Will & Sean - A Saint Patty's Day Kind of Love
Sean, the cutie in purple, and Will, the gorgeous gent in gray, were introduced to me by a friend of the blog (Love ya girl!). While I was told they were a young, cute, bi-racial couple, I quickly discovered they're also brilliant and entirely charming. Sean and Will, you are one of my favorite couples and I loved hearing your story!
Name: William Elcron Rosenthal
What are your pronouns? he/him
Hometown: Alexandria, Louisiana
How do you identify? Gay male
What do you do? I'm in the Air Force; I am TACP which basically means that I control air strikes.
What is your favorite book? The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World by Alan Downs. It is an intense book. I only made it halfway through the first time. It analyzes gay trauma and shame and it really goes into the psychology and socio-economic phenomenon of American gay men.
What is your favorite queer resource? Tales of the City! Do you know it? I plan on being Michael Tolliver at one point in my life. Just Levi’s, full mustache, and nothing else. Honestly though, that book was written in the 80’s and it goes over everything queer, like chosen or “logical” family. Anyways, it’s coming out to Netflix soon, they’re re-doing them. Ellen Page is going to be a part of it!
And like Sean said, we listen to a lot of podcasts! I like The Read (it’s an African American Black Queer Podcast), Nancy (a queer experience based podcast), Conversations with People Who Hate Me (which is exactly what it sounds like), and Sean and I have been trying to get into Getting Curious by Jonathan Van Ness.
Name: Sean Patrick King
What are your pronouns? he/him
Hometown: I’m originally from Chicago but I consider Covington, Louisiana, home.
How do you identify? Cis-gendered gay male
What do you do? I currently attend LSU Paul M. Hebert Law School. I'm a rising 3L right now and I’m clerking at Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund which is the oldest and largest Civil Rights organization dedicated to earning the full recognition of civil rights and liberties for the LGBTQ community and everyone living with HIV.
What is your favorite book? It’s a really controversial book, but Faggots by Larry Kramer. I enjoy that book because it takes a look at gay culture prior to the AIDS epidemic and the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic. Since I didn’t live through that era and most of the voices from the era have passed away, I enjoy reading through that time in history, even a controversial account of it, one that isn’t remembered by mainstream culture.
What is your favorite queer resource? I'm reading a lot of gay literature, like works by Larry Kramer or Edmund White. I also read queer lit magazines like Hello Mr. and all of that good stuff. And we’re both really into podcasts. We love Food For Thot. We also listen to Savage Lovecast with Dan Savage and What’s The Tee with RuPaul.
The heart of it:
Ok, let’s get started. Will, tell me about your coming out experience.
W - Coming out was a very long experience for me. Let's start with when I first realized that I was attracted to another student in junior high. My first thought was, “Well, this is it. He’s a guy and that’s that.” At the same time, I had a lot of trauma around the word “gay” so I didn’t identify as that. I just tried to live life as normal as I could, and by that I mean that I had secret relationships with other guys between junior high and coming out, but my main relationships, the known ones, were with females. Isn’t that how it always goes?
I also got super religious at one point and that caused me to further suppress my homosexuality. It wasn’t a great time. Finally, I went into the military and got in a relationship with a guy I was stationed with. It was a really serious relationship. I came out because I fell in love with him and I couldn’t deny it. But the actually coming out process got really bad. I had a lot of panic attacks leading up to it.
Oh no! And how did your family respond?
W - My family was interesting. I always went to school with my younger sisters. When we would get into it they would always call me gay or fag. I mean it was a known fact that I was bullied in school. At school I would get called gay a lot. So when I would fight with my siblings they would lead with that. When I came out to my older sister she basically just said, “I know and I love you.”
When I came out to my mom we were both crying and she said, “I love you,” but then she said, “I'm uncomfortable with it.” So I asked her, “Are you scared I’ll burn in hell?” She said back, “Yeah.” To which I replied, “It’s fine, we’ll just move pass it. We have to focus on the now.”
Whoa. That’s heavy.
What about you, Sean?
S - I think I started to comprehend that I was gay was when I was in the third grade. Looking back on childhood photos I always cocked my head to the side because that's what models would do. It was like I knew I was different. I didn’t identify as trans but I recognized this feminine side to me.
The first time I kissed a boy was in the 4th grade. He was one of my best friends and was moving to a new school so we kissed goodbye. It wasn’t anything sexual or anything like that, we were just kids. Another kid like, a 6th grader who was a bully, called me a faggot and I had this thought of “This is something that is wrong.” So I responded immediately hiding that side of myself, but it didn’t seem to matter. When I moved from Chicago I was immediately labeled the “Gay Kid” and that followed me throughout high school. People pushed sexuality on me before I was claiming that myself. It was difficult. I couldn’t wait for college. I was going to be a new me.
I ended up dating a guy in secret during my junior year of high school. It was a really confusing time for both of us. We would have secret meet-ups. Like I pretended my car was broken for two weeks so he drove me to school and stuff. That next guy was totally different. He was super out and his parents were members of PFLAG. That was a 180 for me. His mom approached me one afternoon and affirmed that it was normal for me to love whoever I loved. She was the first adult who affirmed that part of me and I remember breaking down in her arms. It was this crazy moment to have someone say, “You are who you are and it’s ok” especially when you live in a majority white, Christian, town. She changed everything. After that, I tried to come out to my parents and I mean, they’re still learning and it's been an ongoing process for them to recognize who I am. It’s been a slow process but they’ve made so much progress.
Did things change in college?
S – Well I was determined to have a different experience than high school, so I joined a fraternity and was closeted. I stayed closeted until about 2 months into my college experience.
I ended up dating this one guy, not in secret but also not publicly. One night we went out with friends to a local bar. I remember at one point we were dancing together and it felt like such a good night. We were having fun, drinking, and I was dancing with this boy I was dating. It was a good night. Before I knew it, the bouncers of the club came over and grabbed us and starting dragging us out. They threw him on the ground and started kicking him while they put me in a chokehold and dragged me out of the club. I remember I just kept screaming. They ended up grabbing one of my friends and threw her head against a column. I completely lost it. When they threw me outside the fight or flight instinct kicked in and I just ran and didn’t stop running until I got to a friend’s apartment. When I got outside the complex gate I fell on the ground crying. We cried together for hours. It was a traumatizing experience.
He had a broken nose and a chipped tooth. I just had scraps, scratches, and bruises. Later we were interviewed by our campus newspaper. It caused a huge controversy on our campus. People didn’t believe it happened, our school didn’t take any actions, and the club blamed us for drinking underage. That was the moment that defined my life and pushed me to come out. The next week I quit the fraternity and came out. That was the moment I decided to work with the LBGTQ community so that people growing up wouldn’t have the same experiences I did and my own experiences don’t even measure up to so many people out there.
This year 17 trans women of color have been murdered. This can’t keep happening.
Is that how you got into your career?
S - Since college, my central group of friends have been LBGTQ individuals, so I've always had this connection to the LBGTQ community while also recognizing that our rights are still growing. I’ve been really intentional about keeping up with politics and working with LBGTQ groups, especially when you have people like Donald Trump in the office. I started law school so I could work with an LBGTQ rights organization whether that was HRC or LAMBDA. The fight is not over. Marriage equality has passed but there’s still so much to do. Like individuals with HIV still cannot serve in the military, it’s seen as a disability. There needs to be more awareness about that. And trans individuals still don't have their basic human rights recognized.
What about you and your career, Will?
W - I hate my career for social reasons. I got involved by chance. I went to a recruiter and I wasn’t looking for any particular job but I was chosen as a battlefield airman. So I took a test and passed it and that’s how the process started.
I don't know if you want to hear this, but I’m not particularly interested in my career. It’s been a shit show from the beginning. Most of that is contributed to me not fitting in. It's an all-male career field. I’m basically in a fraternity.
My first station was in Germany and when I got there they took all of the new guys downstairs and forced us to drink. I never drank before I went to Germany. I said I didn’t want to drink and they said I had to. That's how the military was for me for a while. I had to learn who I was before I could stand up for myself.
Now I won't do anything I don't want to, and I’ll stand up for myself if need be, but I still don’t really fit in. I’m hoping to transition into clinical social work. My dream is to work with LBGTQ youth because you can get lost out there. If I had someone who I could have talked to who was able to affirm me, it would have been completely different. If I could do that for someone in the future that would mean so much.
So gents, how did you meet?
W - Oh.
S - This story.
W - It was Saint Patty’s Day in Baton Rouge ….
S - Oh yes. It was Saint Patty’s Day in Baton Rouge.
W - Like I said, I never drank before the military…but I learned to drink in the military. And girl, it’s Saint Patty's Day, I can't drink alone. So I went to Splash, a gay bar, by myself.
S - Before we get to how we meet, I should say that I went out with a bunch of friends that night.
W - Sean was on a 24-hour binge.
S - I was wasted. At the time, I was in a relationship; It was a really bad relationship. It was um…
W - abusive, I’m so sorry.
S - Yeah, it was verbally and emotionally abusive and I was kind of trapped in that and then I found out that he cheated on me. So I went out with my friends and decided that I was going to have a good night. So I got to Splash and I saw this very handsome man dancing in a yellow Pacsun t-shirt, blue jeans, and . . .
W - Oh stop! I can say everything he wore as well.
S - So I saw this very cute guy looking at me. We made eye contact a few times and he was out there dancing his little heart out.
W - Um, you were looking at me, sir.
S - Anyways, every time I looked at him, he was looking at me! After a while, I saw him go up to the bar and I thought I’m going to be mad at myself if I don’t talk to this boy. So I went up to the bar and I asked, “Can I buy you a shot?” And then he told me he was straight.
You said you were straight?
W - I’m at a bar by myself so I’m going to say, “No girl, I’m straight.” And the “girl” didn’t give it away at all!
S - And I believed him a 100% so I said, “Ok, that’s fine. I’m still going to buy you a shot.” Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “I'm not about to drop $8 on a Vegas Bomb for this straight boy hanging out in a gay bar,” so I bought him a Fireball.
W - So he bought me the shot and started walking away so I took a chance and said, “I was joking.” So he came back and then we started talking.
S - After that, we exchanged numbers then went back to dancing.
W - It was about to start closing so I got out of there because I didn’t want anyone to try and take me home.
S - And my friends and I were leaving, but my friend’s car was broken down. My boyfriend at the time started yelling at me and called an Uber for himself while I kept thinking, “Here we go again. It was fun to talk to the cute boy at the bar but here we are back to reality.” As he was yelling at me I got a message from Will asking, “Hey, where are you?” And I responded something like, “We’re already on our way back to our apartments.” I was thinking that I was never going to see him again and I didn’t want to get him involved. And then lo and behold, Will pulls into the parking lot.
W - I wanted to say goodbye and get a hug or something.
S - So he pulls up and asks, “Is your friend having trouble with his car?” and he offered us a ride home. So we agree to let Will drive us home and then the Uber pulls up and my bf screams at me, “You’re either getting in this car or I’m leaving you!” At that point, I'm like “Well, you know. I think that choice is made for me.” So I got in the cute boy’s car and never looked back. A week later we were dating. Then like a week in he said: “I love you.”
W - Boy no, that did not happen.
S - I have the messages.
W - Ok, but that night I was drinking a really powerful rum. Give me a break.
What was it like dating with Will’s deployment right around the corner?
W - In fairness, I did tell him about my deployment right away.
S - But I was in denial until he showed me the email saying, “These are my orders, I leave tomorrow.” I held out hope until that moment.
W - We had been together at that point for five months but they kept changing my orders so Sean didn’t believe it was going to actually happen.
What happened next?
W - So let’s stick with the idea that I said, “I love you,” like two weeks in. Let's say that was real.
That same night we went to bed and Sean said, “I think, by the time you get back I’ll be ready for a ring.”
S - Did I really say that?
W - Facts. You did.
S - So let’s say that’s real for a second.
W - Well I thought, yeah, let's go with that. It will be about a year which would be about now actually.
S - Girl, there is no ring on this finger.
W - Ha! I know how I’m going to propose and what kind of ring I’m going to get.
S - Is it a Tiffany’s?
W - Of course!
* Unbeknownst to Sean, Will bought a ring shortly after our interview, and yes, it was a Tiffany’s. They are now planning their wedding!
I love it!
As we finish off, can you tell me about some people who inspire you?
W - Let’s start with Marsha P. Johnson. I’ll be honest and say that I was ignorant about gay culture until I met Sean. Like all those books I mentioned earlier, I found them through Sean. So I didn’t know a thing about Marsha P. Johnson, however, she became a very big inspiration to me because she was black and she was gay and she was fearless and was her true self. If you watch any documentary on her, you’ll find out that she was fearless about who she was and didn’t change herself to fit into what other people told her to be. She was true to herself even when she was treated as if she had a mental illness and prescribed lithium. What happened to her was unfortunate, but the impact she made throughout her life continues today.
S - Beyond Marsha P. Johnson, every single person who has stood for LBGT rights inspires me. Especially, I’m inspired by the pioneers who defined what it meant to identify as LBGTQ. I’m talking about the minds behind The Stone Wall Riots and the Gay Liberation Movement. And let’s say it like it is, those leaders were mainly trans women of color. They were the people who were so oppressed that they had nothing left to lose.