Gay author Rick Reed reflects on straight marriage, different forms of love
Author Rick Reed was married to a woman before he came out of the closet as a gay man. Now, Reed lives with his husband in Seattle and writes novels. His latest is “Legally Wed,” and it tells the story of a man named Duncan who proposes to his boyfriend when gay marriage becomes legal in Washington state. Duncan’s boyfriend refuses, sending Duncan into a spiral of confusion. Reed talked to us about his book and how much the story rings true with his own life. Here is our edited interview.
Metro: The main character of “Legally Wed,” who is gay, wants to marry a woman? Tell me more.
The book is kind of a romantic comedy. He proposes to his boyfriend and gets turned down, so he starts looking for a straight woman to marry because he sees the straight marriage model as an ideal. He meets a woman and they become friends and decide to get married, but the twist is that they get a wedding planner who is gay and he falls in love with the planner, which causes complications.
How closely does “Legally Wed” mirror your own life?
I don’t think I realized this when I was writing this, but I too grew up as seeing straight marriages as an ideal and as the logical thing that one does. Gay marriage wasn’t even an option when I was coming of age. I think in some ways the book takes my own life experience and puts a comic spin on it and condenses it down to a short time frame, whereas my experience went over years. It’s kind of coming to the fore now that there’s something more from my life here than I realized.
You were in a heterosexual marriage before. Can you tell me more?
We met in college and we were together for three years before we got married, and we were married for seven years. In that time, we had a son and, for the most part, it was a very good marriage. I loved her very much. We got along great and we were good, loving parents and we made a good team, but I was – during this whole time – I was hiding from myself. Hiding from everyone I knew and wearing a mask. Psychologically it got harder and harder to pretend I was something that I wasn’t.
How long did you know you were gay?
I can look back in retrospect and say, ‘Oh, I should have known when I was a kid, when I was 13 and loved Bette Midler,’ but there’s a difference between knowing something and accepting it. While I had some self-knowledge that I felt this attraction for my own sex, I didn’t accept it and I thought it was something that I could change and would change, especially when I met a woman and fell in love with her. I thought these feelings would go away. There are lots of people who say you can change and I learned that that’s not true. I think I probably always knew I was gay, but I don’t think I accepted it until I was in my thirties.
When did you tell your wife about your feelings?
It came out when we were having some difficulties, probably three years into our marriage or four years – somewhere in there. And it was something we really tried hard to deal with to see if we could continue to be married and we worked on that for several years to try to make it work. We saw therapists and couples’ therapists and we really tried to make it work and finally we agreed we needed to go our separate ways because there was no way we could make this work and be fair to each other.
Were you ever really in love with her?
Oh, yeah. And I still love her. She’s the mother of my son and as I said, we got along very well and so our relationship was one of the best of my life and still is. She still lives in Chicago and I’m in Seattle, so we don’t see each other often but we still care about each other and when we do see each other, it’s a good thing.
How did the relationship with her change when you came out to her?
We went through a mini version of what I had gone through most of my life. We both thought there might be some way we could make it work, that there might be some way I could change. The first therapist I saw worked with me to try to change my orientation – which doesn’t work. It can’t work. The second one I spent time with, who was actually a very good therapist, taught me to accept myself as I was and to see that I wasn’t damaged or evil or that there was something wrong with me and just embrace who I was.
Do you think everything would have been different for you if gay marriage had been legal when you were younger?
Yes, I do. I had some knowledge of who I was but I didn’t accept it. If gay marriage had been around when I was 25, then that would also mean society was much more accepting of gay people and that it wasn’t a source of shame. If all those things weren’t there, then I would have much more easily recognized these feelings and accepted them.
Is there anything you regret about your first marriage?
I don’t regret the relationship we have and had, and I don’t regret the marriage we had. There were some very happy times. We had a son I love very much and have a great relationship with. The only thing I regret is my indecision and not accepting myself and hurting another person. I wish I had never hurt someone else.
Your son is gay and married. What was it like for you to officiate his wedding?
It was pretty wonderful. There was a lot of pressure to come up with the right words and as a father, to see those words without bursting into tears. It was wonderful to see him find the person he loved and I love my son-in-law just as much as my son now, so it’s only happiness.
And you’re also married. How long have you been married?
My husband and I got married the first day it was legal in Washington state in Dec. 2012. We just had our first anniversary in December, but we’ve been together for 12 years.
How did you feel when gay marriage became was legal in Washington?
It made us feel equal to everyone else. It helped us feel even more solidified, even though we’ve been together for a decade. Even the very next day we felt a little closer and a little more like a family. That’s probably the best way I can put it.
Were you worried he’d say no like Duncan’s boyfriend did in the book?
No, I wasn’t worried he would say no. We’ve been together for more than a decade. We both eagerly watched how things were going in the state and watched the election returns so we pretty much knew. We didn’t even really have an official proposal. After it was made legal he called me up and said, “I’m going to change my Facebook status to ‘engaged,’” so I said, “I’ll do that too.”