My Issue with Gay Marriage as a Gay Male
A couple of months after James* and I first started dating, we were lying in bed together in his parents house- they were on a six week cruise. It was a Wednesday afternoon, we'd just finished having sex and had found ways to opposite sides of the bed, his blanket stretching to cover us both. The sound of laughter from his small television filled the quiet room as we both shyly pulled back on our boxers; the relationship was still new enough to feel shy about relaxed nakedness. Within a few minuted we had turned our attention to the television, readjusted the blanket and huddled together underneath it, watching a reality show about wedding planning.
"I would want something simple," he said wrapping his arms around me, "something classic and, maybe, just family - you know, simple." It was the first time the subject of weddings or marriage had come up since we had started dating. I had never really thought about my wedding, the idea had never really appealed to me and seemed rather ridiculous; two men walking down the aisle was an odd image for me to conjure up. I was not sure how comfortable I would feel kissing my fiancee - soon-to-be husband - in front of a room full of people, including my parents.
Though, at the time, kissing any man romantically seemed an uncomfortable practice for me, it wasn't until I was doing it did it become something safe and natural. I rested my head on his should, he turned instinctively and lazily kissed the top of my head. As the show continued, I tried to relate the wedding planning to myself but my imagination continued to reject the notion of gay marriage or any LGBT commitment ceremony.
Our relationship marked my first with another man and it was a learning experience, it was complicated, it was easy and, looking back on it now, was doomed from the beginning. We were both closeted and keeping the relationship a secret. James and I were playing boyfriends in empty houses, on free nights and in bars where we could remain anonymous. When we were together it was good - my heart would skip a beat when he reached for my hand in a darkened theatre - but when we parted, till the next time, we were veritable strangers; in love with shadows.
I could make the argument this first relationship pushed my farther away from the alter and made the idea of such a grand commitment, like marriage, seemingly unattainable for me. Years after we ended our relationship the subject of gay marriage would come up on dates, we would graze over the opinions on the reformatted institution, and many gay twenty-somethings would say they had always wanted to get married but did not see it as an option for them.
"I dunno. I'm queer. It wasn't something I told myself as a kid" shrugged Jacob, a rough looking artist, I had met for a lunch date, "it's a straight fantasy, no one wants to see little fags and dykes living out the heterosexual ideal- but it would be fucking nice to do. You know, for the right person." He took another bite of his sandwich, leaning back in the booth as he tossed his crumpled napkin onto the wood table, punctuating his statement. As much as I hated to admit it - he ended up being such an unapologetic douchebag - there was some truth in what he said; when homosexuals first come to terms with their sexuality [at least the LGBT youth born before 1990] the idea of marriage and commitment is something you put away.
I started having same sex attractions just before beginning puberty and always assumed they were the product of overactive hormones and would go away overtime. I believed wholeheartedly I would marry a woman, move into a house by the beach and have children but when I came to the realization I was homosexual, it ended the marriage fantasy. I read everything there was, anything I could get my hands on, about being LGBTQ and nowhere was there a section on gay marriages or gay families. There were plenty of studies about the foundations of homosexuality in relation to the family structure but nothing about the LGBTQ community settling down and being allowed to marry. At fourteen, I resolved myself to the fact it was something I was not ever going to have.
I won't say I have not thought abou it because I have, everyone wonders if the person they are dating will be the one they stay with the rest of their lives. While I was with James, I often thought about what it would be like to live together, raise kids together but mostly, I wondered when we would be comfortable enough with ourselves and our relationship to tell our parents and respective friends. The next morning while I was gathering my things for school, the sun streaming in through the window of his kitchen, he asked me if I thought we would be together for a longtime. My smile came easily, my embrace simple in its design and the answer was, of course, "yes" but the knot in my stomach, especially after his comment about wanting a simple wedding, told me what I feared the most; one day I would not be with him.
We broke nearly a year later and all my thoughts on marriage were shelved alongside my want for another relationship. For years, I hardly thought about myself in regards to gay marriage or monogamous commitment, happily living my life from one sexual partner to the next casual fling blissfully relationship free. It wasn't until my friends began settling down with their respective partners did I begin to notice I was becoming the single friend.
It did not bother me at first nor did I pay it much thought, initially. It really wasn't until, three years ago, my friend announced she was marrying a man she had know for a little under a year. I could not believe it. How was she ready to get married? She was the same age as me, if not a few months younger, but whenever she talked about her wedding, about committing herself to this man forever, she spoke with such a maturity and assurity in her decision.
"I don't understand why she wants to get married," I complained to my friend B over coffee, miserably doodling on my napkin, "we're so young, what about everything she wanted to do in her life? Is she giving it all up?"
Slowly, more and more, friends began getting engaged and facebook altered their entire friend list of the happy news. I was disgusted with each and every one of them, smiling when I saw them, cooing at their engagement stories and fawning over rings but scowling behind their backs and rolling my eyes when they turned their heads. I could not understand why in their early twenties they would want to make such a commitment to one person. For me, marriage was for the thirty year olds who had come to the realization they were no longer young and had begun to see forty on the distant horizon. But it was not for me, it would never be a milestone in my future, the majority of political people at the time tended to agree with me.
When I was asked to stand up with my friend at her wedding, I almost choked on my coffee, why would she want her naysaying bitter friend in her wedding party? There had to be some Miss. Manners written rule against single-marriage off-setting the happy day. But she was one of my good friends, I smiled, swallowed my opinions and agreed to do whatever she wanted me to do because it was her day and it meant something to her.
It was not until they [Jane* and her new husband] were making their wedding speeches did I begin to feel something else in the pit of my stomach; jealousy. I did not want the big expensive wedding nor did I want the bells and whistles but I wanted the promise and legal protection marriage offered; the promise of being someones forever, one which was recognized by law. The tides of the gay marriage debate had shifted, same-sex unions were being practiced by a select few religious institutions and although, they were not quite a marriage, it was still an option which was not previously available for the LGBT community.
I am an advocate for gay marriage and think a legal marriage should be an option for anyone seeking it. I hope LGBT children growing up can still subscribe to the fantasy of the big white wedding without the saddening realization it isn't something available to them, or the marriage they have had is not legal somewhere else in the world. Last night, I was watching '1 Girl, 5 Gays' with my sister and she asked what kind of wedding I wanted (using a question the panel of gay men had been asked by a viewer) and, before I could stop myself or think about it, I answered, "you know, something simple and something classic"