Gay Marriage: A Shift in Perspective

gay coupleThe past year has been a notable one for states reconsidering their stance on gay marriage, with some welcoming it while others continue their battle to shut out the LGBT community. Change has come through activism, court mandates, and legislation, but there may still be room for change to also occur in the manner in which we live and pursue our lives.

As a recently married gay man, I am fascinated by the internal and external journey that I am taking as I shift myself into this new form of self-identity. As someone who survived the eighties, I grew up in a world where the possibility of marrying the man I loved was not even a possibility. As I matured and looked to create connection, I was in two long-term relationships (10 and seven years), but even in the course of those partnerships the depth and commitment of marriage was not an option.

On June 28, 2013, that all changed. Suddenly it was OK in the state of California for my partner of 12 years and I to get married. This was and is exciting news, and on November 1 of last year we jumped the broom and got married. For us, this was simply recognition of the journey we have taken thus far and a commitment to the path ahead.

As comfortable and ecstatic as I am with our nuptials, I have been observing the varied and distinct reactions we have received from family, friends, and the community. For the most part, we have been welcomed with open arms and hearts, yet even in the middle of these warm receptions, there have been some challenges with the full acceptance, understanding, and recognition of our marriage.

One of the first experiences with this was immediately following our wedding, when well-meaning relatives made the statement, “Well, now you are really a part of the family.” Knowing the people who said this, I know that it was a heartfelt welcoming statement, yet at the same time it raised the question of the legitimacy of the previous 12 years that my partner and I had been together. Were all of the family gatherings we hosted, the weddings and funerals we attended, and the intimate conversations we had over family issues simply less than because we were a gay couple and now we could prove that we had legitimacy by being officially married?

Also, when we check into a hotel as two men, why is there always a suggestion that we require two beds? We are more than open about stating that we are married, but this question is not one I normally witness heterosexual couples having to go through when they are checking in at the same front desk.

A very recent occurrence happened at the airport during our return from a trip out of the country. As we were landing and the customs slips were handed out for us to declare any items we were bringing back into the country, the instructions were given very clearly to fill out one form per family, which we did. Arriving at the customs kiosk, my partner stepped up first with the form and I joined him a few seconds later, dragging up the rest of our luggage. The customs officer said, “What’s this?” whereupon we had to once again state that we were married and clarify the relationship. After a few moments of awkward mumbling, the officer processed our papers and sent us on our way. No other families or couples had this happen during the process.

These small incidents add up to a new level of understanding that needs to be developed between the heterosexual and homosexual communities. Perhaps a shift in assumptions and language can help to normalize how any and all couples are treated by society. These moments, seemingly small and innocuous, add up to a sense of feeling ostracized and awkward in daily life even as the large battles are being won state by state and in the Supreme Court.

Am I angry about these transgressions? Not really. But for me, they point out how the work of educating people on the concept of same-sex marriage is not finished, even in the places where LGBT marriage is now legal. Perhaps I need to accept the role of educator and pioneer in this process. I invite you to also examine your own beliefs and language as you begin to interact with married couples who are part of the LGBT community.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by John Sovec, LMFT, therapist in Pasadena, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • troy

    troy

    May 12th, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    I know that people mean well but there are those times when you justw ant to look at the and tell them really, to just shut it. You mean that now that I can leaglly marry this makes my relationship more valid or more important than it was before that? Especially when I still can’t do this anywhere I go, only in the states that have the decency to legalize what has been a long time coming to begin with? I am kind of bitter about the whole thing, knowing that just because the state says its ok does not mean that everyone is going to accept my relationship with another man. It makes me angry, ebacsue I have to be ok with yours but you still feel justified not being alright with mine?

  • Preston

    Preston

    May 13th, 2014 at 3:39 AM

    The way to change minds is not through force, but just by living the kind of life that will make others say that they admire you and that this is what they want for themselves.

    It does not have to be about throwing things in their face when they are not ready to accept them, but rather be a good person and be kind no matter how they act toward you. This is the way that you can gain respect and change minds.

  • Lana

    Lana

    May 13th, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    More and more people are changing their minds and have opened up to the fact that letting people choose who they want to be with instead of confining them to thinking only one way, this can actually be better for society. I don’t want someone telling me who it is and is not alright for me to fall in love with and I am sure that those in the gay community have felt that way for a very long time. They deserve the same rights, the same respect that heterosexual couples have been privy to for a long time.

  • Marissa V

    Marissa V

    May 14th, 2014 at 7:50 AM

    For the one person who is becoming more accepting and has beliefs that are evolving when it comes to gay marriage, there are just as many closing their minds off to the possibility that gay marriage can be just as happy and satisfying as that with heterosexuals.

    I think that for many people this is still very much a threatening issue, not necessarily to themselves but to what they think of as a traditional lifestyle and they don’t like to see these kinds of changes being made; therefore they will do what they think is right and continue to espouse hate over love, andger over acceptance, and truthfully their actions keep us quite stagnant and keep any of us from really moving forward to where we need to be.

  • shawna

    shawna

    May 15th, 2014 at 3:50 AM

    I guess this could be as much of a social and cultural shock to the gay community as it is to others. Many have most likely gone along with their relationships feeling that this is the most they will ever have from it and that marriage will never be a possibility for them. And then, all of a sudden, states start to wake up and give these marital rights to this community that has fought tirelessly for equality. That has to be a huge difference in the way of thinking that for some came just overnight and there have to be many couples left wondering, what now? Where do we go from here?

  • brenda

    brenda

    May 17th, 2014 at 6:06 AM

    How can I be sure that what I say and feel are right when it seems that the LGBT community is still a little unsure of those things themselves?

  • jza

    jza

    June 19th, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    MICROAGGRESSIONS, people. Look it up!

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