poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Saturday, May 22, 2004

What Rainbow?
By Kai Wright, Out Magazine

Eric German and Arthur Thomas got hitched a year ago – sort of. They weren't making a political statement or even being terribly romantic, they just wanted to get Thomas out of the homeless shelter he was living in. "I was in the hospital, and he has no family and I have no family," recalls Thomas. "So he took care of me. We kind of bonded."

They're a black gay version of the odd couple. Thomas is a towering, gravely-voiced guy who's fond of football jerseys and won't hesitate to tell you to fuck off when he thinks you need to hear it; German cuts a slight, soft-spoken figure and carefully ponders each word he parcels out, as though he has a limited supply. Still, you get the feeling German's got Thomas's number. He can make Thomas take his HIV meds, even on those difficult mornings when he's rebelling against himself, and he helps his man stay sober. "If I didn't have this individual, there's no telling where I would be," Thomas admits, "because, you know, everywhere you go there's drugs. And I can say, 'Today I feel like getting high, so let's just stay home.'"

They're both enrolled in a government program that helps poor people living with HIV pay rent and buy food and other necessities. Last spring, when Thomas was released from the hospital, German didn't want him going back into the shelters. So he suggested they get a place in his building in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Once impolitely known as "Do or Die Bed-Stuy," the slowly gentrifying area is one of a shrinking few in New York City where a couple on a budget as tight as German and Thomas's can still find an affordable but comfortable one-bedroom.

But when the duo told their case workers in city government of their plans to shack up, they got surprising news: The only way they could live together was if they got on New York City's domestic partner registry. In the process, Thomas's case would have to be closed and folded into German's. "We didn't want to be domestic partners," German explains. They were in love, sure, but they hadn't planned on such formalities. "That's the only way he could stay with me. So we went and did that."


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