So I thought I would treat you to Chapter 1 of my book, this is a rough, unedited version and may not reflect the actual finished copy.
Actual Gay Relationships vs Stereotypical Gay Relationships
Stereotypical gay relationships do not need much explanation. The camp, over the top guy and the straight acting sports guy come together to make a perfectly balance couple. They live together, they pay their taxes, they get involved in the community. They have miniature dogs that can be carried around in a bag and are always best friends with the ladies. The sports straight acting part of the couple does mingle with the straight men but never gets too close,as the straight men never fully trust him or his intentions but can all enjoy a football game together with a Tooheys (or two!). The effeminent camp partner is best friends with women, they have cocktails together, go shopping, tell each other their deepest secrets. The camp male always is a bitch it is an essential part of the stereotypical gay relationship and is probably the biggest myth of them all.
Actual gay relationships as I have come to know them are no different from any other relationship out there, in particular between a man and a woman. We are messy, complicated, jealous, loving, passionate, angry, crazy people who fall in love and want to spend the rest of our lives together. A famous game between gay men is believing one is more butch than the other. This unfortunately is not a myth, it is the truth and something that is highly amusing for the on-looker but potentially damaging and de-moralizing to the couple themselves. Gay relationships are about finding a connection and finding the person you want to be with for the rest of your life. As much as we have a reputation for being promiscuous the truth of the matter is at the end of the day everyone want’s someone to come home to. It doesn’t matter if your gay, straight, bi we all want to make a connection and we all want someone to come home to at night. It is through this I have learnt that gay relationships are no different to any other’s out there, forget what the media portray we are the real deal and I hope after reading this you will agree.
Let’s look at the stereotype of the gay relationship first, you can look to any recent Hollywood movie, most TV shows and books now have prominent gay characters and most of them are in a relationship. One that particularly stands out is Bob and Lee on Desperate Housewives. Two characters who I felt where added in to make the show more p.c but have just faded into the background quietly and shown the couple playing “house” a concept that actual gay relationships would find extremely offensive. The stereotype is one if feminine, the other is masculine providing the ying and yang, male and female balance that we tell ourselves is “normal” and seeing gay relationships in this light makes them normal and accepted…to straight people and if you watch it in the media.
Bob and Lee are polar opposites, Bob likes sports, Lee likes theatre and dramatics. They work, they pay their taxes, they have a small dog that can be carried around Paris Hilton style. All of this seems to be done as a feeble attempt of enforcing a stereotype that we have been trying to get rid of for years. The actual gay relationships I know and have experienced are much more complex, much more complicated and real than any tv show or movie can portray.
A lot of people when I first meet them who have never met someone who is gay before (yes they do still exist! I find it hard to believe as well!) have trouble believing that I don’t follow Kylie Minogue’s every move and love her music. I don’t starve myself, live at the gym and have unprotected sex in bathrooms (well not anymore anyway). These types of stereotypes are like any label we put on anyone single, married, gay, straight, bi, husband, wife, spouse, partner, ex, can be demeaning and set an expectation on us that can often be impossible to live up to.
Actual gay relationships are messy, they are complicated, frustrating at the worst of times and downright perplexing. I know what you are thinking that sounds just like every other relationship in the world? Well it’s true, there is no difference we fight, we argue, we break up, we make up, we move on, we hurt, we bleed, we heal. A side of gay relationships that is never portrayed in the media, a side that is very real. One of the best examples I can think of is a gay couple who I used to live across the street from. J and M, they where actually very a like, both effeminent, both smokers and the most amazing sense of humour. We would spend hours on their couch in winter sipping coffee and talking about our lives, through the whole time they shared so much love and affection for each other. They did actually own a little yappy dog that would have easily fit into a Burkin but that’s beside the point. The point is they where together for 10 years, through good and bad, they fought, they argued, they laughed, they cried and most of all they loved. It was the first place that I felt welcomed into, a place where I could be myself unashamed and not hold back who I was. The first place I felt truly accepted and genuinely loved for who I was. Like all friendships we drift sometimes due to distance, time or just different directions I got back in touch with M and found out that the whole time they where together unbeknown to me J was HIV positive. They had found out and agreed not to tell anyone, for years M loved and supported J through sickness and frailty. The endless doctors bills, hospital visits. So many nights M would awake to J shivering thinking that this could be it, every night year after year.
One night we where sitting on the lounge talking about random things and laughing when I asked M about relationships and what makes theirs work. My boyfriend of the time was extremely distant and preferred spending time with M over me which struck me as odd. The biggest lesson that M taught me was that trust is the most important thing in a relationship. If you do not have trust you have nothing. So many nights M and J would go off with different friends and do different things yet their relationship was extremely solid and their was never any jealousy or suspicion. If there was ever any issues or tension they would sit down over coffee and calmly discuss it and always follow it immediately with a date, a movie, a walk on the beach, something special just the two of them. This was the most amazing concept to me, coming from a broken home where my parents never went on dates or did anything special just the two of them to re-kindle their relationship and keep the spark alive.
It was at this point that I made M my relationship guru, the source of all my relationship questions, they lives seemed so happy, so perfect that I could not imagine anything tearing them apart. Unfortunately for M this meant many nights of me calling and crying, asking questions what was wrong with me? what was wrong with the guys I was seeing? The biggest question I asked him one night was “Why is being gay so hard?” I will never forget his reply as he flicked the ash from the end of his cigarette into the ash tray, took a swig from his coffee cup and stared down at me through his glasses, he had this icy steel gaze that made me feel like he could see right into my soul and inner being. “Gay relationships are hard, there is no such thing as a gay relationship, there are relationships and that is all there is. Don’t you ever let anyone tell you or treat you differently because of it. We only get one life and we have to live and share it with someone we love sex, age, race, gender it all means nothing. It is labels that humans have created to maintain a sense of order and expectation. Well I say fuck expectation and fuck anyone who tries to tell you any different.” The final words left his mouth and he took a second swig of coffee and turned back to the Nintendo where J was giggling at James Bond repelling down the side of the Hoover damn. I sat in complete silence digesting the words and this changed my whole mindset not only of gay relationships but of relationships and how we interact with each other as humans in general. I think it was this that sparked my interest in relationships, more specifically what makes them work and how two individual people can come together and build a life together.
The gay relationship can seem fickle and if the media portrayal is anything to go by gay men jump from bed to bed with no feeling, remorse or care about anything but themselves and their bodies. While in the past some degree of this representation could have been close to the truth times have definitely changed and like everything else relationships have evolved. M showed me that relationships are hard word, each individual has to put in a lot of commitment and dedication to ensure that it lasts and that each day is more amazing and beautiful than the next. As J got weaker and the sickness would intensify becoming utterly dependent on M to eat, go to the toilet and have a reason for living. This kind of love and commitment in a relationship is something that is so beautiful and ought to be recognized and celebrated. In our world today relationships have become like a paper coffee cup, you get it full to the brim steaming hot, you love it, you consume it and a short while later it’s empty and you convince yourself that you deserve a better coffee, so you throw it in the bin and move on to the next mocha-chino. Relationships are hard work and require time, sacrifice and above all love, a crucial element that is missing in relationships today which I believe has resulted in an alarmingly high divorce rate.
M awoke one cold winters morning and headed downstairs after a rough night with J. He had been up for most of the night coughing and looking paler than he had ever had, after years of struggle, pain and love J had finally passed away. M lay just staring at J’s body tears streaming down his face with an enormous smile on his face for several minutes before calling the ambulance. The tears streaming down his face he remembered their life together, they had the most amazing existence together and while they where two gay men that where in a relationship. Not a gay relationship a human relationship. While I will never know what this level of sorrow feels like I can only imagine as M described to me one day after “It’s like a piece of you has been ripped out with no anesthetic you feel the effects of for years after.”
M and J had an amazing relationship, the kind of relationship that makes you question why you would dump someone for wearing a scarf in summer, why you would not date someone because of the postcode they live in, the clothes they wear or the company they keep. Relationships are the same regardless of sexual preference or gender and the sooner we start treating them this way the sooner we will start to treasure relationships again and start leading healthier, balanced partnerships.