Saturday, May 7, 2011

Making Up The Rules

I've been confused lately about what it is I actually want. And I mean in the way of my life and how I live it. I'm not really sure how I would categorize my lifestyle. I tend to shy away from anything too personal on this blog. I'm pretty selective about my online presence (No FB, remember, and a big yeah, right to tweets), out of fear that I'll look back on it and regret divulging intimate details and feelings I had. I consider myself a private person. I suddenly feel the need to get a bit personal, though. I don't know why. Maybe because I've been wrestling with these questions and conflicting feelings lately.

When I first came out -- not the arduous process of self-acceptance that took years to gain, but the point at which I was comfortable to tell people close to me -- I had this ideal of eventually finding the right guy to have a big gay wedding with, legal or not, and that would be that. I would be settled and happy. Of course, over time I got jaded, and my experiences and attempts at finding this chipped away at the ideal, even to the point that I stopped believing in romantic love. I still don't to a certain extent. But, lately for some reason, I'm starting to gain back this vision for my life, though not with the same naivete as a teenager, and I wouldn't call it an ideal anymore, but more like opening myself up to the possibility of settling down and sharing a life with someone. Companionship.

This troubles me. I can't help but feel like one big sell out for it. I believe gay marriage will eventually be legalized on a national level in my lifetime, at least I hope. It won't happen overnight or without activists willing to take a stand. Strides are being made. DADT was repealed, and Obama states the Justice Department will no longer defend DOMA. But then, people like John Boehner plan on digging their claws in the traditionalist dirt to counteract and spend huge amounts of money in a shitty economy in the process. It could be in a year, or it could be in another ten to twenty. Who knows? But as progress on marriage equality continues to slowly advance, I ask myself, even if it were legal, would I even want to get married? My go to answer is no, absolutely not. But as I stated in the preceding paragraph, my beliefs for my future are eroding somewhat. Some may claim this is typical of most people in my generation -- sowing their wild oats in their early twenties and then reforming later and getting married with white picket fences and little ones to pass on your own emotional issues to. Some may tell me, it's called growing up and being responsible. Thanks for the condescension, and for the gross generalizing. The issue I'm dealing with seems to be what many LGBT people are questioning now I imagine: Is getting gay married conforming to the heteronormative power structure that's disgustingly oppressive or does it subvert it?

My answer is that it's most likely a little bit of both. But, I'm here to tell you my experience as a gay man who is denied the option to get married on a federal level gives me a perspective on how deeply flawed the institution of marriage is in general. Don't get me wrong, I've encountered many lovely married couples. I'm not criticizing anyone who is married or who wants to get married on any personal level. I just take issue with the massive importance that's placed on it. I never understood why Christianist right wingers claim gay marriage will destroy the institution. If anything, wouldn't allowing more types of people to enter into it fortify it? Logic would dictate people like me would be the "crusaders who are going to tear marriage apart." Of course, this isn't the case. I don't care if people want to get married, I just question whether or not it's for me. I'll give my opinion of what I would like to see our country do with marriage. To me, marriage is a religious institution that should be separate from the government. Civil unions between consenting adults with equal benefits for all under the government would be my ideal. It goes without saying that there wouldn't be restrictions based on gender, race, religion, etc. Churches could deny same sex couples marriage within them, bigoted as they are, because they are separate from the state. Those who are religious would be married in their church, and then their partnership would be recognized on a federal level as a civil union, along with all other partnerships under the government. Fat chance at this ever happening though. Whatever way it eventually happens, I can't stress how important it is that gay unions be on a federal level. Marriages that occur in the six states, while they are wonderful in the course of gay rights, are not equal. All federal benefits are still denied (which I won't explicate on here).

Maybe this re-evaluation and consideration of eventual marriage for myself could be from all the political debate on the issue or maybe it's part of living where I do. Kentucky is traditionalist central, among the others. Louisville isn't too much of an exception. People always say Louisville is where people grow up, move, and then come back to raise their families. I'm definitely generalizing, but people here tend to hold fairly traditional values. A woman in my office this week told me that I need to have kids soon, like within the next year, so my parents can enjoy grand kids. I mean, really? Why are marriage and kids the end all and be all? I've thought maybe I would get married eventually only if it was on a federal level, but then I recently read this, which re-affirmed my former skepticism. I like the point that, of course, marriage equality for same sex couples needs to happen, but for me, it's mainly because of the principle, the way it's discrimination, not necessarily because I plan on marrying. I've imagined what it would be like if I got married. It would be even more conflicting. What kind of a relationship would I want? Certainly not an imitation of straight couples. The main problem I have, among the others, but the one that really gives me an uneasy feeling is the implicit shackles of ownership of another person. I don't want to be owned, and I would never want to own anyone else. But then alternately, I know I wouldn't want something like an open relationship. Not because of morality, but because I know I wouldn't be able to handle it emotionally. Many straight couples getting married have relationships that defy and challenge former traditions, especially with gender roles. Gay couples similarly forge new values and ways of living, but to me, more obstacles abound, because more is at stake. Straight couples don't deal with the hurdles of prejudice or a political lens, and different gender boundaries are crossed. As a gay man, I've always felt I walk between two worlds of what's masculine and what's feminine. I identify with the boys' club and groups of females while also being excluded from both, and really not fitting in to either. That issue would be a whole other post, but the point I'm trying to make is that self-identified LGBT people have more gender issues to contend with that resonate in the relationship. Whichever I decide, and I'm currently waiting on this Puritanical country to even give me the choice, I'm ready to make up my own rules and values as I go along.

The homophobia I'm increasingly surrounded with doesn't help too much. It can get pretty disheartening and spirit breaking. The little slights and comments that don't seemingly mean much act as the subtext for greater issues. Like when someone tells me my opinion as a man on something as frivolous as Sex and the City or buffalo wings doesn't matter because I'm not a hetero man or when someone makes a cheesy one-liner directed at me when the concept of flame wars or hot dogs come up in conversation or when a grown man still uses one of those infantile phrases in which "gay" means "stupid" or "lame." The prejudice I notice is becoming less and less subtle. I think there are more people like this lovely gentleman out there than some realize:

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