Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In My Defense

It seems a rumor has been going about that I wear pink shirts, and not only that but matching pink shirts with my spouse. I have endured some ribbing on the matter and, granted, on the face of it, it would be a criminally cutesy offence, one I may not forgive myself if I witnessed it out in the wilds of Utah (and I have, at that).

But, let me assure the public that, if this event did occur, there would have been multiple extenuating circumstances that any kindhearted judge of my character should take into consideration:

1. The incident in question was an isolated incident, and one born from the confusion that comes when one’s spouse, mother, and cruise director team up in such a perfect storm. Simply, I was only following orders.

2. Due to the fact that we did not even own a pink shirt, a truth that may speak in my defense, we had to buy the shirts for the cruise. Thus, at the first pink shirts we found, we simply bought two. So what appear to be matching outfits are actually the product of manly shopping efficiency.

3. The pink shirts in question were purchased at Costco. ‘Nuff said.

4. Finally, not long after wearing them for the first time, both Alan’s and my pink shirt were ruined in a finger-painting accident (or maybe “accident”; you can’t prove anything).

Given the above, any just and compassionate human being could see the matching-pink-shirt incident was 100% innocent, and an anomaly of chance that will not happen again. I apologize to anyone who I’ve inadvertently harmed by such a display of grotesque cutesy apparel, and remain hopeful I'll have your vote in 2008.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Remaining Days…

I want to wrap this travel log up and so I’ll cut through the rest of the trip.

Let’s see... Next we stopped at a private island, a sliver of land owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines. Here we could do all our ghastly anti-family stuff away from prying eyes, like beach volley ball, bbq’n, and snorkeling in the warm Caribbean waters.

Oh and look, here’s a picture I got of Rosie, our leader:

In that picture I think she’s saying something bad about Donald Trump or undermining our troops or something. Call me, Enquirer, if you want to buy the rights to the photo; I'm reasonable.

After the private island, we then headed back to New York. It's kind of sad to head home, but it took a couple days. And even at sea there’s a lot to do, from constant eating ;-) to the comedic entertainment (we had Sandra Bernhard, Judy Gold, Alec Mapa, and Jessica Kirson, hilarious). As one of the gayest things I've ever seen, one night we had the songs from Annie performed by the original Broadway Annie, Andrea McArdle, with Rosie as Miss Hannigan. I'm not saying if I enjoyed any bit of it.

My favorite event, one they always have towards the end of the cruise, is the Teen Panel. Here about 10 teens from gay or lesbian headed families on the ship put together a discussion panel, where they give their point of view on growing up in their family, discuss the ups and the downs, and take questions from all us nervous parents yet to hear our kid’s voice change. They are amazing kids, very congenial, smart, eloquent. Each year this event takes away a good deal of my worry for what’s ahead.

Let’s see… Then one night we all wore pink, it was in our gay cruise contract (it was one of the theme nights). I normally wouldn’t conform but you’d be surprised how having kids can make too cute seem reasonable.

ugg, Rob and I are even matching. :-)

Finally, I think I’ll end with this: a bit from my journal from the end of the trip, somewhat edited for web viewing. It pretty much sums up the week.

Today we are at sea and I was walking the ship as the kids napped. The cruise is almost over and I was just taking it all in again. The spirit on the ship is amazing. As I walked by the hall where all the photos are displayed, I almost began to tear up. So many beautiful children, families, and parents.

There’s the cute young couple I saw at disco night by the pool adeptly dancing, only like a gay man could, with their adorable bouncing toddler. There’s the lesbian mothers of 5 from Memphis. There’s that couple with their beautiful daughter who was the princess to our princes for fairytale night. There’s [Brian’s friend] and his sister with the most adorable smiles. So many beautiful families, wonderful children and parents, and couples. I know the ship is a business and they take these pictures because they want to charge us 20 bucks per print, but who cares? It’s about 25 yards of amazing families, most of whom have fought past some great obstacles, done what they knew was right in their life, and made it. What a beautiful sight.

After I passed that hall, I headed into a crowd of the same great families. There was a pack of middle school-aged friends playing on the elevators, parents with twin infants strapped to their chests, and kids skipping behind their family to dinner. I was overcome there by one of those amazing swells of love, where it just feels like the universe has taken you gently by the hand, or heart. It’s futile to describe such a feeling, I suppose; funny how some of the most capital-R Real feelings are those most difficult to put into words. Regardless, it was beautiful and comforting.

In looking at those families and thinking on all the people we’ve met and thinking on my boys sound asleep with their dad back in our too small room, it hit me so clearly. This is why I shouldn’t worry, why no politician or religious idea will hold up against our families, as long as we’re not taken back out of existence. It’s as plain as day.

The other side will have to come around or hurt the very thing they claim they’re defending. They can say all they want about what they think they know about God’s plan for our lives. They can construct as many elaborate arguments against our so-called non-ideal families as they want. It won’t ultimately stand up to the firm and beautiful fact. These families know why they were created, and why it’s right. Regardless of the hang-ups of others--sex, genetics, race, or disability--the simple truth of what makes a family and orientation is so clear here. And these families will all go home. They will all live their lives and their neighbors will see it and know what I know. If any families are meant to be, then these families are meant to be. If any marriages are deserving respect, equality, and defense, then these marriages are deserving. If any parents are important for their children and for society, then these parents are important too. Now, if only we could get every US citizen a ticket for the next cruise…
Anyway, that concludes my cruise posts. I’ll leave it with this photo.

It’s Brian sound asleep as we pulled back into New York. That’s the Statue of Liberty in the background. It was a great trip.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Day 5, Bigots, Conch Fritters, and Key Lime Pie

Growing up gay in Utah, I’m no stranger to hostility from strangers. People there have called me names, spread generalizations and lies about my “lifestyle”, threatened my life, and worked hard up on our capital hill to make living in our home state difficult for my family and to be sure we would have fewer rights than they enjoy. I’m also no stranger for such hostility to be done with a frustrating and self-aggrandizing veneer of religious “love,” in the comfortable belief that they are acting on behalf of God. Heck, I’m pretty used to it, maybe so much so that I’ve come to see it as less malevolent than I should.

My point is we woke up in Key West today. We weren’t supposed to. We were supposed to wake up in Bermuda. But we aren’t in Bermuda because a host of churches were planning to meet our families at the port with protest.

We weren’t on the first rfamily cruise, but on that cruise they visited Nassau, in the Bahamas, and were met with this sort of treatment. It was the typical anti-gay protest by the accounts of those who were there: yelling, calling us names, and holding up grammatically questionable signs with insults purportedly from God. All this was done for a bunch of families just wanting to relax and visit their island and maybe buy a coupe t-shirts. I guess about ten times the number of churches that had done so in Nassau had threatened our cruise in Bermuda, and so the owners of rfamily decided to divert us to Key West.

Now, we’ve been to about 10 ports on rfamily cruises, and each one has been very welcoming. Heck, in Juno, not only were we not met by protesters, we were met by a surprisingly large group of friendly supporters. In fact, all through our Alaska trip the gay flags were waving in town, and the same, of course, goes for the North East. But we were about to hit a hostile port today and instead changed course.

I don’t know how I feel about this. I don’t like the idea that we ran, that we didn’t just go where we were scheduled to go, because of such people. Nothing for the better was changed for the people of Bermuda, gay and straight, by our caving into their bully. It made the news and despite their government's appreciated effort to bring us to their island, Bermuda is now unfairly anti-gay in many minds. Furthermore, our children were not given the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson in dealing with such. I don’t want to teach them to change their plans to avoid upsetting people who have no moral business being upset about their family.

On the other hand, these people are obsessed enough to protest families on vacation, and it’s our children. I’m used to it, but they are not, and I reflexively want to spare them from seeing that hostility, and from feeling how it felt when I first experienced it. Now we live where everyone in our lives is great. Our boys have no idea about the controversy in the minds of strangers. But to get off our ship and to see all those angry faces yelling slurs at us and the families of their friends… That’s a scenario the protective side of parenting wants to avoid, even though I know it would be a good learning opportunity and possibly a chance to avoid more pain in the long run. I just don’t know; it’s short term relief and long term regret that about equal out. Thankfully, the choice was far from mine and so I can just complain either way :-).

Anyway, today we split up. Given a choice, and after our descriptions, Alan was set on going kayaking and Brian was set against it. We actually like to split them up about once a week anyway; we’ve found, though they play well together and get along, they also like the one on one time. So Rob and Alan went off to paddle through the mandrake groves of the keys. They saw turtles, sharks, and many other bits of sea life. It was right down Alan’s alley.

Brian went with me and the grandparents, on the more tame Key West experience.

A local GLBT group was handing out those sun glasses to our kids for free as we got off the ship. Nice of them, huh?

Brian endured a tour of the city well, by sleeping through it (he has little interest in the architectural influences on Hemingway's home, I guess). But after that we visited the aquarium where we saw all the stuff Alan and Rob did, but in a more tame environment. He loved it. We also visited the wreaking museum, which was surprisingly interesting to him as well.

After that we met up for a lunch consisting of conch fritters and the most delicious key lime pie I’ve ever had. It was another wonderful day, and being diverted from Bermuda was easily forgotten, until writing this ;-).

Oh, and when we got back to the ship, Rob and Alan got matching tattoos. They're tough that way, for the kayaking I guess ;-).

Alan, got to pick the tat... a dinosaur, of course.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Day 4, The Mouse, I'm Out, and A Gay 80's Band

In Florida's air there’s apparently no room for one’s pitiful attempts at evaporative cooling. Today we woke up in Port Canaveral. It was in the high 90’s F, but not the sort of high 90’s we ever have back home.

I did my best to talk my family into visiting the space center--the air conditioned space center--but Disney World was just too close. So we boarded a Disney-bound bus full of kids and, somewhat surprisingly, a good percentage of the New York Gay Men’s Chorus, the main contingent of single men on the cruise… I’d have picked the space center, if in their shoes. I’m just say’n.

That’s us. And yes, we were pestered the whole time by those glowing fairies; the magic kingdom has quite an infestation and they ruined almost every picture.

Anyway, we had a wonderful time, as anyone with twin kindergarteners at Disney World would, despite the crushing heat. Stay away from the Lilo and Stitch “ride,” though, unless you’d like to be trapped in the dark with a halitosis sufferer on your lap.

Err.. . Okay, I’ve been wanting to get over my unwillingness to shown our faces, and I was just about to edit them out of another photo. But why? We have already had our faces in an eye much more public and widespread than this blog will ever be, and, if there is one, I’m sure we’re already on the enemies list ;-). Furthermore, this blog is going more personal anyway.

So this point is where facelessness ends (I'll keep the above photo as is as I like the idea of gay men being bothered by fairies).

Maybe it’s an odd choice for the first showing, but I love the picture, even though it shows us all haggard (and with Rob missing, taking the photo). I think it captures the essence of the end of a humid day at Disney World well (and yes our boys need haircuts, but we're waiting until the swimming lessons are over; fresh start):
Yeah, the skull… I’ll simply warn: never but in front of us in an hour plus line with near 100 degree temperatures and 100% humidity.

Once back on the ship we put the kids to bed with the grandparents in charge and went to that night’s entertainment, an Erasure concert. I again wonder if other cruises are generally like this, but we seem to get some pretty good shows for a cruise ship. Not that Erasure is big anymore, or that I’m a huge fan, but they were big when I was a teen, particularly for gay men, and it was fun to go to their concert, just a minuet’s walk from our room. On past cruises we’ve had Melissa Etheridge, and Cindy Lauper (you wouldn’t guess it, but she plays a mean dulcimer), and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone. It just seem rfamily does well for entertainment.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I just got back from another trip, and want to take a break from my cruise posts for this one.

Rob came from a very conservative, very LDS, small town in the rurals of Utah. The boat we were on last week carries a larger population. So when he said he wanted to go to his class reunion this year, I half thought he was joking.

Ten years ago we didn’t attend because he wasn’t invited. The organizer called Rob to get the contact information of some of his classmates, but he never sent him an invitation. Once Rob asked for the information they had had the reunion over, and the organizer actually told him that he didn’t know how to reach us… Yes, after contacting Rob months before for the numbers of others.

Now, Rob was a popular kid. Heck, he was prom king, a fact I never tire of advertising. But none of his LDS friends (the great majority of his friends) took his being gay well, though a couple have come around today. In fact, my friends became Rob’s after we got together and we only saw his periodically; many just ended their relationship at the news.

Anyway, Rob wasn’t joking; he wanted to go to his reunion this year. He had begun reconnecting with some of them, via email, and he wanted to see them. And we were invited this time; the new committee was headed by a friend and not the same bigot who couldn’t even own up to his own “values” ten years ago.

I was nervous, but I wanted to go with him too. I wanted to have the experience, to hear about the Rob I never knew, to just stand there next to him for it. So, as I’d been joking for months before, we checked our life insurance policy for coverage of lynching and headed off for his reunion a couple days ago.

When we left, I had a bad cold. 1 week on a ship + 700 children = 1 bad cold for me, and every year. I wasn’t sick enough to be in bed though. Then, the day we got there we went 4-wheeling with Rob’s parents and had a great time, but I ended up with a couple red splotches on me from mosquitoes and horse flies. So I was basically going to walk into his reunion noticeably sick, and with red spots… I kept thinking they’d be sure I was suffering the consequences of our lewd and lawless lifestyle ;-). Add to that that I still had my sea legs from the ship, meaning I was losing my balance at random, and they’d probably think I came drunk as well.

It wasn’t looking good for me and then it got worse. Alan suddenly developed the fever Brian caught on the ship, of course. Long-story-short, I spent the day of Rob’s reunion in a hotel room, watching Animal Planet with Alan, trying to break his fever, while Rob and Brian went to the events. At least Rob’s classmates didn’t have to see Rob’s diseased and stone drunk “friend” :-).

I was kind of let down, but, as things stood, I was much more worried about the Tylenol/Motrin schedule. You hate it when your kid is sick, particularly when you’re handicapped too, but Alan and I had an okay lazy day together.

For Rob, it seems it was a mixed bag. There was a whole day of events tied in with Pioneer Day celebrations. Rob and Brian had a fun time riding in the parade, but he noticed some nudging, pointing, dirty looks. Some folks came up, talked to him, and asked about Alan and me. Some of them were people he never thought would do so. Sill, others gave a very pointedly cold shoulder. One woman involved in PFLAG there came up and told Rob that we are talked about often and fondly by many in that town and the surrounding towns. She was saying our family is discussed often by gay kids and their parents in the area, and she made Rob feel quite appreciated for coming. On the other hand, Rob found that someone had removed his picture from the high school plaque commemorating his class. Mixed bag.

All in all though, I'd say a mixed bag, with nothing worse than anonymous vandalism and cold shoulders, is quite a remarkable indication of positive change.

At the actual reunion dinner, it was pretty much the same thing. Rob was mainly in the company of his female friends, who could hang around him without catching the gay ;-). Though, he was pretty sure more of his male friends would have wanted to catch up, if not for the appearances, which are very and practically important in such a town, I gather. Some talked to him; some didn’t.

In all, he had a good time and will go to the next one (and I hope Alan and I will too). He didn’t care much about the negative. That’s one reason I love him, but let me give an example of why I married him. The first thing he told me about when he got back was not all the concerns I had, not about who was nice to him and who wouldn’t look at him. It was not all the reunion crap about who does what and who looks like what. The first thing he told me about his reunion was how happy he was to finally tell a girl, who he and his group of fiends had treated badly in high school, that he was very sorry, face to face. That was the highlight of his reunion.

I’m a lucky man.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day 2, At Sea With Rosie

In the morning, we boarded the boat, got settled, and headed to the upper deck to watch us float past the cityscape. It was unsettling to again notice the space where the towers once stood, but just a turn of the head and one could see the statue of liberty. Beautiful.

Just as we were passing Manhattan by we found a friend from last year. He has kids about our children’s age and they were all thrilled to see each other again. Brian talked about them all last year.

(One of those kids is ours :-))

I wonder now if many cruises are like this--the non-rfamily cruises I’ve been on were not--but every evening there’s a theme. This evening it was “State Fair”. Now, BC (Before Children) I’d refuse to participate in anything like this, but if my kids and Rob are all going to be dressed the same then I’ll conform too, just with protest slight enough that I know I’ll lose. So we all put on our Utah gear and headed to the BBQ.

Again, it’s amazing how many different states and countries were represented there, though most people were from around New York, of course.

Finally, I’m not really a big fan of Rosie O’Donnel. To me, she’s kind of like, say, the omelet of celebrities. I don’t have anything against omelets. I can enjoy them if it’s what’s for breakfast and I can see why some like them and some don’t, but I’ve no strong feelings and would never order one for my self. That’s right; Rosie O’Donnel = omelet… [sigh] It’s early. Simply, I appreciate what her family has done in putting on this cruise, I know she’s entertaining and I respect her talents but they just don’t resonate with my innate tastes. Furthermore, she is more of the bad cop sort of gay activist, and, as I’ve said, I can certainly see their great contributions, but their methods just rub me the wrong way. So sue me, Gay Mafia.

Rob on the other hand, I fear the only person for whom he might leave me would be Rosie. Could you imagine the tabloids? “Avowed Lesbian Rosie O’Donnell Wrecks Gay Man’s Family, Film at 11” He reads her blog as habit and writes in periodically.

Anyway, she MC’s most of the entertainment on the ship. The first night they put on some Broadway show. I’m not into such singing and so I stayed for her opening act and a couple numbers by some famous Broadway singers (I think), but when one of the boys had to go pee, I graciously “sacrificed” and took him back to the room.

Point is, I unexpectedly learned a lesson in PR and spin that night. Rosie made a couple jokes about her fight with Donald Trump and Hasselbeck. It would be difficult to care any less for such conflict, and it went by as just a couple small jokes in her set, but what followed was interesting. At port we talked to my sister and found out that some one in the audience had video taped the performance and sent it in to the media; it was even on the O’Reilly factor. We had a traitor on board :-).

I’m not going to list all the false facts and mischaracterizations I’ve found in searching “news” items about what happened on stage that night. I feel guilty to even search for it. It’s just seems so silly all around. But it is amazing to see how the media gets it wrong, even when they have video, and always in the direction of the more sensational (As I guess I knew already with our own experiences, here). It was also annoying that the whole event can be spun in some minds into a negative light for a couple jokes by one person in a 90 minute show for a week long cruise. I mean, one that got me riled was something like “Gay Cruise Becomes Anti-Hasselbeck Brainwashing Session”. We were all way too busy going to our on board workshops on converting heterosexuals, eroding societies, and sabotaging apple pies to worry about celebrity fights.

Great, now I feel stupid for even bringing it up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Day 1, New York and Outings

(The next couple posts will be a bit of journal entries along with my take on the day from the time I'm writing this; forgive me if I mess the tense up)

Not much to tell on this day. We went to Time Square, which meant that we had to go to the huge Toys R Us there. After the Farris wheel, the boys got to pick out “any toy in the place” (no worries, I know their tastes and was not at risk of spending over 50 bucks… as long as I could keep Brian away from noticing the electronics; he’s just like his pop :-)).

Alan was fascinated by the animatronic dinosaur. He couldn’t quite decide if it was real or not and I was not about to stop his deliberation. He was pretty sure it wasn’t real, as we’ve had the extinct conversation many times… still, he didn’t want me to get too close.

At dinner grandma, as she often does, outed us all to the restaurant. This is really no big deal to us anymore, particularly in a friendly place like New York, but it was once a bother. I mean it goes something like:

Waiter: "Hi, my name is John and I’ll be your waiter. What would you like to drink?"

Mom: "My son here is gay and I'll have a Diet Coke..."

Okay, maybe there's more of an opening for her to bring it up, but not much ;-).

Rob and I kind of like to only out ourselves if it comes up naturally in conversation, as any other person would, but I do get a kick out of how out of their way my parents sometimes go to express their love and support. If it’s my dad he may commonly add something like: “and if you’ve a problem with gays then you’ve got a problem with me.” I don’t think many expect such from people in their seventies. Gotta love’em.

As we were leaving, the waiter came up and told us how he’d worked on the same cruise ship line. He told us how much the staff he knew loved the rfamily cruises, and said they found the passengers to be abnormally polite… maybe he says that to all the cruises :-).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My Kind of Gay Cruising

So when I said I was taking the summer off from blogging I didn’t really give the other reason beyond work and playground construction. We’ve been out of town a lot and the paranoia in me doesn’t want to advertize being away from home on the net. But yeah, I’ve been on the move for quite a while; please forgive my lack of response to email.

We just returned from our yearly rfamily vacation. For those who don’t know, it’s a cruise organized by a company owned by Kellie O’Donnell (Rosie O'Donnell’s wife), and it’s meant to be a vacation where families headed by GLBT parents can relax without the likelihood of their family makeup being an issue.

This is our third time on one of these cruises. With them, we’ve walked a fishing village in Halifax, panned for gold in Skagway, toured historic Boston, watched glaciers calve just out of Juno, and much more. In all, we’ve spent almost a month of our lives on these vacations and have loved the experience.

I’ll get into what we did this year later on. I was going to blog on ship but didn’t want to take time from our busy relaxing to do so or even open the laptop I lugged around all week, so I’ll copy and share some journal entries later.

In general and simply though, it’s a wonderful experience each year. The ship has been the same design each year and it sells out at about 3,000 passengers. Between 600 and 800 of those are children, depending upon the year, and so you can imagine the atmosphere. Add to that about the same number of gay or lesbian parents and the rest are straight friends and family, most of them grandparents (we’ve taken my parents every year). On this cruise though, there were many more young gay couples, without children. I suppose most of them wanted to go on a gay cruise but not a Gay Cruise... I’ve been on regular cruises before and these rfamily affairs are more family oriented and tame by a good distance than even the straight counterparts I've seen. Heck, we’ve all got to be to bed by 9 ;-).

The kids simply love it and talk about the “big ship” all year. We weren’t going to go this year but they talked us into it and it’s easy to see why. We basically play all day. Off ship we go on some adventure and on ship they swim or play with the other children all over this vast floating city.

They’ve made some really good friends over the years too. Our boys haven’t yet figured out there’s any social issue surrounding our family and have yet to really say or ask anything significant about it, but I’m sure some questions and hurdles are coming, eventually. We have been careful to have friends for them around with all sorts of family structures here in Utah, and I’m glad they are forging the social connections they are on these cruises, just in case.

And, sure, we love it too. Aside from the travel, we’ve made some really good friends as well. The ship is full of family focused gays and lesbians and it’s hard not to find that common thread in our experiences and goals that leads to easy conversation and on to welcomed friendships. We have been very fortunate to get to know some of the folks we’ve met, and look forward to the opportunities to get together in between cruises despite the fact we live all over the world (the map below shows just the US guests but over 50 countries were represented). Once one becomes a parent, it becomes much more difficult to find people you’d want to bring into your, and therefore your children’s lives as family friends, but not on this cruise; the people are, in general, amazing.

I think I’ll spend the next couple posts going over our trip this year. I fear I’m becoming too accustomed to not blogging lately (I forgot my password there for a while!) and I best pump up my post count ;-).