A new study reminds us that love is love.
There’s a new study out about gay men that falls into a category with all my favorite research studies.
See, I really like the ones that back up what I already know to be true.
Especially if they also help shatter existing stereotypes.
This new social research takes a critical look at gay couples and monogamy. Researchers Lanz Lowen and Blake Spears surveyed over 800 gay men (some single; some in various forms of relationships), and their data showed that the vast majority of younger gay men are looking for long-term monogamous relationships.
The researchers noted that, “We see this in the overwhelming number of relationships that are monogamous (86 percent). In addition, 90 percent of the single younger gay men were seeking monogamy. This is a sea change compared to older generations of gay men.”
You might wonder why this study is of any interest to a writer who is, admittedly, a heterosexual cis male. Here’s why…
I live in a very LGBTQ-friendly city.
Every church in town flies rainbow flags. We host a massive Pride festival every year. We have a LGBTQ community center on our main street, surrounded by many gay and lesbian-owned businesses.
Heck, my daughter’s first-ever school bully had two dads, which I find oddly progressive.
But despite all that, even in my (apparently) open-minded little suburb, there are still many ugly stereotypes about gay and lesbian couples that you can sometimes hear whispered at block parties.
And a lot of those have to do with the notion of gay monogamy.
Even in my supposedly open-minded little suburb, there are still many straight people who regard gay men as promiscuous. Yes, they’ll happily acknowledge gay “couples," but, all too often, there’s a reluctance to use the word “family” to describe them. Personally, I think this is tied to people’s personal prejudices about gay men. They see them as inherently sexual beings, too sexual to stay tied to one person for a long period of time.
These stereotypes really rise to the surface when older couples are discussing homeownership, in particular. While older homeowners love how meticulously gay owners take care of their homes (way better than I do), many still debate the relative value of gay couples vs. straight couples in the larger community.
The gay couples aren’t establishing roots, people argue — they just want to fancy up a house and sell it for more money. (Not sure what’s so bad about that.) Or the older generations will lament that, since our town is so LGBTQ-friendly, we’re not getting enough “families settling down.”
Yes, they’ll say, the block looks spectacular, but without families, our tax base will shrink, our schools will remain underfunded, our town will become a passing fad. It may be “fun” to have a gay couple move in, but there are those who still grumble that they don’t add anything permanent to the city.
This is, of course, bullshit.
It’s classic “we need to blame one problem on The Other” bullshit.
Many of the gay and lesbian couples I encounter every day fit the definition of “families” perfectly. They’re invested, they value their communities. And they love one another — holy shit, do they love. Some of the most heartbreakingly in-love couples I’ve ever met are gay couples in my little hometown. And that love has become even easier to witness thanks to the continuing spread of legalized same-sex marriage.
So, when I hear a study that says “gay couples embrace monogamy,” my reaction to it is, “of course, they do.”
But, really, the larger problem comes down to stereotypes.
People who sit outside of the LGBTQ community — like myself and those close-minded homeowners — often take one misconstrued piece of information and run with it.
For example, how gay couples relate to open relationships. While there are many gay men that strongly and openly believe in the importance of open relationships, that does not in any way mean they speak for the entire community.
The gay and LGBTQ communities should have the freedom to experience the full range of human relationships without ever having to worry that society is pigeon-holing them by saying, “Gay men prefer _____ kind of relationships.”
If gay men are currently trending towards monogamy, that makes sense. If that changes or if not every gay man falls into that trend, that makes sense too. They’re human beings, not walking demographics.
My favorite quote from the new study is this:
“Oddly, we heard both monogamous and non-monogamous respondents complaining of the lack of support for their respective relationships. … To the degree monogamy and non-monogamy can be more fully discussed in the community, the better. … As a community, let’s stop proselytizing our preference as ‘the right way’ and demonizing that which we don’t embrace. We need to create norms in the community, where both monogamy and non-monogamy can be rationally discussed and considered.”
Even the people being polled in the survey wanted to stress, more than anything, no matter what their preference was, that they needed to have their choices supported by the larger community.
Like I said, this study confirms what I already know. Gay couples can embrace monogamy just as well as any other couple in the world. But, if they don’t choose monogamy, it doesn’t say anything sweeping about the entire gay community either.
These are just people making the choices that feel right to them and, thankfully, studies like these are showing the world that the gay community is far more diverse and open-minded when it comes to relationships than any stereotype would ever suggest.