Gay Mormons Tie the Knot

My partner just Gary proposed to me this morning after we saw that the gay marriage referendum here in Washington State has passed. We’ll be getting married in 2013 on our sixth anniversary, two gay ex-Mormons tying the knot. I’d start singing, “I’m getting married in the morning” from My Fair Lady, only Gary and I are both officially members of GLAM (Gays and Lesbians Against Musicals), and he just wouldn’t have it.

We met in 2007 at a summer party. It was mixed, with both men and women, gays and straights. I was single, my previous partner having died of liver cancer a couple of years before, so I approached a man and started flirting. He turned out to be straight. So I moved on to another man and started flirting. He was straight, too. Then I saw Gary. He had hair like Albert Einstein’s, and I thought, “No gay guy would have hair like that. He must be straight as well.”

But we started talking about what we would do with our bodies once we died. Would we donate them to medical schools? To other types of research? Compost? We actually bonded over this, happy to find someone with similar progressive ideas. After he left, the friend I’d gone to the party with said, “Ask the host for that guy’s number. He was really into you.” That was the first inkling I had that Gary was even gay.

A week later we had our first date. In discussing our histories, we learned some intriguing facts. We’d both been pre-med students. We’d both earned English degrees. We had both been teachers. We’d both been bank tellers.

Oh, and we were both ex-Mormon, having both served missions in Rome.

Gary was actually afraid to date me after he learned this, but we persevered. We eventually moved in together and bought a house, a cute 1910 Craftsman cottage that Gary is renovating.

So we lived happily ever after? Well, not exactly.

While life is not as oppressive today as it was years before for gays, we do carry some baggage. I remember hearing in priesthood meeting from one of the other elders, “I hope they don’t find a cure for AIDS till all the gays are dead.” My partner’s mother, upon learning that Gary was gay, immediately called his bishop and demanded Gary’s excommunication.

Both our families are active Mormons. My uncle served a mission to Finland, my cousins to Venezuela and Minnesota. My father is a high priest, my aunt a former Relief Society president. Gary’s is an old Salt Lake family with generations in the Church. One of his brothers is a branch president of a Spanish branch in Salt Lake, and the other is a former bishop and current temple worker. Gary’s nephews and nieces have served missions in Ireland, Italy, Argentina, Ethiopia, and Thailand. You can’t just leave Mormonism behind when you have that kind of connection.

I’m a writer and find that most of my stories still deal with Mormons. (My book, The Abominable Gayman, about a gay Mormon missionary in Italy, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2011, and my latest, Marginal Mormons, just received a starred review from Kirkus.) I also marched with the Mormons for Marriage Equality contingent this year in Seattle’s Gay Pride parade, amazed to see compassionate Mormons with signs proclaiming “Sorry we’re late!”

I belong to Affirmation, an organization for LGBTQ Mormons. I still have my triple combination on a bookshelf above my desk, my hymnbook, my Italian missionary discussions. I still pray, and I still fast, for many things, including acceptance, equality, and understanding.

It’s great that American society is finally coming to realize that gays are full human beings who deserve to be treated as such. But no matter how mature I become, there will always be a part of me that wants acceptance from my family, too—my biological family and my Mormon family as a whole.

Gary and I have built a good life for ourselves. Monday is school night, when we watch a college lecture on DVD. Tuesday is Italian night, when we only speak Italian. Thursday is game night, when we play Backgammon or Scrabble. Saturday is date night, when we prepare a special meal and watch a movie from Netflix or Turner Classic Movies. We are kind to one other and make each other laugh, and try to help each other get through what is often a difficult life as best we can.

What else would anyone expect from two people committed to making a life together?

Hey, everyone! “I’m getting married in the morning.” I think I’m going to sing it anyway. Gary will forgive me. He loves me.

johnnyjohnnyt@yahoo.com'

Johnny Townsend earned an MFA in fiction writing from Louisiana State University. He has published stories and essays in Newsday, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Humanist, The Progressive, Glimmer Train, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and in the anthology In Our Lovely Deseret: Mormon Fictions (Signature Books, 1998). He has also spoken at the Sunstone symposium in Salt Lake on the subject of gay Mormon literature.