Sunday, October 7, 2007


It's like a hobby, my interest in love relationships. The topic, I mean. I ponder and pontificate about it more than most people, I would guess, and -- after the experience of making Life in a Box, spending 3 years examining, making some sense of, and figuring out how to present narratively my own most significant love relationship -- I think I may have some small wisdom to share on the subject. (But, of course, it's a case of the more you know, the more you find you don't know.)

Last night, I was at the bar I go to, having a conversation with a guy I talk to. He was telling me something about something, and he said, "my buddy, my other half," referring to the man he's been involved with and lived with for many years. I was struck by the word "buddy," and how probably 10 years ago I would have regarded his use of it as a bit pathetic, a vestige of the closet. Or, I would have thought, maybe it's how he refers to his partner when he's in straight male settings where he doesn't feel safe being out. (We say we've come out of the closet, but honestly we're in and out of it all day long.) It would have struck me as a sad word, in the same category as calling a boyfriend "my friend" or the substitution of gender-neutral pronouns -- "they" instead of "he" -- when talking to a co-worker about a date.

But last night it sounded, simply, like the right word. This guy is his buddy, not his lover, not his husband. Guys use the word buddy for a friend they have a deep bond with, a history, maybe someone with whom they're emotionally more open than usual. A guy who knows them better than their other friends. Drinking buddy. Fishing buddy.

Homosexual relationships aren't the same as heterosexual relationships. The reason they aren't the same -- and this is so obvious that I think it gets overlooked -- is that we are of the same sex. And sure there are ways in which we can mimic heterosexual relationships, for altruistic reasons (for instance, to adopt children) or for selfish reasons (to gain acceptance), but by pretending that they are, in fact, the same denigrates homosexual and heterosexual relationships. The people who are fighting for "marriage equity" are saying that there is no difference between them and that the marriage laws are discriminatory. I see good reason to discriminate. I think it's untruthful not to.

I've never felt like the particulars of my life were covered by or included among the outlines we get. I never wanted a job, I never wanted to own a home, never wanted to get married. (That's not strictly true; I have momentarily wanted each of these things, only because I thought they might bring some comfort or security, not because I thought I would flourish in them.) Even if I were heterosexual I would rail against the institutions I rail against now: marriage, the military, academia, private property, the market economy, etc. I used to think homosexual orientation was the cause of being so at odds with the world, but apparently that's not the case since there are so many homos now fighting to be included in that foundational institution of institutions.


m00nchild said...

I love this post. I've read it three times. Thank you for saying all of this.

Steven said...

Thanks for the supportive words. I think about this a lot, because it's hard to look at, say, somebody who is sick and can't get on his long-term partner's health insurance, or a same-sex couple who can't adopt children or visit each other in the hospital, and say, "I don't support gay marriage."

Because of course that person should be able to get his partner's health insurance and that couple should be able to adopt, etc. I am in favor of government support of stable relationships and chosen families. But I think that it's wrong-headed, narrow, and false to insist that two-person, same-sex relationships be called marriages, with all the institutional, emotional, and religious baggage that comes with that particular sanctioned relationship.

Dagon said...

The insurance issue I have always found to be irritating. I just don't see it as an argument for gay marriage equality; rather, it seems like a straightforward, powerful argument for universal healthcare.

The extremely logical argument you make that a relationship between two men is different from that between a man and a woman...this idea seems to offend people, which is strange given the popularity as "Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus" B.S. which at very least suggests women and men might have different psychologies surrounding sex and that a relationship between two men would thus involve a different set of issues to be negotiated.
So yeah, pretending "all good relationships are fundamentally the same" is baseless--that's a quote I remember from a gay guy attacking, which claimed they don't matchmake gays because they haven't investigated what factors characterize a good gay relationship. I know they're supposedly awful evangelical homophobes at eHarmony, but I do have respect for the excuse they give: it seems completely reasonable that their matchmaking system isn't built for gay people.

And I would say that homosexuality *does* at least start you out at odds with the world, and in adolescence especially. The existence of strident Uncle Toms does not buck the general tendency for us to see the straight world as outsiders...

Mike M said...

Thanks for this post Steven.

This item seems to be discussed here in a rather liked minded way- unlike the firestorm of unwavering and opposing opinions this topic has brought elsewhere.

We have had conversations regarding this before. Everything about Men being with Men is different and it will always start in the head. We are wired differently and even though some gay folks may want to identify with the typical hetro marriage concept, they are still gay men upstairs- with all the conflicting wants and desires that come with being a man. (Evolved cavemen in clothes)

I could go on, but I've never looked to the straight world to find a mentor on how to have a relationship. It seems that the marrige thing is oftentimes not the ideal in their world either. It starts in bridal magazines and ends up in court. Why would a gay man want to follow in those footsteps? Square peg/round hole?

It always seemed to me that each couple should have their own unique set of principles anyway.

It is a mystery to me. So thanks Steven (and D over at his blog) for putting some of these things out there.