click to enlargeGary and I met when I was 20 and he was 21 while both attending the University of New Hampshire. We are now 30 and 31 respectively! Almost 11 years have passed and my heart still skips a beat when Gary walks into the room. I didn’t know it then, but who I met over a decade ago was the love of my life and my best friend. I can’t imagine my life without him, and over the years we have built an amazing life together. Sure we have had the same problems any other couple has, money, compromise, who sleeps on which side of the bed. Yet through it all I knew I had met my soul mate and my hero. Relationships are work and ours isn’t any different. I hear some people complain about their mates and even I join in. But I can tell you this, what Gary and I have makes all the work, compromise, and patience worth it.

When Gary and I met we were both at very different places. I had been dating a girl who I had been with off and on since grade school. Being gay wasn’t anything I thought about in any conscience way. It just wasn’t in my thinking. I was too busy enjoying life to think about anything too deeply. Then I met Gary.

We both studied at the UNH library, 2nd floor I believe. One day I we both caught ourselves looking at each other. We introduced ourselves and the sparks flew. Gary was the first guy I had ever kissed and when he kissed me I knew I was gay. There is something very passionate and private about kissing. Sure I had kissed girls before but I had never seen those fireworks before…I had it bad for this guy.

I broke up with my girlfriend and did some deep thinking. I thought about who I was, what I wanted, and what made me happy. I had been raised by an incredibly strong mother as well as a wonderful step father, neither of whom taught me to hide who I was. On the contrary they showed me the importance of honesty and the strength of self. I knew I was gay so I decided to come out. I had some major changes to make.

First I came out to my friends. I talked to my roommates one at a time, then at a dorm meeting told everyone else. It’s funny I never thought about losing any of my friends by coming out. I just knew I couldn’t pretend, I never was good at lying to anyone, particularly myself. I guess I just felt that since my friendships never revolved around who I slept with or who I loved that my real friends would try to accept it. Luckily I was right.

Next it was time to tell my parents. I called up my mom and she drove to UNH to pick me. I told her I was gay and that Gary was my boyfriend on the drive home. I don’t recommend this to anyone if you value your life. Of course my mom already knew what I was going to say. Mothers and children have that special relationship and know each other in way you can’t explain. Sure my mom was upset. It’s hard to let go of all the dreams you have for your child. Everything you planned just got thrown out. But my mom cared more about me then those dreams and she never stopped loving me.

My dad was a little harder. Me being gay and Gary being my boyfriend had never entered his mind. So when I told him it took about three times before he got it, which was helped out by my mom say “For G-d sakes Michael they are sleeping together!” Oh the memories! Then I told my brother. I was nervous on this one but he shocked me and asked me to be his best man at his wedding. As my life as an openly gay man began, Gary started thinking about coming out.

Like me, Gary was the youngest in his family. He and his mother had always been very close and Gary always took care of his mom. Gary had had a boyfriend once before, and his mom found out. She opened a card from his boyfriend and called him up at work very upset. Not ready to come out, he told her he was just going through a phase. He ended it with his bf and life went back to normal.

Like all mothers, you can’t pull anything over on them. Gary’s mom wasn’t any different. She knew the score and could tell Gary and I were more than friends. Telling his friends and family about himself wasn’t as easy as it was for me. I watched him night after night agonizing over who if anyone he should tell. He believed in his heart that the people he loved would judge him and see him differently and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to pay that price.

However, one by one he told his friends. It’s hard to hide things from your close friends, especially in college after a night of drinking and trading stories. I remember him telling me that one night when he was upset his friend asked him “So what’s his name?” 

After each person he told he became more confident and comfortable with himself. Soon all of his friends knew and a huge weight had been lifted. It was time to tell his family.

One night he told me he was going to leave a note for his mom to find in the morning telling her he needed to talk to her. He figured that would push him into talking with her. That next morning he got a call from his mom and he left work to talk to her. She was very upset. She didn’t want her son’s life to be any harder than it had to be and Gary didn’t want to disappoint her. It took some time but Gary’s mom decided that her son’s happiness was more important than losing her son and she came to terms with it. I am happy to say I consider her a wonderful mother-in-law and a close friend.

Gary told his brother and sister as well. His sister couldn’t see what the big deal was, and played a key role in their mom coming to terms with it. His brother was harder to tell. Gary was so nervous and his brother surprised him by giving him a hug and telling him he was still his brother. Phew! Both families crossed off the list.

As the years passed Gary and I moved back to Massachusetts. In fact we lived with my mom and dad for a few years. Talk about acceptance! We saved up and eventually got our own apartment in Salem. We moved again and saved up to actually buy our own place. We weren’t married but we were committed to each other as strongly as any married couple. We had a joint checking account and shared everything. When the opportunity presented itself to buy a bigger place, we jumped on it. The true test of any relationship is renovating. Trust us, if you can make it through that then you can make it through anything!

Neither Gary nor I thought too much about civil unions or a commitment ceremony. We knew we were committed and we weren’t going to Vermont. We lived here in Massachusetts and figured life would go on just like it always did. That is until the Goodridge ruling came down on November 18, 2003. For the first time we thought about the possibility of getting married but we never thought it would happen.

Then something clicked. For me, I just couldn’t see not fighting for this one. For Gary getting married made him proud for the first time about who he was.  He wasn’t different anymore. He could really have all the dreams his mom had for him. 

I began to talk to anyone who would listen. I started going to meetings and calling reporters. I called and wrote any legislature I could. Eventually I found myself in my state senator’s office. Senator Frederick Berry is also the Senate Majority Leader. It was a great meeting! I also ended up working for John Keenan’s campaign for State Representative. He won and a vote against us was removed.

To date the proudest moment in my life was exchanging vows with the person I love on May 17, 2004. The fight was personal now, and both Gary and I vowed to never take for granted this right we had been given. We tell our story to show we are just like you. If you take the time to look past our sexuality you will see we all have the same dreams. 

Whether you are a friend, family member, stranger or legislator we are asking for your help. Please help us make sure that discrimination is not written into the constitution. We can’t change who we are but we can change how we are perceived and treated. By creating a separate system of civil unions after those most qualified to interpret the constitution have given us the right to marry, you only demonstrated that Gary and I are different. And though you may choose to see that difference, does the constitution need to? Should Gary and I be subjected to second class citizenry because other people are uncomfortable with us? We are not asking you to condone our lives but we are asking you not to discriminate in the one place where we are all protected. 

Please help us by getting involved and speaking out! Remember, civil marriage is a civil right.

Bob & Gary

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