Couples Chronicles — Interview 25
Because I Love Her So Much
First published in April 1989
© 1999, Demian
Celeste, 28, and Sharane, 31, first met eight years ago at the fundamentalist church they both attended. After two years they became friends and they have now been a couple for more than four years. Celeste and Sharane have combined their last names into Glatzmaiermace. Through adoption, Celeste recently became the second parent to Sharane’s two children, Daisy, 8, and Marianne, 5. The adoption may be the first of its kind in Washington state. The family of four lives in Spokane, where Celeste is studying surgical technology and Sharane is a lay minister at MCC.
What did you first think of each other?
Sharane: I thought she was pretty neat and she thought I was a pest.
Celeste: I didn’t notice her for a long time. When I did, she just followed me around like a little puppy.
At the time, I was involved with my first woman lover. That lasted a year and then I had a nine-month involvement with a second woman. There was no reason to get to know any other women because I had somebody I wanted.
Sharane: We were both in a gospel band and I was married with two kids. Then she got married, so we had men in common and we talked about that.
Celeste: I got married to a man because my minister told me I shouldn’t have a female best friend. They thought that it would straighten me out.
An interesting theory.
Celeste: One they don’t know much about, obviously.
My relationship with this man was good for the first year. I did love him very much. I tried to be “the good little wife” and do everything I was supposed to do. The church leader told me to be submissive and petite, but I’m just the opposite.
After the first year I started asking questions like “Do I have to play this part?” and “How come he’s not giving the things I think he should be giving, like time and energy?”
I was just not connected to this guy. No matter how much I tried, we could not get inside each other’s hearts.
How about your sex life?
Celeste: Actually our sex life was just fine the first year. The second, I completely lost the sexual drive with him.
Now, I talk to my former husband about once every six months. We’re friends and I’d like to see him sometime, just to see how he is doing.
What is your family background?
Celeste: I was raised Catholic in Spokane, the youngest of seven children. One brother went into the monastery and one sister went into the convent. Neither stayed and both are now married. I left the Catholic church and joined a fundamental church when I was 19.
Any early indications you were attracted to women?
Celeste: Yes. Since I was eight, I had best friends who I loved. I would do anything for them. At the time, I thought these feelings were unique, but I knew they were real.
Until three years ago, I never thought I was lesbian, even after having two lovers.
Sharane, what is your family background?
Sharane: I’m the oldest of three. Since I was 14, I went to a fundamental church.
We are fortunate in that we have full support from both our families, although hers is Catholic and have to try harder. Mine are Episcopal and it came fairly easy for them. My younger sister is gay, so when I came out my parents had already dealt with the issue.
I dated men a lot, got married and was a typical “little woman.” It wasn’t a good marriage, but we get along well now.
Did you have sexual relations with women before Celeste?
Sharane: Never. I told Celeste I was a virgin when I married her.
Is your relationship “monogamous?”
What brought you to a fundamental church?
Sharane: My best friend introduced me. I was raised with the knowledge that Jesus was the son of God, but it never really meant anything to me until going to church with her and I’m really glad I did. By the way, I loved my friend for 12 years thinking we were just best friends. Now I understand why I loved her so deeply.
I became a member of a local fundamental church when I was caring for my baby and needed a church within walking distance. Celeste and I still love the church, even though we were disfellowshipped. (That’s a form of excommunication.) Celeste and I were physically involved and we wouldn’t follow their rules.
The reason we didn’t know we were gay was because we never learned what gay meant. No one ever mentioned the word, it never came up. We were just “physically involved.” We thought we had a problem getting too close to our best friends.
How did the church leaders know you were physically intimate?
Sharane: Someone saw us kissing and assumed it because they knew Celeste’s history with the other two women. They called us in and asked us questions.
They thought they could help us stop it, believing it is a sin that would separate us from God. They were acting in love, not in malice, but they were ignorant. They were doing their best, believing it was for our good. They still believe that. It was not easy for them and it hurt them.
I visit the church sometimes — it’s been nearly five years — but I can’t be open or get involved. I couldn’t go to bible studies or talk about my family. I go to the service late and leave early.
That sounds like an oppressive situation.
Sharane: Yes, it is.
I enjoy the service a lot. I respect the leaders, admire the knowledge and the preaching, and I like the people.
We both forgive them.
How did your opposite-sex marriage end?
Sharane: When the leaders called us in to talk about our relationship they also called in our husbands and told them. The church leaders publicly rebuked us, telling the congregation what we had done. The purpose was to help us not do it again. They imposed a lot of rules, not the least of which was not to see each other.
Other rules were that Celeste had to wear dresses and not laugh loud or run in the halls. We had to sit by our husbands and not raise our hand in Sunday school. I was not to babysit in the nursery and was removed from my position as church pianist.
I know that this sounds really far out, but it was in the context of Christian community and love. The result, however, was that we couldn’t live our Christian faith joyously.
Eventually, I left the church and my husband at the same time. Soon after, Celeste also left the church, realizing that we couldn’t live like this. My husband divorced me, hers took another year.
My husband and the church had told me I was not a fit parent, but I was their mother and my kids needed me. I said to God, “I’m going to ask for the kids. If you give them to me, then I have your vote of confidence that I’d make a good parent.” He gave them to me and I’ve had God’s vote of confidence ever since. Celeste and I are really both very good parents.
My former husband had liberal visitation rights, which he did not exercise. I did try to make the marriage work, because of my Christian commitment, but I had to leave him to get his respect. Well, I got his respect and also my freedom. He sees the kids about twice a year, the same as before Celeste adopted the kids.
Why did she adopted your kids?
Sharane: To make her their legal parent and be absolutely equal with me in every way. This is a good way for us, as same-sex partners, to legally protect her right to continue caring for the kids in the event of a catastrophe.
She got a second parent adoption, which is like being a step-parent. If we should split, the parent who doesn’t get custody of the kids would be held liable for child support by the state.
Was it difficult to get the adoption?
Sharane: No, because we had an ideal case. You need to have the departing parent willing to sign over custody. My husband was willing to do that. If the departing parent is not willing to give up their right, even a heterosexual step-parent cannot adopt the kids.
The home study person is very important in the adoption process. He or she represents the children in court and is the primary consultant for the judge. It’s very important that you can trust that person to say, “Yes, I think these people should be parents.” You hire them and get to pick who you want.
We picked a woman who was a member of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) so we could rely on her support. Her specialty was family and sexuality counseling. You can’t get much more professional in the needed areas than that.
Do your kids understand their parents are lesbians?
Sharane: The kids are very open. Daisy is very proud of us. Recently, she voluntarily wrote an article about her gay parents for her gifted children group’s newsletter.
She tells all her friends. We talk to her friends’ parents when it comes time for friends to spend the night. Until then it’s none of their business — I would want to know where my kid was spending the night — and we’ve never had anyone say no.
Have there been any difficult areas in your relationship?
Sharane: I have some major food allergies, which give me emotional reactions. We didn’t know that during the first couple of years of our relationship. Celeste has been very supportive through the whole thing, but I made it kind of rough because I was not emotionally in control.
For a long time we thought it was PMS. I was reacting emotionally at ovulation, before my period, and also at the full moon. It was complicated by a candida allergy. Everyone has candida in their body, not all of us can fight it.
It’s been a couple of years since learning of the food allergy. I control my diet, stay away from sugar and aged foods like yeast and leftovers and we do fine. We have a very good relationship, we’re very close.
What has gone well in the relationship?
Sharane: Celeste has been an easy going, laid-back person and that has been the salvation of our relationship. I’m intense by nature and we balance each other well. She helps me to be light and laugh. I connect with her more serious side, which most people don’t see.
Celeste: I agree, though I wouldn’t say that I’m the salvation. I’d just say we equal each other out. I’m laid back when its tense and she’s smart when we need that. Otherwise, I’d float past everything.
How did you deal with Sharane before her diet change?
Celeste: I floated, which is how we could go through those times when she was calling me names and telling me to leave the house; that we were done with. My mind said, “That’s not really her.”
There were times I got hurt and we both had to sit down and cry about it and forgive each other. But for the most part, I just stuffed it down.
Did you get any outside support?
Celeste: No. Most of my closest friends were saying, “I don’t know how you put up with it. Maybe you had your time together and need to move on.” Some encouraged and helped me.
I couldn’t see myself leaving the relationship, for whatever reason.
Ever get professional counseling?
Celeste: Yes, we’ve seen counselors off and on. There was a year we went regularly, Sharane for her allergy-induced problems and me for support. We also counseled with a couple of ministers.
Now that Sharane has her allergies under control, things are fine. If she happens to eats inappropriately, she’ll tell me. Then there is no need for counseling because we understand the problem, what to do and how to handle it.
Jesus is the focus of our family, bringing us through it all. We trust he’ll lead us were we need to go.
Have you had a wedding ceremony?
Celeste: Yes. First we had an MCC “blessing.” We consider it our marriage because we committed our lives to each other.
Sharane: The blessing is not considered a “’til death do us part” commitment. But to us, it was our way of formalizing our relationship. About six weeks later we had our holy union, with flowers and vows and stuff.
Celeste: We had the union ceremony basically for the children, to show them that I am here to stay. One of our kids’ biggest fears comes from the trauma of loosing their daddy.
Sharane: I wrote the ceremony. At the union we didn’t prepare text for our vows because we had been discussing them for two years. We talked about what we wanted and expected of each other, what we were planning on giving of ourselves. Then I started crying.
She shared vows with the children, promising to be a good parent to the children. We discussed this with the kids so they knew what they were talking about. The pastor asked if they would accept Celeste as their parent and they said yes.
What do you see as the future of your relationship?
Celeste: I would like to see us together in another fifty years, happy, with grandchildren. I would like to see our children grow and actively educate people about gay men and lesbians, that we’re O.K. and can be good parents.
I want to grow old with Sharane because I love her so much.
Sharane: We want to be out to the gay community. It is our family. We want to empower other people to take the right of adoption. The more we take the freedoms we have, like walking hand-in-hand in public, the sooner we will have equality.
We don’t have a lot of support for commitment in the gay community. Our marriages are not registered or recognized. We don’t have the idea that we’re going to grow up and get married and it will be forever. We need to drag that up from somewhere inside ourselves. When you make that commitment, it’s not just for the good times.
We included in our vows that when we hit those hard times we’ll do anything it takes — whether it means counseling, getting away, no matter what the financial cost — to ensure our relationship gets the care that it needs to survive. We’ll do that because it’s worth it.