Oconomowoc, Wisconsinaside from having more "o's" in it than any other city in the country, it's also where Tim Clausen as called home for most of his life. The city played host to the very first screening in the world of the Wizard of Oz in 1939, and it is a fitting tribute that the sleepy bastion of Milwaukee vacation homes should play host again to another first.
An intensive three-year long labor of love that began with an unexplainable inspiration to write the book, Love Together features in-depth interviews with 22 gay male couples who span geography, religions, races, occupations and ages.
Clausen attributed the success of his interviews, in part, to the fact that he was not an academic. "I am not a Ph.D., but a high school graduate," he told Windy City Times. "Perhaps that played a role in the style of the interviews and my ability to get these stories from the couples. It is these open and honest stories that are the most life-giving and sustaining. This is what moves peoplenot abstract data."
Clausen is an autodidactic ( self-taught ) jazz pianist and has a long history of compiling interviews of many of his own contemporary jazz artists. "I think I have a unique ability to draw people out," he said. "I also offered each person any level of anonymity that they wanted. Asking the couples directly about their relationships made what we were doing seem bigger. They understood the vision for the book. They are role models for a new generation of gay men."
The author sought to change the image of gay men in Love Together by offering a hands-off look at couples that had been together for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and even 60 years.
Central to the book was a definition of the term "healthy." Clausen agreed that the word had different meanings for different people. "For me, it was important that the couples that I ultimately used for the book were healthy," he said. "These were men who had open and honest communication, who were loving and supportive, who had a mutual respect for one another, who took great joy in growing together and exploring life. Not all of the couples I used were monogamous as I do not think that monogamy is necessarily an indicator of the health of a relationship."
He noted one couple he had interviewed for the book that admitted that they had actually not had sex for many years. When Clausen tried to bring up the reasons for this, they refused to answer and would not bring up the subject again. "I didn't use their interview," Clausen said. "That kind of communicationor the failure to talk about the pink elephant in the roomis exactly the kind of miscommunication that I think is an indicator of an unhealthy relationship.
"I know now that there can be no secrets in a successful relationship. There can only be total honesty. You have to allow your partner to grow and take joy in his growth," said Clausen. He also noticed the importance of "love" not as a word but as an action. "You can say 'I love you' all you want, but these couples would show that love in both small and large ways, every single day," he added.
Love Together had received some criticism for not including the lives of women together, but Clausen readily admitted that part of what he believes made his interviews successful and kept the candor alive was the fact that he was a man talking to men. "I really do not know anything about the dynamics of women or their relationships together to adequately approach the subject. I'm not sure that the successes I would have had with the gay male couples would have been replicated. So I kept the premise very simple and to a subject that I personally had knowledge of- gay men together."
Ultimately, Clausen would like to see his book disseminated among the younger generations to show them not only that there is hope for real, meaningful and long-term love but also that there is a new kind of role model for younger and older gay men alike.
For more information on Love Together, visit www.lovetogetherbook.com or www.TimClausen.com .