Gay Marriage Massachusetts Style
A nicely written and well thought out article on the great social issue of our times, that being gay marriage, found the front cover of the New York Times Magazine this weekend. After reading about the young gay couples that married I found myself, not surprisingly, very much in agreement with the tone and style of the article. Gay married couples are compatible and more than normal. Benoit Denizet-Lewis does a superb job of bringing real gay married relationships to the eyes of the reader. Bravo.
Joshua and Benjamin were deeply committed to each other by the time Benjamin graduated from Brown in May 2004, the same month that Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Marrying “seemed obvious and inevitable,” Benjamin told me, because he and Joshua had no doubt that they would spend the rest of their lives together. “It seemed silly,” he said, “not to get married when we were fortunate enough to live in the only state where we could.” (Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and New Jersey have legalized civil unions for same-sex couples, while Maine, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, California and the District of Columbia allow domestic partnerships. More than 40 states prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages from Massachusetts.)
Both of their families were supportive. “My parents didn’t have a problem with me marrying a guy,” Benjamin said. “Their only question was, ‘Aren’t you a little too young to be doing this?’
“Oh, my parents said the same thing,” Joshua huffed. “But you know what I told the parental units? I said, ‘I don’t want to hear it, because at our age you were married and pregnant with us.’ That shut everyone right up, and soon enough our parents were fighting over who would get to pay for the wedding!”
But I could also relate to young gay men yearning for companionship and emotional security. Had gay marriage been an option when I was 23 and recently out of the closet, I might very well have proposed to my first gay love. Like many gay men my age and older, I grew up believing that gay men in a happy long-term relationship was an oxymoron. (I entered high school in 1989, before gay teenagers started taking their boyfriends to the prom.) If I was lucky enough to find love, I thought, I’d better hold onto it. And part of me tried, but a bigger part of me wanted to pitch a tent in my favorite gay bar. I wasn’t alone. Everywhere I looked, gay men in their 20s — or, if they hadn’t come out until later, their 30s, 40s and 50s — seemed to be eschewing commitment in favor of the excitement promised by unabashedly sexualized urban gay communities. There was a reason, of course, why so many gay men my age and older seemed intent on living a protracted adolescence: We had been cheated of our actual adolescence. While most of our heterosexual peers had experienced, in their teens, socialization around courtship, dating and sexuality, many of us had grown up closeted and fearful, “our most precious and tender feelings rarely validated or reflected back to us by our families and communities,” as Alan Downs, the author of “The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World,” puts it. When we managed to express our sexuality, the experience often came booby-trapped with secrecy, manipulation or debilitating shame.