When I wrote last week about gay loneliness and minority stress, I meant to write a sequel in which I explain how increased opportunities exacerbate this stress. I approach gay marriage as subjects with caution: I know many couples for whom the Obergefell decision was the pivot on which their lives turned, and to question their happiness after what they’ve endured is churlish and cruel. Last week Ben Miller addressed queer men who want neither marriage nor monogamy yet recoil from Fire Island cliches:
An uncomfortable byproduct of the monomaniacal quest for marriage equality has been the creation of a new form of minority stress—the stress of the gay man who does not find a husband, or who doesn’t want one, or maybe wants two, and therefore cannot participate in this new and strange celebration of conservative values we’ve constructed as the ultimate goal of gay life. At their best, queer ideas about romance could help undo (for everyone) the poisonous idea that long-term unbroken monogamy is the only way to happiness. But now, many gays have bought into that lie. This is what happens when a civil rights movement values the banality of traditional romance over proud assertions of individual and collective identity, when the desire to enter a system supersedes the desire to change it.
The last sentence is pithier than it is true: I’ve felt no pressure to conform since Obergefell, and men who seek polyamorous trysts in Miami will find no shortage possibilities.
Back to Miller and “the impossible situation contemporary gays find ourselves in”:
the promise of acceptance and tolerance if we force ourselves into relationship models that often chafe; the way that rights of access to straight institutions like military service and marriage have divided us from our queer and trans sisters and siblings; the gentrification of our community spaces out of major urban centers; and the ingrained misogyny that leads to a drive towards hypermasculinity and thinness.
As I get older I notice how ill-prepared American society is for the aging of bachelors of modest means. Should he reach seventy without a companion or husband, who will take care of him? While heterosexual seniors also have trouble affording assisted living centers or live-in help and find relatives less than enthusiastic about tending to bed sores and wiping fecal matter, homosexuals still face resistance and resentment in portions of the country, especially in rural areas. The man or woman who chooses aloneness must learn to deal with the polite fascination of the majority, straight and gay. I’ve gotten skeptical responses on gay dating and hookup sites when I’ve admitted that I haven’t dated in any important sense in several years. What have you been doing in the meantime? Reading. Writing. Traveling. Fucking. Dining and drinking with friends. These gerunds suggest a richer life than cycles of relationship trauma.