The Marrying Kind: Homosexuality and Marriage – Brenda Maddox

TMK(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

This book is a study of homosexuality and marriage. This issue has taxed me for some time now as two of my friends are both gay and married.

Given the conservative estimate of the percentage of people who are gay, there must be hundreds of thousands, at least, in Britain who are both gay and married – so it is not an abnormality so much as a common variation amongst patterns of marriage.

The book contains several case studies, sympathetically written up. What emerges is that successful marriages are those where the ‘straight’ partner says something like ‘I have to love that half of my husband/wife because it is part of the whole.’ Marriage is an exploration and such exploring will uncover much – where it is left veiled then there is a break down in trust and communication. If the ‘problem’ is affecting a greater number than most would expect, more needs to be done to make people aware of homosexuality so that they can face up to their own fears. If the commonly held ‘spectrum theory’ i.e. that all of us are somewhere a line between 0- 10 regarding erotic preferences, then this is an issue that affects more marriages even than the hundreds of thousands mentioned.

With gay liberation one might expect gays to marry less often but this is not the case because many want children and a partnership of opposites and many on the continuum find it possible to carry on a furtive gay existence, either with a regular lover ‘on the side’ or, sadly, in odd encounters in public toilets – a sociological study in America (Tearoom Trade) by a clergyman (Laud Humphreys) revealed that the vast majority of people who use toilets for anonymous sex are married men on their way home from work; some research in England suggests that it is the same here. Gay liberation has worked for exclusively gay people – they can settle down with a partner – but it is those whose primary orientation is female who are driven to the use of toilets. Moralising about such behaviour may stir up guilt – the use of toilets is itself guilt-inducing, – but it seems that a more open acceptance that all of us are on a continuum and that homosexuality is no more odd than left-handedness will be needed if people are not to be driven to act in such secretive ways.

Research suggests that there are five types of gays: i) close-coupled, as good as married people of the same gender; ii) open-coupled gays – they maintain a primary relationship with each other which allows each to dabble in other affairs – is this because they are, by nature, unfulfilled by a partner of the same sex and need to seek what is lacking in another partner of the same sex? Is it an honest admitting that men are capable of performing the sexual act in such a way that their bodies are divorced from their emotions and intellects? If so, I think they need ‘liberating’ from that sort of masculinity and to be enabled to discover the feminine that is in them – women rarely play the field sexually in a dispassionate way. iii) single gays who are very promiscuous – they need to fulfil the demands of the libido and, I suspect, kill off the ability to form a secure relationship; many of the more vociferous gay liberationists actually made a virtue, pre-AIDS, of this lifestyle e.g. John Rechy, the U.S. novelist. It was a protest against conventional morality. Such morality doesn’t understand homosexuality but it never will do if it has the evidence of promiscuity. v) those who do not function as homosexual with others, sexually – often sublimating it e.g. the scoutmaster, devoted teacher, vicar &c. These have given an immense amount to society, more than we can ever know, but at what cost to their own developing maturity? Gays from all these groups do marry and do sire children. Many turned to marriage either because they were unaware of their feelings, which I find incredible but have to admit to be true because this book goes into the evidence, or in the hope of a cure – fortunately even the R.C. Church instructs priests NOT to recommend marriage as a cure.

The wife of a gay man has no conventional wisdom to fall back on for support in coming to terms with her situation and she is not very likely to spill the beans to those around her who might be able to support her. Just as most mothers know, intuitively, that their sons are gay, research suggests that many women know, subconsciously that they are marrying a gay man – for fear of sex and the hope that he’ll not be too demanding, as a conquest cf. the ‘fag-hag’ who loves to be in the company of gay men who flatter her but pose no threat sexually.

Lesbian wives are in a different position – many do not discover their orientation until after marriage and the degree of physical intimacy commonly accepted between women makes it harder to draw the line between philial and erotic friendship ­two men hugging each other, apart from on the football field, is so unusual that it becomes obvious what is going on. Lesbian mothers risk the loss of custody of children so often prefer to remain closeted. They also face the ultimate in male chauvinist piggery, the desire of many husbands to watch their wives making love to another woman, making real the fantasies fed by much pornography.

Fears that children will miss out if brought up by a gay parent are based on the mistaken theory that homosexuality is contagious or that it seeks to convert children (paedophiles on the whole are heterosexual) or that the environment will be unhealthy. This book gives much evidence to show that this is not true.

I wonder to what extent the advent opf same- sex marriage will alter things.

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