In April of 2008, I wrote a cover story for The New York Times Magazine about the first generation of young married and engaged gay couples in Massachusetts. (All of the couples I profiled were white. In Massachusetts, 91 percent of individuals in same-sex marriages are white—and the vast majority are college-educated and have high medium incomes.)
At the time, I was surprised by the number of emails I received from jaded (and presumably single) gay men promising me that the “naïve” young men I profiled would soon be divorced. Well, it hasn’t happened yet. All of the couples I interviewed are still together, and one of the two young gay men who had already experienced a divorce has chosen to marry again.
Since my piece was published, the number of young gay men getting married in Massachusetts has held steady. In 2008, 218 men under 30 entered into a same-sex marriage. In 2009, 228 did. Young lesbians are about twice as likely to get married as young gay men. Though it’s clear that marriage appeals to some young gay people, the vast majority aren’t seriously considering getting hitched until their 30s or 40s.
In recent weeks, I caught up with several of the couples I profiled to get an update on the state of their unions.
Marc and Vassili
I had a hard time figuring this young couple out when I spent time with them for the story. They were both young (23 and 24) and were eager to get married, but they kept putting off telling their parents that they were engaged. (Vassili Shields wasn’t sure his parents would be supportive. Marc Brent didn’t doubt that his would, but he kept saying that he wanted to have “everything planned out first.” They also weren’t sure if they would have a ceremony in front of their friends and family.)
I went with them to get their marriage license at City Hall, but they never had it notarized. When I caught up with Marc recently, he told me he’s glad they waited.
“The article was an enormous blessing as we have become extremely close with both of our families, so much so that we just got back from a trip to San Miguel Mexico with Vassili’s parents,” Marc said. “We want to make sure we do the wedding right. It will be big, it will be fun, and, yes, it will be with us surrounded by family. Now that we have both somewhat settled into our careers and our new home, we will probably start planning after the new year, so be sure to be on the lookout for an invite sometime next year!”
Brandon Lehr and Brandon Andrew (affectionately referred to as “the Brandons” in my piece) were engaged when I spent time with them for my story, and they struck me as the most likely of all the young gay couples I profiled to grow old together. They’re both wise beyond their years, and their bond is deep.
I reached out to Brandon Andrew by email and asked him how they were doing.
“We recently moved back to our home state of California, but before leaving Massachusetts we were married at Boston City Hall,” he wrote. “Our legal status as a married couple is somewhat in limbo here in California, but we continue to make choices and live our lives independent of court rulings. We look forward to saving up enough money to be able to celebrate our marriage with a proper ceremony and reception in the company of friends and family.”
Joshua and Benjamin
Joshua Janson and Benjamin McGuire met in college at Brown and have been together longer than any of the couples I profiled. Though their marriage has had its share of turmoil, Benjamin reports that their union is strong.
“I honestly don’t think we’ve ever been better,” Ben told me. “We’ve had our share of fights since we met with you for your article, but we have both matured and grown together. I have come to love Josh more and more; I know he feels the same way. We got married because we were desperately in love with each other from the moment we met. But a conversation during a recent Fire Island getaway reminded me how lucky we are. Someone I’d just met had commented on how remarkable it is that we’ve stayed together ever since we met at 18 (we are now both 28), especially given how much people grow and change. I’m not enough of an expert to know that we changed more in the past 10 years than we will in the future, but we certainly encountered a number of life’s milestones together (college, law school, moving to a new city together, getting a house together, not to mention coming to terms with our sexuality, family relations.) While it has been an ongoing challenge, I don’t think either of us has ever regretted our marriage, and I for one value tremendously the bond that it symbolizes. Setting aside its important legal benefits, our marriage is an invaluable reminder that we are in this together, ‘two of us against the world.’”
Aaron Pike and his ex-husband, Stephen Schonberg, were both 22 when they became the 44th same-sex couple to wed in Massachusetts. (They were one of two couples profiled in an MTV documentary about gay marriage.) But they didn’t last long, and when I spent time with Aaron for the New York Times piece, he was trying to make sense of being a young and divorced gay man.
Aaron recently married again—this time to an older man.
“Everything is great on my end,” Aaron told me. “I’m happily married, and so much has happened since the NY Times cover story that has made being young and gay and married so patently accepted (by my parents, my husband’s parents, everyone at work, the gate agent at Logan Airport) that I can actually say I’m very proud to have been a visible part of the equality transition.”
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