Love and Family: Not Just for the Straights

When I tiptoed out of the closet (maybe I fell out, but I digress) at the age of 21, I operated under the naïve assumption that because I was honest with myself, every gay man I interacted with would pay me that same courtesy. Instead, my early dating life mirrored an E. Lynn Harris model – or so I’ve heard. Now as I teeter closer and closer to 30, I’ve managed to develop the skill set necessary to keep me from getting involved with those who are still in denial as best I can. Well, most of the time anyway.

Yet, there’s a lingering issue I’m still forced to confront on occasion, one that goes beyond simply asking a brother: “What part of gay does your brain not understand? Because your genitalia definitely gets it.” You see, its not that some of these men aren’t willing to acknowledge their same sex attraction; rather, they just don’t know what it means when they begin to think about relationships, particularly with respect to those long-term involving marriage and family. Such is the reality for those who can’t break away from looking at gay life through the lenses of heteronormativity.

I’ve met a number of men who seem fine with being gay in the moment – clubs, hookups, maybe even a boyfriend and the like – but anything beyond that brings about ambivalence. Not that long ago I was on the phone with a guy who took that to another level. Our chat was going fine until the subject of the future was discussed. When we got to the part about marriage and kids, I was taken aback by his comments: “I don’t know, I just can’t see myself raising a kid with another guy. I’ll like…have to marry a girl or something.”

I felt compelled to point out that if you’re using phrases such as “Like…have to marry a girl or something” this poor imaginary woman will need to come to her wedding with something old, something new and something in the form of a great divorce lawyer. Needless to say, I no longer felt compelled to waste my rollover minutes on him. A female friend recently told me of a man she knows who shared a similar stance on starting a family. I’ve met that guy. Rihanna could fall into his lap and they’d both instantly think of Play-Doh. Ahem.

But as annoying as these sorts of guys (and their issues) are, I’ve come to accept that it’s not completely their fault. You can’t emulate what you haven’t really seen. Much of what we get through the media is still largely heternormative and in the few cases we do get to see gays in healthy relationships which might include families, they’re usually of a certain hue and class. Where are the examples of happy, healthy same-sex Black couples to challenge the “all the Blacks hate gays anyway” messages we get in the media?  They certainly exist but we just don’t see them often enough. One can only hope that changes as laws and attitudes do.

Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure I ever want to get married myself. You know, my dream man rides in on his horse with the promise of curtailing every fear my parents’ marriage spurred in me. I’m equally unsure about raising children, though my nieces make me contemplate the thought more with each new smile. Regardless of how either scenario goes, I’m glad I know that I am no less deserving of a “traditional” family than anyone else. And I hope I can convince those who are still in doubt to join me.

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer currently based in Los Angeles. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick