Monday, September 19, 2011

An Exchange with Mark

Before I went to bed this past Saturday evening, I checked my email and found the following from Mark.  It was in response to a post titled "On Gay Men and Monogamy...Again," which I published late last week.  The reason why I decided to share this with you should become apparent as you read it.

Dear Rick:

I've been reading your blog posts over the past several months, and I just wanted to send a note of thanks.

I am also in a long-term relationship in which we have been faithful to each other.  At times, it felt like we were the only gay men we knew who wanted a monogamous relationship much less sustained one.  I even remember being teased by some of our gay male friends about not sleeping with other men, as if we were somehow missing out on the "gay lifestyle."  At worst, there were certainly times when I have felt like a minority within a minority.  For me, being faithful to my partner brings a deep respect and dignity to our relationship that wouldn't be there if we weren't monogamous.  It's the reason I wanted to be in a relationship.

I know that many gay couples choose not to be faithful to each other and are happy in those relationships.  It works for them.  I believe we all have the right to define the best relationship for ourselves and must honor that right for other couples.  It may not be how I would choose to live, but it may be for others.  I don't have objections to that.  I do have to say, however, that I'm constantly disappointed by how often gay couples choose not to be monogamous.

Which brings me to how I found your blog.  We are fortunate to live in a state that allows same sex marriage.  After 27 years, we are planning our wedding for next year and are so excited to be finally wed.  But as I'm sure you're aware, marriage equality is a fiercely debated topic currently in the US.  With the presidential election coming next year, the candidates have once again tried to identify the common enemy, the gays, and are promising they will stand up for family values, traditional marriage, Christian values, etc.  Inevitably, the amount of infidelity within gay relationships will be given as a reason once again to show how gay relationships are not the same as straight relationships.  On one particular night, I had listened to more than I could stand and was feeling less excited about our upcoming wedding.  I jokingly did a Google search for committed, gay relationships, not expecting many meaningful hits.  Your blog was one of the search results.

So finally, the thank-you.  Thank you for posting about your views and your relationship.  It is very comforting to me to read a gay man's blog about the value of being in a monogamous relationship.



Here is my response to Mark.

What a thrill to hear from you, and thank you so much for your kind words.  Occasionally, I hesitate publishing some of the posts I write (for example, those on gay men and monogamy), because I think I might be the only one who feels as I do.  But then I decide, what the hell.  You have just one chance to go around in life; my thoughts and opinions are just as valid as anyone's; and, if people don't like what I write, they don't have to read it.  Besides, more often than not, I learn others think the same way I do (maybe not on all points, but on many) and appreciate someone finally speaking up for them. 

If you've read extensively through my blog, you'll know I also don't get the whole thing about the "gay lifestyle."  I just don't get it.  I don't understand what some gay men see in sleeping around and having a lot of sexual experiences with different partners.  What is the thrill in that?  I know what I share with my partner--and I'm not even talking about sex here--is more worthwhile and meaningful than anything these men have hopping from one sexual encounter to another.  I could not have said it more beautifully than you did:  "For me, being faithful to my partner brings a deep respect and dignity to our relationship that I wouldn't achieve if we weren't monogamous."  I feel the same way.  I love knowing what Chris and I share is worthy of other people's respect. 

I've never been like other gay men.  From the time I finally accepted my homosexuality (in my early twenties), my goal was to be in a long-term, committed, and monogamous relationship.  Not for a moment did I want to sleep around in the hope of satisfying my sexual appetite with dozens or hundreds of men.  What's the point in that?  How empty.  How meaningless.  An open relationship with Chris?  Why?  How disrespectful of him would that be?  If you truly love someone, you're not out having sex with other people.  Simple as that.  And how disrespectful of myself, too.  I strongly believe the root of promiscuity is a lack of self-respect and self-love.  If you respect and love yourself, the last thing you do is give it all away to just anyone.  But I know I don't think like a lot of gay men.

I also believe as you do, Mark, that each of us has the right to define the best relationship for himself and should honor that right for everyone else.  Absolutely.  But where this theory runs into trouble for me is when all gay couples are looked at the same way.  Is when the mainstream community assumes all gay male couples have open relationships, cheat on their partners, and have little regard for commitment and monogamy.  As much as it might be a stereotype, somewhere along the line, the mainstream community got the idea gay men are not monogamous, and, thus, my relationship with Chris isn't looked at with the same respect as relationships between straight folks are.  This doesn't sit right with me because, as far as I'm concerned, there's no difference between them. 

That's why, among other subjects, I write about monogamy in gay relationships.  Because what often happens is those of us in monogamous relationships disappear into our communities, blend in, and few outside our closest neighbors know we're there.  Meanwhile, the hyper-sexualized gay male world continues to get all the attention (pride parades and the like), while those of us in monogamous relationships don't have a voice or the opportunity to say, "Hey, wait a minute.  We're here, too, and what we have deserves respect.  Because gay men are not just about sex and open relationships.  Many of our relationships are just as stable as straight ones, and they deserve to be recognized accordingly."  End of story.

Congratulations, Mark, on being in a monogamous relationship with your partner for 27 years.  What an incredible achievement.  Both of you should be proud of yourselves.  And you must be thrilled about your upcoming wedding.  Nothing should be allowed to diminish any of the excitement of that occasion, especially not the political climate in the US.  Yes, some scary things are going on in your country, with the Republicans and the Tea Party.  Yes, many believe among the evils befalling the US are a lack of family and Christian values.  And, yes, unfortunately, infidelity in many gay relationships will be used to diminish the credibility of all gay relationships.  Which is why you, I, and our partners must continue to set the example that not all gay relationships are the same.

I'm so grateful my views on gay men, relationships, and monogamy gave you comfort at a time when you needed it.  And I sincerely hope you move steadily toward the day of your wedding, knowing you are exactly where you want to be--and where, if honest with themselves, most gay men want to be, too.  The fact is, many gay men think they crave sex, but what they really crave is love.  What we have with our partners is love, and, as you already know, no amount of sex--no matter how good it is--could ever substitute for that. 

Warm regards,


  1. The following comment was received from a reader:

    It doesn't matter whether a person is straight or gay - cheating happens. I know so many straight people who have not been faithful to their partners. Maybe the stats is higher in the gay community for this kind of behavior - I don't know. But I think staying faithful to one partner is more about character rather than sexual orientation.

  2. I could not agree more. I don't have statistics related to who cheats more--gay or straight people--but I'd be willing to bet gay men take the prize for the reasons noted in this post, as well as others.

    But, yes, strength of character plays an instrumental role in determining whether or not one cheats. That being the case, I'd appreciate if more gay men exhibited strength of character, so we all looked better at the end of the day. That's partly what writing this blog is about.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. If I may presume to speak on behalf of straight people (yes, it's good to be queen... :) I don't think the "gay/non-monogamous" thing is the real deal-breaker in the minds of conservatives who seek to limit gay rights, I think it's a convenient excuse for a more visceral bigotry. If I were to think of the group most likely to be non-monogamous, I'd think of Republican politicians, and yet no one is claiming they shouldn't be allowed to marry. Having read a ton of Dan Savage, I think his argument began as a way to deal with the huge number of marriages that end in divorce (over 50%, isn't it?), largely over incidents of infidelity. So, while "sanctioned" cheating may be more of a hallmark of gay (but not lesbian) relationships, unsanctioned cheating seems pretty prevalent in straight relationships. And while we've discussed our relative monogamous relationships before, Rick, I'm uneasy defining non-exclusive relationships as "lacking in character". If I've learned anything, it's that there's a very big world out there, with a lot of different ways of doing things, and there isn't necessarily a "right" way that works across the board for everyone. In fact, one of my favourite quotes is:
    "People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost." --the Dalai Lama

    And to Mark: congratulations! And if I'm outraged by what's going on in the States, I can only imagine how it's making you feel... I'm from the States originally, and the next important battle (if I may climb up on my soap box) will be to make sure we keep Obama in office, and Rick Perry out of it.

  4. On this point, Sarah, I think we're going to disagree. Perhaps it's my Catholic upbringing, or my moral compass, but I have difficulty with the concept of cheating, sanctioned or otherwise.

    If one has little or no interest in monogamy, then why enter a relationship? One might as well remain single and get playing around out of his system before settling down. I just don't believe you can have it both ways--supposedly be in love with your partner, yet seek sexual gratification from others. What's the point of that? Why can't your partner fulfill your sexual needs? How can you be sure sex won't turn into love for and devotion to someone else? And why all the emphasis on sex anyway?

    I can't believe both people in a supposedly loving relationship would equally agree to have sex with other people. My feeling is, one person wants this arrangement more than the other and talks the other into it (I know of instances where this happened). As the quote in one of my other posts on this subject states, open relationships usually result in one person becoming jealous, which, in the case of many gay relationships, ends them.

    Finally, to repeat what I wrote in this post, I wouldn't care what other people (specifically, gay men) do in or out of relationships...if it didn't come back to reflect badly on me as a gay man who strongly believes in the sanctity of relationships, gay or straight. At a time, particularly in the US, when gay relationships are under a lot of scrutiny, with respect to allowing or not allowing gay marriage, I believe we have to prove we value our relationships as much as straight people supposedly do.

    I also believe, as a rule, gay men, like black people, for example, have to go that extra mile to get recognition and respect for what we want. Ironically, straight, white people get whatever they want simply because they're straight and white, but gay or black people don't simply because they're gay or black. For some reason, we have to prove to those who can grant us our rights, or not, that we deserve them. That's just the way it is. So if it means we have to demonstrate we deserve to get married by remaining faithful to our partners and taking our relationships seriously (as I think it does), then that's what we have to do. So be it.

    You may well be right with your visceral bigotry comment (I think the issue of gay men not being able to donate blood is another good example). But, at some point, we still have to take responsibility for ourselves and do what's within our control to "earn" the automatic human rights granted to the majority of the population just by being here, but often not to us. If this means we have to go over and above, then so be it. I don't know of any other way. Certainly, taking to the streets and demanding isn't going to get us anywhere. What choice do we have except to make our way the best we can in a world that isn't fair or just to a good many people?

    Wow! I've really enjoyed this discussion. Thanks so much for your comment. It's a little early for me to be this mentally stimulated, but you've helped me wake up. Great to hear from you.

  5. Ok, let's agree to disagree on this one, dear :)
    (And, as I've mentioned, I'm arguing the case hypothetically, not from personal experience...) Maybe it's my cranky inner feminist, but I don't think I should have to behave the way men think I should in order to have rights, they should be mine by virtue of the fact that my humanity isn't worth less than a man's. AND, being docile and not making waves didn't get women the vote or black men and women their civil rights. How dare some bigot tell you what kind of marriage you "get" to have? Drrrr, conservatives make me mad! Okay, I'll settle down now...

  6. Thanks for the follow-up comment, Sarah. I appreciate it.

    Feel free to express yourself or to sound off here any time you want. You know I respect you and whatever you have to say (even if we agree to disagree).

    Thanks again.