Gay Marriage – is that really what we wanted?

This past week many Gay Americans and their friends celebrated the decisions made by the U.S. Supreme court in regard to gay marriage.

In essence, if you’ve been in a cave recently, the court decided that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, and that the Federal Government had to treat all legally married people the same.

They didn’t go so far as to say that every state had to allow gay people to marry, only that the Federal Government needed to treat all legally married people the same.

The second decision applies just to California, but will probably be used in future cases in other states. Because the State of California decided not to appeal the decision in Prop 8 which denied gay marriage, the “outsiders” who did pursue the appeal, had no standing to do so, therefore the lower courts should never have allowed the appeal to proceed in the first place.

I am in my third relationship. This is probably a sign that I’m not very good at relationships, even though the first two were heterosexual, and the current one is homosexual. Perhaps, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, had I been in a place more welcoming of my homosexuality, or in a family more accepting, or had the means to go to a more understanding place, things may have turned out differently.

For a lot of years, even knowing I had a preference for men, I tried the “wife, kids, dog and house” thing, primarily because I thought that was what adults did in life. It never occurred to me that two guys could actually live together and be happy. I’d no exposure at all to the “gay world” except through a few sticky pages of porn magazines and whatever I could glean from library books on the sly. None of that information helped much.

In fact, most of the information available to me simply reinforced the fact that my feelings about sex were dirty, nasty, immoral and wrong. Nothing I read or saw as a young adult gave me any positive feelings about myself.

In my early 30’s, when events conspired to force me to stare myself in the face and come to terms with who I am, I finally began to explore the various corners of “the gay world.” It was a scary place, the apex of the AIDS crisis, Ronald Regan was president, and one of my first exposures to this world of gay people was a trip to Washington, D.C. for the 2nd display of the AIDS quilt.

Through a Compuserve chat group, I began to correspond with other gay people, although I still didn’t really know any personally, I thought. I moved into a small apartment by myself, and although it took awhile to work up the courage, I would occasionally drop by the Mirabar in Providence. Even then, it was very much a solo thing, and continued to be so for another twenty years.

I’ve been partnered since late 2007. Or, maybe 2008. It’s hard to pick a date when John and I became an “us”. We were house shopping in July of 2007, but didn’t actually move in together until January of 2008.

We’re not very much alike. Most people I meet for the first time seem to have a hard time believing I’m gay. I’m the fix the plumbing, fire up the grill kind of guy, while John is more the “what color curtains should we put in the Den” kind of guy. Oh, don’t get me wrong – he’s not flaming by any means, we are just that different. He notices small things like cobwebs, while I wouldn’t see one unless it also had a twelve-pound hairy-legged spider hanging from it that tried to converse with me.

It’s also taken me a very long time to figure out who I am and what it takes to make me happy. And even longer to realize that doing what I want to do and being happy is OK. That I don’t actually have to pretend to be someone other than me just to make someone else happy.

Aside from the fact that my first two relationships were with women, I think the primary reason they were doomed from the start is that I was doing something I thought I ought to do, instead of something I wanted to do. I was trying to live a life that was projected on to me by others.

And it’s that realization that has me a bit uneasy about this whole gay marriage thing.

Contrary to popular belief, there really is no single organized gay “voice” that speaks for all gay people. We are as diverse and varied a group as can be found. In fact, if you put 15 gay men in a room, I would bet you’d be more surprised at the differences among them than what was the same.

My partner and I have discussed gay marriage, and rather we would take the opportunity to get married if the option was available to us. It isn’t an option in either of the states we call home right now, so the discussion has been purely philosophical.

I really don’t want another marriage. Not only because I truly don’t want to be that obligated to another person, but on a level I’m having trouble finding words to express, I think that “gay marriage” is something that may not really be what  a lot of gay men really seek, especially if we are expected to follow all the same rules within that marriage that straight people expect.

For one, I’m just not willing to commit to monogamy. And honestly, of the limited number of gay people I know, even those who had decades long commitments to their partners, monogamy was not highly prized. In fact, most of them didn’t think it was an important requirement at all.

That certainly doesn’t mean that I’m bed-hopping, or spending time down at the local glory-hole, or coveting every good-looking male I pass. It simply means that if I’m in a time and place where sex with another person happens, I’m not about to feel guilty about it, nor am I going to let it interfere with the life I’m choosing to lead with the person I spend the most time with.

I may be really off base here, but I feel that we should have insisted on something our own, that was as equally respected and recognized as “marriage”. I feel that “marriage” has too many religious connotations, way too much history to overcome for us to be adopting the practice and trying to make it fit how we live our lives. I was perfectly happy with “civil unions” as long as those unions gave us the same rights and responsibilities we sought.

See, I don’t think we were seeking the right to marry, so much as we were seeking the right to form whatever unions we liked, but have them respected equally with marriage. I don’t feel my neighbors have any right to pass judgment on my personal living arrangement. I certainly don’t think the government has a right to interfere in any relationship I have.

I think that all families are legitimate. Any combination of humans that come together and form a family should be respected and treated the same. Who sleeps with who is immaterial, and I really have a hard time understanding why it matters to anyone.

It’s not just about sex either.

As I said earlier, there are as many different ways to be gay as there are gay people. But no matter how each of us lived our lives, until now we have been “us” versus “them”. We’ve formed our own communities, our own churches, our own culture, side-by-side with, but separate from the “straight” community. We’ve learned to walk down the sidewalk, proud of being who we are, at times even flaunting it with a “don’t you dare diss me” look at passers by who may have been shocked.

Do we really want to fully assimilate into the rest of society? To no longer be special and different? There is a part of me that doesn’t want to see us become “normal”. After spending the first half of my life trying so hard to be just normal, I’m now not so willing to give up being not-normal, now that I’ve come to terms with myself.

So, as thousands of my fellow gay people celebrate their lifelong goal of being able to marry someone they love, I really feel good for them, happy for them, and wish them well.

But personally, I remain a bit distant from the desire. Maybe it’s because I’ve been kicked one too many times and just don’t want to formally commit at the level required of a marriage. Maybe it’s because I really doubt that the world will let us redefine marriage as we need to in order to fit it into our culture and lifestyle. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid that we are venturing way too far over the border into normalcy, and as a result we will disappear.

Many would say that by refusing to commit on the level of a marriage, I’m leaving open the possibility of just walking out when things become rough. Hah! How many marriages end in divorce within five years? More than half? A piece of paper on the wall does not make a relationship lasting.

I don’t think I’m yet able to fully voice my reasons for being uncomfortable with gay marriage. By no means is it because I think it is wrong on some moral or religious level; just more to do with the belief that maybe it isn’t the right solution for us. Like a shirt handed down from your big-brother that is just a bit too big or too small.

In any case, I bask in the glow of increasing acceptance by my neighbors, friends and relatives. The increasing understanding that we didn’t choose to be gay anymore than we chose to have a receding hairline or poor eyesight or big feet. Yes, there are a lot of people who still think we are evil sinners, bound for hell, and we’ll never be able to change the way they think. But, it is nice to know that we can turn our backs on them, ignore them, and continue to be happy and healthy and free, and in some places, even get married.

One Response to Gay Marriage – is that really what we wanted?

  1. John Bolinger

    Well said! I liked best your comment:

    “Do we really want to fully assimilate into the rest of society? To no longer be special and different? There is a part of me that doesn’t want to see us become “normal”. After spending the first half of my life trying so hard to be just normal, I’m now not so willing to give up being not-normal, now that I’ve come to terms with myself.”

    Part of the problem may be our accepting someone else’s identity…as though our original one wasn’t good enough.

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