Thursday, June 29, 2006

Apples to Oranges

The article that finally inspired me to start writing about all this stuff was a debate in USA Today about whether gays and lesbians should adopt. The central point these two (straight?) men debate is whether gay and lesbian couples are indeed stable, and thus whether being adopted by such a couple would be better for children than the inherently unstable environment of the foster care system.

Let's set aside the fact that the numbers they're discussing are at best outdated, at worst irrelevant. The central premise of their argument seems flawed. They are comparing the relative longevity of gay/lesbian relationships to straight marriages. But that's comparing apples to oranges. A good many straight relationships break up long before they get to the alter, just like gay and lesbian relationships which last varying amounts of time. And, of course, since gays and lesbians can't marry most places in the world, it's harder to track data about how long the committed queer relationships last. But this is what needs to be looked at in comparison to that 50% success rate with straight marriages - how many gay/lesbian couples who consider themselves married survive? If we're going to have this debate, please let's have it on an equal playing field.


Over lunch today, I realized that between my personal investment in and experience around gay marriage, and my job reading endless content from today's leading magazines and newspapers - most of which include regular articles about the subject - it might be worth starting to write about gay marriage, and so here I begin.

Full disclosure: I am a 32-year-old lesbian in a relationship with A----, a woman I consider my wife. I both cringe and get excited when I refer to her as my wife. The word doesn't fit somehow, but like all forbidden fruit, is endlessly tempting. It's political when that's not the intention at all, and yet nothing else is right. "Partner" sounds so...efficient, and strips away all the sense of romance, and there's plenty of romance here. "Girlfriend" is used by straight women all the time to indicate a good female friend, not to mention the fact that we've made a commitment to each other that takes us beyond the girlfriend stage. "Lover" is just way too much information for casual conversation (or most conversations, to tell the truth). If anyone has a great alternative - a word that encompasses the commitment, the joy, the seriousness of the relationship without taking it into a political realm, post it here or send it to me.

Therein lies my confession. I am an out lesbian, and yet I struggle on some level with how to name my relationship, and with the politics that are somehow inherent in my true commitment to another person. Here I plan to explore that conflict, the intersections between the personal and the political, the ways in which the public debate rages in my head, my tendency to cry from happiness when someone legalizes gay marriage in some small way, and to simultaneously, secretly, wonder if there is some merit to the argument that gay marriage indeed threatens the institution. Call it schizophrenia. Call it internalized homophobia (another term I hate). Call it a real attempt to think beyond my own backyard, and to react in some way that isn't solely knee jerk. Call it what you will, but it's my reality, and I've decided to share it with you.