Modern love is made from the inspiring stories of human history.
Michael started his adolescent life in the 1950's engaged in criminal activity. I say that with a heavy heart. The one thing he was absolutely sure of was that he was naturally attracted to men which meant that having sex was breaking the law.
Technically, Michael was my mother's cousin but for the ease of introductions we stuck with 'cousins'. He became my best friend and my mentor when it came to issues of the heart. I would blush as he talked openly of sex and love. It was refreshing and real.
Back in what was not that long ago, Michael longed to be in a relationship. To share love and live with another man but the law and his strong Catholic faith prevented that. He knew what he wanted was forbidden and so began a personal struggle to understand love. To follow his heart was something that greater powers denied him. And so as what happens with many relationships even today, is that sex got confused with love.
As part of my 'mentoring', often over a dubonnet and lemonade, he would recount many stories of his intimate adventures, of meeting men in public places, of secret signs, a certain glance, of underground parties and private clubs. It sounded exciting to be ducking the law and arranging a clandestine rendezvous. He had an affair with a Catholic priest who would smuggle him back into the seminary at night. It was an ongoing arrangement, but the guilt became too much and Michael decided to confess.
"Do you repent your sin, my child?"
"No father, I do not. I really enjoyed it".
And so honesty and penance came hand in hand.
Desperate to find a way to live and be loved without sin or fear of prosecution he begged his doctor for aversion therapy. He had heard of pills that made you revolt over men and electrical shocks that could make you switch your alliance. However torturous it sounded it couldn't more painful than living a life without openness or respect. His Doctor, an enlightened man, refused and told him to be true to himself and to get on and enjoy his life.
And that is what he did.
I must have been about nine years old when I overheard my grandmother whispering to my mother in the kitchen.
"Do you know a David Smith?"
"Well Mrs. Green heard that Michael is moving in with him."
"Who is he?"
"That's the point. Nobody knows who he is. It's all very peculiar."
And the conversation continued around whether Michael was in trouble, was moving in against his will and concerns for his safety.
Nobody thought to wonder that he had fallen in love.
Michael and David were very different people. David was a successful business man, focused and traditional and Michael was vivacious, funny and creative. They had different passions, different strengths and different backgrounds. But I believe that the secret to their life long dedication to each other came down to trust and respect. They supported each other and wanted the best for each other. They were unapologetically in love for over 40 years.
Why am telling this story? Because you know as well as me that love is an expression and natural part of being human. It is not something anyone should have to fight for or be denied. For many of us modern love now allows that freedom and still for many that right is denied. Partnership is a gift and one where gratitude can soon get forgotten.
Michaels story is reminder to be grateful for our love.
It was after his death three years ago that the paradox hit me. Many gay people of his generation yearned for an open loving relationship and yet today in countries where we have that right many struggle to stay in one for the long term.
His life has inspired me to support other gay couples in creating a conscious relationship. Falling in love is the easy part - staying in love is harder. But I believe that same sex couples have an advantage because they don't have to inherit any of the history that straight relationships do. Stereotypical roles don't need to exist. They can build something fresh and new and be creative in designing partnerships.
History hasn't grown up enough yet to reveal many role models or how gay couples are creating lasting loving partnerships. We are in a century of modern love and my hope is that we can create a new kind of legacy.
I have one question though. And it's one I ask my clients.
'What is the impact your relationship wants to have on the world?'
For Michael I'd say it was to follow your heart and that true love does survive the obstacles of life.