on with their lives, everyone could be somewhat comfortable; and I use that term loosely. The gay community was different in the sense that most people in this community remained in the closet and watched silently as the AIDS crisis played out across the nation. Now, don’t take that the wrong way. There were a good number of people who were out, proud, and fought for equal rights for the gay community, however, there were many who were afraid to join the fight, and for good reasons. The gay movement’s fight was slow, steady, and has finally reached a point where people can have open conversations regarding gay-straight relations across many platforms and topics.  We, as a nation, are JUST now attempting to have an open – and ongoing – dialogue on the topic of black and white relations; any color and white relations, really.  Show’s like ABC’s Black-ish do an incredible job illustrating everyday situations between black, white, and other races in today’s society.

It’s extremely easy to be ignorant and afraid of the unfamiliar. Being gay has always been a huge stigma in the traditional Black American family, and I know this because it took my own father eight years to say, out loud, that he had a problem with me being gay. My dad met my husband last summer when we visited Alaska, and things went really well, and quite honestly, it shocked the hell out of me. I have an uncle who is gay, and I’m still not one-hundred percent sure that side of the family has dealt with it openly. When I think back on S meeting my dad, I have to wonder if Black Americans can draw some inspiration from the gay community, and start sparking smart, honest, and real conversations with people of all colors.

Equality is a work in progress, and I feel that it’s something that will always be under construction, but it is with communication that we, Black Americans, can invite others into our world, and grow together.  The presence of video technology, the internet, and the ability to share what’s going on in any given area of the country – sharing events like the McKinney pool party incident – should be used as tools for learning for those who respond inappropriately to a situation. The journey through race relations has never been easy, and won’t get any easier, but the fact that people are talking about these problems is a great start. Not all black people hate white people. Not all black people hate gay people. Not all (insert community, race, gender, etc) hate (insert community, race, gender, etc). So what now? Let’s give this an honest try, and fix this.

T H A N K Y O U .

Twenty-something weeks ago I decided to start a themed blog. I needed some sort of project to keep my writing chops conditioned, my creative mind working, and my work-shopping process fresh. This was all in preparation for me finally deciding that I was going to write that book I’ve had outlined for five years now. Life was happening, timelines were erased, and I never really got the chance to sit down and start writing the book the way I wished, and now was that time. Back in the fall I said to myself “Alright, before July 1st, 2015, you will have at least written a page of your book.”

The side project that is Gays in the Life has turned into something I enjoy doing every week, and it reminds me that even though I work a full-time administrative job, and am tired most nights – not wanting to do anything but sit in front of Netflix and Hulu – that I can still tap into my creative side every once in a while; let loose, if you will. Sharing my experience as an everyday gay man in a long-term relationship, and new marriage, has snowballed into a welcomed challenge I never saw coming; the challenge being spilling my version of creativity onto the honest details of my life with my husband.

Thank you to all that come every week to read whatever random piece I’ve thrown together, and thank you to those that share my material with others. Seeing reader comments, views, and overall interaction on Gays in the Life increase week to week not only makes me chuckle, but keeps me motivated to think of new topics to share, and new ways to present them to all of you. Discovering this side of my creative self has helped me rediscover love for playing my instruments, challenge a skill I didn’t believe was there, and has me prepared me for the task that will be writing a book while living a full life. Thank you, thank you, thank you, WordPress and friends, and please keep reading! I appreciate ya!

The Wedding

“All I know is, when I get married, I will be in a Chanel suit…” is what I would say amongst friends when we would fantasize about weddings of our respective futures.  I never knew if I wanted a big ceremony, a small event, or to run away and elope, but what I did want was that top-of-the-roller-coaster-before-the-big-drop feeling. That feeling was boldly present on May 16th, 2014, the day of our wedding.

Being married to a CPA has its perks, and the ability to budget money well was a big one. We didn’t believe in placing ourselves in debt for a wedding, or placing unnecessary stress on our families. Why follow the “go big or go home” theory for a single (wedding) day if it would only invite stress into the marriage the day after the honeymoon? The important thing was joining our lives; to officially become one. A larger scaled celebration of our relationship could wait, so for now, we were happy with our decision to marry in a courthouse, with a few of our closest local friends as witnesses.

The mild, warning rain that threatened the day was welcomed as we made the drive from Indianapolis to Champaign, Illinois. “Rain on a wedding day means renewal… this is good” was my thought as I gazed out the window. The excitement in the car grew with every mile we placed behind us as we continued our approach to Champaign and the courthouse. When we arrived, we met the last member of our wedding party at The Courier Café; a delicious little breakfast spot popular among the students of the University of Illinois.

After brunch we made our way to the courthouse. I’ve never been a nervous person but the nerves began to make their presence know the closer we got to the main doors. “Omg you guys my knife! I can’t take it inside!” G digs a small grave for her pocket knife under a tree just outside the courthouse doors. Our wedding party was the perfect mix of individuals. I’d met G working at Goodwill back in Bloomington. E was one of my best friends, of ten years, and had the daunting task of picking up our rings and delivering them to us the DAY before the wedding. SB and SC were also two amazing friends I’d had the pleasure of knowing for ten years – SB was a student in Champaign, and SC volunteered his photography services for the big day.

There we were, in the courtroom, the judge’s warm voice instructing us on what was about to happen. Enter the nerves. G was crying, E looked longingly into both our eyes – of all the people with us that day, she knew me the best – and all the others were beautiful. I never knew what my wedding day would be like, but in this moment I was beyond happy that these were the people I got to share this day with.  What happened next was a blur. I remember saying my vows and then repeating them – stealing S’s turn because apparently I was nervous – shaking with each word I shared. Then it was done. We were married.

The night that followed was priceless. Everything was so simple and so easy. M made us the cleanest most delicious, layered, red velvet, gluten-free wedding cake. SO good. The girls and I powdered our noses before heading to our hotel, where the pre-gaming for a night at the bars would take place.  There’s so much pressure put on the process of a wedding. Was everyone as lucky as S and I? We were never stressed in any moment, the night was flawless, and we had a great time with people we loved.

Returning home the next day to a bouquet of white roses was the absolute icing on the cake. I don’t know if my friends know this about me, but white flowers are my weakness. There’s something about them that make me melt and dance inside; like a ballerina riding a fiery avalanche.  Only this group of people – my beloved, and highly valued musketeers of Bloomington’s past and present – would know how to make S and I’s day effortlessly perfect. We thank them for helping us skyrocket into this new chapter of our life.

Tick. Tock. I Love You.

Three years ago, this evening, our relationship presented itself as something new.  It was New Years Eve in my cozy, cheer-filled apartment. I had one of my best friends in town – visiting from Los Angeles – amazing roommates, a great chunk of friends I had made working at the Goodwill Store, and him. I was so happy S had come down from Indy to celebrate the holiday with us. At the time, we’d only officially been boyfriends for a little over two months, and were an hour apart during the work week.  About thirty minutes or so before midnight, we found ourselves alone in my bedroom. “…I’m scared” I express as I look past him nervously and prop myself up on my elbow.  Lying next to me, he puts one hand behind his head, and the other around my arm.  “Why?”  He looks worried as he presents the single-worded question.  I shift. “I think I love you.” The second it took him to respond felt like agonizingly long minutes passing on a clock. “I love you too” he grins looking directly into my eyes.

When is the right time to say “I love you” to a person of interest? Our exchange that night was not planned, and I honestly had not thought about the subject at all.  We were still a very new couple, but there was something in the air that evening that made me want to share my feelings with him.  Society programs young adults in so many ways when it comes to saying “I love you.” We absorb the lessons we learn – or think we’re learning – from relationships we’ve witnessed in the past, and think we have to apply them to our own relationships.  Whether it’s too soon or long overdue to share those guarded words are up to the individual that possess the feelings.  When I think back on that night, I recognize that the timing was right.  Our relationship didn’t feel like work – I say that a lot, but it’s true – I was always excited to see him, always wondering how his day went, counting down the days until we were together again… the love was building before I even thought about saying it.

The Key

Communication is the key to life. Communication is the key to love. Communication is the key to us… Will you communicate with me? – TLC & Dallas Austin. “Communicate-Interlude.” Fanmail 1999.

Communication will make or break any relationship. What do people fear when they’re finally in their own relationships, or marriage? One thing I knew I would have to respect – maybe “fear” is the wrong word – within my relationship was the communication aspect.  This stems mostly from growing up in a two parent home, up to the age of sixteen, just to watch it all fall apart because my parents did not communicate properly within their situation. Do I think my parents would have stayed together if they did communicate effectively? No, probably not, but I think they would have gotten to a better place as peers – raising their three children together – faster than they did in real time.

Communication can be simple if both parties are willing to participate, listen, and learn. I remember a time during my husband and I’s first months of dating. I was usually the one to initiate communication – whether that be text or call – and after some time, I decided to give him the chance to reach out first. Well two days went by before I heard anything, and I was absolutely pissed.  I ended up calling him and making sure he knew how I felt. At the time we were living an hour apart, and during those couple of days of no contact, I didn’t feel wanted anymore; this worried me, but I had to test him.  From that point on, if there were ever any issues, I made sure to communicate them to S, and encouraged him to do the same with me.

You never stop learning when you’re sharing a life with someone. Flash forward to yesterday – married and three years into our relationship – when I was expecting my husband home at a certain time. I decided to call after the minutes on the clock totaled to an hour past his estimated time of arrival. Now, I was not mad at him, but I was worried. I don’t make excuses for anyone, and he is no exception. Any form of message informing me that he would be running late would have kept my spousal jitters at bay. There is no perfect way to communicate. The act itself can be as easy, or as hard, as you make it. The important thing is that you try. I’m a firm believer in communication, and as long as it’s present… you can’t lose.

Workout for What?

When one is single, working out and staying in shape is important for the wrong reasons. Most will say that it’s for their health and wellness, and mask the fact that they’re sweating it out to better their chances of hooking up come time to play the field.  I recognize that there are people who take their health and fitness seriously, but during the partying years?..  Let’s be real, everyone has ass on the mind.  If not for health and wellness, does the reason for exercise change when you land that special someone?

Something happens when you become one with another; at least it did for me. Before S, I was a heavier guy, and legitimately began working out and dieting to add years to my life. Now that I’m married, I find myself working harder than I had before on my health and overall fitness.  My reason for working out, in addition to general health, is to maintain my attractiveness for my husband. I get off knowing that I look good, and even more so when I know it’s for him and our relationship. Hey now, I work out for me too! I love working out in the morning, and gain so much energy going into my day. I even workout on weekends to keep my energy on the up and up.

I’ve come a long way from refusing to run in gym class back in high school, to doing cardio, yoga, and strength training five to six times a week. S has gone through his own fitness transformation as well, but doesn’t possess the cocky confidence that I do. Even when I was a bigger guy – pushing three hundred pounds – I could work with what I had and still pursued guys without hesitation.  I love when I catch guys eyeing my husband, and how he doesn’t even notice. What I love more is when other, thirsty, guys realize what they have to get through before they can get to S.

I find it entertaining that even after you’ve entered a serious relationship, you still have to maintain what you had once worked so hard to obtain, to keep your prize. By no means am I saying that you need to be in shape to keep a partner. We share numerous cheat days and battle the scale together now – after falling off our low carb wagon here and there – and gain great pleasure when we notice changes in each other physically.  Earlier I said that working out, as a single partier type, was done for the wrong reasons. When it comes down to it, maybe working out (then) for the approval and validation of others is just practice… We say we do it for ourselves, to make ourselves feel better, but eventually all that nonsense, worry, and stress turns into the very elixir that provides us the power to keep a comfortable grip on what we’ve achieved.

Cruised

The shower area of the gym is steamy, warm, and a most welcome feeling with the chill of winter’s approach outside. I towel off in the shower stall so I don’t track a pool of water into my private changing area, before I notice the tanned, dusty-haired, blonde that had been making eyes at me across cardio equipment. He’s an attractive guy – beefy, with body hair in all right places, and an ass that looks like it could feed a small family – but I tend to lean more towards dark-haired men, and let’s not forget that I’m off the market. Our shower and changing rooms were right next to each other, and there are only three showers so the space between the two is small. Removing his towel so only his front was covered, he offers carnal grin. “Good morning” he says, still holding the towel with only a couple fingers just under his navel; revealing a wet torso and thighs. “Good morning. Did you have a good workout?” I know exactly what he’s up to, so I slip into my changing room and calmly close the half door. Making sure the door doesn’t slam, I leave him alone and exposed in the small area between shower and changing room. I begin to dry off as he answers my question, and the small talk continues the entirety of my getting dressed. Fully dressed I make my way out of the changing stall. “See you tomorrow” he flirts with another grin. “Later! Have a good day.” My inner Beyonce tends to surface after all of my workouts – various songs of hers play in my head (complete with choreography) when I notice changes in my body as I’ve already lost 100 lbs – making me feel strong, awake, and confident going into the work day. The influence of Scorpio season and the fact that I had just been cruised at the gym had my inner Queen Bey slaying the stage; dropping it like it was hot all the way to the car. It wasn’t even 7AM yet! I can’t wait to tell S what happened.

Blue balls and the Brain

Sexual appetites are something that need to be fed in order to keep a relationship flowing.  People can get along fine within a relationship without sex, but for how long? Being realistic, what is a long-term relationship without regular sex? Some argue that sex is not the most important factor when it comes to making a long-term relationship last, and others say the opposite and argue that it is the most important factor.  When it came to my relationship – before I had any relationship, really – I knew that sex would be big factor.  Being a big astrology and zodiac enthusiast, I fully embrace my Scorpio identity, and carry a great amount of sexual energy; Scorpios are said to be the most sexually dominant of the astrological circle. When S and I were living apart from one another, I could confidently expect to get some action at least once a week; during weekend visits. Now that we lived together, I wondered how often sex would come.

Most guys – even us gays – welcome the idea of being drowned by sex once living with a partner commences.  Dan Savage’s “Savage Lovecast” is a weekly sex and relationship podcast S and I both listen to regularly.  Savage’s sharp, honest, and enduringly blunt tone has a way of getting one’s mind to open up regarding everything sex; not to mention all the stories and experiences shared by listeners, both gay and straight, of the show. We took our relationship one day at a time. There were never any specific talks regarding how much sex either one of us expected, so I would do my best to close the deal any time I was in the mood; and I was in the mood pretty often.  Much to my dismay, I found that I would have more adjusting to do when it came to our shared life.

Adjusting sexually to one another isn’t a bad thing. Internalizing any rejection during dry spells, I would feel pretty down – even paranoid or worried – when more than a couple weeks would pass without any intimate, nighttime action.  I’d become accustomed to sex at least once a week, so anything less than that forced feelings of insecurity and visions of red flags on the horizon. What I came to learn was that my sex drive was way higher than his.  Being the paranoid individual that I am, I would ask questions: “is it me? What’s wrong? Did you get off today?” I wasn’t looking for signs of cheating, but I was looking for a way to make him want sex as much as I did.

I found the answer wasn’t to make him want sex more, but to adapt and have fun whenever play-time did come around.  Sexually I am satisfied. My feelings of insecurity were completely natural, because sadly, we humans pay attention to the negative more than the positive of a situation.  When it comes to us, the good continues to outweigh the bad. There are weeks where I am more than happy in the sex department, and plenty of times where I am caught off guard – in the best and most appetizing ways – by him.  Sexually starved is definitely something we are not, and having lived together for going on a year and a half now, we are more than pleased with each other in every aspect of the subject.  Patience is an ongoing lesson, but one thing I will continue to harass him about? Is a lap dance. If I can get a lap dance out of S, I would probably pass out from shock and/or excitement (lol).

Real Compared to What

There were no storybook-happy-endings looping in my head when it came to S and I living together. What I enjoy most about our relationship is that it doesn’t feel like work, we blend, and above anything else we respect each other. All of this sounds pretty great when reading it aloud, but the reality of the situation is that not every day is smooth sailing. There are days that feel like our relationship is work, and depending on the situation, our problem-solving skills have to come into play.  In the past my role as the token gay friend plagued me with the curse of knowing all details of my friend’s relationship ups, downs, and all the drama that nested between their frequent battles.  Looking back on my time as a couple’s counselor – providing advice while having not been in a relationship of my own – the hours spent on phones or over coffee, listening to bitching and moaning, really turned out to be a gift. All the advice I provided to my coupled friends in the past, was now mine to apply to my own relationship.

Much like the beginning of a new relationship, the honeymooner phase returns when you move in with one another.  Our honeymoon phase didn’t last very long, mostly because there was a natural feeling about being with each other; that or we are a couple of boring queens compared to the shenanigans of our friend’s relationships.  If there are fights we manage to just talk through the problem, and learn from what happened. S doesn’t like to talk about problems all the time, but I don’t let the subject die until it’s completely solved; this may seem annoying for S, but I don’t do well with negative energy.  Beyond the fights, there are other things like learning his pet-peeves – I’m saving that topic for a future post – and various other things that probably drive me crazy, as I’m sure there are things I do that drive him up the wall.  So far it has been smooth sailing, and I’m happy that I have been fortunate enough to not run into any situation that required the application of any advice I once shared with flustered friends. We have our days where we both feel like wrapping hands around each other’s throat, but without that flicker of irritated emotion… every once in a while… I would be more worried; because at least we know we care…