My first lover used to revel in being labelled a “sexual outlaw” by a homophobic society. He always said that if society ever bestowed approval, or even acceptance, on gay men and lesbians, he’d go straight.
Well Ross dear, it’s time to get your breeder card.
Society, through three recent Supreme Court of Canada rulings, has finally given its stamp of approval to homosexuality. Or, more particularly, we’re now protected as individuals from discrimination and our coupling has been given some of the same rights and responsibilities enjoyed by common-law heterosexual couples.
But there’s also a downside to this victory. A big one.
The state now thinks of our relationships as being “spouse-like,” more or less on par with common-law straight pairings. The single biggest change from the ruling is that we can now sue each other for support payments. Some victory!
The courts have now put a heavy price on queers living together.
There’s a strong monetary incentive to remain involved long after we might have called it quits, just like many straights stay in loveless marriages because the financial cost of exit is so high.
This decision could be a watershed in how gays and lesbians structure our love and sex.
Gay culture has also never had a time-based hierarchy that rates relationships based on their longevity.
And our culture has one other central belief that clearly sets us apart from most straight relationships: most of us keep our exes in our tight circle of friends. When the hot and steamy love affair is over, we part and each add the other to our support network.
It’s foolish, we say by our actions, to invest all this love in a person and then want nothing more to do with them when we find we don’t want to stay involved sexually. Straights (and there are certainly many exceptions to this rule) more often throw away love because of petty jealousies or because of the adversarial climate of divorce proceedings.
We all know what happens when most long-term straight relationships break up. It’s costly – both financially and emotionally. And it’s nasty, vituperative and downright territorial. Even friends are usually divided: “You take Gary and Greta, I’ll take Shawn and Sarah.”
Is this where we’re headed now that the state has extended its sanction to our coupling?
For many within our community, the fight for spousal recognition was the most important in our multi-pronged struggle for respect, equality and recognition. For others, it smacked of the mainstreaming of gay and lesbian culture. For these people, spousal recognition is too close for comfort to asking the state to step in and tame us with – financial incentives and disincentives – so that we would become just like heterosexuals.
One of the best things about our community is that we tend to hang in there for each other. Despite misgivings, many lesbians and gays have supported the struggle for spousal recognition simply because it meant so much for some in our community.
Turn-about is fair play. Now that this battle is won so profoundly, it’s time for our lawyers, politicians and activists to concentrate their attentions on our other outstanding issues. First and foremost is the matter of government censorship (by Canada Customs and film review boards).
Other issues include creating safe climates so that gay men and lesbians can enjoy sex with multiple partners simultaneously, and park and washroom sex.
Congratulations to those who want to settle down with a life partner and enjoy the sanction of the courts. But remember, gay culture also celebrates other ways of living our lives as sexual and loving people.
And, by the way, make sure you see a lawyer to work out your prenuptial agreement. You don’t want to lose an eye, or an arm and a leg, in a future split.
Gareth Kirkby is the managing editor of Xtra West, Xtra’s Vancouver sibling publication.