Let's be clear: I hope that my last wedding book, The Gay Couple's Guide to Wedding Planning, goes on to sell a zillion copies and people refer to it for years to come. I'm proud of the work I put into it and I love it when I get positive feedback from grooms. In the past year or so, however, there's been a sea change in gay weddings and marriages, and the trends are disturbing.
Ten years ago, when I wrote my first gay wedding book, every couple I talked to and interviewed had one thing in common: They wanted to get married because they were madly in love. No one was forcing them to tie the knot; quite the opposite. It was a wonderful thing to witness and coincided with this country's fight for legal gay marriage. Much has changed in a decade.
While the percentage of gay, male couples I know are still getting married for love, and have taken this step with extreme caution and thought, many others are entering the institution for reasons not so pure of heart. I won't get into the legal or financial benefits of wanting a gay marriage, because those are factors outside of the realm of what my books discuss. I also won't talk about lesbian couples because the focus of my last book was solely on male weddings, and I have far more male gay acquaintances than gay women. That said, my concern is with the gay, male population who has decided that marriage makes sense because it's exciting, it will bring emotional security and attention, and, yes, it's "the thing to do."
Since publication, I've met men a man who married his boyfriend while still practicing his Crystal Meth addiction. He was convinced a husband would solve the drug problem. At a book signing, two very young men asked me point blank how they could have a big plush affair... for free. Their theory was that since they were gay, vendors would be thrilled to get the publicity. Also, they had no money. When I told them a wedding wasn't a time to harass vendors, they walked out.
I've witnessed couples say "let's just do it" before heading off, Vegas-style, to the nearest minister, and I've seen more than one man break up with his one true love, only to meet a new man a few months later -- and marry him. Then there's the issue of infidelity among gay men and their fiancés or grooms, which wouldn't be upsetting if it were an honest, open relationship to begin with.
There's nothing inherently wrong with any of the above examples of gay weddings, and straight people have been marrying under these circumstances for generations. The right to marry another man is, of course, a fundamental right, but do we want to trivialize what we've fought so hard to achieve? Those PSA's about Rush Limbaugh's multiple marriages and Newt Gingrich's affairs and Britney's one-night hitch that used to be plastered all over social media were meant to show how gay men had something more substantial to offer to the institution of marriage; not teasers for the bandwagon we were hoping to climb onto.
With roughly one half of all straight marriages ending in divorce, there is no reason to believe gay men will fare any better, and yet it's starting to appear as if, simply because we gay men deserve it so much, we assume we'll also be pros. More and more, I'm witnessing men get hitched without anything more than a big dream and a registry list. Or, in many cases, what seems to be a splashy statement about marriage equality.
While I understand the desire to show the world that your relationship is just as important as a heterosexual coupling, the enormous receptions and over-the-top parties and uber-extravagant event weddings don't mean a thing if you've left out that one minor detail -- that you want, and are ready, to marry the man you love. Since my books are all about preparing for the big day, it's of no personal value to me to advise guys to hold off. But I don't want to be the man who encourages the unrealistic fairy tale.
Marriage is an extremely difficult job -- ask any happily straight married couple. It involves severe compromises, financial planning, sacrifices, and, now more than ever, kids. Far too many gay couples are overlooking these details for exactly the same reason straight couples have done for ages; the excitement of the moment blinds them to the reality that will set in once the honeymoon ends. Marriage counseling and therapy are being left out, pre-nups are being left out, and, on a more outward level, common courtesy is being left out. You don't need to read my book to know that texting invites and asking people who have not been invited to your wedding for gifts is grossly inconsiderate.
For the Meth addict, or any addict, marriage is not the answer -- getting professional help and a support group is. For the young men with no cash to spare, if you don't have enough money for your wedding, how do you plan to start a life together? And for the quickie wedding guys, what's next? Quickie divorce? Look online at the stories of men like Johnny Weir and Cheyenne Jackson and you'll realize that, within a few short years, gay celebrity divorces and fights and battles and gossip and re-marriages are starting to look a lot like a typical day with the Kardashians. And just as trivial.
Gay marriage and monogamy is the subject that, in many respects, disturbs me the most. Gay men are at the forefront of a new time in history, deciding and making new rules about the definition of commitment and relationships in regards to marriage. For generations, heterosexual marriage has consisted of the rule that extramarital sex is "cheating" and is "wrong" and is grounds for divorce and separation and dissolution of the union and the friendship. With gay marriage rights, men are in a unique position to debate the definition of commitment, and many married gay couples, especially those who have been together for several years or decades, are re-thinking the meaning of traditional marriage values. I applaud them, and I would never tell a gay couple who should be invited into the bedroom. Provided the decisions are mutually agreed upon and are adhered to.
Where I find hypocrisy is in the married men who are outspoken and political about their desire to have loving, faithful, "traditional" marriages, and who are, indeed, "cheating" on their spouses. I've had two prominent marriage-equality proponents make sexual advances toward me, one a politician with kids who has made gay marriage and family part of his platform. It wasn't a subtle wink or kiss on the cheek; he gave me his private number and asked to sleep with me and tried to make out with me in a Limo at a journalism event. After people witnessed his actions, he told his entourage, and the event organizer, that I had made unwarranted advances toward him.
The other man was quite drunk when he made a pass, had been married for approximately a month, and is in the midst of writing about his perfect new gay marriage. He has since told me, and his husband, that I made up the encounter. In both cases, I was labeled a sexual predator, a little like those single women who dare to dabble with more important, married men. We deserve better.
Since these men are at the forefront of gay marriage, I do hold them to a higher standard than other married men, and I do not want them to be an example of how an honest marriage should work. I suspect that, because of the incredible challenges of achieving gay marriage, many marriage equality advocates do not want to discuss the ugly business of infidelity. And it's because of these very same challenges that I think it's imperative we have that discussion. If the men leading the fight aren't dealing with the issues of what makes a marriage solid, and merely concentrating on the end result, it's imperative the rest of us take the lead. Let's talk about sex, guys. And let's talk about where we want to take the institution of marriage in the 21st century.
It will be tragic if, five or ten years from now, we see gay divorce rates soar and couples staying in unhealthy relationships because of what's been invested, and a new generation of broken homes and shared dads. That's the world most of us grew up with and vowed not to repeat. And yes, I've already been approached to write that book.
More baffling is that many young, engaged or married men have written me personally to let me know that, unlike my "lost" generation, they're not struggling with relationship issues and how to stay monogamous and emotionally committed. They are the generation of answers. Good luck with that. No generation has all the answers, gay or straight, white, black, or green. When it comes to lifetime commitments, we all need help.
As I wrote in another blog, one man Amazon reviewed my wedding book by calling me a "sad old queen" who's "never actually been through the marriage process." Forgetting for a moment his reckless, personal words, let's say for a moment he has a point, and that I am resentful because when I was in my twenties I didn't have the opportunity to get married and have a big, plush wedding with all the trimmings.
What he either forgot or simply doesn't care about is the possibility that, 20 years ago, gay marriage was not only illegal across the United States and, for the most part, un-thought of, but it also could have meant being outed and fired from my job and being disowned by family and friends. Or that maybe the love of my life was closeted, growing up in that very different world, or didn't live long enough to see the day that two men could walk down an aisle to make a commitment in front of the world. In what I'm assuming is an exciting, loving time in this man's life, he's dismissed the generation before him as irrelevant, unnecessary intruders who have no business invading his inclusive party.
There exists among many gay men today a highly irresponsible sense of entitlement, which we've seen trickle over into the gay wedding world. Frankly, a lot of these men remind me of the straight couples I witnessed getting married in the hometown where I grew up. Just out of college, or high school, they got married because it was "the right thing to do," and, besides, as we've witnessed in every romantic story ever told, being single meant that you were less of a person than your married friends. Most of those marriages didn't end well either, and most of those couples have been more careful the second time around. This is a good time in history to follow our straight friends' lead, and to acknowledge the incredible journey to marriage that minorities have struggled to achieve for ages.
I have gay male friends who are engaged and in love and I have gay male friends who are married and in love, and to watch them embark on this adventure has been thrilling beyond all expectations. At signings I've seen that twinkle in a man's eyes when he realizes his right to love has finally been granted. I've seen the photos of couples who have been together for decades finally able to tie the knot, and I've watched a sitting president embrace gay marriage. I've witnessed my gay marriage advocate friends' predictions and dreams come true, and it's breathtaking. This is an amazing time in history, one that will be recorded for generations to come.
Sure, we have every right to reduce gay marriage to just another notch on our equal rights belt, but wouldn't it be infinitely wiser to seize this moment and celebrate, not just the pageantry, but the road to liberty? If the answer is yes, then I have just the book for you.
Photo by Melanie Wesslock.