Image description: Joe and I kissing, I’m sitting in my power chair, Joe is leaned over with his arm around my shoulders.

Today is our47th anniversary. I did the math, which took me an embarrassingly long time, and realized that we began our relationship in 1969. That’s a very long time ago. In gay time, that’s nearly the dark ages. We lived our life in the shadows, we crafted truth that concealed a lie, we learned the ways of distance. We didn’t touch, ever, in public. Not even the drunken arm over the shoulder, which was one of the few acceptable ways men could touch in those days. We were both terrified that we’d be spotted.

I want to be clear, we weren’t afraid of being discovered because we lived with shame, we didn’t. We were in love, there was no room for shame. We feared the very real consequences of violence, homelessness and unemployment. We had no protections, from anyone. But we lived with it. Managed it. We knew that we’d been scarred by those first could of decades, but we made it through. We still laugh a lot, we’ve always laughed a lot. And, I wouldn’t have predicted it then, but our love was strong enough to stretch out over 47 years.

Last weekend we were on Church Street at a pre-pride festival and there was booth there wherein one of Toronto’s preeminent photographers were taking pictures of couples who love one another expressing that love. Joe and I had done a selfie of us kissing in support of the campaign called ‘two men kissing’ in response to the slaughter in Orlando which, apparently, had been set off because the shooter had seen ‘two men kissing.’ We were very cautious with that picture, we don’t do public displays of affection.

However, even so, we discussed having a professional shot of us showing affection, showing love, we signed the release forms and went in to get set up. There was a lovely young guy, 43ish, chatting with us, and I told him that I was anxious and a bit afraid. ‘The ways of distance’ aren’t easy to let go of … Joe and I then both spoke about those years of hiding in plain sight and what touch meant then … danger, violence, hurt. He, the young fellow, said that it was similar for him when he was young and that there is still a wariness about touch.

The photographer came in, chatted for a few seconds and then we had to kiss, and kiss and kiss again. We had trouble not laughing, we had trouble calming the nerves. but we did it.

Because we have something to celebrate. We have loved in darkness and now we love in light.

Take it from us.

Light is better.

May love always be welcome, may hearts always be free, may kisses never mean death.

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