Monday, February 9, 2009

Be Mine

Kid, partner, and I are on p. 32 of this week's issue of "The Independent," the Triangle area's local free weekly liberal tabloid.

Craig, Isaiah, and Shawn family pictureWe're being featured in a special Valentine's Day column called "The Gift of Love."

A few weeks ago, the paper invited folks to send in their love stories, along with a picture, saying they'd pick some to run the week before and after February 14.

(I'd hoped to include a link, but unfortunately I couldn't find this special column on their website. Hardcopies are distributed far and wide, though, and I have plenty of copies that I'd love to share. I did include the picture here.)

Now, I figured we had a good shot, beyond simply being a gay couple with kid trying to get into a progressive free newspaper. Craig and I actually met through the Indy's personal ads 15 years ago, back in the heyday of printed "Men Seeking Men" personals. I thought having that connection would be enough to make us a shoo-in.

Now, I'd love to say that I sent in our picture and blurb because I wanted to be sure a gay couple was showcased, to show that we're out there, just regular, ordinary folks.

I remember the first time I saw a gay couple with a child on television. It was stunning to me, as a young gay, to see this image of nuclear-family normality. When I was growing up, gays were often portrayed as unstable and wild. A single photo of a plain gay family did more for me to destroy that lie than my own reasoning brain could. Visibility does make a huge difference.

I'd love to say that I wanted the picture of my family to serve the same function for some other person.

I didn't, and that's not why I sent it in.

I'd love to say it was part of an elaborate Valentine's Day surprise for my partner, a token of enduring love and affection. It wasn't.

I did it because of the little guy in the picture, the one between me and Craig. The night the paper came out, at bedtime after I tucked him in, I said, "Oh, by the way, you'll never guess what I saw today." Then I flipped open the paper, showed him the picture, and read the entry to him.

His little hands flew to the side of his face, and he said "That's us! We're in the paper."

"That's right, Buddy. You're famous. I don't know how we got so lucky to get The Best Kid in the World (tm) in our lives, but now other people can see it to."

He was happy and smiling and overwhelmed. "I love you, Pa."

And that's why I did it. It was a gesture of love for my son.

I hope it does those other things, too, but that joy from my kid is all I really wanted. Love comes in many forms, and that's what Valentine's Day is about.

-Shawn Long

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