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Which One of You Guys Is the Woman?

The debate over marriage equality centers on the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. Opponents claim that our relationships are not natural.

I’m less and less convinced that all of them are that concerned about sex. Sure, imagining two men or two women having sex may be a big gross-out for some, but those people–a specific cohort of puritans, I would guess–believe it’s wrong for anybody to have any fun. They have imagined every possibility of what-goes-where and have generously overestimated the sexual repertoires of most everyone, regardless of orientation.

The cause of marriage equality is not well served by stereotyping our opponents, most of whom are probably more concerned than terrified. They feel that marriage can only be valid between a man and woman and is the basis of our society. Their feeling is strong enough that they resist reconsidering the definition, and are unwilling to consider the historical significance of same-sex relationships. When the divorce rate in the U.S. is mentioned, they claim that it has been grossly exaggerated. Etc. Etc. Since feelings motivate them, believing is seeing, and data is suspect.

What confuses many opponents of same-sex marriage is that our relationships are about a lot more than sex. They don’t understand the reality of two women or two men building a life together. Grocery shopping together. Cleaning house together. Going to the mall together to buy a birthday present for a niece. Moving 1000 miles away together when one partner gets a better job. They don’t know what to make of couples, such as my partner and I, staying together for fourteen years and going to great effort and expense to set up powers of attorney for each other. They don’t necessarily believe our relationship is wrong, but they’re not convinced it can be right.

One question I hear a lot is “Who does the cooking?” which is almost always followed by “Who cleans?” If the same guy does the cooking and cleaning, that would mean the other one mows and snakes the drains, right?
My honest answer is more complex than the question. We both cook, although Doug does a lot better than I do. I tend to keep the dishes washed and keep things as tidy as possible on an everyday basis, but when it’s time for energetic, extensive cleaning, Doug’s your man.

By that point, they’re bored with hearing about the tedium of our daily lives. Maybe they’re curious about how the division of labor plays out elsewhere, i.e., in the bedroom. But more than anything, they’re trying to understand the big-picture stuff. Is it the same as what they’ve experienced?

No, it’s not the same, but it’s absolutely legitimate, and probably not that different. After all, I was raised by straight people. “Traditional” heterosexual marriage has been my model for the relationships I’ve been in. As models go, it has been somewhat useful, but leaves considerable room for improvement. I made some adjustments, just like Mom and Dad had to. If you really respect tradition, you leave it better than you found it.

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