I’ve tried to write this post several times, and simply haven’t felt I could rise to the subject matter, because it’s quite personal, not merely for me, but for many of my dear friends. Before I took my blog off in a new direction, I told my roommates I would write this, and they gave their blessing. When I originally told my roommates I was going to write about this, I joked that it would be in the style of a faux-exposé with bombshells like “Married gays fry chicken!!!!!” But months of living with married gay folks has made it impossible for me to approach this lightly.
I am a straight woman. I’ve seriously examined my sexuality. Despite knowing some fantastic lesbian and bisexual women that I find beautiful, kind, funny, sexy, smart and admirable, I still overwhelming prefer men. Spending time with GLBTQI folk has not changed that one jot. Regardless of the merits of the arguments over sexuality being a choice or something irrevocably intrinsic, I was born straight. Living with gay folks has not changed my sexuality. I am attracted to men, and I’m attracted to straight men.
That’s something I think people don’t get. After months of living with gay people and years of being friends with gay people, I didn’t somehow magically convert. Some straight people are worried that gay people will be attracted to them because they are the same-sex. Outside of good-natured joking between friends, I don’t find that to be the case. I live with cute, smart, funny and kind men. Men I feel entirely comfortable around and admire greatly. I’m not lusting after any of them. Despite all the lesbians I know, none of them have ever hit on me. So, despite living with gay men, I’m not attracted to them any more than they are attracted to me.
So here I am, living with gay men who have been together for a long time. Despite gay marriage not being legal in the State of Georgia, my roommates are as legally bound to each other as is possible, having seen an attorney who specializes in aiding the GLBTQI community. They are as married as it is possible for them to be. Since there is a lot of concern over how gay marriage will affect straight people, and I am living in close proximity to gay marriage, I feel it’s important to relate my experience.
I was married once, when I was too immature to really grasp what I was doing. It wasn’t a bad marriage, but it wasn’t great either. It ended in divorce. Years of dating, falling in love, falling out of love, lusting, attempting casual relationships, and trying desperately to kindle a spark, I found myself a confirmed cynic. I didn’t want to date. Dating is work, and it so often seemed to not work out well. Divorce, even an amicable one, is devastating. I couldn’t see putting myself through the stress of dating, marriage and divorce again. Despite any words I spoke or any hopes I hoped, in my heart I had given up on the idea of love and marriage. I had pretty much resigned myself to being single forever.
As I’m writing this it’s a little after midnight on a Friday night. I was having trouble sleeping, so I got up, fixed myself something cool to drink, and went into the living room. There on the sofa sat my roommates, singing along to Anne Murray’s Could I Have This Dance.
These men have been together for roughly a decade. Through sickness and health. For richer or poorer. Through really good memories and through really bad ones. You can look in their eyes and see how much they love each other, even when they drive each other crazy.
I sat down and listened, and sang a bit myself here and there. From Anne Murray the music moved to old country standards, to Tina Turner, to Jim Steinem songs by various singers. We see a lot of images of married gay people on tv that seem to fit some stereotype. But rarely do you see two burly, Southern men sipping on sweet tea softly singing along to Dolly Parton on a Friday evening at home. You don’t see them fry chicken, or get super excited about comic books, or pick up each others prescriptions. You don’t see them go to the doctor’s office together, argue over whether or not to put sugar in the coleslaw, or decide who’s turn it is to do the dishes. You don’t see them behaving like regular old married people sipping coffee and watching the morning news. They are either a cutesy stereotype or comedic relief. You don’t see them being human.
I do. Every day. I see them concerned over eating healthy while still harboring a sweet tooth. I see them more concerned over the other’s needs above their own. I see them bicker. I see them grin at each other like the cat that got the cream. I’ve even seen them cry. And after all of this I have to disagree with everyone that says gay marriage has no effect on straight marriage. Gay marriage has a profound impact on straight marriage.
Because of gay marriage, I want to get married.
Not like most people mean when they say they want to get married. That they want the big spectacle with a dress, the cutesy romantic comedy relationship, the ring and the easy divorce when things get too tough.
I want what I’ve witnessed day in and day out over these past few months. I want the kind of love that endures past tempers flaring, absence, poverty and sickness. To know that fighting with someone over something you are both passionate about isn’t going to kill a relationship too frail to survive it. To be with someone who values my happiness as much as I value theirs. To be with someone whose company I truly enjoy, and with whom I’m content to sit at home with, listening to music. To know that if I am ill or scared or in trouble that there is someone who will do their best to drop everything and rush to my side when I need them.
I want the kind of relationship I’ve witnessed between these men. It is their love and commitment that has restored my faith in marriage. Seeing how happy, content and committed they are every day has changed my mind and opened my heart to the thought of being vulnerable enough to let such a love back into my life.
Gay marriage has made me believe in straight marriage again.
That’s the key, isn’t it? All that is necessary to restore your faith in marriage is to witness a marriage that works. To learn from it, to be inspired by it and to seek it out for yourself. If you want people to believe in marriage again, (and let’s face it: the statistics are dire) then you need to expose them to strong, healthy, committed relationships. You need to create a culture that celebrates strong marriage. Every strong marriage. Defining any limits on what marriage is that isn’t based on love and commitment is what is destroying marriage. Trying to fit marriage into a narrow box no one can live in is destroying marriage. Not gay people. Not same-sex relationships.
I’m not going to pretend I regard relationships, dating and marriage without trepidation. If I married again I would be the person who was most surprised. But despite the fear and reservations, I want marriage again. I want that deep relationship even though it frightens me. It’s been a long time since I could genuinely say that I want to be married, not simply that I think I should, that it’s expected or appropriate. I’ve seen a good marriage, with it’s ups and it’s downs, and it’s opened my heart to the possibility of loving again. All thanks to gay marriage.
So yeah, gay marriage will influence straight people. Being exposed to a strong gay marriage will have the same effect as being exposed to a strong straight marriage: it will make you believe in, and desire, marriage for yourself.
Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll find someone to sit around with on a Friday night, sipping coffee and softly singing along to ABBA. It could happen. If gay folks can do it, I don’t see why a straight girl like me couldn’t find the same happiness.