I grew up two doors down from the local library, and as a kid I went there countless times. When I was in about 6th grade or so, I started to realize I was gay and began to wonder what life had in store for me -- how could I learn more about what lay ahead for me and others like me -- did I have a chance for my own happily ever after?
I turned to that same public library for help, but found only a narrow array of books that ranged from dreary to downright misleading - none worse than the nonsense printed in the pages of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex. Luckily I was born with a strong internal compass that allowed me to steer clear of such lies and misinformation, but the next impressionable mind to pick up that book might not have been so lucky. What I was really looking for was something more like a roadmap to the human heart - stories that would assure me love wasn't always for someone else, but could be for me too.
I moved to San Francisco in the mid-80s, a difficult time to be looking for hope, love and a relationship. During the darkest years of the AIDS crisis, even in the midst of the community people felt so alone. I remember seeing graffiti one day that said, "Every day I say no to many, and the one I say yes to says no to me." I was so fortunate that when I met John in 1987 he said yes to me, and we haven't looked back since.
But what about the young person growing up today - where are the books to help LGBT people asking the same questions I did when I was young? Author Tim Clausen was wondering the same thing, and interviewed over a hundred couples to put together the book I wish I could have read when I was younger. Love Together tells the stories of couples young and old, some together a dozen years and some together for over six remarkable decades. Nothing is hidden, as the couples tell of their ups and downs - some share deep dark secrets, and some share the secrets to living happily ever after.
I'm so happy and honored to know my love story with John, along with the stories of many other amazing couples, are now on the shelf in that very same library two doors down from my childhood home - and online via Amazon and at www.lovetogetherbook.com - so a young LGBT person growing up today doesn't need to wonder if it might be possible to find love and happiness. Each story is completely different - ranging from how they met and navigated life's ups and downs, to the stirring end-of-life moments shared in the final chapters by Eric and Eugene - together for over 60 years up through Eugene's death just one week after they were finally able to legally marry.
Reflecting on the love of his life, Eugene said, "Gay men and lesbians have been lied to in a particularly toxic and destructive way. We have been taught that we can't love." We know that's not true, and Love Together is the living proof. Making these stories available for the next generation is truly the most important gift of the marriage equality movement, and the movement for full LGBT equality - and it is the greatest Valentine's Day gift of all.
Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, together for nearly three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. They are leaders in the nationwide grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA.