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The very public, very desperate crumbling of the anti-gay Right

4 Jul

One week ago, I sat in front of the Supreme Court of the United States among hundred of others anxiously awaiting their decisions on marriage equality.

Interviewing the first openly gay person of color in Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)

Interviewing the first openly gay person of color in Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) photo by Sarah Baker

It’s strange, because there in the sun, just a few hundred feet from where the decisions were being read, we actually found out quite a bit later than many of you at home reading SCOTUSblog. Phone service was sparse and in the bright, direct sunlight, I couldn’t see a thing on my screen. Not to mention, I was busy hosting streaming coverage and interviews for WeActRadio. While talking with Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA), the decision striking down Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) came out.

I wanted to scream and hug the Congress member, but we didn’t quite have that kind of relationship yet. I continued covering the day’s events and followed up with several other interviews on radio stations around the country and finished up the day on SiriusXM Radio with my husband and another friend and her wife…and a bottle of champagne. What a day!

My husband, Sean and I standing with Brendon Ayanbadejo outside the Supreme Court in March

My husband, Sean and I standing with Brendon Ayanbadejo outside the Supreme Court in March

My husband Sean and I had helped to organize rallies that happened outside the Supreme Court back in March while the DOMA and Prop 8 arguments were being heard. So much of our time was spent considering what “the other side” would be planning while we rallied. Partly we wanted to know so that we could respond courteously and effectively to the things they said. But the other reason we wanted to be prepared for them was so we could protect the families we knew would be standing with us, from the hateful, toxic things the anti-gay right seems to spew when they’re angry. Our kids don’t need to hear that.

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Last week at the Supreme Court

Last week in front of the court was different though. Despite hate groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Family Research Council calling for “days of prayer” and for their followers to stand with them that morning on the steps of the court, no one came. I could count on one hand the number of people standing their with anti-gay signs. The rest was a sea of rainbows and love. Maybe despite their screams to the press that they would win, they knew what was coming, what was inevitable.

What followed that amazing day when my husband and I woke up without equality and went to bed with 1,100 more rights, was truly dumbfounding.

The National Organization immediately began attacking the court for making an “Illegitimate” decision. In their first email/blog post, they asked for money and linked to their fundraising page 8 TIMES. As a person who works in digital media for a living, I can tell you with some certainty that 3-4 times is excessive when asking for money in one email, but 8?!? Not even street canvassers will bother you that many times.

NOM President Brian Brown’s initial response to the court’s decision was scathing:

“There is a stench coming from this case that has now stained the Supreme Court. They’ve allowed corrupt politicians and judges to betray the voters, rewarding them for their betrayal. It’s an illegitimate decision. We and millions of other Americans will refuse to accept this rogue decision rewarding corruption. “

NOM President Brian Brown

NOM President Brian Brown

Then came the emails. The angry, angry emails. NOM’s emails accused California lawmakers of participating in “lawlessness” when they began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples (which was now legal following Prop 8 being struck down). Another email was filled with vitriol and borderline racist comments about CA Attorney General Kamala Harris. In this message, they refer to Harris’ “arrogance,” a term usually reserved for those we think don’t deserve a place in leadership. Additionally, they use the email to twist and misquote remarks made by the President about Harris a few months ago.

They followed with a tweet that said “Polygamists are actually celebrating the Supreme Court’s decisions this week as a personal victory for them” and linked to a blog post which of course, said nothing of the sort.

In other posts, they continued their usual outdated theme claiming that marriage equality is bad for children somehow. Yet they continue to ignore the fact that their argument completely discounts the millions of kids being raised by LGBT parents.

NOM wrapped up the week with a patriotic 4th of July email claiming that a person cannot be gay or a supporter of equality for gay people and an American at the same time.

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Graphic from NOM’s most recent email

The anti-gay Right is disintegrating before our eyes and the desperation with which they are clinging onto life has never been more apparent. They will never be gone forever, though. Just as we’ve seen with groups that fought integration and some in the South who are still fighting the Civil War, they’re never gone for good.

Happily though, with support for marriage equality in this country hitting all time highs and a Gallup poll following last week’s rulings finding support at 55% for and 40% against legalizing same-sex marriages, these hate groups will continue to lose funding and support.

The fight is far from over, and as NOM is only too quick to recognize, there are still 37 states which do not recognize marriage equality. I think this number will drop quickly, but not without our work.

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!

USA Today talks about little old us.

9 Jan

431259_395403110547163_2095498794_nAbout a month ago, Sean’s organization got a phone call from a reporter at USA Today. They were looking for someone who had a gay family member and due to that, changed their mind on marriage equality. Immediately, their communications director passed the phone off to Sean as the perfect candidate.

We sat down with Chuck Raasch, Sean and Sean’s mom Barbara over coffee a few days later. A week or so after that, they called and asked to send a photographer to our house to take photos of the three of us cooking dinner together (something that has never really happened in real life). We obliged realizing it would help make a good narrative for the story.

Flash forward and this morning, the story appeared on page 2 of USA Today. We have since set a date and will be happily getting married on May 18th in Provincetown, MA! Check out the story here.

Thanks to Chuck and photographer Toby Jornin for telling our story so effectively that it might continue to change some minds.

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.

I Said Yes: The Video

2 Jan

It’s been a little more than 36 hours since my boyfriend got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

Since then, more than a thousand people have commented, liked, called, texted or sent smoke signals congratulating us. We couldn’t be more happy at the outpouring of love and support.

I’m still in so much shock every time I look at my finger. I just keep jumping back to when I was a kid thinking this wasn’t something that would ever happen for me because I was gay. Even when I was older and I’d become more comfortable with myself, I would rent gay movies like Maurice or Beautiful Thing,  and while it was certainly encouraging to see our stories being told on film, there was rarely a “happily ever after.”

Our friend, Tom captured the moment on his iPhone and just posted it to youtube this morning and we wanted to share it. To be honest, I don’t recall it being that loud or 3/4 of the things that were said, but it certainly is nice to have this record of it. Please watch and share if you like.

Maybe some kid out there will watch this and realize that their prince or princess is out there looking for their fairytale ending too.

I said yes. #SuckitNOM

1 Jan

Our friends Matt & Tom arrived at the apartment around 8pm for some pre-New Year’s Eve drinks and finger food. Hurriedly, I was plating meatballs and chicken wings when Matt knocked a bottle of red wine, sending it crashing to the floor. Immediately all four of us were sopping up red wine from the carpet and searching for solutions to avoid the stain. Happily after 10 minutes, it seemed the stain was avoided. We commenced eating and drinking and were then joined by our friend Gareth.

We headed off to meet our other friends at a bar in Dupont where I’d thrown Sean’s surprise birthday party last May. Uncharacteristically, Sean had made the decision to act as the evening’s cruise director and a couple dozen friends were meeting us at this bar.

It seemed like any other New Year’s Eve. Hanging with friends, watching Anderson Cooper be cute and Kathy Griffin be obnoxious on big screen TVs throughout the bar. But there was also an underlying anxiety that was hard to describe. Knowing what I know now, I can see the reason why at 11:59:30, almost everyone in the room was staring at me and Sean as they counted down.

3…2…1! HAPPY NEW YEAR! I kissed him for 3-5 seconds like I promised in yesterday’s blog post and pulled back to see Sean’s eyes filled with tears. He leaned back in and said in my ear, “I’ve got a question for you.” “Oh, do you? And what’s that?” I replied. The next 10 seconds felt like a lifetime as Sean struggled for words and the tears streamed down his face. Pausing, as the words weren’t coming, Sean reached into his vest pocket, pulled something out and fell to one knee. “Will you…will you marry me?”

Shock. My brain immediately went into hyperdrive, back to every wedding I went to as a kid and a teenager. There was this feeling that since I was gay, a wedding was not only a long shot, but damn near impossible. I’d resigned myself to the idea that marriage was for other people. Even with the work we’ve done towards equality and even after attending several gay weddings, that underlying feeling pervaded.

“Are you kidding? ARE YOU KIDDING?” were the only words my lizard brain could come up with as Sean knelt trembling and crying on the floor. “Will you?” he asked again. “Yes, of course.” he got up and we embraced for what felt like 30 minutes – shaking and crying. “Don’t make me turn around and look at all these people” Sean said, “I’m going to be a sobbing mess if I turn around and see them.” I turned him around and the merriment ensued.

So here I am today, a man engaged. No mother, we have not set the date yet. All we can say for sure now is that there will be rainbows, glitter, and at least two Tony Award winners who’ve already offered to perform.

 

Video by Tom Lotito

Ridiculous photos by Samantha Ames

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