The other week I had a fight with my boyfriend of almost 7 years about ham. Ham. I went to the shop armed with a list of items to get for dinner as provided by my culinary genius husband-man, one of the items listed being simply ‘ham’. So I picked up some sliced ham at the shop and returned home, little to know what a giant shit-storm was about to take place once I got back.
To cut a rather long and incredibly dull story short involving accusations of idiocy, lack of intelligence and logic, I came home with the wrong ham. The boyfriend blew up at me, I blew up at him, and once the initial wave of hot-blooded Italian tempers gave way and reason returned, we realised we were fighting about HAM.
This is a relatively normal occurrence for us. The bi and sometimes tri-monthly fights about things which are so inane and rudimentary yet at the time seem monumental and colossal in importance for us are a fixture in our otherwise serene 6 and a half year-long relationship. The both of us share very similar upbringings, including Italian backgrounds, which means, aside from consuming way too much pasta and carbs in general, we like to lose our tempers and proclaim vendettas against eachother quite easily and quickly, leaving logic and reason far, far behind. Knives and any sharp objects in general should be well hidden and secure. In short, we’re honouring the time-old Italian tradition of Vendetta, but without all the dueling and bloodshed. We both feel however that it’s better getting the crazy out and yelling at each other than bottling it up and creating yet more fun neuroses for us to enjoy.Again this is because of our similar upbringings, where emotion and passion go hand in hand.
I feel like most couples have the same, or a similar experience in life, regardless of sexual orientation or socio-economic circumstance. Which made me think how alike to straight people LGBT co-dependents can be, or have become; which then in turn led me to think about what the status and/or validity of Gay/Lesbian/Trans et al relationships.
Find your soulmate, pair off, buy the house in the ‘burbs with an accompanying purebred dog and a Range Rover or VW Golf. Possibly have kids down the track and many a wine-fuelled soiree along the way.
Increasingly to me, this is becoming the status quo and norm of LGBT relationships. Is it because I’m getting older and leaving my so-called party days in the past? This may not apply for all members of the community who are in relationships obviously; yet more and more it seems that a ‘hetero-normative’ conformity is becoming the standard. What’s this mean? That Gay and Lesbian relationships which are stable and monogamous are on the rise. Something akin to a traditional straight relationship. Which leads many [including myself] to wonder what is to become of us. Are we wrong to want to instinctively seek out monogamous or monogamous-appearing relationships? Does this mean we are becoming simply facsimiles of what many of us don’t want to be: the stable, unexciting and dull loveless heterosexual couple? There are many LGBTIQ people out there who rail against and abhor this supposed heteronormative conformity, the catch cry always: ‘Why do I want to be married? I’m not straight and I don’t want to be’.
The well-appointed house or flat, the fancy car and/or purebreed pets. A steady and high-paying job with a lot of upward mobility. Preferably in a design/creative field. All the trappings of a typically urbane, staid and comfortable existence. I for one can’t talk as I live in one of those ‘well-appointed abodes’, or ‘Hipster Apartment’ as a friend remarked the other day. Is this all a positive evolution? Through the rise of the stable monogamous relationship, are we able to prove to the wider world our worth; a place where we can have our rightfully fought-for and earned position in society along with the responsibilities that go along with it?
Do we even need to prove this point to the mainstream community?
Do we need to actually prove anything to anyone at all?
If we can have the freedom to marry [something which we in Australia cannot do yet but that’s another blog post], do we become something very akin to the run-of-the-mill straight couple in every suburb in the country? Or are we as a community, by entering in very ‘hetero-normative’ relationship becoming the very things so many brave and fearless individuals have fought against? Do we lose our Queer identities and richly vibrant culture by evolving into what is expected by the wider society: coupled-off interchangeable hetero-induced straight-for-all-intents-and-purposes couples?
I recently read an article posted online at HuffPost about the ramifications of LGBT relationships being legitimised by the wider society, foremost being the fact that the poster boys and girls of this wave of controversially titled ‘LGBT Assimilation’ in terms of hetero-normatised relationships are generally going to be Middle-Class or above, Caucasian, cisgendered [I still struggle with that term], and relatively prosperous. As author of this article Colin Walmsley states, with the fight for marriage equality almost at an end in the Western world, have we lost the very essence of what it means to be Queer? Have we also left behind those who aren’t so fortunate, such as transgendered, homeless or other marginalised segments of the LGBT community?
‘After all, although marriage is a declaration of love, in many ways it is also an expression of interpersonal stability, economic security and social respectability — attributes that many marginalized LGBT people do not have. So while love may have won for middle and upper class gays, many transgender people, queer people of color and queer homeless youths instead find themselves left behind by a community that has become increasingly defined by the interests of its white, cisgender, middle and upper class members.’
Another point made in this article is that because of the rise of the so-called onrush of LGBT assimilation, more LGBT people are transitioning from being on the fringe of society to ebbing towards the hubs and centres of societal power and authority. As many of us prosper and climb the ladders of success, what effect does this have? As concluded in this article, those who fought for Gay and Lesbian rights from some 50 years ago were the ones whose unconventionality and diversity gave birth to the very idea of Queer/LGBT culture and the fight for equality.
And they’re the ones being forgotten.
We all know about the ‘whitewashing‘ of the new film based on the historically important Stonewall Riots, where important figures in history who are non-white, non-cisgendered individuals have been replaced by stereotypically handsome white youngsters. This is just the latest.
With our expensive clothes, exclusive club nights, gym memberships, vintage cars and elegant homes, are we killing the very thing that has brought us to this point in time? Or is it simply logical once full equality is achieved to want to be ‘like everyone else’ and fit in?
As the well known artist and long time advocate for the Bohemian lifestyle David Hockney recently stated in an interview,
‘Too many gay men have become ‘boring’ and ‘conservative’… too many gay men were determined to lead ‘ordinary’ lives by entering into civil partnerships and having children through adoption or surrogate mothers;
“They want to be ordinary – they want to fit in,” said Hockney, “Well I don’t care about that. I don’t care about fitting in. Everywhere is so conservative.”
He has a very valid point. Our sense of ‘Bohemia’ is fast becoming a thing of the past. You only need to see the state of things in my hometown Sydney for yourself. Gay-friendly venues are shutting doors more and more frequently. Why is this? Because traditionally LGBT communities have been ones living and growing on the far-flung fringes of society, away from the societal structures of power, protected by this protracted distance which meant that new and previously unseen support networks, subcultures, art and concepts emerged and arose. You only need to recall the impact of LGBT people on so much of society which stems from these communities in history, how much art and culture and innovation has been borne of these petri-dishes of new and experimental cultures that were created out of necessity. Warhol, Mapplethorpe, Oscar Wilde Turman Capote Annie Leibowitz. I could go on indefinitely. The one thing besides being supremely talented and Gay or Lesbian was that they were all involved with the subversive and underground Bohemian LGBT cultures of their times.
Will we loose this streak of creative fury and inventiveness, as well as our zeal, steadfastness and willingness to dare and fight for what’s right? Is the future of LGBT/Queer culture to be one of ‘beige’ sensibilities, where the acceptance of full marriage equality has led to a loss of this once-vibrant culture? Is the first thrown brick through a window going to be replaced with a French Bulldog or some other trendy purebred dog, clutched in a well-toned arm as opposed to being flung into a window of course. I fear that this may be the case, or that there will somewhat be a growing divide in our community between those who long for a ‘conventional’ relationship and those who don’t. I know that relationships aren’t for everybody.Which is ok with me. I know marriage isn’t for everyone, again which is ok. My life with my partner works well for me, but I don’t disrespect those who believe that being in a relationship tends to be a hetero-conformative concept placed on us from above. And I’d like those who have the opposite viewpoint to not disrespect me for being in a relationship.
For me personally it is quite difficult for me to say which way I feel about this argument, as I agree with both sides. LGBT people need to continue to work at being accepted in our society in general, and one way this can happen is if our modal relationships are somewhat normalised to a degree. However, I accept that we are far from dull and normal as a segment of society, and that we should be all inclusive and not forget who and what makes us, and our special community great.