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“Fellow Travelers” Could Have Been My Story

Guest post written by Jim Joseph, author of “Out and About Dad

As I watched the final scene of the final episode of the streaming tv show “Fellow Travelers,” a sudden realization came over me.

My husband Christopher and I met in 1998 and then got legally married in New York State in 2015. We wanted to wait to get married when everyone could, so we waited for the Supreme Court ruling. We were in a cab on the way to Costco (as dads often are) when the news broke and we immediately set a date, the anniversary of our first date. He is, from day one, my “one consuming love.” If you’ve seen “Fellow Travelers,” then you know. 

Jim and his husband Christopher on their wedding day

I had been previously married to a woman and had two very young kids when Christopher and I met. He quickly became family to me and the kids … a caregiver, confidant, homework consultant, medic, and everything else you need from a father figure. We’ve gone through all of our family’s milestones together including first dates, high school proms, graduations, college, graduate school, relationships, first jobs, and now, with our daughter,  marriage and a first baby.

It’s been a shared consuming love for us both. 

But as I followed the love story of Hawk and Tim in “Fellow Travelers” and then watched that final reconciliatory scene, I realized that had I been born maybe ten, or fifteen, or twenty years earlier, then the love story of Jim and Christopher would have looked much more like the love story of Hawk and Tim. Our love hasn’t ended and we’ve lived it and guided it together. Hawk and Tim’s love story had a definitive ending, with a life that they couldn’t guide and one that they couldn’t share together. 

Jim with his two kids

As a single divorced gay dad when I first came out, I was alone and felt like one of a kind. This was before “Will & Grace,” “Ellen,” Andy Cohen, and Anderson Cooper. But the climate back then was changing as more dads also came out and as more gay men became fathers through their own journeys. Now, depending on where you live, it’s common to see gay dads. And there are resources like GaysWithKids to help gay men become dads. 

When I came out, I too had a big job (private sector) where I was definitely afraid to come out for fear of retaliation. I was also afraid to present myself at school for fear of the kids being bullied. But again the climate was changing and evolving and becoming more accepting, so I got braver and braver and ended up living a life proudly out. With a partner and then husband at my side.

Hawk and Tim never had that chance. So Hawk remained married to a woman, remained closeted, and remained terrified about his work. His children didn’t really know him at all. All of this shaped his relationship with Tim, just like my experience shaped my relationship with Christopher. 

So as Hawk stood in front of the AIDS Quilt with his daughter in that last scene of “Fellow Travelers,” I realized that Hawk could have been me. It would have been me had I been born a decade or two earlier. It made me realize the fragility of our lives, the timeliness of our experiences, and how much we are all affected by public sentiment and public policy. Indeed it made me realize how far we have come in those decades.

It also made me realize how much it feels like we are sliding backwards. A love story like Jim and Christopher should be the norm, unlike that of Hawk and Tim. We can’t go back to Hawk and Tim. Can’t. Won’t. No.

So I am going to use this “one consuming love” as inspiration to do my best to help make sure everyone gets the chance to have their own love story, what ever that love story is. 

Including loving oneself as well.