Despite all of the progress made when it comes to gay visibility in recent years, ranging from out actors like Neil Patrick Harris and T.R. Knight to hit television shows like Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty, gay men still have to look pretty darn hard to find images of themselves as romantic couples in the traditional media.
That was why it was such big news when The New York Times started including gay couples as part of their wedding announcement section and why it mattered so much when Brothers & Sisters’ Kevin Walker (Matthew Rhys) was allowed to have an actual love life that included physical affection.
But even with that progress, its doubtful that on this day devoted to love there will be too many television stories, newspaper articles or much else that reflect the lives of gay men as couples.
So to help celebrate Valentine’s Day — and to celebrate the romantic moments between gay men — we asked a number of AfterElton.com staffers and readers to share their stories of romance.
Frank and Craig (AfterElton readers)
When my partner Craig and I first met, President Bush (the first) had
recently taken up residence in the White House. It was the beginning of
a new decade — the 1990s (remember Deee-Lite?)
We were both living at home (in the closet) while attending the
"live at home college," Wayne State University in Detroit, which meant
we didn’t get a whole lot of alone-time, and were constantly looking
for whatever opportunity. Luckily we often got it, thanks to my best
friend since 7th grade, Grat Dalton.
Frank and Craig
While I was sponging off my parents and getting a degree in Theater, Grat was working to support himself. He also lived at home, but in a tiny room he rented on the second floor of his father’s house. Sure it was small, but it had its own separate entrance and a bathroom out in the hallway … and a bed!
On several occasions, Grat would give us the key to his "hide-away" so that Craig and I could escape from the outside world where nobody (other than Grat) knew why we needed an escape. One particular evening about a month into what we still weren’t calling a “relationship,” we were sitting on the floor in Grat’s bedroom…
Now I don’t know if it was because we’d been listening to "Love Changes Everything" on the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber cassette (remember "Aspects of Love"?), or because of the candlelight flickering off Craig’s face as we split an entire bottle of white zinfandel … but I started to cry.
For the first time, the reality of the situation hit me. This wasn’t something I’d been doing just because I’d hit my sexual peak and it felt good, even though it totally did. I was in love! I was also terrified that Craig didn’t feel the same way and everything would come crashing to an end if I dared tell him. Which I did on our first Valentine’s Day.
Thankfully our relationship has lasted long enough to see President Bush (the second) take up residence in the White House… (Whatever happened to Deee-Lite?)
Dave and Chad (AfterElton readers)
About a year ago the right half of my face suddenly became paralyzed. It sagged lifelessly, making me look like something out of a haunted house. Chad and I spent eleven hours in the emergency room to confirm that I was not having a stroke; meanwhile, most of that time was spent waiting, people-watching, and talking.
At one point, I asked Chad to take a picture of me. I clowned and smiled for the camera, which made my asymmetrical face look all the more ridiculous. Somehow, despite everything, we were both
having a good time, in circumstances that most people would neither consider fun nor romantic.
Dave and Chad
Sure, I have memories of how exciting it was when we first started dating. There were some attempts at traditional romance back then: flowers, intimate dinners, daring to hold hands in public. I remember the giddy feelings, but I also remember feeling self-conscious a lot,
worrying about whether I looked good enough, hoping my personality
I like it so much better now. After 13 years, we are so comfortable together that I can be my silly self and pose for a
picture at my absolute ugliest moment, without worrying whether I am meeting his beauty standards.
That’s romantic to me.
Chad and Tshombe (AfterElton readers)
There are certain pivotal moments in a relationship that define the direction the relationship will go. In our exciting, emotional, and slightly tumultuous new relationship of little more than 2 months, we had already talked about moving in together. Still, neither one of us had as yet uttered the L-Word.
Chad and Tshombe
It was a beautiful Sunday morning in November. Tshombe woke up early and had an agenda, while Chad took the opportunity to sleep in late. While Chad was grading papers, Tshombe phoned to ask if he could come over to bring him something.
“Oh no. I’m not cleaned up, yet.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“I just haven’t gotten ready or taken a shower . . .”
“If we’re going to live to together, I think I’m going to see you not cleaned up pretty much every day.”
“You can come over.”
And so he did.
Chad was at the table, drinking coffee and grading papers when Tshombe arrived at his apartment. While Chad remained seated, Tshombe knelt down next to him and took Chad’s hand, explaining that the last couple of months with Chad had been the best experience of his life.
“They haven’t been easy, and already we’ve had our ups and downs, but I want you to listen to this CD by Whitney Houston that expresses how I feel because no matter what I want you to know that I love you and I believe in you and me.”
“I love you, too, Tshombe.” They hugged. They kissed.
And Tshombe placed the headphones on Chad’s ears, as Whitney sang
“I believe in you and me / I believe that we will be / In love eternally / Well as far as I can see / You will always be the one for me / Oh yes you will / And I believe in dreams again / I believe that love will never end / And like the river finds the sea / I was lost, now I’m free / Cuz, I believe in you and me”
Michael and Brent (AfterElton editor and AfterElton contributor)
Valentine’s Day coincidentally happens to mark the same week as our anniversary (#16 this year!) and while we don’t do a whole lot to celebrate the day, it does always cause us to pause and reflect on what we have.
Michael especially recalls how, growing up gay, he never imagined himself in a relationship even though he is basically a homebody who wanted nothing more than a partner. He never dreamed about Fire Island parties or West Hollywood discos, but settling down and building a life with the right guy. Unfortunately, that was never the media presented in the image.
Fortunately, he did meet Brent, but instead of leading the conventional life Michael expected, he and Brent have turned into the nutcases who produce bizarre video blogs like this one to celebrate Valentine’s Day wherein Michael actually barfs up flowers. How is that for romantic?
For the record, Michael wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lyle and Scott (AfterElton contributor)
My partner and I met online and I like to joke that our ’opposites attract’ dynamic can be best summarized by in the ad we met over. One of the questions on the profile was "Last great novel read" and his answer was Enders Game and The Forever War. I saw those titles and thought "Classics of anti-war science fiction" but when we met, he didn’t seem like the type to read anti-war novels.
Lyle and Scott
I asked him about this seeming contradiction and he replied, "The military tactics in those novels are really interesting."
And that’s always summarized our dynamic, we have a lot of common interests but approach them from very different angles.
Terry and Bill (AfterElton readers)
Since we, as a gay couple, did not have the benefit of a legal marriage when we got together in Houston, Texas over 27 years ago, we set our own anniversary date. The date we chose was the first Friday in January, since this is when we had our first date. Of course the specific date changes each year but we have held fast to the first Friday and always make a point of going out to a nice restaurant to celebrate.
Terry and Bill
We now live in Lakewood, Washington and several years ago we celebrated our anniversary at a beautiful converted mansion/restaurant in the quaint town of Steilacoom, just a few miles from our house. Our male waiter must have overheard our toast to each other that evening, as we found out at the end of the meal when we declined the dessert menu. We asked for the check and were prepared to leave when he brought over a complimentary dessert and wished us a happy anniversary. Needless to say, we both felt special that night.
For our 25th anniversary, we decided to celebrate a little early with an RSVP cruise to Alaska in September. This was our first all gay cruise and our way of celebrating a relationship that has outlasted quite a few heterosexual marriages. We had a terrific time, enjoying the company of other gay couples and a week of fun, music, great food and breathtaking scenery. We decided this was probably our most romantic gesture to celebrate 25 years together. And, as an added bonus, we won a half cabin on a second RSVP cruise the following February, sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to Mexico and back.
We still, however, went out for our traditional dinner the first Friday in January.
JBE and Jerson (AfterElton readers)
Our most romantic moment took place in May 2001. We were standing on the top of Arc de Triomphe at night looking at the "City of Lights" when
suddenly the Eiffel Tower started an amazing light show that lasted for at
least 30 minutes. It was incredibly beautiful and the highlight of a great
two weeks in Paris.
JBE and Jerson
Have a romantic story of your own? We would love to hear about it in the comments!