I was surprised yet very happy to receive a call from my buddy JT, a local motorcop who I have known since grade school, who told me that his friend “Tom” and partner “Chad” were engaged to be married. Then soon after hearing that news, Tom called me himself, and told me that he credits me with his engagement to his partner.
In that series of blog posts, I described meeting a young motor officer who is gay and had met someone with whom he was in a serious relationship. The officer, “Tom” (not his real name) and I were introduced by our mutual friend, JT. When I met Tom, he was troubled and concerned about coming out to his colleagues.
His partner, “Chad” (not his real name either), is a firefighter. He also was concerned about coming out, but not as worried as Tom was. Working in a paramilitary, rigid structure like a motor unit within a police department intones social norms that struck fear into Tom about coming out to his colleagues.
I suggested that Tom and Chad take it slow, and come out to family first. I also discussed personal struggles with feelings of dishonesty by hiding his sexual orientation. All cops I know feel of all things, they are honest people and they struggle a great deal if their integrity is questioned by their behavior. (Unlike what television depicts — all the cops I know are as honest as the day is long.)
I further suggested that Tom introduce Chad to his colleagues at a relaxed social function, rather than blurt out at work, “I’m Gay and I’m in love with a man!” Seriously, that is what Tom thought coming out was — giving a shocking statement to everyone all at once. And that is what scared him so much.
Tom “socialized” the introduction of his partner with his colleagues one-on-one, as I advised. He told me that before the unit’s Fall intrasquad football game, he approached his co-workers to say, “I’m bringing Chad to the game with me. He is special to me. I hope you like him.” Tom told me yesterday that this nugget of advice was extremely important.
Tom said that some of his coworkers reacted to his explanation that he was bringing Chad to the game in a way that indicated they figured out that Tom was gay and that he was in a relationship with another man. And some of their reactions were turning cool, withdrawal, or distance.
Tom said that he was very worried during the two weeks leading up to the game because he thought some of his colleagues were talking behind his back. He said that when he walked by, they abruptly changed their conversation or stopped talking. Putting on my sociologist hat, I know that such behavior is common. These guys are trying to figure out how to deal with the news, and rely on others to inform their behavior.
When the big day of the Fall football game arrived, Tom and Chad arrived early and helped set up tables, chairs, and some grills. They had organized everything so that by the time others were arriving, no more set-up work had to be done. Tom said that his colleagues appreciated the extra effort.
I asked, “so what happened when everyone arrived? What did they say?”
Tom said, “pretty much all of my fears were for nothing. It was like life as usual. The guys introduced themselves to Chad and me to their girlfriends, and that was that. They also allowed Chad to play and he was so good — he won the game for us.”
Chad also introduced Tom to his co-workers by getting Tom to wear a fire dog costume during a Fire Prevention Open House (October) and later, when asked by his Battalion Chief who “did dog duty,” Chad said, “my partner… this is Tom.” The Chief’s only reply was, “nice to meet you, thanks for helping out,” then sat down with them for lunch.
Tom said that Chad didn’t have as much worry or concern with coming out to his fellow firefighters. But that was because, according to Tom, Chad’s personality is very happy-go-lucky, bright and cheerful. “Everyone loves Chad!”
Tom continued by describing how his life with Chad improved even more since the worry and concern about hiding their relationship was behind them. Throughout the Fall, Winter, and Spring, Tom experienced no ill-will, harsh words, or major problems with his colleagues. They know he has their back and they have his. Tom said that on occasion he “hears things,” but lets it go and has not encountered any significant issues that he was so fearful would happen such as rejection, hate, ignorant comments, or discrimination.
Tom gave me credit for his engagement to Chad for two reasons — his process of coming out, following my advice, worked for him, and that their love for each other has grown very deep. Second, he saw how much I am in love with my spouse (he reads my blog), and has seen me in the community living my life as a married gay man and there aren’t any issues about it. (When people have “issues” with me, it is about my particular stand on community matters, not because I am gay or because I am married to a man.)
Tom and Chad both had no idea that they would want to marry when I first met them last September, but as their relationship deepened with love, and with the onus of worry and fear lifted, they thought, “let’s do it!” They are planning to be married later this summer or early autumn. They haven’t set a date yet. Perhaps this is one marriage ceremony that I will attend!
Life is short: celebrate love!