Glenn & Michael in PA: Working toward acceptance in our families and communities

On a Sunday afternoon in September 2007, the Wascovich family was gathered together at a local fire hall in Dubois, Pennsylvania to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of Bill and Mary Wascovich, who raised eight children in Pennsylvania. The couple's family members, neighbors, and friends from their Catholic Church community all attended, coming together to help the couple reflect on their long life of commitment to each other.

To kick off the night, each of the eight Wascovich children were "introduced," wedding reception-style by age-order, to the crowd of people at the party. Each of the siblings - along with their spouses, fiances, or significant others - was introduced and applauded for as the party guests marveled at the amazing family Bill and Mary had built over 40 years of commitment.

When it came time to introduce the youngest son, Michael Wascovich, however, the brother who was announcing, Daniel, skipped over Michael's fiance, Glenn Crook. The men had been engaged for nearly a year.

There was an awkward silence as many of the party guests looked at Michael, standing hand-in-hand with Glenn, and knew that Daniel, who struggled to accept Michael's relationship, had chosen to skip over Glenn's name. "It was very uncomfortable because everyone could see us standing there holding hands, yet I was treated as non-existent," Glenn said.

Finally, Michael's father corrected Daniel and ensured that Glenn was added to the list, but it stung for the couple to hear Glenn ignored. They felt as if their relationship was being neglected, viewed as less than the other siblings.

Later in the evening, Michael's dad made sure to take Michael and Glenn around to his family, friends, and members of the Church community, introducing his son and fiance and sending a very clear message that he loved his son, was happy about the engagement, and was looking forward to welcome Glenn into the family.

"Michael's father was always the leader of the family, so knowing that he was on our side and would stand up for us no matter what always made me feel particularly at ease around the family," Glenn said. "His reinforcement that our relationship counted was really sincere and really important to us." Michael's siblings agreed. Throughout the night they approached Michael and Glenn and explained that they were sorry Glenn was left out. "It shows you that when someone like Bill stands up against something that's wrong when everyone else doesn't know what to do or is silent, people will follow because they know it's the right thing to do," Glenn said. 

The moment of tension at the 40th Anniversary party resonates for Michael and Glenn as a strong encapsulation of the growth that Michael's family has experienced with regard to his sexuality and his relationship over the past nine years. It showed that the family still had room to grow, but that if they followed the lead of Michael's father, they would quickly see the importance of supporting Michael's freedom to be with the person he loves.

Michael had "come out" to his family members as gay just a few months prior. His parents struggled to reconcile their Catholic faith and their lack of familiarity with gay people, but over time, they grew to understand that their value for love, family, and happiness for their children compelled them to support Michael in his coming out process. Many of Michael's siblings also grew to support their brother, with one of his sisters telling him that she was happy he could be himself and that he was still the little brother she had always known and loved.

When Michael introduced his family members to Glenn, just a few months after he initially came out to them, the Wascovichs' acceptance process became much easier. "There was such a short period of time from when he came out to when he had a relationship, so we were seen as just a normal couple," Glenn explained. "There was nothing different about our relationship than the relationships Michael's siblings had. It was extremely helpful for Michael's family to see that."

Glenn had also recently come out to his own family, and while it was a very challenging experience - his father essentially disowned him and demanded that Glenn's mother and sisters stop talking to him - it became better when Glenn's mom, LaRue, divorced her husband and grew to understand more about her son and about gay people overall.

"My mother did a complete 180," Glenn explained. "She met Michael shortly after she divorced my dad, and she's been nothing but supportive. She posts things about marriage on her Facebook. We did the No H8 photo shoot together. She's become a great advocate."

The negative-turned-positive coming out experience that Glenn endured helped him support Michael during his challenging experience with his own family. "I was able to talk to Michael about it and talk him through that we were in this together," Glenn said. "I told him that we're not going anywhere. That we're in this for the long haul and that there's no mountain too high that we can't climb together."

Michael and Glenn both endured difficult coming out processes. But over time, both of their families have grown to understand their lives and learned the importance of supporting their marriage - just as they would support a marriage if Glenn and Michael were straight.

Michael and Glenn, who married in July 2013 in Maryland, live in York, Pennsylvania. They are now hopeful that the state of Pennsylvania will follow a similar path toward acceptance of the freedom to marry that both of their families went through.

On National Coming Out Day, stories like Michael's and Glenn's remind us that when LGBT people "come out," they provoke change in their friends, in their families, and in their communities.

Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day. Help us celebrate by sharing this story with your own friends and family members. And check out other pieces to celebrate National Coming Out Day.