“Don and I live on a three-block street in Edina, and we have a ball,” Paul, a management consultant with a firm in Atlanta, says.
Across the table is Dave, a postal employee, who sits next to his partner, Harry.
“When we were moving into our house,” Dave recalls, “a woman ran out of her house, and said, ‘I’m so glad you are moving in! We need a gay couple on the block to bring up property values!’”
I met Paul, Dave, and Harry, three leaders of Minnesota Gay and Lesbian Couples (MNGLC), at Dunn Brother’s on Hennepin in Uptown.
MNGLC started in 1994 as Twin Cities Couples, but, Harry relates, “We reformatted the group this year, so it really is a new group.”
At present, MNGLC consists of 42 couples, 26 male and 16 female, many of whom have been together for years.
MNGLC has an ambitious list of events: the Dining Out series, the Networking series, Lifestyle Celebrations, and open houses. All that, plus four major events a year, including a big holiday gathering at Park House on December 15.
So, why a group for couples? What’s its agenda? Everybody has an agenda, right? Is MNGLC in it to advocate for marriage rights?
“We talk about it once in a while,” Harry shares, but “we’re not very political.”
Then, the group is about selling a lifestyle, right? Trying to get same-sex couples to drive Saturns, adopt children, and be monogamous?
“We don’t define what a relationship is,” Paul explains. “If it works for them, great.”
So, what is the agenda?
“It’s all so couples can meet other couples,” Dave states.
After all, just because someone has a life partner doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t need community. The three middle-aged men talk about not wanting to go to bars. They talk about not wanting to be all about sex. They talk about wanting to be relaxed.
According to Paul, at MNGLC events, “you don’t have to stand and model.”
“There’s none of the sexual tension,” Harry adds.
“You’re right—there’s none of that,” Paul agrees.
And MNGLC is truly a community. Members of a community help each other out, whether it’s joining the volunteer fire department, or helping bring each other’s crops in.
Or, in this case, Dave recounts, “If someone’s in the hospital, someone’s right there. If I was in trouble, and called, 50 percent of the group would be there.”
As we talk, it occurs to me that something else is going on here, too. Many GLBT groups exist to support us against a sometimes-hostile world. Not so much here.
“In the group, there tends to be more security around families,” Paul points out.
Dave concurs, “Most of us have families that are accepting.”
I never would say to anyone, “You should come out,” as we all have different situations, different stories, and different paths to follow. However, all three agree that this acceptance is only possible because they are out to their families, not to mention their friends, coworkers, and communities. People never can be accepted for who they are by keeping their true selves secret.
In fact, for me on this night, I’ll go even farther: I feel like this is one vision of success for GLBT people. I don’t mean that being coupled is success, nor is having a house or a dog (they tell me nearly everyone in the group has one dog or more).
What I am talking about is that these people have been out for so long, having made their gay selves so much a part of their relationships with their families and neighborhoods, their orientation truly is integrated into their lives. In other words, I often hear how being GLBT shouldn’t matter, and it seems to me these folks have achieved that.
Since before Stonewall, our community has been fighting. Fighting for our rights. Fighting for recognition of our contributions to society, our work, and our families. Fighting to live wholly and authentically. We’ve been fighting so long, it’s hard to imagine not doing so. Here, tonight, I get to enjoy a glimpse of that future.
But I keep that to myself. That’s my stuff. These people are here for their relationships. For them, it’s all about love.
“Being in a long-term relationship redefined gay for me,” Paul emphasizes. “In 10 years, we’ve never gone a day without talking.”
“It’s about having someone there in the morning,” Dave chimes in.
There are many visions of what success might be for the GLBT community. “Having someone there in the morning” is a pretty good one.
For more information about Minnesota Gay and Lesbian Couples (MNGLC) and its upcoming holiday event, visit www.mnglc.org. Have a group that people need to know about? Contact me at www.forwhomthebilltolls.org.