18 February 2011

Do all the real men go for women?

I sometimes wonder if the emotionally healthiest gay guys (or the ones whose perspectives best align with my ideals about relationships) most recognize (or believe) that much or most of what really matters in a relationship can be found in a relationship with a woman and are consequently inclined to seek it with a woman for social and/or religious reasons. Maybe they believe it to be genuinely not selfish if it's done openly because everyone brings baggage and emotional reservations to a relationship, and if a woman is willing to take this challenge on, they're both making sacrifices for a relationship they believe in and want, and to refuse to allow her to choose that is to demean her ability to decide what's best for her. Maybe the concern about not being able to return certain vulnerabilities and kinds of passion or investment is inconsequential, and every pairing is uneven in some way, so getting caught up in that is a cop-out when you can have open communication, emotional connection, and deliberate investment, which are what a lasting relationship is built on.

Maybe this is all correct, and only those with the emotionally healthiest perspective on relationships or who have the most mature outlook--the 'real men'--realize it, and therefore very few of the healthiest gay men end up on the market for other men, so those men who are left seeking same-sex companionship mostly include those who don't understand or grasp it, compounding the problems of relationships in popular gay culture. I mean no offense to those of you in great same-sex relationships. I'm just wondering if you're the exceptions rather than anything even remotely like the rule, not because same-sex-attracted men are inherently worse at relationships than opposite-sex-attracted men, and not just because of self-perpetuating unhealthiness in aspects of popular gay culture or society's official rejection of same-sex partnership commitment, but because gay men who see beyond dogmatic homosexuality or who can't stop wanting certain things for their lives see, in all probability, significant trade-offs no matter what they choose.

Some such guys might fully recognize and accept that, all else being equal, they'd rather be with a man, but they also believe all else is not equal socially, religiously, eternally, culturally, personally, or biologically, so all things considered, they might just as well take on the specific challenges and sacrifices of a mixed-sex relationship as take on the specific challenges and sacrifices and social or legal limitations of a same-sex relationship. ...Or maybe I'm only projecting my own skepticism.

I wonder if the men who most easily pass for straight are most likely to try to pass for straight. Maybe for a more "effeminate" guy, he's not going to fool anyone, so he will likely always deal with whispers of his probable homosexuality and people telling him to be himself. He might fear his sons, if he has any, will have a girly-man for a dad. He might have to "act" more "masculine" to play the role most women want. But for the already-"masculine" gay man, the one who enjoys sports and can fix a car, or the one who most people don't suspect until they find out he's only seriously dated one or two girls in his thirty years of life, playing the part of a typical, standard husband might seem more natural in certain ways than it would to the man with fewer traits generally regarded as belonging to masculinity.

I wonder if the guys I would be most attracted to and who want what I want are the least likely to be available to me because they're busy keeping everyone clueless that they're even gay by dating and marrying women because it just makes social sense to take the path of less resistance. Jerks.

But it's natural. Most of us don't exactly relish the idea of being social crusaders or living against the grain if we don't have to. Most of us don't really critically examine our beliefs until they're challenged thoroughly, or other beliefs seem not only more plausible but emotionally fulfilling. Most of us don't question roles and systems until something about them really doesn't fit or stops working. I certainly don't claim to be the most traditionally 'masculine' of men, nor the most understanding of relationships or women, but sometimes I wonder if I'd rather just give up on pioneering paths for the sake of intellectual integrity or making reality of conceptions and rejoin the trodden trails of normality...


Clint said...

I think the gay community is in a transition phase. In the past, societal homophobia and rejection caused gays to seek community amongst each other which resulted in gay bars, gay ghettos, etc. It also caused a rejection by gays of the groups and organizations that rejected them: families, churches, well, society.

With the increased acceptance, though, gays seem to be reintegrating back into society back into popular culture. Gay bars and clubs are slowly closing or are being replaced by straight clubs, etc. Along with that is a slow re-acceptance of societal values, family, religion, etc.

It's not there, of course, there is still plenty of aversion to familial relationships (more gays seem to be interested in legalizing gay marriage than actually getting married), but I think that will slowly change as gay marriage becomes more and more of a viable option in the mind of young gays who will no longer see straight marriage as a way that they can attain their desire for family.

The difficult part is for those in this transition period who have to work out all the kinks of a legalized gay marriage relationship. There aren't as many role-models out there for gay couples as there are straights. (Not saying there aren't plenty of long-time monogamous gay couples out there, because there are, of course, but their numbers are far fewer than straights.)

Or perhaps it's something much more simple: "A good man is hard to find."

J G-W said...

It takes courage and love to commit to any relationship -- same-sex or mixed-sex.

A person who commits to a same-sex relationship faces religious condemnation and potential social discrimination -- not to mention legal barriers that heterosexual couples don't face.

I've always felt that in a same-sex commitment, you know that this person is in it because he loves you... Because there are so many things trying to tear your relationship down that you have to be committed to stay in it...

My two cents...

The Impossible K said...

I agree w/ Clint... there does seem to be quite a transition going on, despite the fact that some organizations are still (sadly) homophobic.

I think in general though, the hardest voices to quell are the ones within yourself. Relationships take work, and any seed of doubt or troubled thought can wreak havoc on a stable relationship if you let it... I think that's the real danger you have to look out for, regardless of who you are attracted to. The insecure, emotionally broken ones are often the most visible too, so it may just appear that all the "real men" are taken, by a man or woman. But until we gain full access to every person's psyche, how can we know?

Rob said...

I'm a gay guy who's been married to a woman, never been depressed or on meds, think I have the basics of a successful relationship figured out, I like sports and can do basic car maintenance, and sometimes I get accused of being a closet straight guy.

I disagree with the implication of your thesis that "much or most of what matters in a relationship can be found [by a gay man] in a relationship with a woman" as opposed to a relationship with another man. I've been in a relationship with a woman and it was disastrous. I agree with JGW that the gender really doesn't matter. If there's genuine love and commitment on both sides, things will be fine.

I think you may indeed be projecting a bit of your own skepticism. I've been in the M/F relationship and, all things considered, would never ever do it again. If I get married again, it will be to the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. I've tried it the other way, and the "challenges and sacrifices and social or legal limitations of a same-sex relationship" would definitely be worth it. But frankly, they're not gonna be much different than those of a M/F relationship, at least not where I live.

The one difference, which makes all the difference, is that I'll finally be with the guy I choose and am meant to be with. That will make everything else worth it.

Daniel said...

And then there are those people who are immature and only looking for hook-ups in bars and then all of a sudden one of those encounters turns into a relationship and over time they mature together and have a healthy relationship (Dan Savage tells about meeting his husband in a bar--the hookup that never ended).

I don't think its fair to be searching only for the most healthy/mature and perfect match so you can have the most healthy/mature and perfect relationship right off the get go. It's not healthy/mature ;-)

Chris said...

If any of us gay guys in a mixed-orientation marriage are emotionally healthier, it might often have a lot to do with finding fantastic accepting women who help us get to that place. But, making a broad generalization like that may be too generous: we have plenty of emotional difficulties including an unending cycle of internal questions.

That Guy said...

The sad truth is that most gay guys have the sexual mores of straight men, but the attitudinal virtues of women. Thus, the stereotype of "slutty and bitchy". It's also the reason why lesbian relationships are much more accepted because most lesbians are the other way around (sexual mores of straight women, but virtues of men).

Alex said...

I was fascinated by your post. This sort of confirms my suspicion that we all fall into thinking that "the grass is always green"I'm a gay man in a MOM and ya, I guess I'm guilty as charged.
I do pass of as a straight man pretty well (despite the fact that I was in musicals, I'm studying literature, (not to say that makes someone gay, just saying that's a common stereotype).
I'm not sorry I married my wife.She's my best friend. But there's certainly a lot of doubt. I've come to think it all over. I think a lot of times I just long to be out there dating guys, like my life would be so much better if I had the freedom to do that. But obviously that presents it's own challenges.
That's not to say that if I wouldn't be willing to deal with those. I'd really like to be with a man. But as much as I'd like to be one of those potential people to date like you talk about, it just can't be that way right now.
I guess what I'm saying is that so often we romanticize what other people's situations are actually like. Hence the "grass is always greener" thing. I have to agree with Chris, that while I'm flattered you think we have those qualities that make a relationship work, those healthy things you talk about, there's a lot of struggle and internal doubt, baggage as it's often called, that comes from being in a MOM.

Original Mohomie said...

Rob, I do think most of what matters in a solid relationship can be found with a woman, at least for me. My question is whether the 'little' parts that are missing are as important as they have felt, or whether they might develop if I really fostered them over time. I also can't deny I've never been in love with a woman despite deeply appreciating and trusting some and feeling flirty with some for short times.

I think some mental gymnastics have to be done in a mixed-orientation marriage (whether they're more or less valuable or productive than the mental gymnastics required for an LDS guy coming to terms with a same-sex relationship is probably debatable), and mixed-orientation relationships may lack certain aspects same-sex relationships, all ELSE being equal, have (assuming the parties are gay *wink*).

But I do fully believe and trust certain of my gay friends who have married members of the opposite sex when they say they wouldn't trade what they have for anything and are happier than they thought they could be and even *gasp* are increasingly satisfied with their sex lives...even if most such couples I know have only been together for...from 1 to 7ish years, and most of those who have been together longer have only really dealt with the issue for a a number of years within that same range.

I think those who opposite-sex marry as deliberately and openly as the few I think of are a tiny, tiny minority of all such relationships, but I'm interested in the possibly higher percentage of marital success and happiness among those who do it the way they have or with the kind of social structure which they've built.

I also think they tend to have certain personality traits which aid them, and I think they've had some fortune in meeting the spouses they have, and I don't know if they would have chosen to marry members of the opposite sex if religious beliefs or personal philosophy hadn't proscribed same-sex pairing, or how much that ultimately matters, and I don't know that I want to have to work at a marriage in the ways they have despite recognizing that any meaningful relationship will require work (maybe kind of like most LDS people respect the sacrifice of Ramadan but certainly aren't about to switch to that instead of their single, monthly day of fasting--is that wrong or spiritually lazy of them to not choose the more challenging demonstration of faith?). But that doesn't stop me from having these thoughts sometimes and wondering...

Daniel, from the bits I've heard and read from Dan Savage, I really appreciate a lot of what he does and that he speaks frankly about things most people tiptoe around but disagree with some of what he says, and I think he's overly flippant (tellingly overconfident in his views) sometimes. Maybe my conservative is showing. How embarrassing. :-)

Original Mohomie said...

Regardless, I'm not interested in training someone to care about strict monogamy or the value of sexual restraint or to want children or to communicate openly and honestly. Some things we can explore and learn about and grow in together and adapt to each other. And I realize sometimes, people are even looking for a good reason to change. I'm just not sure I want to be that reason when it comes to the big stuff. I want to know they want it on their own, but I also recognize the possibility of mutual growth rather than being all aligned when we meet and was open to that with a couple of guys I've been interested in. I don't expect perfection. I do hope for the stuff that's really important to me to be there already with someone because there's enough to iron out without starting with big, central things. But you live, you learn. We'll see.

J G-W, your last paragraph made me say, "Hm." :-) It's something to consider.

I think it almost is as simple as "a good man is hard to find". I think we men are mostly not very culturally or socially reinforced (except within church society) in approaching relationships in ways other than...shallowly and selfishly, to be honest, and maybe there's some evolutionary biology behind it, too. So I suspect it takes a pretty independent thinker...or weirdo...to overcome that outside of watchful religious community. I hope to find a weirdo like me. A weird man is hard to find. Hm...well, duh.

To you married folk, don't worry: I know you're not perfect. ;-) But the kind of commitment you show in even trying to stay with your spouses, let alone doing so successfully and happily, seems to me to be a reflection of a perspective I wish I saw more often among on-the-market gay dudes. Just one o' them thangs.