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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interview With Thomas

He has seen boom times, bust, and boom again in his home city of Calgary, Alberta. Now he makes his living between Toronto and Winnipeg. Facility planning, strategic project planning and an architecture thesis once filled his time but these days Thomas is fully occupied with the upcoming marriage to his long-time partner Jim. Normally a very private person, Thomas is all smiles as he speaks openly about gay marriage, his life with Jim, and his close ties to Calgary and his father.

Preparations are in the final stages and anxiety is high but the private and sometimes reserved Thomas laughs off the stress, “When I proposed I knew it was the next step but it seemed like setting a date far away you’d have lots of time to adjust to it. Now it’s less than a week away and I chuckle at how quickly time ha flown.” Power tools and sawdust fill the garage and a new gazebo stands waiting in the backyard. A close friend has been enlisted to conduct the ceremony. “If we could get married in a Catholic church with all the pomp and circumstance”, says Thomas, “I think Jim would love it because that’s what everyone grows up with in their experience, but that’s not possible.” So they’ve designed their own personally meaningful ceremony and this Saturday, Thomas and Jim will say their vows.

Without support from Jim’s religious tradition, Thomas feels no need to force a conversion to the United Church that does provide ceremonies for same-sex couples. He does feel that gay marriage is a “living issue” in modern day faiths and doctrines. He believes Churches will find their own stances but if any Church or religion is to perform a service to the public this issue must be addressed. He admires the relationship that exists between Churches and education that results in better funding and more community support for private schools but, “…community support doesn’t give Churches the right to persecute or ostracize anyone who is gay.” Ultimately the rule of law must be obeyed although Thomas would feel bad about being excluded from attending Church or the sacrament.

Thomas met Jim at an Eaton’s Building fundraiser held through the Historical Society and by week’s end, after two dates, interest in a larger relationship was definitely there. Thomas says, “I felt like I was being seduced.” Although Jim took the lead early in the relationship Thomas responds, “I wasn’t exactly passive or innocent in the matter.” Thomas chuckles and explains despite the fact Jim showed an early commitment it was Thomas who finally proposed three years later. “When I felt that there was no doubt in my mind that this was the person that I really wanted to spend the rest of my life with I felt I needed to then put all my chips on the table.”

However, when he met his future spouse same-sex marriage, while legal in Manitoba, was not recognized in Alberta where Thomas and his father hail from and a province where Thomas still feels at home. Therefore the soft-spoken Thomas had not always seen marriage as an option. “It wasn’t legal in my home province so it wasn’t something I ever really considered part of my future.” It was only after gay marriage was resolved nationally and made possible in Alberta that Thomas felt marriage could be a part of his life.

He relates, “I was in Toronto when it became official. There were media standing on the corner of the gay village looking for some kind of excitement or hype about this initiative being passed and there was none in Toronto. But Toronto has been very gay-positive and I thought you’re standing in the wrong place. You need to be standing on a street in Calgary, or on a street in Edmonton, or Lethbridge, or Red Deer, or someplace else where it wasn’t considered acceptable and there you’ll see the excitement and the commentary. In urban areas that had already moved on it was considered that it would have to go national.” Despite Alberta’s conservative stance on this issue it is the spirit of independence that Thomas most admires about his home province.

The “politics of the time” was a factor in Thomas’ proposal but not his only consideration. His father and the people he grew up with in Alberta didn’t share the national shift in attitude. Thomas and his father share a close bond born of tragedy. His mother died while he was a young boy and his single parent father raised him. Thomas reflects, “About the time that I was ready, it was after a time that Jim had met my family, that my father got to know him and accepted the idea of me living with someone.” His concern goes deeper, “I wanted to give my father enough time to get used to the idea before I made a wider declaration of my relationship.” Some time and many heart to heart conversations later Thomas’ father has given his full support to his youngest son. His father helped Thomas see what a large responsibility children so on this issue Thomas and Jim will take their time, and live their life together one life-changing event at time.

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