I caught the tail-end of the documentary “Inlaws & Outlaws” on PBS last week and found the relationship stories heartwarming, particularly the ones about the elderly gay and lesbian couples. The director, Drew Emery, incorporated some “man-on-the-street” interviews to gather opinions on gay relationships, and one teenager made a remarkably mature comment about how heterosexual couples sure as hell haven’t been able to prove that their marriages are perfect, so why should we stop homosexual couples from giving it a go?
I caught the show just as an elderly gentleman was talking about losing his partner one night. His partner had gotten out of bed to use the bathroom, returned to bed, and he just knew that this was the moment he was going to lose him – and his partner breathed his last breath in bed. His story was heart-wrenching and was so genuinely full of love and pain – I felt the love oozing from the television screen, and yes, I cried. This was a man who lived in a time when he could not come out. Not only would he have been ostracized and demonized socially, he really felt his father would kill him with his bare hands if he ever did. But his father passed on and he was able to have a loving, lasting relationship with his partner for over 50 years.
It’s true: how many of us heteros will be able to say this and be able to speak so lovingly and glowingly of our partners 50 years down the road? He was ready to commit suicide after losing his partner, until he just happened to come along an affirming church which accepted him for who he is. When you hear this story, how can you question whether love should be between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman? What right do we have to deny this? Love really trumps all. And that is what Drew Emery really wanted to get across with this movie.
I then came across this story in The Atlantic magazine online: “The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss” . The writer Liza Mundy tries to uncover what it is about gay unions that seem make them longer lasting and more successful than heterosexual marriages. Many of her conclusions seemed to centre around our own gender stereotypes and expectations. In a heterosexual marriage, husband and wife assumed roles that society bestowed on them, and despite progress on the equality front, it is still an unspoken assumption that the woman will take on the role of primary homekeeper. However, Mundy writes:
Same-sex spouses, who cannot divide their labor based on preexisting gender norms, must approach marriage differently than their heterosexual peers. From sex to fighting, from child-rearing to chores, they must hammer out every last detail of domestic life without falling back on assumptions about who will do what. In this regard, they provide an example that can be enlightening to all couples.
So that’s the secret!
And now, in the United States, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is dead thanks to the Supreme Court. By defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this federal law essentially relegated gays and lesbians to second-class citizens, not worthy of the benefits that marriage laws give to heterosexual spouses. It’s really quite breathtaking how far America has come on the issue of gay rights in such a short time. It’s a fascinating – and hopeful – observation of human behavior, of how our opinions and thought processes evolve over time.
Now if we could just have some progress made on the gun laws…