Monday, April 05, 2021

40th Outaversary

Today was an anniversary I didn’t even notice at first, not until a friend pointed it out to me: Today is my 40th “Outaversary”. That’s because 40 years ago today was the first time I did anything to publicly identify myself as gay.

I knew that today was the anniversary because of a Facebook “Memory” I shared today (partial screenshot above). All I noticed was that it was calling attention to a 2019 blog post about the 60th anniversary of my baptism. That post was titled, “60 and 38 years ago today”, and all I thought was that it was the year of my sixtieth birthday, and that inevitably made me think of what a terrible year that ended up being. That happens pretty much whenever I see any reminder from 2019.

That means that I didn’t stop to think much beyond that the post was talking about something that was now 62 years ago—but it never occurred to me to add two years to the other anniversary, the one that 2019 post actually points out was more important. I probably wouldn’t have noticed at all if my friend Andy hadn’t pointed it out to me. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to me before.

The fact that I’ve now been out for 40 years is significant, especially because so many of the gay men who came out when I did died decades ago. I survived through a combination of luck and my generally cautious nature. Along the way, I like to think, I did some good for us all.

The biggest and most important thing that happened to me after I came out is that I met Nigel, and we legally formalised our relationship, first with a Civil Union (because that’s all we had), then marriage when that became legal. The happiest and proudest thing I’ve ever done in my life so far was marrying Nigel. It mattered to me on a completely personal level, but also as someone who had struggled for so long to make the world a little less hostile to LGBT+ people: I felt like all the sacrifices I made in the 1980s and early 1990s were repaid.

When Nigel died, none of what I felt about our marriage died: I was still proud to be married to him. It’s one of the reasons I never changed my Facebook relationship status to “Widowed”—though, if I’m truly honest, good old fashioned lethargy was probably a much bigger reason. Regardless, I wanted to be an example of a happily married gay man.

That same thing showed up in so many other ways, including photos, as a I noted in a post back in January about birthday selfies:
I don’t know if I intended for the photos in 2015 and 2016 to have the same theme (I probably did), however, I do know that in both photos, as with so many others, I deliberately made sure that my left hand was visible because then my rings would be, too. I’ve always felt a responsibility to be a symbol of a happy, long-term gay relationship, and that’s the most consistently visible way I did that, even though I didn’t actually ever say that until now
I didn’t mean to keep that a “secret”—it probably just never occurred to me to mention it. What I do know is that I still wear my rings—the one from our civil union and the one from our marriage—and I do so for the same reason I said in January. I know some gay widowers take their rings off after awhile—sometimes they switch hands, sometimes they put them on a chain they wear around their neck, and some even have them made into something new. None of that is me. I have no intention of taking them off, and when I die I want them to go with my ashes (though I won’t be here, so, ya know, whatever).

For me, the bottom line is that I fought too hard for too long to not continue being an example now. I may not have my husband any more, but I’m still an out gay man, proud of trying my best to make the world better, and mostly, proudest of all about my years with and marriage to Nigel.

All of that—all of it—began forty years ago today. Damn right I’m celebrating it.


"Outaversary" – My 2016 blog post where I talked about my 35th Outaversary.


Roger Owen Green said...

Happy anniversary! it IS important for reasons I have, in the past, had to explain to straight people. "Hey, it's nobody's business.."

Arthur Schenck said...

Over the years I've had to explain this, too, like in a 2014 post that desperately needs an update, but—well, not quite sure the best way to do that.