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Room For Squares
by Philip Wong on Oct 05, 2007
Gay Relationships. What makes them work, what makes them not work? Are they any different from straight relationships? If the answer is yes, how so? Far from being an expert on the subject, I set out on a quest to find out by asking a few people I know. Some have been in long-term relationships, others have been in many relationships for a short time. All of them, however, have a distinct view on what it means to be queer and dating in this day and age.
The first person I asked is endearingly referred to by those in my circle as the “ha-bitch-ual dater", known thusly because of the type of men he dates and the type of man he is. It would not be a rare occurrence for him to be exclusively dating one, two or even three people at the same time. When asked for his take on gay relationships and what sets them apart from their heterosexual equivalents, he promptly stated, “Unlike straights, gays don’t have rules when it comes to relationships.”
Pardon me? Did I hear that correctly, would you care to elaborate? “What I mean is that unlike straights, gay people don’t like to have titles. I could be someone’s boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t also be somebody else’s boyfriend at the same time.” Oh, that’s right, I forgot that mutual affection and exclusivity are…mutually exclusive. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the kind of thinking that has gays labeled as sexually irresponsible by the mainstream media? Isn’t it also a major arguing point of many conservatives for banning gay marriage?
Surely, they have to realize that sexual promiscuity is hardly a trait exclusive to gay men. If they did, they’d see that lesbian women practice it too! The next person I decided to accost is currently in a committed relationship, and while she doesn’t date numerous people simultaneously, she has nevertheless left a string of failed ones in her wake. I relayed to her the wisdom just recently revealed to me by our friend, the rotating door. Did she think that the reason for her many failed relationships is their lack of rules?
“It’s not that I don’t think gay relationships have rules, because they do. I think it has more to do with the fact that gay men and women don’t have the weight of being tied down by traditional roles of the family, kids, etc.” Okay, she may have a point there. But there can’t be just one clear cut answer as to why many gay relationships don’t work.
For example, the “Peter Pan Syndrome,” so named after the assumed desire of all gays to remain forever young and attractive, explains that gays experiment so much in their love lives because they never got the chance to do so in their closeted, formative years. The very fact that they won’t be saddled with children allows them the freedom to sleep around. That might have some truth to it, but while many gays might cite the lack of familial responsibility as the reason for their constant flight, millions of others would cite the opposite as their reason for wanting to settle down. Like straights, whether they want kids or not, many gays just want to be in a solid relationship.
My next interviewee has been in an open relationship with his partner for 3 years. When asked about this relative success, he attributes it to the “openness factor". He explains that they have succeeded because, “as two grown men in today’s society, [they] realize that fidelity isn’t always possible.” By keeping an open relationship, neither one will break any promises because they “never promised anything to begin with.” You have to admit that there’s a certain logic behind this, but because infidelity occurs often in straight relationships as well (and barring any sexist beliefs about the sentimentality of women), I don’t see why it’s not more practiced in heterosexual couples.
Could it be that, as gay men, we’ll use any excuse we can just to justify our sexual promiscuity? That may very well be the case. But I’m starting to see fewer differences and more similarities between gays and straights. Take my final interviewee, who’s been in a committed relationship with his partner for 15 years. Sure, the question of children is raised from time to time and the road hasn’t been without its share of bumps, but like all couples who still enjoy each other’s company, “being with the person you love is enough.” It doesn’t matter if the relationship is gay or straight. Commitment has never had a sexuality.
by Philip Wong on Oct 05, 2007