Has any other group of people had to have their personal romantic relationships defended in the court of public opinion? The answer would be yes. Biracial couples were the first group of people to openly face discrimination in the United States. However, after several years of fighting the Supreme Court unanimously decided this type of discrimination could no longer continue. The landmark Supreme Court Case Loving v. Virginia ruled that two people regardless of race could marry.
It sounds absolutely crazy that this was the law of the land for hundreds of years even during the late 1900s. We can take our personal struggle for marriage equality and follow a similar line of rationale that the Lovings did. For it is not about the color of skin, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, nor about something that is merely tangible. At the end of the day it is about love.
Love for us in the gay community seemingly comes in several forms but what form is the most valid? Does it mean random hook-ups, the person you dance with on Saturday night, the chance meeting with someone in a grocery store, or even a friend turned romantic interest? Just like a heterosexual couple any one of those could lead to a lasting relationship, the only difference is that the heterosexual couple can eventually marry.
The media has produced several films where each of the examples I have given have worked out in a romantic courtship. For us unfortunately, the media normally marginalizes us into two different categories – the sexual animals just looking for a quick hook-up or the quirky gay just trying to find love in all the wrong places. The moral of the story eventually always rules out the chance of ever finding monogamy.
Maybe the media doesn’t realize the damage it does to the psyche of young gays and lesbians. The pop culture images of what it means to be gay, in many ways, were more damaging to the “gay” image I saw growing up than what I heard from my family. For several years these were the images that I relied on when finding my way in the “gay world.” Sometimes these became a self-fulfilling prophecy that started much younger than I was aware of.
The fast life of promiscuous behavior is reiterated by society’s perception of our culture. Without dealing with these images or “stereotypes” we are bound to reinforce these “norms” as defined by those outside our community.
Like the lessons I received from the media, I also grew up in a semi-religious household often hearing what it meant to be gay or lesbian. Most of what I heard was superficial and the rest negative. Even in past relationships, I have been challenged not to be too gay or “real” men do this, etc.
As countless behavioral studies on the issue of gender and sexuality have shown, these types of critiques chip away at the core of us as human beings. It allows that little voice of doubt and confusion to make its way into our heads. If we listen to the little voice inside and are not true to ourselves then how can we be in a stable relationship?
The religious right is probably the largest perpetrator of attempting to define who we are. Until recently, they have been largely successful. I believe the core problem is that we aren’t allowed to many; that our hopes stop at the relationship or dating phase. Living in Kansas it seems we aren’t even allowed to think we could have the possibility to ever marry.
The denial of marriage has an adverse effect on gays. According to the American Psychiatric Association, scientific research provides no evidence that justifies neither the discrimination of GLT people nor the denial of equal rights; including gay marriage. Several studies provided by the APA make the clear point that many mental health problems and the wellbeing of gays and lesbians are directly related to the denial of marriage.
Furthermore, the APA asserts that being denied the right to marry causes greater mental health consequences to gays and lesbians and is not rooted in pre-existing conditions. Being denied the ability to marry who you love goes beyond a “religious” significance. In reality the gay community is left out of a legal and social sphere of everyday life.
Our love and how we find love cannot be defined by the media, and it cannot be defined by our family, or our churches. Love is found between two adults who happen upon it when unexpected. Love can be sexual, or it can be intellectual, it can be poetic, or it can be realistic. The only people that can define what true love is are those who are currently experiencing it.
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Danny Cooper is a graduate in Theatre and is currently finishing his 2nd and 3rd degrees in Political Science and International Studies. He has traveled and worked throughout Latin America, South Korea and most recently the Middle East. Follow him on twitter@brasildan.