A gay engagement breakfast at Tiffany’s – our ‘aha’ moment at sea!


Part One

I returned this week from an amazing seven-day cruise – relaxing, entertaining and fun. It was also particularly special because I proposed to my boyfriend on Day #2. I joked with another couple on the cruise beforehand that I’d either be the happiest man on the ship…or be looking for a cabin/couch to “crash on” for the rest of a VERY awkward vacation!

Fortunately, “he said YES!”

So, the roses that were waiting for us as part of the ship’s “romance package” didn’t go to waste…  

The dinner at the Italian restaurant was both delicious and romantic; I found the “right moment” to transition on to one knee and ask Brandon to “take our relationship to the next level!” (Yep, I’m a hopeless romantic, and wanted this to be memorable!)

In traditional terms, it was an engagement proposal to marriage – and was very memorable and meaningful for us both!

Just so you don’t get the impression this was a “storybook” unfolding of events, it came with a VERY stressful lead up to the dinner because of a hasty “last minute” read on my part about the detailed arrangements included in our romance package and dinner reservation…

Yes, I messed up – “life happens” as they say,
and I went from “0 to bi&%^” in about 2.3 seconds!

Thankfully, Brandon gently “led me” through my pre-dinner meltdown to  a heartfelt “moment of truth”
(aka ‘come to Jesus’ session) on the ship’s aft stairwell,
helping me to regain some perspective.
(One of the many reasons I love this man…)

What he didn’t fully know at that moment was…
…I had hidden motives for wanting everything to be PERFECT!

Thankfully, I humbly walked through grace
to accept the wisdom of the Serenity prayer…  

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change…
and the courage to bust someone’s ass if they get in my way
!”

Well, something to that effect…

Honestly, this prayer is one of the most powerful tools I learned during my recovery and I’m grateful Brandon helped me “return to center…” because the rest of the evening, thankfully, was PERFECT!


Part Two

Fast forward from “YES” to our aha moment!

We enjoyed the rest of the cruise together, along with a short visit to Miami afterwards. During that time, we found simple “engagement rings” to wear until we figured out the timing and specifics of our wedding. Without thinking much about it, we bought matching rings on one of the islands, and went on about celebrating life, love and our engagement.

I have to admit, it was pretty cool.  I understand the “power of a moment” – shared between us, as well as with others both on and off the ship.

We had people on the ship, who “witnessed the event on bended knee,” who congratulated us on our engagement.

We showed others on the islands and in Miami our rings, proudly announcing that we had gotten engaged aboard NCL’s Getaway and were looking to “get married” sometime in 2016. We even posted a couple of pictures on Facebook about our news during a brief “wired session” at an internet café on St. Thomas, as well as via the ship’s “onboard postcard” iSnap booth. Like any “young couple in love,” we were giddy with excitement and glad to share our news.

Side note: I’m sure I’m not the first guy who ‘jumped the gun’ by sharing his news via Facebook…and upsetting some family members in my haste. We were both so wrapped up in the excitement and – as you’ll see this unchartered territory – that we didn’t even think about “how to share the news” with family.  This was made more complicated by limited phone service / internet access on our cruise.  But, all excuses aside, regrettably and understandably, I ruffled some feathers And it was all my fault – I screwed up.  Argh.  I’m sorry!  I hope to mend those bridges soon, and get things off to a better start with some of his family…  

but for now, let’s get back to the fun part of the story!)

He said YES!
He said YES!
Our "Sugarmoon" kiss!
Our “Sugarmoon” kiss!
Rings to prove it...
Rings to prove it!  (But…what is “it” exactly?!)

We got some questions along the way, as you might expect…

Fortunately, the response from friends, family (and strangers who’d listen!) has been 110% positive.

One man I spoke with whom I spoke on the ship is a strong Christian. Admittedly, I was a little weary of how he might respond given my bias/prejudice at times towards the more conservative right.  Of course that’s my “shit” – my baggage – my “narrative” based on some events in my past. But more often than not, my fear of rejection and shame is usually unrealized – as it was in this case.  The man spoke of marriage as a “visible celebration of a couple’s love for one another” and could see that as worthy for anyone in love – gay, straight, bi, Thai…  How healing that conversation was for me, given my own lingering shame and internalized homophobia (on which I’ve written here before…)

But the question we probably weren’t ready for was
“Did you guys get married too?”

Huh?  What?  Married?!

It struck us both as a little odd – though given our reality, we could understand how some might think we jumped head on into this and tied the knot right away!

But it still “ate at me” a little – like “really, do you think we’d elope?!” (putting it in traditional terms) right there on the Norwegian Getaway!?!

Of course, that would be ok…but it started to reveal a deeper truth – giving us insight into a “new era” in LGBT relationships that, at least for us, was playing out for the first time.  Like much of my “coming out,” there are few role models for us to look towards.  That’s both exciting and scary at times!  Let me explain…

Gay marriage has been “in the spotlight” for several years, as countries across the world have been evolving into accepting the reality that gay couples deserve to be recognized just like straight couples.  Setting aside any religious or faith-based aspects of a ceremony, there are some very real, practical benefits to being legally married.  (And, some real, practical risks as well!  To death do us part…)

However, what we’ve largely seen (at least what I’ve largely seen…) are “existing couples,” many of whom have been living and loving together for years, formalizing what most of their family and friends already know and accept.  They may have been in a “domestic partnership” (legally) – but marriage is only a recent option for many (at least in parts of the US). So, there’s been, if you will, a “backlog” of marriages, where folks are simply are simply catching up to where they could have, should have been all along.  It’s like playing Monopoly – they were able to pass through “Go!” without collecting $200…they had essentially “already been there, done that” but now had the “marriage T-shirt” to show for it!

Grand Marriage Equality Wedding Event

But, what about the “rest of us!” who are still in the courting, dating phases of our LGBTQ relationships…who are weighing the spiritual, societal, physical, emotional and financial “benefits” of “popping the question” and taking our relationships to the “next level…” – from “dating” to “engagement” – a step that traditionally comes with an engagement ring.

But, our path is far from traditional!

For many of us, myself included – at 46! – we’ve never even thought about the possibility of getting engaged (in the traditional sense), because it was never an option!  Like much of our “coming out stories,” this is new territory…something for which most straight men and women are prepared, and perhaps “take for granted.”

As we thought about this more, we started to realize that the question “did you guys get married, too?” was coming from the “traditional frame of reference,” because we had “shown the world” our two rings!  And this would normally symbolize marriage!  Wow!  Aha!  Now I get it…wow!


Part Three

Now we’re faced with more questions than answers!

After all, what do you do when a man proposes to another man?  Who gets the ring?  Do both get a ring?  How do our “engagement rings” compare to or evolve to our “wedding bands?” Does one wear the ring on the right hand, or the left hand?   Do we start with the right, then switch when we get married to the left?

So many questions…so it was time to Google!

Tiffany Campaign Features Gay Couple for First Time
Tiffany Campaign Features Gay Couple for First Time

And the results only underscored our personal “aha! moment!  And thankfully, we’re not alone!

This is unchartered territory (for us at least) – and for many others.

Our society is “getting used to” gay marriage, and I believe it’s only a question of time before all States in the US recognize it (at least on paper).  We’ve “broken the race” barrier and (finally) elected a Black President.  African-American parents no longer have to raise their kids, telling them “you’re smart, you’re kind, you’re important” – and can be or do anything you want in this life….except become President.

It’s only a question of time before parents will also be able to give their children guidance on engagement and marriage, whether that be gay, straight, or bi!

This was emphasized at the start of our cruise, when I read about the White House’s brief to the US Supreme Court, outlining why the various State bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional.  We even referenced the 36-page brief as we shared our news – not realizing that as that reality “settles in” to our collective conscience, we now have this new pre-cursor as well…

“Gay Engagement!”

As with much of our narrative, there are no rules – no traditions.  For better or worse, it’s up to the couple to create our own traditions, our own reality.  Of course, in doing so, sometimes, we will either have to explain or clarify things to others, who may see things (as they have) through their own filters, their own “traditions.”

But I’m ok with that…as is my fiancé!

Hmmm…I do like the ring of that…pun intended!


I’ll close with a collection of links I found from my Google search on “gay engagement.”

Thanks for walking with us from “YES” to “aha!”

 May we all continue to inspire each other to greater understanding, peace and health.


Gay Engagement

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I’m sorry I let you down…but please speak up and don’t assume intent…


I live my life in the moment, but try my best to be considerate of others.  But at the end of the day, I can’t take the world’s perspective into account or I would never be able to experience this moment fully.  I could second guess every step, every move and miss the opportunity of being fully present.

Unfortunately, this sometimes means that others may feel excluded because I don’t reach out “in the moment” to share the experience.  As a “recovering people pleaser,” I’m trying to find that balance between connecting considerately and being fully present in the moment, being more fully aware of my needs.  Sometimes I “get it right” for all parties; sometimes I worry too much what others think, feel or want and “miss me;” and unfortunately,  I sometimes inadvertently overlook others’ needs and upset or hurt them.

If I’m lucky in the latter case, the other person will express their feelings to me in a straightforward manner that allows me to understand the impact I had on them. It doesn’t lessen their pain or change their feelings, but it allows me to be aware, to apologize and hopefully strike a better balance the next time.  Sometimes, I get an emotionally charged response, which is really a lose-lose situation because I’m left feeling manipulated, or hurt with spiteful attacks…and it still doesn’t lessen their pain or change their feelings.  Instead we are both left hurt, simply because the other person “lashes out” or lets their past hurts, issues or unmet needs be perceived as as a personal attack (which for me, is rarely the case…). And then, sadly, there are those times when the other doesn’t voice anything…which for me is the worst of all situations, because their pain is still real and I’m left without the opportunity to be aware, seek forgiveness and (hopefully) act differently next time.

I share this in the hopes of raising awareness of a couple key points. First, like most people, I’m trying my best, with good intentions – but am imperfect and will fall short sometimes.  Second, at least for me, I rarely intentionally hurt others – so please don’t assume intention, but express your unmet needs and valid feelings in an objective manner that allows me to hear and receive your feedback. And finally, silence is by far the worst of all choices.  Passive-aggressive behavior I can work through; silence robs us both of a growth experience and an ability to connect.

Flipped again! Seeing the wisdom of my BFF’s word of advice…


I love my church…I love the way I’m challenged, encouraged, supported, and inspired.

For this gay man, that’s a pretty powerful statement to make.  Like many LGBTQ folks, my history with “organized religion” has led me into some uncomfortable places, as I’ve blogged about before.  I’ve belonged to a conservative “Christian cult,” (in my terms…), attended Homosexuals Anonymous (yep! there is actually a 12-step program to “make you straight), and skirted with Exodus Ministries and Sy Rogers, hosting him at the University of Michigan at a “launch event” for an ex-gay outreach I started my Senior year.

With that history, it’s no wonder it took a LONG time before I felt comfortable setting foot in a church, let alone one with strong ties to its middle-of-the-road-but-slightly-conservative mainstream denomination. But, growing up going to church, attending Sunday school and a high school youth group, I always knew that deep inside, some (healthier) spiritual life was important to me.  I’ve always believed we are physical, emotional, intellectual and yes – spiritual beings.  It’s just taken some grieving and courage to face the “demons” from my past that caused me to avoid church altogether.

Looking back on my journey, which has included 9+ years attending Broadway United Methodist Church, and several years finding my “own voice” and path forward in my recovery, which includes some powerful experiences, insightful readings and sharing in the “rooms” of several 12 step programs.  As I’ve written before, while I don’t attend any meetings regularly now, those early days of recovery were critical in my “flip” – my re- acceptance of an active spiritual life.

So last year, when we worked through a creative Lenten experience together at Broadway, facing our own personal shame…I embarked on a personal spiritual journey to better deal and face my own shame in a somewhat unconventional way….picketing a local bakery whose story “hit the social media fan” right around the start of Lent, because of their refusal to make a cake for a gay couple.

Final week of protest...HAPPY EASTER!
Final week of protest…HAPPY EASTER!

Probably the single wisest move I made “taking that on” for Lent was from a suggestion from someone I consider to be my “BFF” / friend much more than I do my “Pastor.”  Mike Mather has been an important part of my life journey in community.   His coaching was to go in and talk with the owners first, before I showed up to picket their bakery.

That single act has made my “spiritual journey” and then Lenten decision much more powerful and personal.  My Higher Power (God, The Universe, whatever works for you) has also taken my act of faith, and made more connections, insights and “knock on effects” than I could have ever fathomed.  For that, I’m truly grateful.

So, I’ll close this piece with some recent follow-up articles that explain how this all has come full circle.  I thank Randy McGrath for his courage to be honest and authentic; I appreciate Will Higgins ability to see deeper into the story being told between Randy and me over the course of weeks and months; and I will use the experience to look for more ways to engage in personal dialogue and curiosity.

As my one friend Stewart Huff says, “we are all scared, curious poets.”  It’s powerful to admit “I don’t know” to certain questions, leading to the possibility of being “Flipped” — of seeing the world through a new pair of glasses.  So, I’ll also close this piece with some cross-references to some other “scared, curious poets” who Flipped! my worldview…

Sawubona

Other Flips! in my journey: