By: Blair Late
Jeff and I met at a gay pride pool party on a hot summer night. For me it was one of those moments where time stood still and all that mattered was this hysterical, sarcastic hunk of a man standing in front of me.
Unlike me, Jeff, who is 16 years my senior, had experienced many levels of love throughout his life, something I think made him the man he is today. He had seen it all, as they say. I was a bit more of a dreamer and was still holding out for my Prince Charming.
Ten minutes after meeting Jeff, I had already asked him to dinner. I just had a feeling and went with it. I ended up taking him to Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills, but not before I stopped by the Rite Aid to give him nail polish remover and a new clean outfit from my closet.
Three days later, Jeff invited me on a weekend yacht excursion to Catalina. Our respective friends thought we were nuts, but we went with our instincts and never looked back. This is perhaps a good lesson for all: Go with your gut; it’s there for more than just collecting pounds!
Four months after meeting Jeff, I moved in with him. Of course, when Jeff recounts this story, he says I never actually left. Seven months later, Jeff proposed to me on my 29th birthday at the world’s fanciest truck stop, the Madonna Inn.
Like many brides-to-be, I immediately started planning our nuptials. Like many grooms, Jeff wanted me to slow down. Nonetheless, plans became a reality, and locations, dates and invitations were set in stone. We were to be married almost exactly a year after our proposal in the gorgeous, romantic Southern town of Savannah, Ga.
Six months before the day arrived, we experienced a serendipitous twist of fate. Unbeknownst to us, a friend of a friend who was privy to our union had given some info about me and Jeff to the bigwigs at Bravo. We met with them and filmed a very personal couples interview, and the next thing we knew, we are faced with the choice of filming not only our wedding but our entire first year of marriage for a reality TV show.
Jeff was very trepidatious, and I was extremely excited. I knew that this gave us the opportunity to give Middle America a peek inside the world of a gay couple, a gay wedding and a gay relationship, something most Americans had only seen fictionalized on sitcoms.
Jeff was born in the mid ’60s in Valencia, Calif., or, as I like to call it, “The Truman Show.” His family was very well-educated, athletic and hardworking. Looking at the surface of things, one might have thought that Jeff’s family would more accepting of his sexuality than, say, the family of a small-town boy in the South, but this was not the case. When it was clear that Jeff wouldn’t be the star athlete they had hoped for, he became secondary to his brother, who was. Jeff felt so ashamed, removed and uncomfortable around his family that he didn’t even muster the courage to come out to them until he was 35, only 12 years ago. In 2001 Will and Grace was a hit, AIDS had been proven to not be a “gay disease,” and the beautiful state of Vermont had signed on for civil unions, yet his family was not accepting of his “lifestyle choice” and called it a “burden.”
I, on the other hand, practically came out of the womb singing and dancing. Given the fact that I grew up in the small, conservative football and oil town of Odessa, Texas, one might assume that I was miserable, but this was not the case. Although I was never officially out while growing up in West Texas, my sexual orientation was never really a question to my peers. People always knew I was different and, for the most part, accepted it. From the beginning my parents knew that I possessed different skills from most of the kids my age, so they went with it. I was enrolled in dance classes with all girls, voice lessons and community theater. My parents were churchgoers, Bush voters and major football fans, but I never felt judged or uncomfortable. I was who I was. This made it much easier for me to come out at the age of 17.
So why get married on Bravo? Our hope is to show viewers that we are just like everyone else. We have the same issues that many couples deal with: the same fights, disagreements, personality clashes and hopes and dreams. Are we trying to be the poster children for gay marriage? No. We are just telling our story, a story about a boy from Valencia who was at times fearful of his sexuality who just so happened to fall in love with a boy from Texas who was always proud of who he is. In the end we are just one couple trying to do our part, and it takes millions of Blairs and Jeffs to change hearts and minds.
I must give Bravo credit for slowly but surely making gay Americans more mainstream than ever before. Bravo continues to show their millions of viewers a cornucopia of gay personalities. These days, every “Real Housewife” seems to have a gay best friend or confidant, and who can forget the myriad of gay characters the network portrays nightly?
What matters is that more gay people are doing their part every day to make a difference. It’s important that everyone, as a collective, not just as TV personalities or actors or politicians, work together to tell their stories. We want to get to a place where gay marriage is not a hot topic at the dinner table but the status quo. This is why Jeff and I got married on Bravo. What will you do?
Photo courtesy of Bravo