I got a couple of questions from a friend on Facebook, and I wanted to fully answer them in an online post: partially because a lot of people ask these questions, and partially because they illustrate some of the assumptions we make in approaching these questions. I didn’t mean this to be as long as it is: but I wanted to be complete. So it’s divided in three. The other parts will be posted separately.
This friend is a friend from Bible College, so there is a certain perspective that I must assume in answering these questions, and they illustrate some of the struggle that we (those of us who are LGBTQ… lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) have moving between contexts in our culture. It’s not an awful struggle, nor even uncommon: most of us move between subcultures in our daily lives. But we need to recognize that: and that some of those shifts can be extreme.
> how long you been married? can you tell me what the ave length
> of time a gay couple has been married?
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? But even the first part is only easy to answer from a strictly technical perspective. How long have I… we… been married? 6 years, 5 months (and an odd number of days). Our marriage license was issued a couple of months after we arrived in Canada as a couple; as soon as we could, really, because it was important to both of us. So important, in fact, that our wedding was the smallest I’ve ever heard of. Some of my friends at work got mad at me because I invited none of them to the ceremony; I didn’t even tell them about it until the day before. I knew very few people in Toronto longer than a dozen weeks at that point, and it hardly seemed appropriate to expect them to participate in any kind of traditional gift-giving experience. But it was important to us, to establish a legal foundation for the relationship that we had established over the years. We were married on March 26, 2007.
That was the simple answer.
Which leads to the assumptions: because we couldn’t get married in Arkansas, so you can’t really compare that to any “traditional” marriage, where people can get married at the drop of a hat. We had a “commitment ceremony” probably some time in 2003, where we and some friends committed to each other for a long-term relationship. We did one on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capital in 2004, again pledging to each other even though we couldn’t legally get married. You can go even further back to when we “moved in together”. I was recovering from my accident and 6-week coma, and my now-husband moved in to take care of me and to nurse me back to health. That would have been June 29, 2001. That’s what I think of as our real “marriage” date. That was the point where we really pledged to each other to stay together. Many straight couples fail to make it through the trying experience of a brain injury for one spouse in the pair; we have made it 12 years since then.
The natural thing that people want to do when they hear of my anniversary is to compare this to “straight” marriages. I will admit that I felt a certain degree of accomplishment when my “gay” marriage laser longer than my “straight” one. My wife, Kim, and I were married after we’d known each other about a year and a half; my husband, Tim (yes, I have rhyming spouses) and I moved in together (were married in my mind) about a year after we met. My wife and I were together for ten years; my husband and I have been together for over twelve. One of the big differences that I can see: my wife and I went through several sessions of marital counselling as we were working out our different expectations and attitudes toward marriage and its implications. This is both more available and more accepted in the straight world. Although I’m sure it exists for the LGBTQ community, I’ve rarely heard of same-sex couples participating in marital counselling. Indeed, until the last decade such a thing couldn’t even exist. Although the roots of some of the interpersonal difficulties that marriages develop are probably very similar, same-sex marital counselling would be very different. Some of the books that helped us were things like: “Men are from Mars, Women from Venus”. Marital counselling established on gender differences is less than helpful in same-sex marriages.
This was part 1 of this series.
Being OK with being gay (2)
Being OK with being gay (3)