October 20, 2009

What's It Like to Be the Gay Spouse of a Congressman?

Marlon Reis, the partner of gay congressman Jared Polis (D-Colorado) shared some of his experiences in that role with CNN. Here's an excerpt:

To be a congressional spouse, one must be, above all else, flexible. So I was told when I arrived in D.C. 10 months ago. At the time of my introduction, I was something of a novelty among the spouses. At 28 years old, I was one of the youngest spouses in the U.S. Congress. Jared is the second-youngest congressman. Almost immediately, I was mistaken for a staff aide; then again, for a son designated to attend in place of a spouse. More times than I care to remember, I was told, "But you're so young!"

Rarely has anyone seen me for what I actually am. I don my "Congressional Spouse" lapel pin proudly and hope each time not to be questioned, yet I still receive sideways glances and orders to produce an official ID. It is as if my story is too unbelievable to be true, that I am an interloper, someone in a place I do not belong.

Perhaps this has to do with my being the partner of the first openly gay man to win a seat as a nonincumbent. I have noticed among those I meet a tincture of incredulity; a reluctance to accept that which has not been seen before.

Washington is a place steeped in traditions, some fine, others deplorable. Both my partner and I, in many ways, are a challenge to the outdated notions that have reigned for so long. And just like those who arrive uninvited, from time to time, our experiences highlight differences rather than similarities.

Sometimes we are welcome; other times, our presence seems to inspire resentment and tension. Even among a group that is known for the unusual lifestyle of its members, ours seems to stand out. And yet, we are very much the same as any congressional family.

We take time, when we have it, to enjoy dinners together, to play video games, to walk our new puppy and to celebrate life's happy moments. Like any couple working to make things right, we check in with each other to be sure it all hasn't gotten to be too much.

Click here to read more of the CNN story, including Rep. Polis' view of his partner's role.

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