I have a boyfriend

I have a boyfriend who has a husband, and everything about that feels great except for the distance away he lives ( ❤️❤️❤️ ).

For quite a few years now, I’ve had a personal policy of not getting involved with anyone local who already has a boyfriend or husband. It’s not that I disapprove of open relationships or polyamory, it’s that as a single person, the risks of falling in love with someone for whom I’m just a fling or entertainment on the side are too high. Guys who live at a distance seemed not to present that risk.

But then I met G, here in Provincetown during Bear Week 2017, and his husband D. Both lovely guys. I really enjoyed their company (G’s in particular, wink wink nudge nudge). Then in 2018 we were all eagerly anticipating seeing one another again in Ptown, and my experience that week confirmed that I had deep feelings for G, and they were mutual. D invited me to their home for Christmas last year, and the three of us spent New Years in Paris. I met them in Spain with other friends of theirs for vacation this September, and I’m spending Christmas and New Years with them again next month.

I miss not being able to see G more often (and D too!), but the relationship makes me happy, and I’m learning things about myself, and I look forward to it continuing. It seems to work well for all three of us.

And of course, it’s not really anything new. I’ve dated couples before, and also once dated someone with my then-partner. It’s nothing new in a broader gay context, either. Gay men have long practiced non-monogamy in variously healthy and unhealthy ways. And it certainly isn’t confined to gay men; just consider the pre-Raphaelites and the Bloomsbury Set.

I survived living in San Francisco

I survived living in San Francisco during the beginning years of the AIDS epidemic. Many of my friends did not. And also, many of my friends did. Some of my friends even manage to still live in San Francisco (which is a miracle of another kind, considering what is happening with housing).

It’s sort of bizarre thinking about that time. Hindsight makes it seem like a dangerous place and time that I was lucky to escape. But of course it was a beautiful, rich, creative time in my life, filled with wonderful people and interesting things in a gorgeous physical setting.

When I left, I had every intention of returning in a couple of years. Now San Francisco is so far removed from the City I knew that I have little interest in anything but visiting.

Rebuilding a relationship with my father

I’ve experienced the rewards of rebuilding a relationship with my father. It was an ongoing process over the course of 30 years, and it certainly had its difficult moments, but I can’t imagine what I would feel like now (two years after my father’s death) had we not reconciled.

After his near-fatal accident in 1987, when I called home I would always spend a little time on the phone with my father, usually talking about totally incidental things like the weather. (Or his health, a recurrent theme with first his recovery from his accident, later a heart attack and bypass surgery, and then congestive heart failure and general old age.) Slowly we simply normalized having conversations (although I still got almost all family news through my mother).

One setback was when my sister got married. She invited my partner Paul and I, but my parents pressured her to disinvite Paul. I didn’t go to her wedding. (My family plays hardball.) Not too long later, there was a Sutton family reunion—all the descendants of my father’s parents. At this gathering, out of a couple of dozen people who went, there would be exactly three people named Sutton: my father, my mother (through marriage), and me. (My sister took her husband’s surname.) Here, if anywhere, was a place that bringing my partner would not take the attention off of someone whose day it was.

Meeting an actual person, instead of who knows what abstract things my parents imagined at the fact that I was gay, seemingly made a big difference. My parents came to Philadelphia to visit. While there was no question of their staying in our home, they had dinner in our home and Paul was included in outings without any fuss.

After Paul and I broke up, two other boyfriends visited California with me. The first time my mother preemptively made motel reservations for us, and said she never allowed my sister and her fiance to share a bed, even though she knew they were sleeping together. So it was, at least, equal treatment. On each visit we also visited my sister, and she would put us in the same room. When Bob and I went out to meet my newborn nephew, we not only shared a room at my sister’s house, we were under the same roof as my parents—albeit in an in-law apartment at the other end of the house!

One of the moments that stands out with personal meaning is when I flew to San Diego right after my father’s heart attack and bypass surgery. He wanted to get out of bed (they get you up *right away*), and was insistent that I be the one to help him up. In the largely nonverbal, unexpressive context of our relationship, that meant a lot to me.

On some visit home, I remember driving him somewhere in his truck, and he said he just hoped that I would have a happy life. That’s the moment at which I felt that we were reconciled. Because of his ill health, for a good 15 years, I treated every time I said goodbye to him as though it might be the last time. It was important to feel that we were good when I drove off.

The last time I saw my father, it was between hospital visits for him, and it was an extravagant whirlwind for me. I flew on a very early morning flight to San Diego, rented a car, and drove to a cousin’s house for a pool party. My sister brought my father to the party, as hopefully planned in spite of hospital visits, but he didn’t know I would be there. It was a delight to surprise him. That evening I drove back to San Diego, stayed overnight, and flew home the next day. It was a good visit. As my father declined over the next few months, I was ready to fly home if my sister needed support, but my father and I were clear that we’d said our sufficient goodbyes.

My father wouldn’t speak to me

I spent a year or so when my father wouldn’t speak to me.

I realized I was gay in the late fall of 1978. I told my mother I was gay in the winter of 1979, and she told me not to tell my father (who was paying my way through college).

In 1985 I moved to Philadelphia. I didn’t much like it at first, which I told my mother, but I met someone I decided to move in with (my first live-in partner). When I told my mother I was staying in Philadelphia in order to live with Joseph, that was what finally broke her years-long silence. (She had told no one in all those years.) She told my father, and he was unwilling to speak to me. (Unlike my mother, however, he immediately talked to his cousin Milo about it.) If I called and he answered the phone, he would pass it to my mother. My mother stopped calling because she didn’t want him to see my number on the bill.

In 1987, my father was working on a cotton-picker, which was up on blocks, and it fell on him. It fractured his skull, broke his pelvis and at least one of his legs, and caused some internal damage. He was very lucky not to die. There was a massive blood drive in my hometown for him.

Very early in his recovery, he said that as the cotton-picker fell on him he realized (had a revelation?) that being a family was more important than my sexuality. It was the phone call when my mother told me that he had said this which prompted me to sit down suddenly at work and start crying, and my coworker Ruth to seemingly jump over her desk to come stand by me.

Attacked on the street

I’ve been attacked on the street on my way home from a bar with my lover. It was in Philadelphia in the late eighties or early nineties, and we were crossing Broad Street (in the crosswalk, with the light). When a car full of guys pulled into the crosswalk, Paul turned and pointed at the lines on the street. They reacted by jumping out of the car and beating us.

It happened so fast I don’t really remember what went down (besides me, to the pavement, with some kicking involved). My glasses were broken. We took a cab (I remember saying that I was bleeding but that I was not going to bleed on his car) to an emergency room, where I got some stitches in my eyebrow and an x‑ray revealed a hairline fracture in my nose. (I remember flirting with the nurse.) I had rather spectacular bruises for a while. (I’ve had pierced ears for ever, and had a pierced nipple for a while, and have pierced my nose twice, but the idea of piercing my eyebrow still gives me the heebie-jeebies.)

A bystander got the license of the car, and a police officer took a report while we were still at the hospital. The police eventually said the registered owner wasn’t driving the car, so there wasn’t anything they could do. (The police in Philadelphia were notoriously corrupt and insular, so I suspected homophobia and/or ethnic or extended family solidarity.) One of my coworkers, however, had a son in the police and offered to have someone make inquiries and rough someone up. I declined with a good bit of embarrassed affection.

A disagreement between private school administrators and ill-informed parents.

I’ve been the occasion for a disagreement between private school administrators and ill-informed parents. Some background information about Quakers will make a couple of nuances to the story clearer. (This is a long post, and it’s not really all that exciting of a story. Lots of pedantry about Quakers and a little story at the end. You’ve been warned.)

First, Quakers, for a big chunk of their history between the first flush of enthusiasm (and evangelism) in the 17th century and the early 20th century, developed practices to separate themselves from “the world.” This was sometimes referred to as a hedge, and it played out in a number of ways: endogamy (only marrying within the faith); disownment (public statement that someone was not a member) for infractions of the discipline; criticism of involvement in antislavery or suffrage movements with non-Quakers.

And pertinent to this story, the creation of schools for Quaker children, in order to give them a “guarded” education. There are still many, many Friends schools in operation, from preschool to college. (There were also schools founded by Quakers for other purposes, such as educating formerly enslaved people or as part of missionary foundations.) The vast majority of students in these schools (at all levels) are not Quakers.

Second, traditional Quaker worship (what most liberals think of when they hear “Quaker” or talk about “silent meeting”) has a basic assumption that those who speak in worship are immediately inspired by the Spirit (God/Holy Spirit/Light Within; terminology varies). So, no previous determination that one will speak. This is still mostly observed in weekly meetings for worship that are based in silent waiting. But it is not the practice in meetings (or, as many of them are called, Friends churches) that employ a pastor, and many larger gatherings of Quakers have invited speakers who are at the very least expected to speak and frequently have announced their topic and may read from a prepared text.

Third, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, to which I belonged when I lived in the area, has a large staff, but staff members do not have theological authority. (One might say that few Quakers in Philadelphia recognize *anyone* as having theological authority, but that’s another essay.) They do of course exercise authority and leadership, but they are hired, not called, and they are subject to the direction of the hiring body. Another kind of leadership, selected by the body and serving it in a volunteer capacity, is the clerk, who is the person who moderates meetings for business. This person also doesn’t have authority within worship, per se, but does wield a considerable amount of power and is often the public face of the yearly meeting.

Third and a half, the yearly meeting is called a yearly meeting because it has annual sessions to conduct business. There is a clerk of the yearly meeting. There is also, often, a body that may be appointed or may be representative, which meets between the annual sessions of yearly meeting and conducts business on its behalf. This body also has a clerk, which in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is a different person than the clerk of yearly meeting.

Now, on to the story. I was at the time clerk of Interim Meeting, the continuing body of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (thus, with the clerk of yearly meeting and the general secretary, one of the three most visible leaders). And I was invited by a friend to attend the weekly meeting for worship at the Friends school where she taught, with the expectation that I would speak. I was also invited to attend the spiritual life club (or some such name) at lunch, and to speak to her religion class in the afternoon.

Some Quakers of my acquaintance were mildly shocked that someone would be invited to speak in a meeting for worship, even if it was in a school. But people need to learn how to be in meeting, and Friends school administrators often feel that it is good for [non-Quaker] students to be exposed to the thoughts, concerns, and religious feelings of Quakers. So, I went and spoke and have absolutely no recollection of what it was I said. I think I quoted a scripture passage and did some interpretation.

The lunch meeting and class were very enjoyable. The students were engaged and interesting. During the lunch meeting, however, I found out that some students had been withdrawn by their parents from the meeting because I was gay. Turns out, there were conservative Christian parents in the area who did not do enough research about what Quakers in Philadelphia actually believe today. They just knew that there were these old, prestigious religious schools (they’re thick on the ground around Philadelphia), and assumed their children would have “safe” educations there.

There was a formal complaint to the school. I was, of course, a perfectly respectable choice within the context of the Quaker community of Philadelphia, and I knew this, so I was unconcerned about the kerfuffle on my behalf, but I worried about the effects for my friend and the school itself. (I mean, private schools depend upon serving a constituency that pays them.) There were meetings of the concerned parents with my friend and other administrators, and the school politely and firmly stood behind the invitation.

Wasn’t that anticlimactic? But let it be a lesson to you: don’t assume Quakers are like that quaint man on the box of oatmeal, because he’s long, long dead. Not to mention that he’s a marketing device created by non-Quakers.

Things I’ve been paid to do

  • bag ice cubes
  • stomp just-picked cotton into semi trailers
  • check traps in cotton fields for moths
  • give campus tours
  • schedule meetings
  • adjust stock brokers’ commissions
  • set up events
  • set up a veterinary database
  • maintain donor records
  • swing dance
  • read tarot cards
  • stock books
  • teach Quakerism
  • do page layout
  • edit books
  • make sandwiches
  • edit magazines
  • DJ
  • host at parties

Taking stock

I’ve not often done an end/beginning of the year look at the state of my life, but as I was sitting at the laundromat this morning it seemed like a good way to use some of the time. I’ve continued to muse over the course of the day. So here are some reflections on the ups and downs of my life over the past year, a little context, and some hopes for 2011.

2010 was a difficult year

  • It feels like it will be a laundry list of whining when I start off with “I’m dissatisfied with my job,” but, well, I am. I’ve been working on both attitude and actual job content for the last few months, but on balance it ends up in the negative column. Here’s hoping for a better 2011!
  • In mid-March the roof blew off my side of the three-floor apartment building I live in (on the third floor), sending lots and lots and lots of water pouring down my walls and through my kitchen. It was months before it was fixed. I do have very nice new walls and floor in the kitchen now, but it was nothing short of hellish.
  • One of my cats had a seizure during the whole kitchen chaos. I felt really helpless. The vet didn’t find anything, and she has seemed fine since.
  • Speaking of not finding anything: I had my routine half-century colonoscopy, and it was clean (as was an upper GI endoscopy).
  • I lost ten pounds (on purpose). Here’s to hoping I can continue the trend in 2011!
  • I took Wednesdays off work during August. What a great decision!
  • I spent less than in 2009. Never a bad thing.
  • Three really excellent trips: I had lovely, lovely visits with old friends in Minneapolis before and after working at the UUA’s annual General Assembly; I went to my friends Margaret and Alice’s home in Vermont for a longish weekend; and I went to California to see my family.

Changes in Second Life

In the spring I sold my last remaining region in Second Life. I no longer wanted to be a landlord, and the full cost of a sim was way out of line with my current enjoyment of Second Life. On the other hand, the year ended in absolute delight and pleasure in a gift from Wynx Whiplash for the 12th day of Wootmas in Raglanshire: a tiny reindeer. (A gift to anyone, not a gift just to me. All the more wonderful and generous for that.)

Some context

My life is really pretty cushy when contrasted with those in Haiti and Chile dealing with earthquakes and those in Pakistan dealing with floods. Not to mention the horrific environmental devastation caused by British Petroleum (and our collective addiction to oil) in the Gulf of Mexico.

Along with most everyone else, I wept and wept when the epidemic of GLBT teen suicides came to our attention. And I weep a different kind of tears when I see the “It Gets Better” videos created by people from all walks of life, right from GLBT teens to the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As one of my favorite bloggers, Andrew Sullivan, often ends his posts, “Know hope.”

It didn’t seem possible the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was actually going to be repealed. I could hardly believe when it was. I’ve never wanted to serve in the military, and I believe violence is evil even when it is the least bad option that we can see. But it’s hard to express the depth to which the repeal of DADT (and the eventual end of the policy) affects my sense of being an actual, equal citizen of the United States. It is a constant assault to have something as personal as one’s sexuality constantly paraded through the news as a political and cultural football. What a relief to have taken one more step to putting that discussion to bed.

Looking ahead

I have a few things I’d like to do in 2011.

  • Go outside every day. (The days I work at home, and sometimes on weekends, I may spend the whole day inside.)
  • Sit still every day for ten minutes. Not just sitting and reading, or sitting at the computer, or sitting and listening to music. Just sitting. A long overdue response to my ongoing spiritual drought.
  • Take lunch to work at least once a week. Yes, that will be a change, sad to say.

Happy New Year to everyone.

I’m very sad about this

Early morning, Wednesday, 27 January

Just in from Kathleen Bartholomew, Kage Baker’s sister and care giver:

Kage’s doctor has informed us she has reached the end of useful treatment. The cancer has slowed, but not stopped. It has continued to spread at an unnatural speed through her brain, her lungs and — now — reappeared in her abdomen. It is probably a matter of a few weeks, at most.

Kage has fought very hard, but this is just too aggressive and mean. She’s very, very tired now, and ready for her Long Sleep. She’s not afraid.

We’ve been in a motel the last week or so, in order to complete her therapy. I’ll have her home in her own bedroom by the weekend, though, so end of life care can take place in more comfortable surroundings.

via Green Man Review and John Scalzi.

There are two intertwined sources of grief in this news.

First, I love Kage Baker’s books, especially the Company novels.

Second, my late friend Barbara and I read most of them together as they came out, and they were central to our recognition that we turned time and again to unorthodox time-travel books. (Other notable authors in that category are Kim Stanley Robinson and Connie Willis.)

And now not only will I not be reading new Kage Baker novels with Barbara, I won’t be reading any at all. Barbara’s last weeks at home in hospice care were rich and filled with loving friends and family, and she simply never woke up from an afternoon nap. My prayers are with Kage, her sister, their family and friends, as she continues along the path we will all walk one day.