2.11.16 Editor’s Desk

2.11.16 Editor’s Desk
Billy Manes
Billy Manes

“Love is real. Real is love.” Those were the terms breathily reinterpreted by new-wave breathers Dream Academy via John Lennon as I walked down the aisle at the Acre in College Park on Feb 14, 2015 with my (then) soon-to-be husband Tony Mauss. I blubbered and my shirt came untucked and I bit my lip and I forced my way through the emotional cloud that a gathering of 300 people implies, finally arriving upon a stage – a romantic plateau if you will – face to face with my future and Orange/Osceola circuit judge Bob LeBlanc. It was on.

Marriage equality had only become the law of the land one month earlier, and, given the Google Docs and weekend meetings and vodka and online invitations and planning that are wrapped into a control freak’s idea of a wedding, we did a pretty good job. All our favorite dignitaries and dirtbags, family, friends and freaks were there, the sky was as clear as our right to marry and our vows were the towering beams of overstatement and poetry required to signify our shift in our time. We were legal within moments; we’ve been happy every day since.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way. In my previous professional stint at Orlando Weekly, I veered into the unorthodoxy of centering the narrative of an important political issue on the terror that was befalling my own life. My partner of 11 years Alan Jordan took his own life in front of me on April 8, 2012, Easter Sunday, setting off a series of explosions in my own perception of what our relationship meant – and what I meant – in a world that would rather keep mirroring its smoke than allow the purest of loves a direct route to legal validation. I fought for a domestic partnership registry for two years in Tallahassee, I went on television and radio programs trying to elicit sympathies in order to lubricate stalled political policies, a documentary was filmed about my situation and shown across the southeast, often with me presenting, even though with each appearance, my heart broke that much more.

And it wasn’t just the obvious things. Yes, I did fall into the deepest of depressions and commit myself at one point in my grieving. Yes, I did feel like I had a phantom leg (which just so happened to be my deceased partner as well as a necessary structure to hold me up); the itching, the burning, the loss. Yes, there were hotplates and casseroles and friends and garbage piles on the corner, the stuff you would expect when there’s a death in the family and concern in your personal ranks.

But there was also homophobia and acrimony, thievery and probate, court cases and lies. When our only clear protection was a Last Will and Testament, Alan’s family destroyed the copy of the will that I handed them personally and proceeded with the sort of name calling indicative of families who keep all of the shiny things – and the guns – in their Georgia closets. Add to that the crumbling of a house around me that was slipping underwater while not in my name, the unnecessary legalities surrounding all of that (and the fumbling of mortgage companies), the threatening phone calls – and there was no sign of a happy ending, not even the mildest hope of peace.

The reason I bring this up (other than, of course, Valentine’s Day and my first legal wedding anniversary) is that there are still questions coming from an LGBT community that has spent most of its collective life in the shadows or on the fringes. Our “founder and guiding light” Tom Dyer addresses some of the lingering concerns in this week’s cover story, succinctly outlining the legalities – he’s an attorney, after all – surrounding marriage equality. What about the kids? How do we handle taxes? Is real property an issue among extended families? Are we doing this for the right reasons?

And even though, given the limited space in this periodical, we can’t answer all of the unique concerns befalling couples befallen by their own exhibitionist and romantic tendencies, we can advance the conversation beyond “I do” and into the realm of the practical. Honestly, who would have thought we’d even be having this conversation two years ago, especially in Florida. Cheers to everyone involved.

“Love is you, you and me. Love is knowing that we can be,” the music builds.

Happy Valentine’s Day from your Watermark family. Love is real.

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