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    November 24, 2006

    Making family

    Posted by: Chris

    I got a few reminders over the holiday yesterday about how we gay men make our own families, whether or not we're in relationships. I spent the day in Washington, thousands of miles from my partner in Brazil. Although Thanksgiving of course has no special meaning for him, he sent me a sweet online card and we talked several times by Internet telephone (we give thanks to Skype!).

    During one stretch of afternoon, I drifted off into a daydream, one I've had many times before, of him  here with me, maybe smuggled in my suitcase. I know how silly that sounds, but the subconscious takes its own course.

    LongtimecompanionI was reminded of that fantasy later, as I watched the closing scene from "Longtime Companion." I found the film on my TiVo, recorded a year earlier, and had decided to see it (for the first time).

    Released in 1990, "Longtime Companion" was one of the first "AIDS movies," and it effectively drew you back to the fear and loss that filled the decade of the 1980s for gay men. At the end, when the original group of seven friends has dwindled to three, they imagine what it would be like if a cure for the virus was discovered, and they could celebrate with all their lost friends. As silly as it sounds, it is a devastating scene. I defy you to watch it without tears.

    These men created a family of friends, boyfriends and partners — longtime companions, as the New York Times deigned to refer to them in obituaries — and they stuck by each other as blood families do. Some were still supported by blood relatives, others were turned away, but as the character Willy (Campbell Scott) describes in a memorial service for his friend David (Bruce Davison), their friendship circles were welcoming and unshakeable.

    AIDS is still with us, of course, and still kills. I learned this month that Dennis Vercher, the longtime editor of the Dallas Voice, recently passed away from complications from the virus. He was only 53. But even without the trauma of weekly memorial services, there's still evidence of how we make our families. I counted a half-dozen "orphan" dinners for Thanksgiving yesterday, just among the folks I know. These meals are usually hosted by a close set of friends that then widen their net, inviting anyone and everyone unable or not wanting to return home to see family for the holiday.

    With so many lost to AIDS and the advent of new drugs, the disease and a united response to it are not so ingrained into the consciousness of those who came out in the last five to 10 years. That's a good thing, of course, because no generation should have to endure such horror, whether from epidemic or war. But these wonderful "orphan meals" on Thanksgiving and Christmas are a welcome reminder of how much we gain from our opening up our circle of friends, our chosen families, to the larger community.



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