By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
May 2014: It’s a sunny Monday morning; I’m sitting at a table at Crush, manning my trusty laptop, scouring news sites and waiting, like the rest of the city, for the court’s decision on marriage equality. I look around the bar — the very full, emotional bar — and see all manner of queer in attendance. They’re guessing what might happen; everyone has a story to tell. The thought of marriage is still so foreign to me, but it’s an historic moment, one like most of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes; the anticipation causes my nervous sweats to go into overdrive. I always run hot; it’s a curse.
May 2006: It’s springtime; Alan and I are settling into our quaint cottage home in downtown Vancouver. My brother, sister-in-law, and I had just finished a cross-state trek to southern California; we swooped down, picked him up, packed his things into my brother’s truck and, before our long journey home, we met the rest of my family in Monterrey for vacation. Alan and I have known each other for years — over five, to be exact; our romance has conquered time and state lines, and it’s the first time anyone with whom I share blood relation meets anyone I share my bed with. To top it off, I had a pair of dear friends meet us there, too. Monterrey was a blur of beaches, sunshine, grilled meats, and celebrity sightings. (Fabio!) I realize I never really gave Alan enough credit for that trip; that took some guts.
May 2014: Back in the bar, I’m near so many close friends I can’t count them. Our eyes are glued to the television screen, and we see Jeana Frazzini approach a podium — behind her we see the plaintiffs in the case, and a large throng of familiar faces. She leans into her microphone: “It’s a win!” The crowds around both of us erupt, and I’m in a sea of strong, tights hugs and tears. I make my way around the room, kissing everyone in my path. I’m elated and relieved. The feeling is difficult to explain; it’s not like I won a million dollars — one more thing is now on an even playing field. Life just feels more equal. Like how it was always supposed to be.
May 2009: About a year ago, after two great ones that included holidays with families, nightly meals together, and trips away, Alan and I talked seriously about marriage — what it would mean for us, if we could ever do it. Since it wasn’t a real option, we took measures to protect each other, with health insurance, life insurance, car titles, bank accounts. All the things that were so automatic for half our peers were not for us. Now, though, our relationship has started to deteriorate. We spend months verbally retracing our many failed steps: Did we move in together too soon? Were we friends for too long — or not long enough? Is living in downtown Vancouver making us unhappy? Did we even try?
May 2014: After the big announcement, hundreds gather at the Melody Ballroom to celebrate and watch couples marry and re-marry. Some first made it official in 2004, had it taken away, and get to do it again, without a lingering fear of take-backs. Wedding paraphernalia is everywhere: Décor, cakes and goodies, champagne and all manner of adult beverage, and revelers. Upstairs in the chapel, it’s a more somber affair, with sniffles and tears and vows. One by one, couples come downstairs, each one announced as they cross the threshold into the reception hall. A couple is announced; the crowd roars.
May 2009: To date, spring of 2009 is the most painful and difficult of my life. Alan and I waited far too long before deciding to see a therapist, and the damage done is irreversible. Our sublime, happy coupling morphed into spying, half-truths, and distrust, and it is a far cry from where we started. Too ashamed to admit to my family I failed, I rely on my friends and put on a brave face. Though my life is upended and I can’t make heads or tails of a thing, I am regularly thankful I don’t have to hire a divorce lawyer; we can split everything far more casually. What I save in fees, I pay for tenfold in heartache. Perhaps not a marriage by name, it certainly felt like one; it will be years before I date again.
May 2014: Although therapy and time have provided a safe distance from my most serious, failed pairing, I can’t help but think of Alan today. It’s been a long time since my mind has gone there. What outside forces played a role in our demise? How did societal pressure and norms play a part? Impossible to say now — and when you’re in the thick of romantic disaster, it hardly matters, but of one thing I’m sure: Equal footing can only give us a better shot of surviving life intact with our loved ones. Things can only improve with one less obstacle in our way. And marriage is just the start.
Last week, an old lover returned to the city for a quick, pre-Pride summer jaunt. We dated fairly regularly last summer, and toyed with the idea of becoming an item. My war wounds and battle scars have long faded; they’re a part of me, but they’re so faint I have to squint to see them. My lover and I are great in private, less so in public. “You just need someone to calm you down, to tame you,” he tells me. “You are so big and loud sometimes.” I’ve heard that one before, and correct him: “Loud, proud, and unapologetic. You and I should stick to the bedroom.” And I wish him well on his journey.