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Our big gay wedding

21 May

On Saturday, May 18th I had the pleasure of marrying my best friend. In front of a hundred or so dear friends and family on a beach in Provincetown, MA., I did something I never ever imagined I’d be able to do legally in this country.

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Somebody’s getting married!

The ceremony, led by my my dear friend from high school, Shannon – was everything I’d hoped it would be. We started planning with the idea that we could subtly include some purpose – a few readings by LGBT writers, maybe a casual mention of marriage equality since that’s the work both of us do. Let’s just say subtlety has never been either of our best qualities.

Who could stay silent when you discover you’re getting married on the 43rd anniversary of the first gay marriage ever performed in the US? Or that you’re getting married on the 9th anniversary of the first state legalizing marriage equality – and you’re getting married in that state?! Casual mentions plus a reading of Harvey Milk’s “Hope” speech and a request of our guests that they throw fabulous parties when marriage equality becomes federal law made for quite the purpose-driven wedding ceremony.

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Our place cards – everyone had to find their photo!

On to the reception and we did something fun – instead of place cards, we found photos of nearly everyone in attendance. Since I’m a photographer and pictures are a big part of my life, it felt appropriate. People had to look for their photo to find out what table they were seated at.

Then came the tables. Each one was named after an LGBT hero or heroine and featured at the centerpiece, a large photo on one side and a brief bio on the other. It was important to us both that we recognize all those who’ve worked so hard before us to make what we were doing, possible.

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The “Sylvia Rivera” table, honoring the transgender activist and Stonewall veteran.

And of course, who doesn’t have a photo booth at their wedding nowadays? We just set up a simple backdrop and provided a trunk full of horrifically gay props including a rainbow umbrella, rainbow boas, mustaches, glasses, crowns and a blow-up rainbow unicorn.

And if all that wasn’t enough, moments after announcing on Facebook that I’d become engaged, my high school senior class president messaged me saying she wanted to make our cake. She’d started a small business making cakes and as you can see, she was incredible. Her company, Devilish Desserts, is clearly not one of those to avoid while planning a gay wedding!

Following dinner, we all went to the Wave Bar in downtown Provincetown where our very straight family and friends danced the night away with hundreds of lesbians and a few drag queens (it was single women’s weekend). We even met a lovely lesbian couple who got married the same day!

A huge thank you to all of you who helped with contributions to help make our big day possible!

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Taking advantage of our makeshift photobooth!

Overall, it was a marvelous day filled with tons of love and at the end of the day, Sean and I share a favorite memory – in the middle of the ceremony, Shannon asked everyone to be silent for a moment as they considered the vows we’d made and how they could support us in our new life together. And for a moment, after a week of hustle and bustle and frantically organizing the wedding, after driving 10 hours, dealing with family and everything in between, for one moment all you could hear was the gentle lapping of the waves over the sand. Simple, beautiful, and perfect.

A few people have asked us to publish our vows, so here they are. There may be a few insider references, but you get the idea…

Jamie’s vows:

Before our family and friends, and especially Eli, I take you Sean, to spend my days and nights with. To love you and to like you, to hold you tight when either of us need it and to give you the room you need to grow as we do so together. I promise to build our family in a way that honors our past and strengthens the future for those who come after us. I promise to continue to laugh with you, cry with you and continue posting photos of you an Eli sleeping on the internet. And this above all, as our lives blossom together and the winds take us in new directions, I promise to call any place you are, my home.

Sean’s vows:

I promise to be patient, to listen, and to remember that you’re usually right.
I promise to cheer you on when you’re doing great things and hold your hand through hard times.
I promise to make you laugh when you’d rather not, to make you slow down every now and then and live in the moment, and when I’m so very very mad at you to remember that we’re a team.
I promise to teach you how to drive if you’ll teach me how to swim, and to make you turn off Facebook sometimes.
I promise that no matter what comes next for us that we will face it together. Because without you I would be completely lost.
More than anything, I promise to love you. And when you’re old and wise and boring I’ll be right there too – maybe a little less wise, and I will love you still.

Our cake, designed by Devilish Desserts - the inside was rainbow layer cake!

Our cake, designed by Devilish Desserts – the inside was rainbow layer cake!

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Walking down the aisle with our moms

Our first dance - there was a technical malfunction, so the whole crowd sang "Rainbow Connection" a cappella and we danced.

Our first dance – there was a technical malfunction, so the whole crowd sang “Rainbow Connection” a cappella and we danced.

After many arguments over clothing, Sean surprised me by showing up in a kilt like mine.

After many arguments over clothing, Sean surprised me by showing up in a kilt like mine.

The head table was of course - the Harvey Milk table!

The head table was of course – the Harvey Milk table!

Why I’m Marrying Sean Carlson

5 Dec
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Me at 4 in a rainbow shirt…just sayin.

When I was a little boy, I read all the same books every kid read. I watched all the Disney movies everyone else saw. I knew the happily-ever-afters in and out. The prince found the princess, woke her up with a kiss and they rode off into the sunset.

From the time I was 10, I was also doing musicals so I figured out early on that I was gay. Even though I may have not known what it all meant, I knew I was different and there had to be a reason that those movies weren’t telling the happily-ever-after that played out in my head. So I hid.

That's me on the right...I was Daddy Warbucks in Annie when I was a sophomore in high school.

That’s me on the right…I was Daddy Warbucks in Annie when I was a sophomore in high school.

I went to high school and continued doing musicals and hating sports – ever the cliché, I could neither kick, throw or catch a ball. By then, the only mention of gay people I ever heard was about AIDS. It was the late 80s and being gay was no longer something that was invisible, it was a forbidden, terrible thing to be. Further into my closet I went. That 10 year old voice in my head telling me that marriage would never happen for me grew ever louder.

In college, things seemed to be changing. Despite seeing Matthew Shepard brutally murdered and the AIDS crisis continue, I was growing up – it was time to start standing up for who I was. I came out. But that 10 year old in my head was still shouting “You’ll never get married – people like you will never be good enough for that.”

Me with my best friend Laura (now a Tony Winner and huge TV star) and Julia (a huge Broadway star) at one of the first concerts I produced.

Me with my best friend Laura (now a Tony Winner and huge TV star) and Julia (a huge Broadway star) at one of the first concerts I produced.

After college, I moved to New York. I worked in theatre, produced Broadway concerts, and became a voice actor for Pokémon and dozens of other cartoons. I was out and I was happy – I even had a few relationships. I was never wealthy, but I made ends meet. I was fighting for equality and it felt right, but strangely enough – I still had that little boy’s voice echoing in my head telling me I’d never have that day – the same one I’d seen my brothers through and stood by as my best friend was married, twice. It wasn’t something that made me angry – ever. It was something I’d just accepted as fact.

An autumn afternoon in DC

An autumn afternoon in DC

A few years later, I was putting together a rally to fight the anti-gay military policy, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I’d brought a bus full of people from New York to DC for the event and the night before, I was running to different gay bars around the city to promote the rally. I walked into Nellie’s sports bar and a man walked up to me. He said “You’re not from here, are you?” “How do you know?” I replied. “You’re carrying a big gay metro DC map. Which of course I was, with rainbow flags emblazoned over all the gay bars. He grabbed half my flyers and spent the rest of the night chatting and getting people to join us for the rally the next morning.

And then this happened.

And then this happened.

Flash forward a year and a half and I was living in Washington DC with Sean. It was New Year’s Eve and we were celebrating in a cozy gay bar with about 40 friends. As the countdown approached, no one was watching the TV, everyone had turned to face Sean and I. I immediately knew something was up. Sean hugged me and whispered into my ear “I have to ask you something.” With tears in his eyes, and having created the public spectacle he knew an actor from New York would clearly love – Sean got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

And for the first time in my life, I no longer hear that 10-year old’s voice.

We both now work as organizers in DC, fighting for equality and teaching others how to fight for the things they care most about. We still don’t make a lot of money, but we’re happy – happier than a lot of people I know. We’re not wealthy, but we make ends meet. And next May, we’re going to get married in Provincetown, MA. This isn’t too far from where I grew up and where my mom (whose health won’t allow her to travel too far) can get to fairly easily. Happily, some friends are pitching in to help us have the wedding we really want and we couldn’t be more grateful.

I’m marrying Sean Carlson because he is strong and he is a person I laugh with more than any other person I’ve ever met. i’ve watched him grow and have enjoyed growing with him. Sean is someone whose values I share. We spend evenings sometimes violently agreeing with one another on the important things we hold most dear to our hearts. On top of that, he loves my dog Eli – truly, the two are inseparable. I’m marrying Sean to honor that 10-year old who never dared dream of what I might one day have. And I’m marrying him because I love him.

We understand that us getting married is bound to be a political statement – and while that’s clearly not the reason we’re getting married, I can’t help but hope some 10-year old kid out there doing Evita reads this and realizes that there is nothing that’s too good for him.

If you’d like to help us have the wedding we hope to have – and after helping those who need it most you have an extra dollar or two, please visit our little fundraising page. Thanks again for reading our blog and we wish you the happiest of holidays.

BULLY: The Only Thing That’s Changed is the Part in His Hair

11 May

When Mitt Romney was 18 years old, he was a bully. A story in the Washington Post goes into great detail about a time when a high school-aged Romney lead a screaming mob of students to chase, pin to the floor and then physically assault a fellow student they assumed to be gay. They took a pair of scissors and chopped off his hair after Romney observed “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong! Just look at him!”

We’ve heard this story all over the internet, on every news station and paper for the past few days. Romney has of course, brushed off the incident. “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far…” In another interview, Romney laughed through his responses when questioned on his participation in the anti-gay assault. He also found it funny when he was questioned about teasing a closeted gay student by responding “Atta Girl!” to the young man’s responses in the classroom. He impressively remembered the detail that he didn’t think of his fellow student as gay, but strangely couldn’t remember that time he chased him down and chopped off all his hair.

Those defending Romney are parroting his responses, passing off what a kid today would get arrested for as silly teenage pranks. And it’s true. Kids do stupid things. As a friend put it today, “that’s why kids are tried in court as kids.” It certainly doesn’t excuse their behavior, but we have a cultural understanding that growing up means maturing and evolving in your views and your actions. The problem here is that Romney hasn’t evolved. His bullying of gay people has continued well-into his adulthood. He may not be leading mobs to assault defenseless teenagers, but he’s certainly working to make sure we remain pinned to the floor, the scissors posed just next to our faces.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney had to make some compromises. On several occasions, he purported to support the LGBT community including the endorsement of an LGBT Youth Rally on Boston Common, his support of Gay Pride (which his campaign has thoroughly denied despite the evidence), and a declaration of support for full federal equality for gays & lesbians when he ran for Senate against Ted Kennedy.

What we didn’t see then though, according to a 2006 Boston Globe article, was a virulently anti-gay Romney seeking to curtail the state’s initiatives to support LGBT youth:

“Angered that his name appeared on a press release touting a gay pride parade, Governor Mitt Romney moved yesterday to curtail the activities of a 14-year-old advisory commission on gay and lesbian youth.

The commission chairwoman, Kathleen M. Henry, said she was called yesterday by Beth Myers, the governor’s chief of staff, who told her that the governor planned to issue an executive order ”revoking our existence” and creating another youth commission whose purview would be all of the state’s youth, not just gays and lesbians. The commission would have all new members, she said.”

His anti-gay actions as governor of Massachusetts didn’t end there. He went on to veto funding for “intervention services and crisis housing for sexual violence in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community,” according to a 2006 article in the Patriot Ledger. In 2003 & 2004, Romney also vetoed funding for suicide prevention and intervention efforts in the state, according to government documents.

As has also been recently discovered that Romney made a $10,000 contribution to the anti-gay hate group, National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The contribution was to aid NOM in their efforts to take marriage rights away from California citizens. Strangely enough, NOM failed to report the Governor’s contribution and an investigation has been demanded.

Romney also joked about the time his father shut down a factory in Michigan, leaving hundreds out of work.

Romney’s lack of respect for the life of those he sees beneath him doesn’t end with gay youth and those who wish to marry. Romney has also brushed off his actions as a dog owner when he strapped his Irish Setter’s crate to the roof of their station wagon for hours of driving. In 1983, the family drove from Boston to Ontario, Canada with the dog defacating all over himself and sitting in the crate for hours. The Romneys pulled over, hosed the dog off and put the now-wet Irish Setter back in the crate and continued their journey. When asked if he’d do it again, Romney laughed and responded “well, not with all the attention it’s received.”

Romney doesn’t mind actively harming others, whether it be pinning a person to the ground and assaulting him with scissors or  clearly taking the life of your own dog for granted. Romney’s responses to his horrific actions as both a young person and an adult clearly prove that he hasn’t grown up. Yes, kids can be horrible and people make mistakes, and we forgive them. But when a man who spends his entire life taking pleasure and even glee in seeing others suffer, we don’t excuse that. And we certainly don’t elect that man to be the most powerful bully person in the world.

The First Openly-Gay Congressman

9 May

This Thursday would have been the 74th birthday of the first openly-gay federal politician. Congressman Gerry Studds of Massachusetts was my Congressman growing up and I can proudly say that both my mother and my aunt took a major part in getting Gerry elected.

When he was first elected in 1972, he was not out of the closet. It wasn’t until a scandal outed Gerry, that he admitted publicly to being gay. Gerry was censured by Congress for having a sexual relationship with 17 year-old page Dean Hara. He fought to avoid a hearing so as to avoid outing young Hara. But instead of abandoning his post, like many outed politicians do, Gerry was re-elected six more times, until he retired in 1997 after serving the country for 25 years. He fought for many issues, including environmental and maritime issues, same-sex marriage, AIDS funding, and civil rights, particularly for gays and lesbians.

Following his retirement, Gerry continued to lobby for the fishing industry – one of the primary industries of his constituents in Massachusetts.

Gerry Studds and his husband Dean Hara

Gerry defended himself regarding the scandal by saying that he was in a consensual relationship with the the young man. In 2004, one week after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, my aunt got a call from Gerry inviting her to his wedding. Gerry was marrying his partner of 25+ years, Dean Hara. Two years later, Gerry passed away following a pulmonary embolism. Due to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, Dean was not eligible to receive the pension provided to surviving spouses of former members of Congress.

Gay Couple Booted from Cambridge Deli After Brief Kiss

5 Apr

Having grown up in the Boston area and certainly come to terms with who I am as a young adult in Boston and Cambridge, the story of discrimination in a local market there, comes as a surprise.

Josh Fallon, Harvard senior

According to My Fox Boston, harvard senior Aaron Fallon was in the Market in the Square in Cambridge with his boyfriend when after sharing a small kiss, a clerk told him “We don’t want that kind of sh*t in here,” and kicked them out.

While Cambridge may feel like a safe area and Massachusetts is certainly legislatively a very LGBT-friendly place to live, there are always ignorant and homophobic people in any place. While the store owner apologized to Fallon, the feeling of being discriminated against for who you are is not an easy thing to shake. It’s something that hits you in a way that people who haven’t been discriminated against find hard to understand.

Proud to be from MA: Gov. Patrick Signs Transgender Protective Order

17 Feb

As a Massachusetts native, I’ve often been proud of my home state for the way it has led the country when it comes to equality for all its citizens. It was the place the pilgrims landed when they were trying to escape religious persecution. It was the place where patriots dropped case upon case of tea into Boston Harbor when we were being treated like second-class citizens by the British Crown (The only shame there is that the name “Tea Party” has been co-opted to mean something entirely different). And then in 2004, it became the first US State to officially recognize equality in marriage.

And since then, Massachusetts has not fallen off into the ocean and what’s more – much to the chagrin of the anti-gay, and quite contrary to their arguments that marriage equality will somehow negatively affect opposite-sex marriages, Massachusetts’ divorce rate is now at similar levels to what it was pre-World War II. Depending on the survey, it is 49th or 50th in the country when it comes to divorce.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

And today, according to the Boston Herald, Governor Deval Patrick signed an Executive Order banning discrimination within state agencies from making decisions based on gender identity.

The executive order revises an existing order, adding the words “gender identity or expression” to the state’s non-discrimination statutes, which also includes: race, color, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, creed, ancestry, national origin, disability, veteran’s status (including Vietnam-era veterans), or background.

Once again, I’m proud to tell people I’m from Massachusetts.

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