My last post may have left the impression that I’m not on the  bandwagon for gay marriage.  Well, I’m not, at least not in the black-or-white version of matrimony to which it is being reduced by most media, and which so many of my fellows seem to be pursuing.  Actually, I’m all for good marriages between people of any persuasion.  Both my partner Steve and I are products of solid families headed by two people who were clearly in it for the long haul.  All wasn’t always bliss; we saw how long-term relationships work on a daily basis warts and all, and separately, long before we met, we apparently came to the same conclusion:  the warts are worth the trouble.

I’m not sure why–basic temperament or because I’m gay–but the idea of “being married” was never part of the adult picture I conjured of myself when I was growing up.  Although I was a serial monogamist and never a field-player while I was in the dating matrix, I found both states, being single and being part of a couple, had their individual charms. Switching between one and the other as I progressed through the maze towards maturity required adjustments.  At my core, I was happy either way and was actually surprised when a strong nesting instinct started taking over in my early 30s.

As the idea of a permanent relationship settled into my mind, it was colored by one attitude I can definitely attribute to being gay:  I was an outlaw.  I was perfectly happy with the way I loved and how I expressed it–for me, it was all nothing more than doing what came naturally–but society made it clear that it had other ideas.  I knew from the outset that whatever kind of family I may create for myself, it would never conform to the Ozzie and Harriet model, and I was actually fine with that.  Ozzie and Ozzie it would be, and if some other Ozzie and I should one day fall in love and decide to build a home together, we were free to make our own rules.  We would play by those that our parents had modeled for us unless they didn’t work, then, we’d improvise.  In the late 1970s, Steve and I were pioneers.  Yes, there had been gay couples, known and unknown, throughout history.  But we were among the first of the  “post-Stonewall” generation to set out on the path, to present ourselves to the world at large as a gay couple with no pretenses suggesting otherwise.  If we couldn’t have the legal protections that automatically accrue to heterosexual married couples, we’d use society’s rules and laws to create our own protections.  Steve and I had both had entire lifetimes to examine marriage as outsiders and decide whether or not some version of it was for us.  At ages 30 and 33, we were formed as adults.  We knew ourselves.

And so now I wonder exactly what it is my younger confrères are after when they pursue “gay marriage.”  The only reality they’ve ever known is a society that accepts gay couples at high school proms and venerates cultural icons like kd lang and Rufus Wainwright, two gay artists who contribute substantially to the mainstream culture, not just the gay byways.  Yes, this larger acceptance has created its own backlash, the loud cultural conservatives who keep harping about “traditional family values,” but these groups no longer own the microphone, and the louder they rant, the more irrelevant they become.  Young gay people are free to make their ways into the world to a degree simply unimagined when I was their age.

And what does that freedom mean?  Does this very acceptance remove the need my generation felt to ask important questions?  Is marriage now viewed the same by everybody, essentially as a less serious proposition than it really is?  (Look at some of the current examples!)  Steve and I were lucky.  We came from solid families and we were tempered by the challenges of blazing our own trail.  And we came to our life together relatively late.  Will a gay couple marrying in their early 20s today have as good a chance of making this complicated and hard “marriage” thing work as we did?  I hope so.