Young Gay Marrieds II

DJRainDog is disappointed that in my post about the New York Times article on gay couples getting married in their 20s, I didn’t express an opinion. So… here goes.

I really want to talk about the accompanying photos. But first, the piece itself.

I’m happy for all the gay couples that get married in their 20s. It surprises me that gay couples would do this so young, because I think people in general get married at a later age than they used to, and this seems to go against the trend. But as gay people come out younger and younger than they used to, their life stages might start to parallel those of their straight peers. If straight couples can get married in their 20s, gay couples should be able to do it, too.

But I envied several of the couples mentioned in the piece. It made me feel old, and it brought up all my old feelings of regret about not coming out until I was 24. Now that I’m 34, age 24 doesn’t seem quite as old as it used to, but I still regret that I never had a college boyfriend (at least not while I was in college — I did date a college freshman for two months during my final year of law school). Those were crucial years that I wasted, and I’ll never get them back, no matter how hard I’ve tried to make up for it.

Lewis, who is in his early 30s and came out at 23, captures it well:

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.

No wonder, then, that in our 20s so many of us moved to big-city gay neighborhoods and aggressively went about trying to make up for lost time. And no wonder that some of us — myself included — occasionally went overboard.

“The expectation for many years was that if you did any dating in your 20s, they were essentially ‘practice relationships’ where you did what heterosexual kids get to do in junior high, high school and college,” says Jeffrey Chernin, a Los Angeles psychotherapist and the author of “Get Closer: A Gay Men’s Guide to Intimacy and Relationships.” “But for many gay men, your 20s were about meeting a lot of different people, going out to bars with your friends and having a lot of sex. That has long been considered a rite of passage in the gay community.”

I don’t know what I miss more: that I didn’t get to have all that casual sex earlier or that I didn’t get to have a relationship earlier. I’m envious of these people who have gotten their shit together so young.

Then again, getting married doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve gotten your shit together. And I wonder how many of these young gay marriages will end in divorce? Some will, some won’t. Sometimes straight people get married too young and it winds up being a mistake; that’s bound to be true for gay couples as well. Lewis does, in fact, profile two 26-year-old men who have each been through a same-sex divorce.

So it was an interesting article.

But those photos.

The photos were the first thing I noticed about the piece, of course — including the magazine cover. The photos are fun and campy, even if ironic faux-1950s style has become overdone. But what really struck me was that they were all photos of white guys. And that bothered me.

Lewis does address this, briefly:

To find out [what these marriages are like], I spent time over the next few months with a handful of young married and engaged gay couples — including Joshua and Benjamin. All were college-educated and white. (A 2008 study of gay and lesbian couples in Vermont, California and Massachusetts — three states that offer some form of legal recognition for gay couples — found that “couples who choose to legalize their same-sex relationships . . . are overwhelmingly European American.”)

Should he have sought out some non-white or mixed-race couples in the name of diversity? Or is diversity irrelevant because the article is about the people who most exemplify the phenomenon of same-sex married couples, and those people happen to be “overwhelmingly” white? I can’t answer that without knowing how many people “overwhelmingly” means or how much of an effort Lewis made to find non-white people. I’d be curious to know what some non-white gay men think about this aspect of the piece.

The photos also bother me because they play into the stereotype that all gay men are affluent and privileged and don’t really need the economic benefits that marriage would bring or the job protections that an employment nondiscrimination law would bring. They also play into the stereotype that we’re all fabulous curiosities instead of real people who don’t have equal rights.

Regardless of the benefits of marriage, I just don’t like being stereotyped. Matt and I are both white and make an okay combined living for New York City. But I’m still paying off my student loans and my savings aren’t nearly as high as they should be. We don’t have oodles of fabulous friends. We’ve never thrown a dinner party. Neither of us really knows how to cook. We both dress pretty plainly. We don’t accessorize. We don’t fly off on fabulous vacations.

Gay people are not all supercool. Enough already.

Another thing I don’t like about the photos: they really seem to paint an unrealistic portrait of marital bliss. Haven’t we learned anything from the 1950’s, when insecure housewives desperately tried to create the perfect roast and keep an immaculate home? Are those photos going to turn me into poor Laura Brown, Julianne Moore’s character in The Hours? Am I going to collapse into a heap of tears after I try to bake a cake and it comes out a lumpy mess?

It’s bad enough that we have to look like HX cover models. Now we have to learn to cook, too?

Still, I’d rather be tyrannized by some idealized vision of same-sex married life than not have the right at all.

I guess that’s what it comes down to.

Give us our rights; we’ll figure out the rest.

12 thoughts on “Young Gay Marrieds II

  1. “I’m envious of these people who have gotten their shit together so young.”

    Its as if you read a different article than I did. Granted, I can see how someone could reach this conclusion. At the same time, my feelings were that most of the subjects of the article were really disasterous, and theres no reason to envy them.

    The funniest thing about the pictures: You got your Julianne Moore reference wrong. Its not about The Hours…its a bunch of faggots stuck in Far From Heaven (and since that was the movie that was stuck in my head, I wasn’t bothered by the whiteness of it all…it was expected.)

  2. The only thing that bothered me about the article is the hyper-sped up rush to gay marriage. I’m not articulating that correctly, but what I mean to say is that it almost seems to approach it as some sort of thing we’re all able to partake in. Of course, the numbers don’t lie: if 700 gay men were married up-to-date, that’s 350 couples. You can see three times that many gay men on a single night out in NYC. Hardly indicative of a massive trend.
    Also, I don’t really understand the point of remarking on 20-somethings getting married, unless it is to trot out that old troll of gaydom: that we’re all promiscuos, anti-relatonship whores who don’t WANT to settle down. Ever.
    Outside of NYC, I didn’t know very many people who weren’t married while still in their 20s. And in NYC, unmarried 30+ers are common in the hetero world as well.
    All of this is to say that I don’t think it raises much of a social/trend issue. I think it’s more just a matter of, “look! Gay people may ALSO want a traditional life!”
    It’s like the reverse article to those hetero swinger ones.

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  4. It was, perhaps, a selfish request on my part. There’s rather a lot of heavy shit going down in my world right now, though, as you might’ve guessed by my ongoing inability to actually post an entry — or, in fact, to do much beyond vague sniping from the sidelines in the comments of a few friendly blogs. Your perspective helped, though, as did the article, now that I’ve finally managed to finish reading it…in some unexpected ways. So I thank you.

  5. Thanks for the post, Jeff. I was bothered by the article but I’m having trouble articulating why (in fact, the window has been sitting open on my desktop since saturday waiting for me to write a pithy blog post about it… not gonna happen).

    Part of my problem with the article is that the tone and subjects he chose to profile all create the sense of an elitist upper-upper-middle-class point of view that I find fascinating (that’s also why I read the Sunday Vows features) but still have a hard time connecting to (even though they’re admittedly not too far removed from my own socio-economic circles).

    There was also a really self-satisfied tone to what the couples had to say, or maybe with how it was presented in the article, that really turned me off. I know I’m occasionally guilty of the same thing (“Yes, we’ve been together SEVEN YEARS.”), but it still turns me off.

    I’m not explaining this very well.

  6. I think the author of the article, much like the pictures, tended to overly rely on the stereotypes of being gay and, as a result, focused too much on how those (stereotyped) attributes might then morph when gays marry.

    As people mentioned, gaydom is not universally fixated by trendy clothes, dinner parties, and appointing our homes and selves with the latest consumerist soma. Many of us live fairly frugal lives and are extremely content with the quietness and simplicity of that choice. Getting married, for many gay people, isn’t about magnifying the decadent-life nor is it about keeping the party alive merely in the context of a mutual commitment. It’s something more humanly universal and base.

    For many contemporary gays the choice of a permanent union is probably more about taking a wild chance that you and someone else can make it together and, over time, successfully weather the various atrocities life undoubtedly deals us all.

    No one knows what craziness the future will certainly bring but only that it shall. A union with someone else with whom you are in-love is a wise attempt at reigning in the onslaught of life’s horrors and possibly creating some beachhead when events get too unwieldy for any one individual alone. Marriage for gays, like straights, is probably more about carving out a little plot of sanctuary in the storminess of life — with someone you dearly love. And this says nothing about the desire of these two people to grow over time together ever closer.

    By the end of the article i went back and looked at those overly sacrine photos and realized we all probably, even just a little, enter marriage with an eye towards the improbably ideal. Unfortunately, i think the author had trouble looking beyond the stereotypes presented before him and missed the common ideals that gays and straights alike seek when marrying.

  7. Many things nauseated me about that article – and I’ve also had a hard time trying to compose a post about it, so bravo Jeff.

    Socio-political issues aside, on a personal level, my reaction was [i]what are these idiots [u]thinking???[/u][/i].

    I jumped into a committed relationship when I was just out of college. I was in love and I thought we were a perfect match. We were committed to one another and I thought we’d be together forever. I expected only sunshine and lollipops. Boy, was I wrong!

  8. I have been in Rural South Carolina for three weeks and have not been able to buy a Sunday New York Times. All I want to know is what is happening in the cartoon “Low Moon” in the ‘funny pages’ of the glossy magazine section.

  9. Yes, I realized that if I can read the gay marriage article on the computer through a link on this blog, I can look up Low Moon, and I did. I only got halfway through the gay marriage article before I stopped reading. I can not relate at all. I live in Lexington Virginia. I am in my later thirties now, I came out in my earlier thirties. For a while, I had a long distance boyfriend, I got tired of his jealousy and his insistence on monogamy. And, I did not leave Lexington. So, in a sense, coming out later in life, I wanted to sleep with more men. I do not feel a regret about not coming out earlier, I am living now, and I sleep with new men I meet when I get a chance. I discovered in the time that I have been out: there are gay men everywhere, though where I live, many are in the closet, yet there are many who are not.

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