“My parents were incredibly afraid of it when I first brought it up to them,” he said. After Nauert graduated from Harvard last spring, he and Stallings, who had been together for six weeks at that point, drove from Cambridge to St. Louis and spent a difficult few days in his family’s home. While the two were not engaged yet, it was clear that the seriousness of their commitment to each other bothered Nauert’s parents.
“The healing still hasn’t taken place, and there’s been no genuine recognition of the partnership,” Stallings adds.
While Nauert is on speaking terms with his parents, he spent Thanksgiving with the Stallings family and plans to spend Winter Break there as well.
“It was unclear how much is frustration with commitment, and how much is their inability to grasp that two people of the same sex are getting married,” Nauert says.
While the Nauerts have been more reluctant to recognize their son’s engagement, Paul says he hopes they will become more accepting in the future.
“Paul’s family really loves him and there’s a relationship to be salvaged there,” Shutzer says. “I hope they can see that in the excitement of the wedding.”
‘THE VOCATION OF LOVE’
The couple feels fortunate that aside from the conflict with Nauert’s family, which they attribute more to his parents’ worries about commitment than to homophobia, they have faced few other difficulties in being public with their same-sex relationship.
“We’re very lucky we haven’t been through the scarring things that shape much of the queer experience,” Nauert says.
“Homophobia is a channel for a lot of anger and selfishness,” Stallings adds. “One thing about Harvard is that homophobia is just not tolerated, because there’s no one here who’s going to validate it.”
They say they are glad to have met each other and fallen in love in a place that is so accepting, compared with much of the country. They also say that they believe they have a duty to help people less fortunate by joining the call for action.
“It is incumbent on people in our position and with our privilege to be as open as we can in every situation,” Stallings says. “Even holding hands as we walk down the street is an involuntary call to courage.”
The couple hopes to express their gratitude to the community—both their immediate friends and family and the American homosexual community as well—by sharing their love and giving back to those around them. As they both plan on attending law school, they hope to contribute to the formation of a centralized and organized strategy for gay rights advocacy, which they currently feel is lacking.
“They want to make the world a better place,” says Kasser, Stallings’ mother.
But wherever they end up, the two agree that their relationship will be the foundation of any choices that come along down the line.
“The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is Billy Stallings,” Nauert says. “I know that whatever vocation I arrive at it will be through the vocation of love, and whatever happens, we’ll be holding hands throughout.”
—Staff writer Alice E. Underwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.