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Are Gay Relationships Different?

Relationships, everyone can experience similar relationship issues. It doesn't matter if you're in a heterosexual relationship or a homosexual relationship, we are all human and we all deal with similar emotional issues. Here at GetLusty, we have discussed relationship issues like lying and cheating, using non-violent communication and talked about sex during marriage. We have even decoded the mysteries and stereotypes surrounding lesbian relationships. Here at GetLusty, we are trying to be more inclusive of all forms of sexual relationships. In this article, GetLusty's JacoPhillip Crous (Jacsman) gives us an insightful look into gay relationships and asks an important question - are gay relationships different from straight relationships?

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“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Assumption. I have bandied the word about before. It means to accept something as being true without any proof thereof. It seems to be one of the human condition’s most dominant traits. We love to assume things about others, and in many instances we do so arbitrarily and without real cause. We assume what people are thinking, or we assume what motivates their actions or words, and in some more surreal cases we assume what underlies their very feelings.

Many of us are good at assumption, especially if motivated by positive thought; “he cut me those roses from the garden, not because there were too many flowers on the bush, but because he loves me”. Unfortunately, not all assumptions are valid, and most of us haven’t reigned in this wildfire trait; “she always leaves her stockings and panties on the floor for me to pick up, surely she disrespects me, so clearly she doesn’t love me”. I did say wildfire.

The threat of assumption is twofold. It is reductionist; firstly, reducing people to an exaggerated inanimate trait or behaviour. Secondly, it germinates grand, often erroneous mythologies about people, lumping people, social groups and even cultures into stereotypes. These stereotypes then get woven into extravagant myths that too many people, cultures and societies allow to take on normative prevalence, whereby they weave biases and prejudices into interpersonal relationships – wildfire.

You and I live within a world where many of these myths do terrible harm. As with most out-groups or minorities, one trait is blown out of proportion, so that it is forgotten that they are basically human beings, trying to make a life for themselves in the same world, with the same legal and socio-cultural rights and status afforded to all.

Although the marriage equality debate in the United States of America is saturated by myths and legends, much is also clear to me. The issue of what civil rights and status to accord committed lesbian and gay couples will vex the USA (and many other countries for that matter) for years to come. Whilst South Africa was one of the first five countries in the world to constitutionally entrench equal rights for gay and lesbian members of society, it was not until recently that gay men and women have enjoyed full commitment equality in South Africa. This right was also hard fought, and was a direct result of court action by interested parties, as opposed to a self-motivated political or social adaption of equal rights. Therefore, socio-cultural as well as legal change is considered necessary to ensure this equality to prosper. Even still there are elements within that society that oppose such equality, believing it to be something outside of experience of same sex couples.

Notwithstanding this coequality provision in South African marriage law (2006), in too many ways socio-cultural regard is still plagued by myths and legends despite what legislation has attempted to provide. So, in the USA, although legislatures and courts will be involved in securing such equality, the role of civic awareness programs and even private initiatives cannot be understated. These will play the pivotal role in emancipation of gay men and women, much as it still does in South Africa.

For this reason it is of the utmost importance that we collectively and individually halt erroneous myths and deceptive rhetoric from spreading prejudicial and discriminatory cloud in 21st century civilisation. In forthcoming posts I will consider the following 6 truths revealed from considering the below myths about gay commitment, providing my own experience shared by gay men and women in committed relationships, living real lives out in the real world:

#1 Gay relationships don't last

I consider this one of the more tricky myths to dispel – scientifically speaking. Scarce research has been done into the longevity of committed gay partnerships and marriage. Here one must also understand that marriage is but one form of committed relationship, and as society itself has evolved, so has the nature of relationships. Many societies now recognise civil unions, and co-habitation arrangements as equally valid forms of long term relationships. The fact that the research that has been done in regards to the long term sustainability of such relationships is rather culture exclusive – meaning predominantly Western (European and Canadian data) – making the myth that gay relationships aren’t as real or long-lasting as heterosexual ones creates a real concern for those parents concerned about their gay sons and daughters. Furthermore, it perpetuates the gay-life-dissatisfaction and promiscuity myths that seem to pervade the blogosphere. Of real concern is that these myths and unfounded allegations are often used by some to undermine the validity of gay relationships.

Available research has found these myths to be untrue. Long-term studies of gay couples indicate that their commitment is just as enduring as straight pairings. "There is considerable evidence that both lesbians and gay men want to be in strong, committed relationships [and] are successful in creating these partnerships, despite difficulties created by social prejudice, stigma, and the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships in most parts of the U.S.," said UCLA psychologist Anne Peplau, co-author of a book chapter on the subject published in the 2007 Annual Review of Psychology.

Emeritus professor of psychology at University of Washington, John Gottman and his colleagues collected a data set spanning 12 years. About 20 % of the participating homosexual couples had separated in the dozen years. A rate that, projected over a 40-year period, is slightly lower than first marriage-divorce rates among heterosexual couples over the same time span. In the study published in the Journal of Homosexuality 2003, Gottman said:

"The overall implication of this research is that we have to shake off all of the stereotypes of homosexual relationships, and have more respect for them as committed relationships."

Most endearing to me about the knowledge gained from this research is its indications that gay couples tend to be better at resolving conflicts and encouraging positive emotions.

It should also be said, that like their straight counterparts, gay relationships suffer the same hardships endemic to most relationships. Finance, abandonment, lack of communication, to mention but a few of those factors, are not unique to straight couples, and have as much of an impact on gay couples.

#2 Gay parents aren't as good at being parents

Many detractors of gay commitment and gay parenting charge that same-sex parenting does some harm to kids. To grow up to be a healthy adult (ostensibly straight), a child needs both a father and a mother. Research, however, shows that children of gay parents tend to fare just fine.

Two studies were described in a literature review paper published in February 2010 in the Journal of Marriage and Family. Recently 90 teens, half living with female same-sex couples and the others with heterosexual couples, showed standard correlation. Teen boys in same-sex households had grade point averages of about 2.9, compared with 2.65 for their counterparts in heterosexual homes. Teen girls showed similar results, with a 2.8 for same-sex households and 2.9 for girls in heterosexual families.

Timothy Biblarz, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, found that kids with two moms or two dads were no more likely than their counterparts in "traditional" homes to engage in delinquent activities, such as damaging others’ property, shoplifting and getting into fights.

"The bottom line is that the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents . . . This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well," Biblarz said.

This question has also been addressed in many public hearings within the United States, and who can forget the heartfelt and impassioned speech of young Zach Wahls speaking in defence of his two lesbian mothers. His closing statement made for a powerful admonishment of this myth: “the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character”.

#3 Homosexuals never marry and they fear commitment

Can our assumptive nature be any more derivative? Homosexuals never marry, therefore, people who never marry are homosexual. For too many people it then follows that people who marry and have children, are presumed to be heterosexual.

Many homosexual people do marry (when allowed to do so) and have children. Likewise, many people who never marry are strictly heterosexual. With the significant effort we are investing, as a global community, in perusing coequality for all couples to have access to marriage, odds are that this myth will not matter as much. It is however, a perverse irony that historically the argument was made that same sex couples are not interested in the stability of marriage, and equally are not concerned with the raising of children.

For this reason they were considered less than their heterosexual counterparts, who were assumed instinctually interested in these things. Despite being an overstated generalisation both in terms of gay and straight relations, many gay and lesbian couples are actively fighting for the right to marry and raise children, with the exact opposite argument now being thrust upon them. More specifically, that same-sex marriages are not the same as heterosexual ones (which would somehow be undermined by allowing same sex marriage), and these relationships pose some (unproven) risk to children. Much like eating your cake and having it, and one cannot help but ask whether the true motivations behind these unproven, and dare I say destructive positions, is not merely prejudice with a good dose of ignorance?

#4 Recently the number of “queer relationships” has increased tremendously

There is no truth in this regard. The incidence of homosexuality has remained fairly constant, at least in the USA, since Alfred Kinsey’s comprehensive studies (1948, 1953) to more recent investigations done in the 1980s.

The visibility of gay and lesbian members of society, who have come out of the shadows and fought for the right to participate alongside the rest of society might be at the root of this false belief.

Our homosexual communities and gay relationships are far more visible now than they were previously, where in the past gay men and women were subject to crass abuse, imprisonment and intense judgment from society. With the gay liberation movement, more homosexuals as well as heterosexuals stopped keeping their “queer” preferences secret. Added to which, the de-criminalization of gay sexual activity and relationships, have gone a long way in providing the space for gay men and women to be far more outspoken than they have in the past. Of course many more gay men and women live “out of the closet” today. Yet in many country’s where such an evolution has not occurred, these men and women remain silent participants in that society, hidden from persecution and judgement, suffering oppression and self-denial .

#5 You can always tell relationship and sexual dynamics by the way partners each look or act

Gay couples surely imitate the status quo, and the assumption by many is that there needs be a “man” and a "woman” in committed sexual, emotional, and partnership. Gender polarity is not necessary for relationship success; and no, men who act in a feminine manner must be “the wife”, and masculine women with short haircuts and who don’t wear dresses, must be “the one who wears the pants in the house” 
is not the truth by far.

These stereotypes only apply to about 15% of male homosexual and 5% of lesbian relationships, and many would not be comfortable with these labels (“woman”, “butch” or “feminine”). Such stereotyping confuses sexual orientation (whether you are attracted to the same or opposite sex as sexual partners) with gender roles (exhibiting masculine or feminine behaviour).

We must be mindful that as the vast majority of gay relationships do not realistically live out these stereotypes. Except for their actual sexual activity or admitting their sexual preferences, there is no accurate way to judge someone's sexual orientation.

#6 If you are not heterosexual, you are homosexual

Rather finding people as polarised heterosexual or homosexual, Alfred Kinsey’s comprehensive studies (1948, 1953) found that many people have both heterosexual and homosexual feelings to varying degrees. Kinsey saw sexual orientation on a continuum. Ultimately Kinsey found that 50% of men and 28% of women had same-sex sexual experiences. Almost all of these people developed a heterosexual predilection. People become homosexual because they were sexually abused as children or there was a deficiency in sex-role modelling by their parents.

Many anti-gay rights proponents claim that homosexuality is a mental disorder caused by some psychological trauma or aberration in childhood. This argument is used to counter the common observation that no one, gay or straight, consciously chooses his or her sexual orientation. Joseph Nicolosi, a founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, said in 2009 that "if you traumatize a child in a particular way, you will create a homosexual condition."

Repeatedly Nicolosi has said, "Fathers, if you don't hug your sons, some other man will." A particularly nasty side effect of this argument is the demonization of parents of gay men and lesbians. They are made to wonder if they failed to protect a child against sexual abuse, or failed as role models in some important way. Many a gay child will attest to there parents reacting in this way to news of their sexual orientation. “What did I do to fail you are a parent?”, or “what did I do to make you this way?” are often said in response to the child “coming out” to them.

The truth is that to date no scientifically sound study has been conducted that has linked sexual orientation or identity with parental role-modelling or childhood sexual abuse.

The American Psychiatric Association noted in a 2000 fact sheet on gay, lesbian and bisexual issues that "no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse." Gay people are more prone to mental instability and to abuse drugs and alcohol. It is true that LGBT people suffer higher rates of anxiety, depression, and depression-related illnesses and behaviours like alcohol and drug abuse than the general population. But studies done during the past 15 years have determined that it is the stress of being a member of a minority group in an often-hostile society — and not LGBT identity itself — that accounts for the higher levels of mental illness and drug use.

It has been my observation that gay men and lesbians that are in committed relationships experience significantly less psychic strain than single gay men and lesbians. I will further discuss this, and the foregoing seven realities of gay coupling and commitment in future GetLusty posts.

It would bring me great pleasure to dialogue with you on any sex-life issue you, or your relationship is facing. My goal here is to help our readers get to have the most lusty, sexy, satisfying, healthy relationship by offering tools for understanding your commitment to a healthyand sustainable relationship. Always my last word of all sexual and emotional endeavours.

Do It well; do It safe,

He studies and writes about men and masculinity in MSM relationships, and gay couples getting lusty is JacoPhillip’s cup of tea. Our resident advisor on gay long-term relationships, JacoPhillip Crous is also known as Jacsman. A sex life educator, Jacsman consults in-person, on Skype, and by telephonic private sessions with couples and solo clients on ecstatic and intimate psycho-sexual lifestyle and development.

Jacsman promotes male2male dialogue that furthers understanding of masculine sexuality and MSM relationships. A research psychologist, he explores and investigates male psycho-sexual self-development phenomena, behaviours, experiences and knowledgeability. Find out more about JacoPhillip at:
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