Throughout the years, people often have asked how Bill and I have stayed together for so long. I sometimes think they actually are asking how Bill has managed to put up with me for this many years, but I take them at their word and try to answer their question. Thirty-five years ago, when we got together, there were no role models on TV or in literature for same-gender-loving couples. We had no one to show us the way or to answer our questions.
In many ways, we were making it up as we went along. Marriage wasn’t an option, and, though 1980 doesn’t seem like that long ago, the world was very different. For two very young gay men living in Georgia, it seemed that marriage would never be a legal option. We were left either to define our own relationship patterns or imitate relationships that utterly rejected us. Imitating heterosexual relationships didn’t seem like the best option at the time considering 50 percent of those relationships were failing despite the legal, social, and religious pressures to stay together.
Our relationship was further complicated by the fact that I was a pastor, so we spent our lives in a fishbowl. We lived very public lives in Dallas, despite the fact that we are, by nature, very private people. Everyone seemed to have an opinion about everything about us. In fact, when we decided to have children, a number of people actually left the church because they disapproved of our decision. I don’t think I have ever made a decision with which everyone agreed or of which everyone approved.
Despite the stress and strain of ministry, children, moving, the AIDS epidemic, and more, and despite not having rules, guidelines, or role models, we have managed to stay together. Every time someone asks me how, my answer is simply this: We never broke up. I know that is simplistic, but the truth is, when we got together, that was the one and only rule we made that was not negotiable. Everything else was. We decided to stay together for the rest of our lives, and that decision has never for one second been reconsidered by either of us. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but my point is this: There are some things we simply need to make up our minds about because only then are we free to move on to other decisions that might be flexible and malleable.
Some things ought to be forever. I’m really grateful that, for us, this has been.
Rev. Michael Piazza