A few years ago I was having coffee with a friend of mine who is gay. He surprised me by telling me that he opposed gay marriage vehemently. He thought that children should have a mother and a father and that gay marriage would subvert that. He also believed gay culture was all about promiscuity and sexual liberation. Marriage might kill what he loved about being gay. While most of my gay friends and acquaintances would not share or express his views, he's not the only homosexual I've met with such feelings. Which is why I found it so fascinating to see a New York Times piece last week that delved into the views of gays who oppose the political fight for gay marriage. Anemona Hartocollis talks to Bill Dobbs and other activists who think that gay marriage forces have hijacked the gay rights agenda:
For better or for worse, to be unattached and gay is not what it used to be. Gone are the guilt-free days of free love in the clubs, of hooking up at bathhouses and reveling in promiscuity, which Mr. Dobbs prefers to call "sexual generosity." In are elaborate weddings, shared property, pets and children.
Mr. Dobbs said that even on Fire Island, where cohabitating with 12 other men was once a time-honored tradition, a friend who is an utterly bourgeois gay homeowner complains that he gets the gimlet eye from gay and lesbian parents because he is not in a relationship. Another friend scolded Mr. Dobbs that if he had never wanted to marry, there must be something wrong with him.
Hartocollis also speaks with homosexuals who oppose the push to define homosexuality as a simple function of biology rather than involving choice.
It should not be surprising that a group has a diversity of viewpoints but it seems many reporters fall prey to the notion that this isn't the case. It's particularly problematic with minorities. It's presumed, for instance, that white Americans or heterosexuals can and will have different views about political or cultural issues. But so many reporters imply that minorities will have the same view about a given political issue. How many reporters have revealed that not all homosexuals share the same political goals on gay marriage?
Hartocollis explains why some gays oppose the push for gay marriage:
They question whether monogamy is normal. They wonder why gay men and lesbians are buying into an institution that they see as rooted in oppression. They worry that adapting to conventional "family values" will destroy the cohesion that has made gay men and lesbians a force to be reckoned with, politically and culturally.
In the 70's, many gay people saw themselves as "an army of lovers," to borrow the title of a German documentary of the time, [Jim] Eigo said. "I still hold the candle for a gay community like that, in which every man is linked to every other by at least the potential of being his lover."
This article was published the same week as another excellent Times piece on gays and marriage. Jane Gross speaks to married men who come out to their wives later in their marriage. A number of men wish to stay married because they enjoy the fruits of life with a wife and kids. It's fascinating how some of the men interviewed, most of whom asked to remain anonymous, expected little to change when they told their wives about their sexual behaviors on the side:
Dr. T.'s wife had agreed she could live with his sexual orientation provided he didn't act on it. So he lied and said his homosexual relationship did not include sex. But she wasn't fooled and forced him to move into an in-law apartment in the family home, a way station to a more formal separation.
This development has left him stunned, one moment sympathetic to his wife's position and the next disbelieving that they can't work it out. "I love her, but she wants me to be in love with her," Dr. T. said. "She wants to be my one and only. Everything we have will be at risk if, God forbid, we divorce."
The article is very well-written and Gross admits up front that she has limited statistics about the number of gay men who are married. She works with what few numbers she has to give a feel for how widespread an issue it is. She also tells the sad story of a 64-year-old man who divorces his wife because of his homosexuality. While he has kept up good terms with his wife and sons, he has found "he is ill-suited, or too old, for gay night life."
Another great article on gays who are married looked at a completely different phenomenon -- gay Mormons who choose marriage openly. Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune's religion reporter, talks to gay Mormons who blog about their married life. The piece is lengthy and honest -- Fletcher Stack cites statistics that indicate Mormon marriages with one gay partner are not likely to succeed. But she records the hope and candid admissions of several parties who are trying to make it work. She identifies one gay Mormon by the pseudonym Landon:
Sex is "more complicated than for most other people," Landon said in a phone interview. "Concessions are made. That's the nature of making an unconventional relationship work."
He doesn't believe he chose to be gay, so he doesn't feel guilty about having same-sex attractions. He agrees with the LDS Church's distinction between desire and actions and is trying everything he can to resist those desires, or even overcome them.
The key to being hopeful, Landon says, is believing that "God has an individual answer to me. God will grant me 'miracle upon miracle.'"
Fletcher Stack was able to get the men and some of their wives to speak openly about the sexual struggles in their marriages and the methods they use for overcoming the challenges of being attracted to the same sex while married to a member of the other. Here are their blogs if you're interested. You also may be interested in this U.S. News & World Report story on gay activists rethinking their strategy in light of recent defeats of gay marriage.