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The Love Issue

The Love Portfolio: Griffin Matthews & Matt Gould

Gabriela Herman

How the musical collaborators became surrogate fathers to Ugandan youth

Photography byGabriela Herman. Griffin Matthews (Reclining) and Matt Gould.

Matt Gould, Composer

When I came back from the Peace Corps in West Africa [in 2002], I was really depressed about the state of affairs in the world. My friends told me about this guy who was helping African kids, and they thought we should meet. The first time I saw him, he had dreadlocks down to his butt, and I thought he was the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. Now we travel to Africa together every year with our nonprofit to support Ugandan students. It works because neither of us is afraid to take a bath with a bucket, or to be in an unfamiliar or scary place.

The anti-gay legislation in Uganda is fairly new. We were enmeshed in the culture and have deep relationships with its people. When we've told them that we're gay, their response has uniformly been, "So what?" And yet, physically, Griffin and I keep a respectful distance from each other. Every night, before we go to bed, we still say, "I love you," and I hug him, but in that culture, they have different ideas of how men and women should be with one another. So for those purposes alone, we try to respect the physical boundaries.

Griffin Matthews, Actor

Matt has a real sense of adventure. We may deal with the overall ride differently, but we are both down for the ride. People said, "If you can make it to Africa with this person, you should keep him." Uganda challenges you. You're going to eat things you've never eaten and get dirty. If you can find someone who can roll with you through the unknown, he's a keeper.

For many years, Matt and I kept our relationship quiet when we visited. Crew members from our musical Invisible Thread knew we were a couple, but we never told the kids we mentor. We're not in Uganda holding hands or sleeping in the same bed. But now all the kids know. One of them texted the other day: "Just getting clarification: Are you and Matt married?" The response is, No, we're not married, but we do function as fathers. In Uganda, they call us the "tatas," which means dads. So we put on our dad hats. Our relationship has created this international modern family where we've become invested and instrumental in helping to raise these Ugandan kids. They feel like they're our kids. They respect us, we respect them, and when we're together, we just start functioning as a family.

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