“I want to get married and have kids.”
That’s what the young guy (mid 20s) told me as we were lying there having a cuddle after all the hot sweaty fun was over.
He wasn't proposing to me, let's be clear.
And he didn’t mean go in the closet and marry a woman, he meant find a nice guy, settle down and raise a family. And as he went on to explain, preferably not in Auckland, but a smaller town like the one he grew up in, which he said had made for a great childhood.
He doesn’t see this, as many queer theorists might, as being trapped by heteronormative and patriarchal models of life; he sees this as being key to having a good life.
And when you think about it, love, children, stability – it’s a pretty attractive package.
It just struck me how he and others are “doing gay” in such a totally different way from we ever envisaged when I was his age.
As a young gay guy in my mid 20s, the idea that I could be an out gay man, and a dad with a husband, could have a family, could do all this as a welcome part of my own family, well it was literally unthinkable.
This was just not what being a gay man was about.
Sure I knew guys who had kids, but they’d had them when they were conforming, trying to be straight and had been married, then come out. They were almost oddities “You mean you have kids? You had sex with a woman? Wow!”
When I look back and think of all the discussions we had, and the ideas we tossed around, the books we read, all that stuff about what it meant to be a gay man – being a dad, settling down, having a family – it really didn’t figure.
We wanted freedom from stereotypes, both the ones about being gay (sad, suicidal, perverted) and straight society’s ideas about sex (wait for marriage to have sex, stay with one person forever etc) . We saw the freedom to fuck and celebrate our sexuality as core to who we were and what our lives were about. We gloried in our difference and our attitudes to love and relationships. We were unapologetic about breaking the rules of straight society and building our own. And sure I know a lot of young guys still live this way, even if they perhaps lack the theory behind it .
And I don’t think that the freedom to fuck has become less popular, or how would this hot young guy end up in my bed on more than one occasion, right? He’s clearly happy with that side of things until he gets married – and who knows, maybe even after.
What struck me was the taken-for-granted aspect of what he said. He just matter-of-factly assumes that all these plans are not only achievable but almost uncontroversial. I guess there will be bumps in the road as there are with everything in life, but he’s talking about a way of being as a gay man that is very new both to me and I’d argue to society.
It also seems that the hysterical straight religious response that we’re “re-defining marriage” is true to an extent. We have, but to be fair, so have an awful lot of straight people.
Marriage is not what it once was. Now it seems to often be simply the public celebration of a loving relationship and making sure they can get the benefits of having their love recognised by the state. He doesn’t want to get married because of religion or cultural pressure, he wants to get married to publically show his love, and celebrate it.
Unlike older generations of gay guys, he’s aware of HIV, but not terrified of it. He hasn’t watched a vast swathe of his friends die, or the emerging culture we were all creating get derailed. His life has been altogether easier in these areas, and that is fantastic.
I’m getting old, this country has changed and in this instance, for the better. The fight for gay rights that I was part of in the old days has resulted in some completely unexpected developments.
New generations have taken those advances, incorporated bits of them, and built their own new ways of being and doing gay that did seem literally inconceivable back then.
I’m enjoying watching the changes, as much as they surprise me.
And I feel a bit wistful as I wonder what kind of dad I would have been.
Fabulous I suspect !