Photography by Eric Ogden
Mitchell: When we first started hanging out, I had this weird sort of feeling. I don’t know why it took me by surprise. Whether it was dinner or just watching TV or going out to get drinks, I always walked away thinking, Oh my god, that was amazing.
We’d been dating for eight weeks, and I was going to India for part of the summer. I was concerned about leaving -- anything could happen. He could meet some other guy. Before I left, there was a reunion in Buffalo for the Jewish camp Paul went to every summer. Being the polite guy he is, he asked me if I wanted to go to it, not expecting me to say yes. I needed to show him that I was committed and really interested, so I said yes. It definitely upped the stakes, but none of it was awkward; none of it went badly.
I was not out to my entire family, and from the beginning that was a point of contention. But I guess he made an exception for me. I think I was able to articulate to him the complexity of my situation, coming from a conservative Christian background. Before we moved in together, he told me, “We will not move in together before you are completely out to your family,” which is the one ultimatum he’s ever given me. So I came out to my family, and nothing changed. They treat him as my husband now, and part of the family.
Paul: I grew up in a bubble. When I came out in high school, nobody gave a shit at all. I didn’t lose a friend -- if anything, I gained friends. I had to keep reminding myself that Mitch was going to need a lot of space and time, and that his coming out might not be received well.
We went to his family for Christmas that first year; it was the first time he was going to be home since coming out. We got off the plane and immediately went to lunch with his entire family. His family is enormous -- he has three siblings, everybody’s married, they all have kids. I met everybody at once -- it was awesome. They are the most loving, accepting people. Any stress I was feeling was self-induced and just me being paranoid about being in a super-Christian, super-conservative area.
I love his family and have to give them props, because if I were his parents, I don’t know that I’d react as well as they did -- that quickly, with a snap of a finger. Within 10 minutes, I was sitting there at lunch and his mom was already joking around with me. For Mitch, I think it was the biggest stress reliever in the world that there’s not a hidden part of his life anymore, that everything’s on the table and everybody’s cool with it.
Watch the couple in here! TV's "Pride and Groom"