Latest

Please De-friend Me: 2016 Edition

Here is my list of “musts.” These are ideals that I believe in and focus my energy on, day in and out. If you are a true friend of mine, you’ll agree with all of them. If you don’t agree with them–even a single one–please know that I likely think you are both stupid and ill-informed, and feel free to de-friend me.

I believe in:
– Equality for all. Gay/straight/trans/racial/gender/socio-economic status. There are too many disenfranchised people in this world. Lift up your neighbors–each and every single one of them–even if you disagree with them. And, outside the U.S., know that the struggle is not over. There are people being killed this very day, because of their identities. Your silence makes you compliant.
– Tighter gun control. The U.S. is out of control, with countless preventable injuries and deaths occurring daily, and if you don’t care about stricter, sensible gun control measures, I really don’t care to know you.
– Giving a hand up. Do everything you can to help those in need, and if you are not doing something meaningful to do so, shut up the fuck up about food stamps.
– Climate preservation. Our planet is dying and we are the cause of it. If you aren’t concerned about the future of the earth–acknowledging our human role in it, please go away.
– A woman’s right to choose. I fully understand that abortion is not the “feel good” option, but I also know a great many women whose lives would have taken a dramatic turn had they had not been able to access safe medical options to terminate their pregnancies. A woman should be able to decide such things directly with her physician–not some white male Republican politician, likely diddling his assistant.
– A right to pee. I don’t care who you are, but all of us at some point in time will need to pee. Get over your fixation with sexuality and gender and allow access to bathrooms for all.
– A pathway to citizenship. Illegal? Um, yeah, but you’re hiring those folks to clean your house and cut your grass, so stop with your stupid hypocrisy and allow those willing to work in the U.S. the ability and means to do so.
– Religious freedom. I believe that we are all entitled to worship however–or if–we so please. Today, though, “religious freedom” has been twisted into the perverted belief that one person can deny another their right, simply because that first person doesn’t agree with it. What decade are we living in? Treat others with decency and kindness, for god’s sake.

I’m sure that I have other “musts,” but the hour is drawing late.

I know you many of you may be reading this list and thinking, “Okay, I don’t agree, but Kergan–we’ve been friends since high school!” Well, here is the thing about Facebook: It allows us to reconnect with those from a different place and time, which can be fun, as evidenced by our shared photos and memories. But I’m trying to live in the now, and these beliefs I’ve stated motivate me to be a better person. If you are either in disagreement with or actively working against such ideals, meeting today for the first time, we wouldn’t really be “friends.”

While it isn’t necessary that friends agree on every single issue, at this point in my life, I want people around me who care about similar issues. I’m tired of arguing with those without enough sense to see reality. Just because we are relatives or were once friends in some manner does not mean that we need to be involved in each others lives forever after.

One morning back in 2012, unable to sleep, I wrote a Facebook post called “Please De-friend Me,” advocating that those voting for Romney de-friend me. At the time, I had no idea how quickly those words would spread, leading to hundreds of thousands of shares on Facebook and Huffington Post, as well as both complimentary memes and competing counterpoints. The lesson I learned: you can’t affect change if you don’t speak up. These “musts” I’ve detailed are things that I hold holy. If you don’t agree: please, please, please de-friend me now and seek greener pastures. No ill will towards those who do, but life is too short to not speak your mind. Our future is at stake.

What I’ve Read: Winter 2016

Now that we’ve moved to beautiful and peaceful Colorado, I find I have much more time to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes–reading! In this day and age, and given my social media-deformed short attention span, it’s been challenging to find the time to linger over a good book. This Christmas, determined to change this pattern, I asked Russ for three books: And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality (Mark Segal), Immaculate Blue (Paul Russell), and Based on a True Story (Jameson Currier.) Being the excellent husband that Russ is, he did exactly as instructed, in turn providing me with hours of literary pleasure. Each, in its own way, is worth reading. While I had issues which prevented me from viewing them as truly great reads, you might love them, and that’s part of the fun of reading!

And Then I DancedMark Segal is a legendary LGBT activist. Not only was he at Stonewall–yes, THE Stonewall–but he famously interrupted CBS News with Walter Cronkite, as well as countless other moments of activism, each of which seem to be recounted here. (He must’ve kept one hell of a diary.) And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality (Mark Segal) documents his many efforts and, as a history book alone, is a fascinating read. However, I really wanted more Mark. Who is he, at his core, besides an activist? What drives him? Does he have a personal life? Including such details might’ve helped to flesh out what is, at its core, a recitation of events. “I did this, then this, then this.” He takes pains to acknowledge other activists, but every time it seems that he is getting close to an emotional or revealing personal moment, as a writer he pulls back. This might be due to his job in newspaper publishing, thinking only the factual is important, but as a reader, I closed the book wanting more insight into him. His chapter on the toll of AIDS gives a hint as to the emotion he holds under the surface, and the memoir could have used more telling moments.

Immaculate BlueImmaculate Blue, by Paul Russell, was just named a finalist for Best Gay Fiction in the 2016 Lambda Literary awards. Russell is a wonderful storyteller and writer, and I’ve enjoyed many of his other books, but I personally didn’t connect with this one. It builds on characters introduced in his earlier The Salt Point, which I didn’t read. Perhaps that would’ve helped in enjoying this, as the story circles around four friends, reuniting after 20 years apart, and insight into who they were earlier might have shaped my view. But my problem was that regardless of who they might have been back then, I didn’t enjoy who they are now. In particular, one lead is so unlikeable and his story so dark and improbable that it left a bad taste in my mouth. I actually found myself more interested in some of the secondary characters, in particular a deaf boy, but as the story focuses on the four, it is with them that we are stuck. I’m a bit surprised to find it named a Lammy finalist, but Russell clearly has great skill, as past works have proven.

Based on a True StoryAnother 2016 Lammy finalist is Jameson Currier for his collection of essays Until My Heart Stops, which I look forward to reading. In his novella, Based on a True Story, four men gather at a mountain cabin over Thanksgiving, and slowly reveal the tale of an off-screen couple. In many respects, this reads as an extended monologue, interrupted by attempts at fleshing out the four “main” characters. While the tale is impactful, it is also not surprising, with the outcome easy to guess early on. Still, I liked these characters and wanted to spend more time with them, and that’s always a sign to me of a tale well-told.

Now, I need some new books. What should I read next?

 

When Sean Sees the Light

Esther CastMy heart goes out to Sean Horenstein today, an old friend from my UCLA theater days. In our show “When Esther Saw the Light,” in which Sean played Grandpa, he was completely obscured by the pillowcase he wore on his head, and while he didn’t like it, he was graceful about it–even when I made him wear it during the curtain call. The show went on to win Best Play in the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival, and our trip to perform in DC was memorable for all. In the years since, Sean moved to Nashville and married his now-hubby, Stanley Joel Churchwell.

Sean HorensteinFor the past many months, Sean has bravely been battling cancer, and given its continual advancement and resistance to chemo, in January Sean made the decision to no longer continue treatment. Now, it seems, his journey’s end is quickly approaching. Please join me in sending out positive thoughts to Sean and Stan. Here’s to you, Sean, and your beautiful face.

UPDATE: Sean passed away in his sleep at 1:45AM on Wednesday March 9, 2016. He will be deeply missed.

Behind the scenes: Michael Sargent, Wade Skeels, Jeremiah Enna, Brian Omeara, Steve Brown, Kim Gibilterra, Michael Korn, and David Thomsen. Cast: Pamela Silverman, Kathleen Hartigan, Pia Pia Romans, Steve Schaeffer, Rebecca Delfino, Debra Guarienti, Catherine Skillman, Sean Horenstein, Jack Black, and Jeff Maynard

In Honor of Thanksgiving, a Free Story Just for You!

Gifts Cover Low Res (427x640)Last night, as I began making my cranberry-orange compote, which I do every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my thoughts flew back to past holidays. Some have been bitter, some sweet, but all have been connected by loving moments between family and friends. This recipe that I was making was given to me in the early 1990’s by my dear friend Stephen Chappell. He was part of a group of guys whom I knew through my then-partner Shane. This group did everything together and were seemingly unseperable, but after Shane’s death, the group slowly splintered and fell away. Even things we count on drift away, regardless of our grasp.

All of those emotions must have been sifting through me many moons ago when I sat down to write a short story for my collection, Gifts Not Yet Given. I had no grand plan; all I knew was that I needed an emotional piece centering around family and Thanksgiving. But knowing that, I sat down and just started to write. And somehow, this cherished recipe found its way into this story.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

Glenbourne, IL

IT WAS A SMALL TOWN with few memorable attributes. Kelman’s Grocery Store was little more than a tiny market with one shelf of fresh produce. The post office had one clerk window and one staffer, in addition to the two mailmen, which meant that if Mrs. Hellner was sick, the office stayed closed, mail deliveries be damned. Glenbourne, IL, was far enough south from Chicago that suburban expansion hadn’t touched it, which left it quiet, if lacking in modern features. There wasn’t much in Glenbourne to attract visitors, though those who chose to stop could always stay at the Glenbourne Manor Guest House, which was rather grandly named, given its basic white farmhouse design and the fact that it rarely held more than two guests at any one time.

The high school closed a few years back, with students now bussed to the neighboring county, but otherwise life in Glenbourne had changed little in the past 20 years. In fact, as Glenn pulled down the main street, visions of his distant youth played out before him as if they’d occurred just yesterday. The long ride into town on his bike on a hot summer’s day with just a dollar in his pocket. Standing at the faded Sherman’s Ice Cream freezer, half frosted over, debating between the orange Creamsicle and the ice cream sandwich. Kelman’s Grocery Store was still there, though Glenn knew from his last visit that the old freezer had since been replaced with one storing Haagen Dazs. Glenn couldn’t imagine many here willing to pay for such an upscale treat, but if that change meant that good things could still be found in his old home town, he wouldn’t complain.

The elementary school had changed color, but otherwise looked the same. He could remember how safe he’d felt back in his youth, having no knowledge of the world and how challenging life could be. Not insurmountable, he often said. If there is no hope, I’d rather hang it up.

But with hope, Glenn felt certain he could conquer anything. Almost. Read the rest of this page »

9/11: Never Forget

Dan, David and RonOn this somber anniversary, I invite you to celebrate with me the lives of Ron Gamboa, Dan Brandhorst, and their young son, David, lost far too soon. Please click here to read my tribute to them, written just after Bin Laden’s death. It was a difficult piece to write, and I hope you find some value within it.

Thanks,

Kergan

 

Our Summer

Russ, Kergan, Mason and MarcusDearest family and friends,

Russ and I have for many months been wanting to share with you the ordeal our family has been facing, but haven’t been able to, until now. As most of you know, I adopted Mason with my now-ex, and I was the stay-at-home father for the first year and a half of Mason’s life. Upon our breakup, I became Mason’s primary custodial parent and have served in that role to this day. Our family quickly grew to include Russ and Marcus, leading to many years of amazing adventures, emotional bonding, and terrifically fun times.

Once we had made the decision to put our house on the market, we discussed this with Mason to find out if he wanted to move with us to Colorado or remain in California. He said he wanted to be with us, as we are the only family structure he has known, and he has reaffirmed that decision many times over. Thus, we were shocked several months ago to find that my ex had filed suit for full custody of Mason, which would mean he would remain in Orange County and we would have only a few visits with him each year. Ever since, our entire family has faced a whirlwind of emotions. Not only have we had to deal with the tremendous stresses of selling our house, buying a new one, and the subsequent pack/move/unpack–while also fulfilling our full time jobs–but we have had this emotional legal battle hanging over us the entire time, ripping our family apart. We have been so saddened to have Mason taken from us over the summer, as moving him wasn’t permitted by the court until this matter was settled. Marcus has missed him terribly, and Russ and I have had countless sleepless nights. You simply can’t imagine how horrific it is to potentially have your child taken from you, against his wishes.

Finally, after months of hearings, court investigations, and testimony, on this past Monday the judge finally ruled that Mason could move, and we flew back to Colorado that same night, as Mason had already missed the first day of school.

Today, we are relieved, but exhausted and emotionally tapped out.

Needless to say, we have appreciated your support throughout these months. One of the many reasons we moved to Colorado was for a less-expensive life, as I have been struggling to pay back debt, only to find ourselves with what will be over $50,000 in legal fees. I’ve opened so many credit cards to cover the attorneys fees, and have no idea how to pay for them, which only serves to make my stress even worse. (I would prefer to work this debt off, so if you know of any freelance writing projects or marketing work which could be done in the evenings, please let me know.) Reluctantly, on the advice of friends who want to help us out, we’ve also set up a GoFundMe account, should anyone like to contribute. http://www.gofundme.com/272329d4

Still, as daunting as the debt may be, that is nothing compared to the incredible relief we feel to have our “Boo Boo” back home with us. Our family simply wasn’t the same without him. And we are especially grateful to all of you for your support, encouragement, and prayers.

Family has always been paramount to us, and we are so grateful to finally have ours back together.

Love,
Kergan and Russ

P.S. Please don’t leave any negative comments about my ex. This entire episode has been so emotionally draining, we want only positive energy moving forward. Thank you for respecting our wishes!

A Note to My Republican Friends. (Yes, I Have Some.)

republican-democrat-battle1This is to all my Republican friends: Many of you have told me that while you yourself have more liberal social views, you vote Republican because you see that party as being for limited government and a strong economy. PLEASE CONSIDER THIS, THOUGH: Your actions in voting Republican are leading to the death of the planet, as your leaders disavow climate change and are indeed working to ban even the phrase. Your leaders, putting corporate profits above ecological sensibility, continue to push for deregulation of corporate oversight, and that deregulation and lack of oversight leads to increased pollution. This, despite a mountain of evidence that our earth is changing quickly, and not for the better. Devastation of species and the environment are imminent, and YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.

Many of you have told me that while you personally support LGBT equality, you feel that Republicans actually are–at their heart–LGBT allies, but are just appeasing the louder voices of the party’s right wing base. But your actions in voting Republican are leading to laws which discriminate against the very people you claim to support. People can be turned away, simply from ordering a meal, or holding a job, or having a roof over their head just because they’re gay. What year are we living in, you may ask? Good question. Just remember, YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.

Many of you have said that while you support tighter gun control, to avoid the kind of mass shootings we’ve seen, you don’t want your guns “taken away.” Well, guess what? In the last 10 years, your guns HAVEN’T been taken away, have they? At the same time, your vote has led to inaction on behalf of stricter laws. We DON’T HAVE tighter gun control laws, which means senseless killings and mass shootings will continue, and YOUR VOTE LED THIS TO HAPPEN.

Many of you say that you think Republicans are better in terms of national security. Yet the biggest terrorist act against the U.S. occurred during a Republican President’s watch. YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN.

Many of you say you want a peaceful, diplomatic foreign policy, yet voted for a man who led us into two ill-considered and expensive wars, killing countless in the process. YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN. Meanwhile, Democratic Leadership is trying to bring peace to areas of strife. You might not agree with every decision made, but it is all with the goal of peace–yet the Republicans in Congress seem determined to screw up even that. Just remember, if an Iran agreement isn’t reached due to Republican interference and war occurs, YOUR VOTE LED THAT TO HAPPEN.

And finally, for those who vote Republican due to fiscal concerns, just remember this: It was your Republican President who got us into the financial crisis and collapse in the first place, and it was a Democratic President who got us out of it. The economy has now gained nearly five times more jobs under President Barack Obama than it did during the presidency of George W. Bush, and the unemployment rate has dropped to just below the historical average. Corporate profits have nearly tripled, and stock prices have soared. ALL THIS ECONOMIC ADVANCEMENT, from a Democrat, not a Republican.

Now, you may want to quibble the details–and I’m sure many of you will–but my point is this: YOUR VOTE MATTERS, and your vote is killing the planet, creating discriminatory laws against LGBT people, ensuring pay inequality for women, enforcing a lower-than-liveable minimum wage which leads people to poverty, and so much more–none of it good. Yeah, the Democrats have problems too. Lord knows, they ain’t perfect. But they aren’t trying to kill the planet either. Peace.

Wisconsin Bans Phrase “Climate Change” When Discussing, Uh, Climate Change

Put a Ring on It: Why Marriage Equality Matters

02-Kergan-Russ-Wedding-Ceremony-331-colorWhile the LGBT community continues to battle discriminatory legislation in Indiana and states contemplating similar such laws, it gives me some measure of comfort to know that this month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the long-raging debate over same gender marriage. For some, the court’s eventual decision will be solely intellectual, but for me, that verdict will be extremely personal, and it is my every hope that marriage equality will be the resulting law of the land in all 50 states. After almost 12 years together and raising two children, my partner Russ Noe and I were legally wed in California on June 7, 2014. That moment was a lifetime in the making and as the gold wedding band slid onto my finger, I was fully cognizant of all that it meant, both legally and emotionally… For as it happens, in my recent history, I’ve experienced inequity more fully than most.

One fall day in September 2001, I lost almost everything I held dear when I stumbled upon an email not intended for me. In it, I learned that my then-partner of six years, “Rob,” had broken the commitments we’d made and that, in fact, I’d been lied to from the start of our relationship. As that email glowed onscreen, I remember looking over to where our infant son lay sleeping, wondering what our collective future held. Rob and I had created a life together, had a commitment ceremony, bought a house, and adopted a child… I’d given up my career to be a stay-at-home dad, only to soon discover that while I was the primary caregiver, with a stronger emotional bond to our son than Rob, I had no legal parental rights whatsoever. Should Rob so choose, he could lawfully banish me from my child’s life.

I couldn’t imagine losing my son, nor how devastating that might be for him emotionally. He was my touchstone, and I vowed that somehow I would find a way for us to remain together.

I was urged by my attorney not to confront Rob about all I’d discovered and instead wait until my rights were settled, as I was then undergoing a process known as a second parent adoption. And so I returned home, plastered a smile on my face, and attempted to act as if everything were fine. I went about my daily life, taking care of our house and son, though I was tormented and wracked with fear inside.  During this period, I even went with Rob to one of his therapy sessions, only to hear the therapist say that the only issues in our relationship were my doubts about Rob’s faithfulness, and that Rob was a moral and ethical human being. For one hour I sat, boiling inside, unable to stand up for myself and all that I’d discovered to be true.

Rob and I had stood in front of our family and friends, declaring our love and commitment toward one another. We called each other “husbands” and combined our finances, which were intended to be shared 50/50. We acted like a married couple and built our life like other married couples, but we didn’t have the same legal protections and benefits as our peers. This discrepancy became even more pronounced as time passed.

After two months of silence, unable to confront Rob, a court case in California placed all second parent adoptions–including mine–on hold, determining them to be incompatible with state law. To clarify this confusion, the California State Supreme Court would have to eventually rule on the legality of second parent adoptions, which could take months. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to remain silent indefinitely, I finally confronted Rob about all I’d discovered. In the process though, in order to ensure my rights were established, I pretended to give him hope that our relationship could be salvaged. I told him that we should take time apart and live separately, to see if we could mend the rift and find a way forward together as we had intended, as a family. In other words, in my attempt to hold onto my son, I became a liar, just like Rob.

We sold our house, and on the day it closed escrow, Rob went to the bank and took out the proceeds, leaving me what he alone determined to be “fair.” I had no choice but to live with that, and any other crumbs he offered, as I had no legal recourse. In the eyes of the court, we were no more than roommates, and I couldn’t afford to rock the boat until my parental rights were firmly established.

Eventually, a court date for my adoption was established. Even as Rob stood next to me in the court room, I waited, breathlessly, afraid he would halt the proceedings and take away this child whom I loved so dearly. At last, the judge signed the paperwork and the adoption was complete. After walking to my car, I sat in the front seat, holding my son and crying uncontrollably, grateful to no longer be afraid and for the ordeal to finally be over.

I had been in a similar emotional state before, in 1995, when my partner Shane Sawick died of complications from AIDS. In that situation, I endured months of anxiety, not to mention the physical and emotional toll of being a daily caregiver, but I did so all with the knowledge of how his story would play out. I knew that the end would come and I knew what it entailed. Still, when it did, it was agonizing.

At the time, I thought that never again would I experience anything as painful, but the prospect of losing my son and the months of uncertainty and turmoil that provoked proved far worse to my psyche.

It took me a long time to fully work through my anger and learn to trust again. Moving forward wasn’t easy, but I did it, with the support of my son and those I loved. That journey led me to Russ and the subsequent adoption of a second son.

Almost one year ago, as the sun shone brightly on a beautiful June day, Russ and I stepped out into our garden wedding ceremony, walking behind our sons, who served as best men. They each had written notes about the importance of family which they read to our assembled guests. Russ and I shared our vows, which we’d also written, publicly proclaiming our promises and commitment to the life we had crafted. At the end of the ceremony, as Russ slipped the gold wedding ring onto my finger, all the emotions and moments of my life seared through me, reminding me of the road I’ve traveled, the battles fought, and the promise of things to come.

Our rings are just simple bands, nothing fancy. But they are durable and signify the legality of our union. They are gold wedding rings, meant to last a lifetime.

This originally appeared on KerganEdwards-Stout.com. Kergan Edwards-Stout’s debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, was the recipient of a Next Generation Indie Book Award. His collection of short stories, Gifts Not Yet Given, was named on multiple “Best Books of the Year” lists. He is currently at work on a memoir, Never Turn Your Back on the Tide.

Photography by Sara + Ryan, flowers by Untamed Designs, and event coordination by Bridal and Event Lounge.

I’m on Rated G Radio Thursday March 26

Garrett Miller Looking for some great conversation? Join host and hottie Garrett Miller and me as we chat about the topics of the day on Rated G Radio. It all happens on Thursday March 26, 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern. You can follow the show at Super Gay Radio and call in with your comments at 323-657-1493.

Last time we chatted, we covered everything from the Long Beach port shutdown to Lady Gaga, and everything in between that is gay-gay-gay, so you know you’re in for a good time!

Twenty Years Ago Today…

Shane - LouvreIt is astounding how our bodies hold and store memories, filing them away, only to open their drawer unexpectedly to remind us of their presence. I had planned on sleeping in late this morning, as I rarely do anymore given that we have kids, but our dog Toby was whining to be let out. Even so, I tried to remain half asleep as I did so, returned to bed, and placed an eye mask over my eyes. On my first deep inhale to restore sleep, though, I immediately woke fully: today marks Shane’s last full day of life, exactly twenty years ago.

It seems impossible that so much time has gone by, as so much of him and that experience remains within me, prompting memories such as this. I think of him often and relate to our children each year, as we unpack Shane’s trove of nutcrackers, just who he was and what he meant to me. And yet I’ve also packed so much into those subsequent years (a commitment ceremony, the birth of Mason, the unexpected and dramatic breakup of that relationship, subsequent costly court battles with my ex, the years of trying to heal, eventually meeting Russ, adopting Marcus, getting married, writing books and embarking on countless other new adventures), that the length of time also seems substantial… As if another life, one so disconnected with the life I lead today.

Just a few weeks ago, on March 5, I turned 50. It was twenty years ago, on the day of my turning 30 in 1995 that we checked Shane into the hospital, where he would die two weeks later.

That year, we had planned for me a simple 30th… Given Shane’s months of decline, I could not bear any major celebrations, of attention being placed on me instead of Shane, and instead opted for my family to join us in L.A. for dinner and cake. When I called my mom to tell her that couldn’t happen, as Shane would be in the hospital, her words and tone communicated to me that she felt as if his health were a direct attempt to sabotage her plans.

For this year’s birthday, I opted for no celebration as well. For some reason, I just didn’t want the attention. I took my birthday off Facebook, blocked the ability of people to post to my wall, and decided instead to have a simple family dinner. Many thought that I was hesitant about turning 50, but I have no qualms about aging. I wear my years on earth and my varied experiences as a badge of honor. But this morning I realized that my reluctance for attention is also tied into Shane and what he was going through 20 years ago on this very day.

Shane and Kergan - Eiffel TowerIn the fall of the prior year, 1994, we’d gone to Europe. I’d never been and Shane wanted to return, both as a likely last-hurrah and to share it with me. While he’d had a few minor health incidents in the months leading up to our trip, as well as a decline in t-cells, he was still relatively healthy. But our 5 week journey to France and Italy took an increasing toll on him as each day progressed. By the time we got to Rome, from which we’d depart, it was physically apparent how taxing the trip had been–you could see the strain on his face. All of the walking and stairs had been too much, and those last few days he would journey out from our hotel only once each day, to quickly take in a sight, sometimes just from a taxi cab window, and then we’d return back to the hotel again. Too weak to go out for meals, I’d bring him takeout–he was craving McDonald’s–and I became inordinately familiar with their location near the Spanish Steps.

Upon our return to the states, his health began to quickly spiral downward. He began having mobility issues. Walking down a straight corridor, he would suddenly veer to the right or left, or stumble. Driving, he would either abruptly stop short, or too far into a crosswalk. It soon began to affect his speech, as his words became muddled.

His eventual diagnosis was Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML), which essentially is a lesion which grows on the brain and increasingly affects the motor skills.

Shane Michael SawickIn just a few months, he went from a vibrant young man, filled with exuberance about life and excitement about our upcoming trip, to a bedridden, shrunken figure, rarely leaving our bed.

While we had hoped to keep Shane at home and comfortable, his body and organs began to fail him, leading to his hospital admittance. In just two short weeks, he lost the ability to speak, as well as the ability to blink to signify “yes” or “no,” and even to squeeze my finger. He was fully alert inside, with all of the knowledge and emotions he’d always had, but he was completely unable to communicate any of it. Each night, after his mother had returned to our apartment and all visitors were gone, I would crawl up alongside him in bed. I would talk to him about my love for him, share the news of the day, and remind him of all the wonderful things we’d experienced together. I talked often of Italy and France… Of the countless kitties of the Pitti Palace. Of the jasmine-like scented grapes we ate in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. And of our last night ever of sex, in Rome, when it became clear the end would soon come.

Shane and friends - Boothbay Harbor, MaineI hold Shane up today, as I have continually over the twenty years since. In that time since, his dear mother has died and his beloved sister, whom I think he loved most of all, has bravely battled cancer. Shane’s best friend Vivian still lives on, but Shane’s L.A. circle of friends has drifted apart. We lost David to AIDS not long after Shane’s death. Another of the group with AIDS came close to dying, but through the miracles of an experimental treatment is alive today. I know Shane would be disappointed to know that this dear group of guys, with whom years of memories were made, would not survive his passing. In many ways, he was the glue, and his absence led to consequences none of us would have imagined.

Shane Michael SawickAnd so today, on the 20th anniversary of his last full day on earth, I hold up Shane Michael Sawick. Without loving him, I don’t think I would have come to love myself. Without him, I would never have become a writer. And without him, I couldn’t have grown up enough, to have explored myself enough, to be the father and partner that I am today.

Shane died on March 22, at 12:22am. He was surrounded by his family and friends, and we played a tape cassette of his beloved Bette Midler singing his favorite song, “Shiver Me Timbers,” as they pumped morphine into his veins and he took his last breath.

He will not be forgotten.