Passages

vince-crisostomo-headshotVince Crisostomo is the Program Manager for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s 50-Plus Network.

I was 30 when Jesse Solomon and I registered as Domestic Partners in San Francisco.  We had moved to San Francisco from New York in November 1990.  Our Domestic Partnership was sealed in a quiet ceremony at city hall with little acknowledgement of our change in status except for the taxi driver who refused to take our money.  She said it was an honor for her to get us there and recommended dinner at the House of Prime Rib.  She even said she would wait for us if we wanted.  The dinner was grand and Jesse promised me a big wedding ceremony later where we would invite all of our friends.  I wondered who would come since most of them were in New York.

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Our marriage ceremony that took place in June 1991 was a humble affair. I thought we might have to cancel it because we had very little money and Jesse was so sick.  The thought of our wedding happening over our bed was not appealing to me as it did not resonate with anything I thought to be romantic.  Not to mention the context it gave to “til death do us part.”  The day finally arrived and while it did not happen without mishap our wedding could not have been more perfect.  The restaurant I worked for, Ella’s, catered the food which included a beautiful cake that Jesse almost dropped because he was not strong enough to carry it.  Our friends who came brought sacred cloths, flowers, bells and candles that transformed our home into the most pristine of wedding venues.  The ceremony started two hours late but no one seemed to mind.  As the setting sun cast a beautiful glow over all in attendance, there was not a dry eye in the house as we recited our vows.

For the longest time, for me HIV has been about Loss.

The loss of time

The loss of life.

The loss of people, possessions, identity, the places and things that give meaning to our lives.

Jesse died on October 6, 1991.  Having seen what happened to friends of his he took extra steps even before he passed to make sure I was provided for when he was gone. That is something that I have always been grateful for and brought to and fought for in my work with clients and friends.  The results have not always been positive and sometimes just plain painful.   Each time you just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and put one foot in front of the other.  I have lived more years with HIV than I have without.  My life has been characterized by loss and grief.  Some of my friends have even called it tragic.

On Friday, June 25, 2015 the Supreme Court Declared Same-Sex Marriage To Be Legal In All 50 States. The decision was the culmination of the blood, sweat and tears of so many people. Many of whom are not here today to see the difference their efforts have made.  At one point I thought maybe it doesn’t matter but it does. It really does. That I get to see this in my lifetime is just too wonderful for words.  I was honored on June 25, 2015 to attend the wedding of friends who just happened to be celebrating their 25th Anniversary as a couple.  I started to write this two days later,  just as I was about to step out to begin the San Francisco’s Pride festivities for 2015.   I had wanted to take some time to acknowledge those who had come and gone before me but only managed to compose a short email that I sent out to the members of the 50-Plus Network I manage for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.  We don’t know what the Supreme Court decision will ultimately mean. There is still quite a lot of work to do but for the first time in a long time my heart felt filled with hope and the possibility that I felt at my first Pride back in 1979.  I am grateful to have found work that allows me to do the things I feel passionate about and I have immense gratitude for the many living and who have passed who make the work and my life so fulfilling.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.