Standing in the big picture window watching Main St., I observe them, in quiet fascination, as they pull up. I was manning the Visitors Area for the Chamber of Commerce. As they pulled in, I vaguely caught the White Standard Poodle sitting between them, and my inner 13-year-old got a little excited. Living in a far North Eastern California Town, of about 2000, a little slice of Alaska, where men need mail order brides and some woman do to. It’s logging country, we have some butches. Centrally located between Chico (an hour and 15 minutes) Redding, and Reno, (2 hours). We have one grocery store and 14 Churches that I know of. I attend the grocery store, not the Churches. They get out of their car gracefully, leash the dog gracefully, the dog jumps out of the car gracefully and they all walk gracefully to the door. I am feeling elated. Could it be, my people? Maybe.
I don’t want to terrify them, by saying, could it be that you’re gay? Or by assuming, I would like to think I am in tune with things, but I almost asked a man, recently, what his boyfriends name was. I didn’t, but I was so sure, I’d have bet my life on it. It would be like asking a large girl when her baby is due, a no no. I was wrong. Profiling is a game people play who like certainty or control. I am still one those people, although I am working on it. I am glad I didn’t grab their hand, drop to my knees and in desperation, say “Oh Thank God”, like I had just been in the desert for a few days and they brought me water, or by being over friendly or clingy or weird, but what I really wanted to say was, what are we doing for lunch? Like that movie “What about Bob”, I would be moving in soon with them.
If I am being profiled as a straight, middle aged, portly, Sarah Palin ish looking type (and only I get to say that because, I take it as a insult, but it is an accurate comparison of the exterior), this can be confusing to people, that I love gays. I love them so much I won’t attend a church that pedals a heaven that they won’t be in, it wouldn’t be heaven then. I won’t associate with people that are homophobes, no haters allowed in my house, my heart or my head! I am aware that gunny-sacking a whole community is a type of ism, a reverse ism. Putting them on a pedestal vs. dehumanizing them, but still an ism of sorts. People want to be seen for their individual selves. I don’t want to be seen as the above description of my exterior self.
So very men that I love, that have been my best friends, my safe place, my support, have been gay, are gay. I was the only girl working with all gay men, in San Francisco, managing the modeling agency, for 7 years. Some of the very best times of my life! Many magical opportunities and doors have been open for me in my life, by gay men. Where straight men were always a threat and couldn’t be trusted, gay men rescued me in every way. They let me know I was enough, they weren’t jealous of me, they loved that I was smart, fierce and pretty, I wasn’t shunned or hurt by them, like the jealous woman, at times I had encountered, did to me. We weren’t in competition. And the very best part for me was they didn’t want to sleep with me. I am five in their company, I am free, I am safe, and I am in joy.
As they walk into the Chamber I ask them lots of questions, lots and lots of questions and I give empathy, compassion, and interest, because I am interested. Every question they answer, there is a layer of a story I am building that goes along with the conversation. They have a standard poodle, I am going to introduce them to the only other gay couple I know who lives here and they have a standard poodle too, etc. They live here part time. YAY, and so on. Flash forward five and a half years. The story I told myself that day didn’t compare to the reality. They are now dear friends, very many dinners shared and a house boat trip, which we are doing again, and cookie parties and boating on the lake and visits to their home in the Bay Area. Honest unguarded conversations, gay yes, but completely overshadowed, as it should be, by being amazing human beings, talented, gifted, huge hearts, fierce, powerful, adventurers, world travelers, gourmets, brave, water skiers, art collectors, incredible engaging wit, and fun! One is a gifted photographer and jewelry maker as well as a project manager, the other an accomplished MD and fierce dog mama and I could go on and on. I just love them.
It was a huge honor when they asked us to photograph their wedding in Yosemite, at the Ahwahnee Lodge on Valentine’s Day.
Their Wedding was gorgeous and tasteful and delicious. They served a deconstructed cake, which tasted divine and so playful to make our own cakes. Friends and family flew in from all over the Country to be with them, for the entire weekend. It was an emotionally intimate day.
We met them on Thursday night just outside the Park and on Friday we photographed them in various key areas of the park. Some of those images are included here as well.
Tom & Cliff”s Story, Wrtten by them.
Tom grew up in the Midwest, Ohio, and although he realized at a young age that he was gay, he did not come out until college. He also realized that he wanted the “all American love story” with a spouse who was also a partner , children and the white picket fence…..a dream that he figured he would have to settle for some variation of, and that was “OK” as he poured himself into his education and then his career as a family physician. One long term relationship did not end up his forever relationship. Now a middle-aged gay man, he was pessimistic that he’d end up in that loving, committed, long-term relationship but continued to try/hope.
Cliff grew up in California. He knew he wanted a family and an enduring relationship but his evangelical Christian faith told him it should be with a woman, so that is what he pursued. He got married and had children, all the while struggling with his hidden identity. After his second divorce (from a woman) Cliff experienced a crisis of faith and, at the point of considering taking his own life, came to the understanding, both spiritually and emotionally that this is how he was “made”. So he began living true to himself. Disheartened by what he experienced in his new community, a perceived preference for the moment over permanency, Cliff assumed this was to be his “new life”.
When Cliff and Tom began dating they were both taken aback by how easy it was to be together. They had similar perspectives on faith, were looking for the same thing in a relationship and although they had different communication styles they were able to respect, even take advantage of each other’s styles. As their relationship deepened and love grew it was clear that they wanted to spend a lifetime together. So once it seemed obvious that it would be the (permanent )law in California, their dream for a MARRIAGE to the man of their dreams was given new life. How appropriate that it should occur in one of our country’s most beautiful national parks, just months after it became the law of the land.
We’re sure everyone say this but our wedding day was magical. Although our Yosemite winter wedding, ended up being sunny and 60+ degrees, it was hard to complain about a beautiful day amongst that majesty. We were touched by the outpouring of love and support from our family and friends ,some of whom had to travel cross -country ,and took the opportunity to celebrate them and thank them; we felt like we had already “hit the jackpot” no celebration for us was needed. We are living that dream, that neither of us EVER thought would be possible in our lifetimes.
2331 Market St
San Francisco CA 94114
Ph 415 431 3134
5736 Thornhill Drive, Suite 103
Oakland, CA 94611
Napa Valley Linens
Showroom: 1315 63rd Street
Emeryville, CA 94608
P: (510) 788-4551 F: (510) 788-4238
Venue & Catering
1 Ahwahnee Dr
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
MC & Music, Kirk Moulin
Home of Spin City (DJ Services) and
Larkspur (Live Entertainment)