3 min

The plight of gay coupledom

Marriage is still a yes and no issue

Credit: Capital Xtra files

A real on-going question for many gay and lesbian couples is not shall we wed but where shall we bed? We all need shelter over our heads. This is particularly so as youthful exuberance gives way to middle age and more disposable income money in the bank. Via our purchasing power, we can choose where we want to live. Essentially, there’s two options – living amid the hustle and bustle of the cityscape or fleeing it for the bucolic landscape of the country.

I don’t mean to belittle the issue of marriage. Personally, it is simply not an issue for me. However, I am on the receiving end of Egale Canada’s mailouts and over the years, these information bulletins have changed my skepticism on marriage to understanding the important issue of equal rights for all Canadian citizens, not just heterosexuals. Certainly, Egale’s most recent direct mail, which told the story of two lesbians and their struggle to live as a queer couple with children in rural Nova Scotia, had a profound impact on me.

As did my watching and reading the coverage of the spate of weddings that followed the recent Ontario Court of Appeal ruling. I noticed the look of affirmation on the faces of those being legally recognized. This sentiment was echoed by Lisa Lachance, who with her partner Heather, was one of the first same-sex couples wed in Ottawa, shortly after the landmark decision. Lisa is also president of the board of Egale, so I asked her if her decision was a political statement.

Not at all, she replied quickly, it was simply a matter of legal protection. A recent trip to Peru, during which Heather fell suddenly ill, made them realize how vulnerable they were should something more serious have happened. Besides, she added, they had been through a commitment ceremony some months back. As I listened to Lisa, it occurred to me that the question of marriage or where you live comes down to the issue of choice. They both relate to how you wish to be seen.

Marriage recognizes your relationship, confirms to your community of friends, family, colleagues and neighbours that this is how to perceive your relationship. It pushes for complete acceptance of gay coupledom. Similarly, when you and your partner choose to live in an urban setting, you choose to exist within the proximity of bars, gay activities. You can live openly both on your street and at work and be accepted for who you are. In the country, you forego the hurly-burly. You actually want to get away from it all. But the country doesn’t mean that you have to live a closeted life, though perhaps this is easier for gays and lesbians who move in than for those who stay in the community in which they were born. But then, it wasn’t that long ago that queer people chose to move to other cities to be able to fully express whom they were.

Recent polls have shown a majority of people in rural areas, in particular young people, are as socially progressive as their urban counterparts. While living in the country does not allow easy access to a large gay and lesbian community, you gradually discover who is gay or lesbian for miles around through networks, just as you do at work or in the city. In my personal experience and those of fellow queers I have met, your neighbours take you as you are.

Since the Ontario ruling, I have had people, albeit straight women, in both the city and in the country where Jamie and I have a place, come up to me and say, “You must be so happy with the decision.” I find myself replying, “Yes and no.” Yes, as I have explained, because it means gays and lesbians finally enjoy full rights as citizens. And no, because, as the saying goes, it is largely a symbolic piece of paper. However, I go on to say that what matters the most to me is that gay and lesbian couples, whether wed or not, can live together just as common-law couples do, without so much as a bat of an eye from their neighbours around them.