Virtually Married

by Reed Hearne

Someday, when queers have full fledged rights, when nobody remembers the old persecutions (didn't we expect this for African Americans by now?), when two men holding hands is so banal it doesn't instigate imaginings of sex in the minds of passers-by anymore than a straight couple would, it will be a hell of a lot easier to take your homo-mate home for a visit.

My parents are unmitigated Arizonans. They voted for Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Dole. That said, they have been remarkably accepting of their queer son. (Gay Republican alert.) The usual shock and dismay led quickly to acceptance and they've maintained the same position ever since: We aren't required to understand. As long as you're happy, we're happy for you. Until I discovered how lucky I was, I took issue with the part about understanding. Then I realized I couldn't comprehend living their lives either. Acceptance turned out to be a two-way street.

My parents embrace Tyce into our family as warmly as the husbands and wives of my brothers and sisters. Since a number of those have come and gone during Tyce's tenure, the stability factor has weighed in our favor. Ironically, the courage of their convictions hasn't kept pace with their emotions. They see no disparity between sending Tyce presents (usually nicer than mine) or welcoming him into their home, and supporting initiatives that preempt the possibility of our legal equality. On occasion, that irony has spread painful ripples that make the "Don't ask, don't tell" alternative in Tyce's family seem reasonable.

I'm blessed, and I don't mean to whine, but when my redneck brother-in-law told my parents not to leave his two year old son alone in the same room with Tyce and I, they didn't protest. It was his right, they said, and not their place to educate him. Needless to say, it is our right never again to soil ourselves by his presence. And who the hell should educate him, I wanted to know?

Another time, when we came home to my high school reunion, my mother accused me of deliberately embarrassing her. She thought my biography in the reunion "update" thoughtlessly flaunted my sexuality in front of people she saw in the grocery store on a daily basis. It didn't occur to her I was proud of my relationship and that coming out to my high school past was my own small way of taking responsibility to educate.

Growth never comes without some pain. My visits to Tyce's family have been free of confrontation and painless for everyone except for one incident that sticks in my mind. The surprise visit of his aunt, uncle and cousins, coincident with our own, called for a group photograph of the whole clan out in front of the homestead. Who better to stand apart and snap the photo than the only person present who would never be a part of the family?


If you would like advice regarding acceptance by your homo-mate's family or any other straight or gay relationship problems address your questions to Reed at

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