I’m sharing this post because we have discussed this at length with lots of our friends. It’s been interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts and perspectives on what we should and shouldn’t do, what’s normal, what everyone will perceive this to mean… at the end of the day, the goal is the explain why we chose to do what we did and why it matters.
Leading up to our wedding, Kevin and I said that names weren’t important to us. It wasn’t a big deal to us to have the same last name, and we didn’t know which route we’d go to share one. We knew that we wanted to share a last name before kids entered the picture, but also knew that we were at least a couple of years out from that.
After we got married, a switch flipped immediately. Honestly, we expected to receive much more backlash from people in Central Arkansas than we did. Those who disapprove were (mostly) silent, lessening the pain we expected to feel. When we realized that life wasn’t going to be as difficult as we expected. We also realized how thrilled we were to officially be married and have a public, life-long commitment. Thus, our last names suddenly became much more important to us.
Why was it important? That’s a loaded question. First, the reality of it is that we are surrounded by people that don’t see our relationship as legitimate. Whether it be for religious reasons, cultural norms, or other reasons, they see our relationship as “less than” that of a heterosexual couple. Yup, that hurts. It’s evident to us often – most evident when I introduce Kevin as my husband and then someone refers to him after that as my “friend.” I always politely say “no, husband. Yes we are friends, but we are also legally married. He’s my husband.” Sharing a last name adjusts that public perception just a little more to make people realize that we are in fact, legally, actually married. Shockingly, sometimes people go a step further and say “like gay married, or actually married?” If that doesn’t shine a bright light on ugly perception – I’m not sure what will.
The next parts of the decision centered around family – and first, around own future family. We know that we want children. We know that we want our kids to have the best, easiest lives possible, and that it may be more difficult because some will view our family as less-than or sub-par. We know that our kids may have some battles to fight or perceptions to overcome. This was one step we could take to make it easier. To be clear, we didn’t think this was 100% necessary – but we knew it was 100% something we wanted to do.
In a lot of ways, as gay Christians, we felt like one of the best things we could do for the community was to normalize our relationship. Here’s the truth: we are normal. We go to work every day. We come home and choose between cooking the Hello Fresh in the fridge or being too tired and just ordering takeout. We stay up later than we should on the couch binge watching Netflix or talking to friends, then wake up the next morning and repeat. The fact that we feel the need to normalize our relationship speaks to a skewed perspective that we want to do the best we can to correct. The gay couple next door to you is probably not promiscuous or in the club every weekend – they’re probably just another couple wanting to be who they are and share life with people they love.
Now, knowing we wanted to share a last name, we came to the hard part – what name do we take? Some friends have chosen a hybrid name (Example, last names of Smith and Williamson becoming Smithson). We didn’t have that option — there’s nothing sexy about Phergers or Sphelps. We also knew that we wanted to fight for each other in this (more on this in a second). The most important thing to me about the name-change was that Kevin felt 100% comfortable and equal in it. Because Kevin is an introvert and I’m an extrovert, people often think that someone “wears the pants” in the relationship. We both do – literally and figuratively (no dresses to be found). In every chance I get, I remind people that Kevin is my 100% equal partner. We’re in this together, and at this point I can’t imagine life without him.
So, in fighting for each other, what do I mean?
You know how when you’re having a discussion/argument with your significant other, you make the case for your point of view, then enforce it, and are basically arguing your point? Yeah, we did the opposite. We argued each other’s points, defending each other about ourselves. In my opinion, this speaks of 1) the love we share and 2) our true equal partnership.
So, flash forward to figuring out options.:
- Kevin didn’t have a strong attachment to Phelps or feel the need to carry it on.
- While I don’t have any issue with my last name, I didn’t feel married (pun intended) to it. We knew my brother would carry it on.
- We didn’t want to hyphenate, because that seemed difficult and more “new-agey” than we are.
- For the sake of business, it made sense for me to keep Spurgers (the name of the legal entity is Spurgers Consulting).
- We had another difficult emotional hurdle to cross here: was Kevin willing to take on the name of my family, when they are not fully supportive of our relationship? (A huge lesson for all of us in the last few years has been navigating life together when we don’t all agree. We thank the Lord for grace that has made this easier for all of us.)
At the end of the day, we decided that it made the most sense for us to keep Spurgers. This meant conversations with both families about why this was happening, as a “heads up.” But, it was still important to me that we made it clear that we were equal partners – so while Kevin picked up Spurgers as a last name, he kept Phelps as a middle name – and I did the same. So we functionally use Spurgers as our last names, but both share Phelps (as a middle name) and Spurgers (as a last name) and will be able to pass on both to our children.
We’re fortunate to both have great families and a great support system. We’ve loved the opportunities for meaningful discussion that this has presented. At the end of the day, if we can help people understand others better, or save someone else pain or heartache, then it’s all worth it.
As always, I’d love to discuss this with anyone who has thoughts or questions – feel free to comment or send me a message with questions!