I obsessively scroll through Gio Benitez and Tommy DiDario’s Bali honeymoon photos. Photos of two muscular and effortlessly handsome young men wading in impossibly blue water, standing by elephants or cruising on brightly colored Balinese fishing boats.
Their Technicolor dream life flowers and reflows on Instagram, Facebook, the ABC website, everywhere. I’m equally envious of and enamored with their meticulously documented love story.
“Why haven’t you taken me to Bali?” I ask my husband bitterly. For that moment I’m that guy, jealous of this beautiful young couple, so out and so public it hurts.
Gio (left) and Tommy in Bali
I was 10 when had my first real crush on a boy, a member of my swim team. It was the year Rock Hudson revealed he had HIV and his kissing scene with Linda Evans on Dynasty caused panic and hysteria in the media. Photos of his gaunt body were all over the news. I remember my mother saying, “Gay people are full of sin, and that’s why they are dying.”
To me, my small prepubescent frame seemed to shrink in shame. I knew that from that moment on, I had to hide my crushes, my desires and myself.
I was in middle school when Liberace passed away; for weeks the hallways echoed with anti-gay jokes. I played along with everyone else. I laughed and hid; it was easier to be part of the crowd and to remain invisible.
Freddy Mercury died when I was 16. I started dating girls in the hope of curing myself. More and more of me disappeared. But, in private, while getting ready for one of those “dates,” I would listen to Queen’s “Flash Gordon” soundtrack, all the while swooning over Sam J. Jones in his tight tank top on the album’s back cover.
Sam J. Jones as Flash Gordon
I didn’t officially come out until I was 28 – comparatively late to what is happening on social media today. Today I’m married and the father of twins; being invisible is not an option.
When we moved to Mexico a year ago, I wasn’t sure how out we could be or if I’d have to invent a wife and mother to make our lives easier. Of course, I didn’t. I’ve discovered that – especially with kids – it’s vital to come out, all the time, whatever your particular culture, country or circumstances are.
Luna and Leo with their shopping carts
I come out every day in Mexico. I do it while checking out at Costco or while pumping gas. I do it at the barbershop and at my kids’ school.
I came out again today at the supermarket while Luna and Leo pushed their mini shopping carts through the produce section, when a woman asked Luna, “Did your mommy braid your hair?”
“No,” I said, “she doesn’t have a mommy; she has two dads. And I braided her hair.”
The woman looked confused and slightly bothered; she turned her back to me and went back to squeezing melons.
I come out for my children who are far too young to understand what I’m doing. I know that Luna and Leo will be confronted with hatred for having two dads, but I hope when it happens they can come out fearlessly and beautifully in their own way.
But for now, I am ready to come out as many times as I need to and teach my children that their family is real and wonderful, and that it’s important to say who we are – no matter where we are.
Tommy DiDario on his honeymoon in Bali
So to Tommy and Gio: Keep posting photos of yourselves holding hands, standing next to the Washington Monument or on any beach you happen to be on.
And to all those queer families out there, who keep filling social media with photos, don’t stop. The world still needs to look us straight in the eye and recognize that we are people and families just like any other, when we squeeze produce in the supermarket, accompanied by our children with lovely braided hair, quietly living our lives as publicly and visibly as any one else.