Study Shows Similarities Between Same- and Opposite-Sex Couples
November 5, 2009
This post from HRC Family Project Director Ellen Kahn reflects on the new study showing similarities between same- and opposite-sex couples: As a teenager, I never imagined my life would resemble that of my parents. No, as a "baby dyke," marriage was out of the question, and kids... well I certainly did not think gay people ever had chidren. The idyllic life of a house with a picket fence was for other people, not me. And back then, I was perfectly content knowing that my life would indeed be "non-traditional" as long as it meant I could be myself. My partner, however, recalls a different experience in her early adulthood. Her parents were very happily married (ultimately for 45 years) and she wanted a relationship like theirs, and she wanted to raise children. For her, coming out as a young adult was liberating, but she was deeply saddened to know that she may lose the chance to have what he parents had. For both of us, and for thousands of others who came out in "our generation," 30 years ago, it was not easy to imagine that we would marry our true love, have children, and blend into a neighborhood of other "straight" couples doing the same thing. Marriage wasn't for us -- raising children wasn't for us, it was for someone else. And whether we wanted to let go of our own dreams of that seemingly idylllic life or not, it was easier on the psyche to do so. Fast forward to this moment. Earlier this week, a report released by the Williams Institute shows us a completely different reality, and a very hopeful one for the young people who are coming out now. We can and do "couple" like our parents. We can and do have children, and we see ourselves as "just as married" as other couples even when the laws of our state or jurisdiction do not legally recognize us. You might say that we have changed the definition of marriage simply by claiming it for ourselves and not just sitting back to wait for the "powers that be" to tell us we are married. As someone once said, "if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it's a duck." If we commit ourselves to another person and establish a household together, if we are raising children together or choosing not to, and if we are caring for one another and supporting one another through the joys and challenges of life, we are married. It's that simple. For me it is heartening to know that couples everywhere, and particulary in some unfriendly territory have made marriage theirs. After all, marriage -- or whatever you might prefer to call the experience of being in a long-term committed relationship and sharing a household together -- is a lifestyle, or a way of life that many of us want, and we should indeed make it ours. Clearly not everyone has caught up to us. Tuesday's outcome in Maine is a real and painful example of that. So while we continue to live our lives openly and strive toward the idyllic life we want for ourselves and our families, the hard truth is that we are not really "just like them." We are not just like our parents or like John and Mary next door. Because it is still a very radical and threatening notion that two women or two men can "have what they have." It's not easy, and sometimes not safe, to hold my partner's hand in public. It's often anxiety-producing when we take our children to a new doctor or to meet the parents of a new friend. So while we know in our hearts that our relationships and our families are just as "real" as others, we are still facing legal and social obstacles. We are a brave and determined people, as evidenced by the findings in the report. Let's continue to name our "spouses, husbands, wives and partners." Overall, the recent Census data has given a clearer picture of the diversity and broad geographic distribution of the LGBT community. For instance, one in six same-sex couples live in rural areas and one in four same-sex couples are non-white. It's imperative that we continue telling our stories and part of that is standing up to be counted in the census. Learn more about the ”Our Families Count” project, a public education campaign (of which The Williams Institute and HRC are both a part) to encourage LGBT people to participate in the 2010 U.S. Census.
May 17, 2013