Published Date Written by Kirah Lynn BrouillettePride weekend in Portland always makes me think of my beloved "Guncles," Herbert and Doug, and the many childhood Thanksgivings that my mother, sister and I spent with them. They were meals that — with the lavishly decorated table, their friends dressed in over-the-top finery and records played full-blast as we danced around the kitchen, cleaning up afterwards — reminded me of a festival. Each holiday surpassed the one before in its celebratory glory.
To me, The Guncles were exotic creatures. They'd been together as long as my 10-year-old memory spanned and their plumage was legendary: my uncle's obsession with tropical fish and the glass tables he built to house them; Doug's penchant for refurbishing rare muscle cars and collecting antiques — every trip to Bangor and the lopsided red house-slash-variety-store-deli they owned was a treat.
So When Representative Barney Frank, D-Mass., came to Portland last Saturday to speak at the Maine People's Alliance 30th anniversary awards dinner, urging attendees to vote to legalize gay marriage in November and mentioning that he and his partner Jim Ready of Ogunquit wanted to marry here next summer, I was caught off guard. His words brought my Guncles, and their fervent desire to marry legally here in Maine, to my mind more clearly than I had remembered them in years and with it came the overwhelming debt of gratitude I have to them, still.
You see, what I loved most about "Herbie" and Doug together was not their cars or their fish or their many friends — it was simpler than that: I loved the way they loved each other.
For a nervous girl from a home hardened by alcoholism, going to visit The Guncles was more than fun: it was cathartic. They, with their eccentricities and unique lifestyle, were always inviting to my family and I, no matter what state of trauma we arrived in. More than that though, visits with them were a chance to see two people respectfully in love; to witness how some romantic relationships are made of more than blame and fear.
My uncles showed me that love was first and foremost built on acceptance- acceptance of differences; their good days and bad. I saw that love was laughing, and affection; holding doors and holding hands; arguing but making up; making it right. I learned that sometimes there were necessary boundaries established which meant asking for space. Most importantly though, I learned that love becomes commitment when it's fed with honesty and loyalty. Sure they had their problems and private struggles, who doesn't? Still, I credit them with giving me the building blocks I use today to keep my own-heterosexual-relationship solid.
Sadly, Guncle Herbie died of AIDS-related liver failure in 2007, some years after he and Doug separated as lovers to remain lifelong, deeply bonded friends and long before he had a chance to see this fight for marriage equality and HIV/AIDS education. I think of him everyday and his memory is celebrated by my family with stories, laughter and music — exactly how we celebrated together when he was alive. In his honor, I'll be enjoying Pride today alongside good friends.
Kicked off yesterday in Ogunquit, LIFE (the overarching name for the weekend's events, sponsored by Southern Maine Pride and The Rainbow Business & Professional Organization) is planning a series of cultural events, discussions and parties to support awareness of HIV/AIDS and Marriage Equality in Maine. Alongside people like Jonathan Perkins and Mark Pellerin, owners of Portland's Compositions flower boutique, official Guncles to my 6-month-old son and active participants in this year's Pride events, I will march for the memory of Herbie and Doug: the two men who loved me exactly as I was and taught me how to love wholly in return.
Perkins, Mr. June in the 2012 men of LIFE calendar, understands better than anyone why I would turn to Pride to celebrate the memory of these men. Perkins feels passionately about the importance Pride, LIFE and the feeling of acceptance and safety that being involved can provide. "Pride is a time where we join together as a community and be proud of who we are ... strength comes in numbers and with the numbers continuing to grow, so does our community." He said.
So join me today for the Pride Parade, beginning at 12:30 in Monument Square, where you'll be sure to see plenty of colorful plumage yourself. Come and march, if not for someone you love who has or has died of HIV/AIDS then for someone you know who who loves someone they can't yet marry: let's celebrate LIFE, in all its beautiful, exotic forms, together.
For more information on events, please visit www.southernmainepride.org
(Kirah Lynn Brouillette is a writer living in Southern Maine who has an addiction to french fries and often corrects other people's grammar.
you can read her blog at kirahbrouillette.wp.com)