When Tracy Thomson and Taylor Martin came out to their families, they were met with apprehension. Not because they were gay, but because society can be a cruel place for members of the LGBTQ community.
Both of the couple’s loved ones were accepting of their homosexuality, but afraid the word “gay” would quickly become the men’s entire identity.
“Our parents only had a problem with the fact that they couldn’t protect us from certain people thinking certain things about us,” Thomson said. “They were really worried that us being gay would become the focal point of who we were in other people’s eyes.”
Martin, who finished graduate school at Central Michigan University in 2012, came out during his sophomore year at CMU in 2007. Thomson came out in 2009.
The two met online in 2012 and, within two years, moved in together.
They started their life together in Petoskey, and planned to wed in the summer of 2015 – regardless of whether their union would be legally recognized in Michigan.
“We want to go to a friend’s cabin,” Thomson said. “He has a sailboat and said he could take us out three miles into Lake Michigan, which is considered international waters, to get married. That way, our marriage would be recognized federally, but not by the state.”
Although Thomson and Martin are personally keen to the idea of a sailboat wedding, same-sex couples across the state have no option other than to go to such extremes in order to be married.
Last month, a federal judge struck down Michigan’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage, allowing LGBTQ couples to marry. But the ruling only lasted a single day before an appeals court issued a stay, effectively freezing the union of same-sex couples in the state.
This news was devastating to Martin and Thomson, but not because they were worried about themselves – they were more concerned about the couples who had been together for decades.
“When we initially heard the decision to allow same-sex marriages, we were relieved for those couples who had been waiting so long,” Thomson said. “We’ve only been together for two years. There are couples out there who have been together for much longer. We were never going to rush to a courthouse to get married.”
The pair stands by their decision to remain in Michigan, despite being able to legally marry in other states. They’re both northern Michigan natives, they both love their Petoskey home and both want to be near their family and friends.
Martin and Thomson have been lucky. They said they haven’t dealt with a lot of the ridicule or shaming that some same-sex couples have endured. They have a positive outlook on their future and simply want to be able to exercise the same rights as everybody else.
Martin credits his time at CMU and his involvements on campus – including joining a fraternity – for the outlook he has today.
“Coming from CMU, it was a very opening and welcoming experience,” he said. “If I didn’t go to college, I might still be in the closet. You’re exposed to so many people, lifestyles and cultures in college.”
The duo had different experiences coming out and relied on very different support groups – Martin said he stuck to a close-knit group of friends. Thomson had a large group involved in the arts who he said were 100 percent supportive of his coming out. Despite their differences, the couple share the same sentiment: Be true to who you are.
“Be who you are and be proud,” Martin said. “If you’re worried about what everyone else is thinking, you’ll just drive yourself crazy.”
Thomson was able to find solace in his dedicated friends and family who have supported him throughout his life.
“Never change who you are,” Thomson said. “Find the best parts of yourself and then surround yourself with people who (couldn’t) care less about your sexual orientation.”