It can be a tricky thing for any new couple: bringing two families together. Especially when those family members come from different sides of the globe. Kai grew up in the Philippines. Paul is from Kansas. And while exploring the world and learning about new cultures is something that is inherent for both (Kai works for Airbnb, Paul works for Virgin America) they’ve also faced moments of exclusion or disapproval when traveling as an openly gay couple. It’s a struggle even when traveling home to visit members of their own family.
After three years of dating (and countless weekends binge-playing video games together) the two were married at San Francisco’s City Hall on September 27, 2013. They celebrated the union in a beautiful waterfront reception at Sausalito’s Presidio Yacht Club with close friends and family. For their honeymoon, Kai wanted to show Paul where he grew up—to introduce his new husband to his extensive Filipino family, and share the culture of his homeland together. What should have been a blissfully romantic vacation for the two also brought up some uncomfortable issues.
“Whenever we travel, we just have to be aware of how progressive the neighborhood is,” Kai explains. “We sometimes can’t hold hands or kiss when we want to for fear of persecution or even criminal charges. Sadder still, I’m considered legally single on my Philippine passport because gay marriage is not recognized back home.”
During their honeymoon, the pair had to be cautious of how they presented their relationship to outsiders and to certain family members.
“My extended family was so happy to celebrate, but we had to avoid being seen close together by my grandparents,” Kai shares. “We feared they’d have a heart attack if they found out the truth.”
There was also one other person the pair was anxious about seeing: Kai’s dad.
“Out of everyone, my dad and I have had the most strained relationship,” explains Kai. “He’s never really approved of my homosexuality. So we were anxious for him to meet Paul for the first time.”
But when they arrived, something changed in Kai’s father.
“I think my dad saw that Paul is an amazing and loving person. It was like he finally got it. He planned activities for us. He drove us around. He even cooked breakfast for us every morning. He was such a great host! And it meant everything to have that from him—to have him welcome Paul as part of the family.”
The trip wasn’t a typical romantic honeymoon for the newlyweds. But this Filipino-style family reunion full of warm welcoming and new acceptance was, in a lot of ways, much more fulfilling.
“I mean, here I was, the only white guy in this giant group of people,” Paul remembers. “They were all speaking a language I don’t speak and can barely understand. Yet they completely made me feel like part of the family.”
Two years into their marriage, “the honeymoon phase” is still going strong. They’re looking forward to taking plenty of trips together—specifically to Kansas so Paul can share with Kai the same sort of hometown tour. The two also look forward to celebrating San Francisco Pride together this month.
“Pride is so important to us,” Kai says. “And it’s been amazing to see the progression from anger to love. The first Pride we celebrated together was before DOMA was repealed. The second one was after it was repealed, and after we got married. And each year, with these big wins, it feels like the emotion of the parade is more about love, less about the anger. It’s inspiring to see things moving in the right direction.”
In celebration of Pride 2015, our #HostWithPride series features stories of love, travel, and welcoming from LGBT members of our community.