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Beverly Greene

November 1996

Marriage and Families: Can Gays and Lesbians REALLY Have Either?

After talking to some people, both in and outside of the lgbt community, I realized that even today there exists the idea, no, the myth that lesbians and gays do not get into long term relationships that last. I thought about this for a while and tried to figure out exactly where this myth comes from. Obviously, these people haven't spent much time really looking around at lesbians and gays in their 30's and 40's. So, where is this idea coming from and is some part of it really true?

When I came out, I think that I did believe that being a lesbian meant that I would not have a family and that I would never be married (or in a long term, committed relationship). I thought that I would go through life in a string of short term relationships while spending the majority of my life alone. Where did I get this idea from? Even I wasn't sure. I can't remember anyone ever sitting me down and telling me that was how it was. All of the other lesbians I know were in relationships, (and two of the three couples are still together). I think that this myth must be packaged in with the other idiotic ideas that we are taught about what it means to be gay or lesbian.

No one ever sits a child down and says, "OK, honey. We have to have a talk. You can't be gay or lesbian because if you were, you could never get married or have children." Yet we know even before we come out that these things are "true." We automatically assume that we will never get married and that we will never have children just because we happen to love people of the same sex. While it is true that most people, especially today, know that lesbians and gays can not legally be married (either in Canada or the US, as well as in many other countries), but do we know that a piece of paper with a legal seal on it doesn't make a marriage? No. No one tells us that. No one sits us down after we come out, hands us a handbook on what it means to be gay and says "You know, Beverly, you can still be married. You can still have children and a family. You are not giving that up just by being true to yourself. You can still have all the important components to a marriage, it just won't be legal for a while." I wish someone would have.

I hate talking to so many younger gays and lesbians and hearing them say that they can't be gay because they can never get married or father children or that they can't be lesbian because they can never have the Barbie doll dream. Both of these thoughts are not only sexist and wrong, they are also something that we are doing to ourselves!! Only we can change our perceptions about what it means to be gay or lesbian by learning more, observing more, and just living more.

So, how do you come out to yourself and the rest of the world and still have it all, the whole Barbie doll dream? You don't, because you have to redefine what "having it all" means to you. I mean, who really wants Barbie's life anyway? She lives in some ugly pink house, drives some ugly pink car, and is just now getting a job in her 40's. She's never had any kids and has always had to take care of her kid sister, Midge (and some other new one that her non-existent parents somehow managed to have despite their age!) We're told she's married, but we all know Ken looks more than a little on the gay side and is never home with Barbie anyway!! (Of course, that could explain the pink house and corvette!) And hey!! When you think about it, how often do you see Barbie with her girl "friends" and how often do you see her with Ken? Something to think about!

I remember one day I was talking on-line with a young guy and he finally told me what I knew he had been hinting around for months, too afraid to actually say it. After he told me that he thought he was gay, he was very sad, and told me that he just refused to be gay because that would mean that he could never get married and have a family and he desperately wanted that when he grew up. I had three questions for him, questions you should ask yourself if you happen to think the same way:

First, why do you want to have a family? Is it because you have been told that having a family is the only way to be happy and complete as a person? Or is it because you really and truly want a family? Secondly, what do you consider a family? How many people does it take to make a family? If you only had one parent, you would call that a family. If you only had an older sibling left, you'd call that a family. So, why couldn't you and your life partner be a family without children, if you choose not to have any.

Thirdly and most importantly, why can't you have a family? Just because you love the same sex does not diminish your physical capability to have children, or your desire to have children, or your ability to adopt (though, admittedly it does make it a little harder in some areas!) Being gay or lesbian may make it harder for you to have children, but it does NOT make it impossible. You just won't have any children that you are not prepared for or that you do not want. That makes both you and your children pretty lucky!

Another thing I challenge everyone to think about is how you define what makes a marriage. Is it just a legal union between a woman and a man as some religious groups have suggested? If so, that narrow definition would include women who are sold to their "husbands" and people who get married only for money or citizenship status in a certain country. This definition would also include women and men who are not legally married despite most churches saying that they do not have a moral union, because they can have what is called a "common law marriage". So, do morals of the churches or any group of people really decide who can be legally married? Or is it just the fear of the unknown, homophobia running rampant in Washington that keeps us out of the church registries and of tax returns as married?

After you have thought about what makes a marriage, what do you consider the main reason for getting married? I have heard over and over again that gays and lesbians should not be allowed legal marriage because marriages are only for the union of men and women to produce children. OK. Let's pretend that I buy that load of bull just for a minute. Only people who can have children together can get married. OK. So, I guess we are going to start testing everyone before they get married to ensure that they can produce children, right? I suppose we are going to deny women and men who are unable to produce children for whatever reason the basic human right of a legal marriage because they are unable to have children, right? No, I didn't think so. So, why is that it that heterosexuals who can not have children or do not want to have any children can be legally married and gays and lesbians can not? Doesn't that put us all on the same playing field? Both couples could have children with technological help or by adopting, but neither can have children without the help of a third person. What is the difference here? Is it really about having children or, like I said before, the homophobia, the fear of the unknown, the need to resist and ignore what we do not understand?

As much as I would like to see my dream come true, this article is not going to open people's eyes. I can't force governments to legalize gay and lesbian marriages with my logic. So, why bother writing this? Because of what I've been getting at for the last two and a half pages...a piece of paper saying "I promise to love you and stay with you as long as you love me and stay with me." does NOT make a marriage. People do. Love does. And no matter how some church groups wish it were true, heterosexuals do not have the corner on that market. Gays and lesbians, in all reality, have committed relationships that last longer than their heterosexual counterparts. Of course, we have our breakups, our fights, we are normal. But, the next time you see an older gay or lesbian couple, ask them how long they have been together. You might just be surprised. I know couples who have been together over half of my life. Obviously they're doing something right.

So, please don't give up on your dreams. Don't hate what and who you are because of what you think it will exclude you from. There is nothing that you can't do or have in life. You may have to work harder for it, fight more for it, and scream louder for it, but you can have it! If you want a marriage, wait until you know that you have found the right one, get a minister, two rings, and enough love and understanding to last a whole lifetime and you'll have one. If you want children and you know that you can do a good job raising them and giving them love, go ahead and have them. You alone decide your fate. You alone decide what you can and can not do. And you alone can tell the world that we are tired of only getting the left overs of the rest of civilization, that we want, no, demand our basic rights as a human being. You alone decide what a marriage means to you. I know what the gold band I wear means and it has nothing to do with the fact that the matching ring is on another woman's finger!

Peace, love, and happiness to all...always, in all ways!

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