The oath of marriage, and its ceremonial conferment, has been replaced by a romantic narrative. This narrative is desexualized. The word they use is ‘interdependent’. When I migrated to Australia, to get a visa, since there was no gay marriage then, I had to demonstrate the truth of my relationship. Part of what I needed to do was describe my relationship. The bureaucrats were not interested in what happened in the bedroom, but how we organized our life together.
I’ve often heard gay people and straight people saying we shouldn’t “mimick straight couples”. But it was a legal requirement, to get a visa, that I could describe a couple life somehow resembling a traditional marriage. With the steps –fall in love, move in together, organize the household chores and work out the finances. Being gay requires the capacity to tell this story. You need to know what an interdependent couple looks like.
Another point: coming. Coming-out is what gay people are supposed to do, whatever their ethnic and cultural background. It is seen as THE way to gay liberation. A performative declaration. I am wondering, though, how much of this has to do with American imperialism, and underlying protestant ethics. The French word for coming out is coming out. The Italian word is coming out. The German is coming out. Even in Russian, it is “kaming aut”. I even saw this documentary film once, where a French young kid decided to cone out to his family in English. As if the thing was inconceivable in his own maternal tongue.
I know quite a few people of Greek, Turkish or Italian background who won’t come out. Is it because they’re all cowards? Or because they would experience a double hardship, getting away from the “straight world”, but also, rejecting the “culture” where the word coming out does not exist. Is it respectful of other cultures to impose a coming out model, and not try to develop another? Is it not our role, as multicultural gay people, to try and find a different way?
Coming out of the closet: what is the model? There is an inner me, which is closeted, and a façade, which is different. I am hiding the real me, sometimes even to myself, because I am afraid of being rejected by others. But, with an act of courage, I will tell a thing, which will manifest the real me to the outside. It means what you are is determined from the inside, and is independent from what you show, and how people interact with you. There is a “real me”, which is not what you do, but what you feel or think “deep inside”. Coming out has to do with not lying about yourself. About adequation of desire and discourse, not wearing a mask. Is that universal?
A possible way of seeing this: the difference between protestant “spontaneous” religious rituals, where people say whatever come through their minds, but also teaching in American schools (or Scandinavian), where kids are supposed to be spontaneous, and proactive, and argumentative. Whereas elsewhere, there is much more importance given to ritual, and the capacity to repeat, copy what has been transmitted. Other cultures believe less in spontaneous feeling, and more in rituals, in maintaining alive and transmitting something that comes from outside. Maybe we need to think of how to integrate and respect these cultures, and welcome alternative ways of being gay.
It seems, sometimes, when you read histories of gay people, that there was only repression before Stonewall. In France, homosexuality was not criminal. This is deformation belief that history is progress, and following the same path in all countries as in the US. An Austrian traveller visited Zakinthos in the 19th century, and reported with surprise on queer balls where men were dancing with men, women with women, in perfect harmony.
This takes me back to recurring arguments against gay wedding. Namely, that it is a challenge to fundamental social structures. That is correct. Not because love is love, but because it forces to reconsider household labor. When two men live together, one must wash the clothes, and cook dinner. But then, hasn’t society changed in all sorts of other fundamental ways?