In 1994, my then-boyfriend Brian and I drove to New York City for Gay Pride.
We had met the year before at Mike's Gym, an almost exclusively gay gym in Boston's South End. A friend of Brian's somehow knew I was from Holland; that's how I believe my nickname Tulip came about.
(Come to think of it: Brian used to say that he'd prefer tulips on his organ to a rose on his piano.)
A quick glance at me in the locker room taught him what religion I wasn't.
And a friend of mine had already divulged to me what Brian had told him in confidence: He was HIV-positive.
Anyway, we met. We really liked each other. Then, on the third date, Brian revealed to me in a shaky voice what I already knew. We had our first, very careful sex that night.
We fell in love. We had dates in the South End, then a largely gay neighborhood. We made friends that were mostly gay. (But not exclusively; we befriended some lesbians too.) We went to see "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss" and other little indie films that were, yes, gay, gay, gay.
With an AIDS diagnosis looming, we had no time to lose. Some of our new friends were getting sicker. Some died. Barely six months after the first kiss, we moved in together.
At that New York Pride, gay life was celebrated in the face of death. We saw men marching with dark Kaposi sarcoma lesions on their bared chests. We saw young men leaning on canes, too sick to walk, watching the parade from the sidelines. Men blind with cytomegalovirus loudly singing along to "Pride – A Deeper Love" coming from the floats. We chanted and cried and watched a giant rainbow flag being carried along Fifth Avenue. And in our cut-off jeans and Timberland boots, we danced to Aretha and Whitney.
And then, thanks to enormous medical advances, the unthinkable happened for us: Brian stayed alive and healthy. As our horizon of life opened up, we learned to look ahead farther. We made plans for a future together that wasn't just measured in weeks or months.
We loved New York, and so we found jobs there and moved to Manhattan. Forced by my immigration issues we decamped temporarily to cold but wonderful Toronto, repatriated to New York five years later, and in 2017 returned to the Boston area.
We went from boyfriends to partners (for many years our term of choice), briefly to ex-partners, to partners again, and finally, in 2013, to husbands.
We got our first dog in 2005, a saucy Chihuahua named Duke, and showered him with love and attention. It awakened something in us that had long been dormant. But could we, at our age? Would Brian stay healthy?
Our answers were yes and yes. In 2009 we adopted a baby boy. Seventeen months later our two daughters were born.
In 2014 Brian began this website, Gays With Kids. So we're still gay, and our kids clearly have gay dads. They dance a mean Time Warp; instead of straight ahead they say gaily forward. They realize everyone is different, and they seem to like it that way.
But we live now in a predominantly straight suburb with an excellent school system. We socialize primarily with straight-but-not-narrow friends. Brian and I tell each other all the time we should really go back to the gym. We watch our little, almost exclusively gay indie films in bed on Netflix and Amazon Prime, after the kids have finally fallen asleep.
We're going to take our kids to New York Pride later this month. I envision something like this: Proudly holding their hands, we'll watch the floats in age-appropriate shorts and sensible footwear. We'll cheer on courageous Mormon or evangelical LGBT contingencies while the kids are busy licking lollipops. They will learn about Stonewall, AIDS and the road to marriage equality. Following the kids' lead, Brian and I will make some moves to "Old Town Road." With them, we'll belt out "Baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle?" And we will dance in the street to Madonna, Cher, Whitney and Gaga, the soundtrack of our lives for so many years.
Over the course of that weekend, in age-appropriate terms, we will tell our kids more about the lives of their daddy and papa.