When Ordinary is Extraordinary
Last night John and I went to the taping of Ordinary Couples/Ordinary Lives, a documentary about same-sex couples who have been together 10 years or more (One couple, Ian and Ambrose, have been together for 55 years. They were hilarious.) Anyway, we went to support the director, Mark Lee, who is a good friend of ours, and one of the couples being filmed, Duane (Potterdad) and Todd, who are like family.
I was so proud of Duane and Todd. They are not overtly political (though these days, if you are a long-term, same-sex couple you are by default, political). No, they are a hard-working American couple that has been together for 20 years. In addition to their day jobs, they manage a big farm in the country and are raising two of the most loving, kind and respectful kids I know. They, like many other gay families raising children, don’t have a lot of time left over to fight for equality.
Todd is shy and both he and Duane have been reticent to put their family on public view, for obvious reasons. But listening to them and the other couples talk about their lives, their getting together and staying together stories and the challenges they’ve faced was so powerful.
The documentary is being produced from filming to set design by the hard-working Indiana Youth Group, a social/support group for glbt young adults. During the taping I saw the IYG folks paying close attention as the couples spoke. Afterward I noticed some of them snatching up the relationship books that moderator Michelle O’Mara brought for them.
I thought to myself how lucky these kids are to start their young lives with the knowledge that trust, honesty, kindness, support, a strong sense of self, communication, compromise and hard work can result in long-lived love and healthy families for them. Society may tell them otherwise, but as more families like these come out of hiding, the younger generation has better access to the truth.
I didn’t have access to the truth. I was raised to believe the opposite, that all gay people were unstable and promiscuous and that they could not form good relationships until they were “fixed” to be attracted to the opposite sex, a theory I worked for 10 years to apply with nothing but sublimated desires, self-hate and deception to show for it. John and I both drove home last night thanking God that we got through that forest and found each other on the other side. It still seems like a miracle to us.
The most powerful and unexpected moment for me last night was when Duane mentioned in passing that he was youth pastor for our church as part of an answer to a question. When Duane took that job the fact that he was gay didn’t even register to anyone we know as being out of the ordinary because Broadway doesn’t see people in terms of their sexual identity anymore than they see them in terms of eye color.
I realized the full power of that moment after the taping when an obviously religious female couple with six children came straight over to Duane to talk to him about Broadway’s kids program. The number of churches that accept them is small. Evidently, the number with strong kids programs is even smaller.
Then other people including more couples with kids came up to talk to him about the same thing-they were Christian and wanted their families to be in a church but couldn’t find a place to go. Those were sweet conversations to hear, and I would love it if they end up visiting Broadway. We want them. Who am I kidding -we need them — families so strong that they stay healthy and joyful despite opposition from extended family and “you’re not worthy” messages from their former churches? Are you kidding? These are people who understand the value of love.
February 2008 is the tentative documentary debut date. I’m excited about it and the connections that were made last night. Thanks Mark, and Duane and Todd, and any of the other nine couples who happen to read this for sharing who you are. Your vulnerability has already resulted in good things. And as always in the kingdom of God, this is just the beginning.