A version of this article appeared as a part of Queer Romance Month. I met Jonathan and Andrew* when I was a little girl. My parents were very involved in the Los Angeles art world, and both men were talented artists. Jonathan was a classical musician and Andrew was a painter and animator. They were a part of my parents’ life, and since my parents often brought my sister and me along to concerts, cocktail parties, and dinners, that meant Jonathan and Andrew were part of my life too.
While the adults chatted at cocktail parties, I explored Jonathan and Andrew’s home. It was one of those dark, shingled Hollywood houses up in the hills complete with a kitschy mosaic driveway (my mother told me they loved the ironic tackiness of it). Andrew adored cats. I have very clear memories of wandering the hallways in an uncomfortable, formal dress with white stockings and shiny shoes, peering up at the endless feline drawings brought to life with the swipe of a pencil or the curve of a brush.
There was never any question in my young mind that Jonathan and Andrew were a couple. I thought they were married just like my parents until I reached my teenage years. In freshman health and sex education class, I learned that only straight people could be wed in California—or anywhere in the United States at the time. I was stunned at the realization that I could get married as soon as I turned 18, but Jonathan and Andrew couldn’t.
That was the moment I became an ally.
Given my age, Jonathan and Andrew never shared with me whether they wanted to be able to get married. I do know that from the outside looking in they were devoted to one another in the same way that my parents are. The same way my aunts are uncles are. The same way that my friends who are now tying the knot are. They radiated a quiet comfort that spoke to the deep love that ran between them.
I went off to college, and I saw Jonathan and Andrew less and less. On occasion a party would fall on my winter or summer breaks, and I would be swept up in the old crowd for an evening. Now instead of handing me sodas, everyone snuck me glasses of wine and asked how my History major was progressing. Jonathan wanted to know about my plans to intern in journalism, and Andrew would walk me around to look at the cat pictures I’d loved as a little girl.
I moved to New York for graduate school and got my first job in broadcast journalism. I went home to Los Angeles even less often. One day after working a grueling morning shift, I got a call from my mother. She caught me up on the family gossip before becoming rather quiet in the way she does when she has bad news. Andrew had cancer. He’d been diagnosed some time ago, and their group of friends was only just finding out now because he could no longer hide the strain that chemo was taking on his body. Chemo that wasn’t working. My first thought was for Jonathan—his partner and the man he looked for whenever he walked into a room.
Andrew died shortly after my mother called me. I was still thousands of miles away and could not attend the funeral, but I’m told it was both quiet and beautiful, just as I remember their love. A violinist played in Andrew’s honor, and Jonathan was surrounded by the friends and family who loved him most in the world.
I chose to share a little bit of Jonathan and Andrew’s story because their love matters. Romance authors write about love at all stages, from the first flush of attraction to the comfort of a committed relationship, until death do us part. Those stories are not the sole property of white, heterosexual couples. Queer romance, multicultural romance—all of these books are important because the thrill of new love feels the same no matter what form it comes in. And when that love is taken away, it hurts just the same.
Love is love.
*The names have been changed out of respect for the privacy of the real Jonathan and Andrew.