Part I: Is Gay Marriage Only For White Men?
When I first “came out,” which is to say actively meeting, if not yet dating men or even identifying as gay, I would often times ask the men I encountered a very simple question, “Do you ever want to get married?” Having these discussions over my underage drink or a fast food meal, many of the men replied that one day they’d like to eventually give up being gay and marry a woman. Knowing them, I gave most the skeptical side eye. Most implied that this would happen around the tender age of 30, as if that were the gay expiration date.
More often though the guys I asked simply replied, “No.” They didn’t see themselves ever marrying a man. As I admired some of these men, I was left confused because they were open, seemingly comfortable black gay men. Most of them no longer dated women or pretended. They actively socialized with men and sometimes entered into serious relationships. However, the idea of marrying a man was not even considered. After dating and being in committed relationships, wasn’t marriage the next step?
Admittedly, these discussions I had with my new social acquaintances were over ten years ago. Now, I am a tad closer to 30. In that time I have dated and been in serious relationships with men. I have made my rounds being social and meeting gay men in all of the major cites along the east coast. The concept of marriage wasn’t really a legal option for gays 10 years ago and 18-year-old guys of any sexual preference don’t often want to think of marriage or the prospect of a committed relationship anyway. However, gay marriage is now legal, or fighting to be at least legally validated in several states all over the country. I have not stopped asking questions about gay marriage and by and by, the answers from black gay men are still basically the same. Overall, marriage (at least same sex marriage) is just not an issue that concerns many black gays.
For the past few years, the debate over gay marriage equality has been in the forefront of American political and media discussions. We see images and read articles about gay and lesbian couples that have been together for years and years. Now these couples want to take the next step and validate their relationships and get married in any state that allows them. Largely, these images and stories are of white gay men or lesbian couples. Surely there are some black gay couples who want to get married simply because now they can. Cities like New York, Atlanta, and Washington D.C. rank high in having both the largest African American communities and the highest concentrations of same sex couples in the United States. Where are their stories? In speaking with some of my black gay acquaintances, I’ve gathered that many are not opposed to the idea but they do not feel included in the struggle. On the other hand, a few of them could still care less. One of my best friends, a gay 29-year-old man, simply said to me, “It just doesn’t concern me.”
Living in Pennsylvania, I haven’t been actively involved in any votes or marches for marriage equality. Yet, as opposed to many of my friends, I am very much for my right to marry anyone who I love. Among my friends, lovers, or even strangers at a party (after I’ve had a few drinks), I’ll actively argue my point. One of my closest friends told me that he would consider a commitment ceremony but he would never get “married” or claim to marry a man before God. I’d never thought of this point. No matter what their respective religion, many black gays, though oftentimes openly and happily gay, are simultaneously rooted in the churches beliefs that homosexuality is wrong or not accepted. Often times, it is the single reason given why many individuals say they don’t believe in gay marriage. Many black gays simply don’t see the concept of marriage as a reality, especially if you’re getting older and still single. Seemingly there aren’t many married, black gay couples to adore or inspire to follow. Personally, I have only known maybe two black gay couples who were or are engaged to be married and three couples who were married in Washington D.C. or New Jersey. I’ve encountered maybe a handful more and other black gay men often viewed with them skepticism.
However, I’ve personally known and read about dozens of engaged or married white gay couples. Marriage is a reality for them if not the goal. It’s prevalent. It’s visible. It’s not only accepted, but supported by their friends and families. Why shouldn’t more black gays accept and expect the same for our relationships?
I believe that many of my peers feel that finding love in a relationship is enough. That’s an accomplishment to applaud alone. I’ve been in relationships where I was truly in love and it was great, but after some time most people want progression. Should we remain just “boyfriends” forever? Should we not aspire to get married because none of our peers are? I want to get married, not because I had to or because I needed the piece of paper to validate my relationship, but because I view it as a symbol of the progression of love between my partner and myself. Marriage may not be for everyone but it should still be an option. Should I not have a wedding because I don’t have a woman? As I get older, I’d like to admit and I don’t have a wife and kids in the works, but I can still hope for a husband and a Golden Retriever. Why not? I’m not quite 30 yet!