What we are looking at here is a developing definition of gay man that is very porous. There isn’t really such a thing. Alfred Kinsey collected data on sexual histories that resulted in his creation of a seven point scale in which he said everyone could be placed. Most men in the population can be placed in the 0 column “if they make no physical contacts which result in [homosexual] erotic arousal […].” On the other hand, men can be placed in the 6 column “if they are exclusively homosexual, both in regard to their overt experience and in regard to their psychic reactions.” [p. 639-641] A man can be placed in 4 column “if they have more overt activity and/or psychic reactions in the homosexual, while still maintaining a fair amount of heterosexual arousal activity […].” Other more recent scientists have created vastly expanded scales by which to measure human sexual activity, and there are scales that attempt to measure psychic activity of a person engaging in sex, but they have not created anything that successfully attacked Kinsey’s work. [See Kinsey, The Measure of All Things, Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 1998, p.450-452 ]
Today, we are in a peculiar situation. Our science comes from Kinsey and his heirs, and our politics comes from the Sixties, the Stonewall Riots, and the Gay Liberation Front’s cry, Come out! The cry has nothing to do with the accumulation of accurate data. If you are a Republican Member of Congress and are caught having sex with a man in some restroom somewhere, it may be because you are generally always wanting a man but haven’t ever told anybody, or it may be that you have never wanted a man before now. What is clear is that the self-definition “I am gay” or “I am straight” are independent of the specifics of your sexual history—that is, independent of the data drawn from you. Either “I am gay” or “I am straight” may be true without regard to the data drawn from you that may define you as a Kinsey 1 or a Kinsey 3 or a Kinsey 5 or some other designation.
And now, tomorrow the Supreme Court is going to rule on the marriage cases, and somewhere in the Court’s decision may be a reference to the phrase “gay people,” and the Justices will not be referring to the science of the incidence of sex. The Justices will not make reference to the percentage of gay people in the culture or they will make reference to “ten percent” of us who are gay, but this will be thrown into the opinion without much regard for where it comes from. As far as gay people are concerned, the justices might as well be making up their opinions out of whole cloth. We will be able to get married, or we won’t be able to get married, depending on factors that don’t have much or anything to do with us. We will enter into relationships which are monogamous—or not—based on factors that don’t have anything to do with the Supreme Court. They don’t know us. Only occasionally, when one or some of us drift into the same petri dish as something they are familiar with are they able to get us partly right. Biologically male. Well yey. But most of the time, they don’t know much about what is valuable to us or what drives us. And when the lawyer in Massachusetts said, “Gay people just want the same thing straight people want,” the lawyer said something that was manifestly untrue.
I’ve written about all this before, when there was a run of court cases at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. Follow this link. Things have not gotten better since then, and the danger is greater, because this time the court is the Supreme Court. I wrote then, “We can now see that the intellectual foundations of the future are being constructed. I don’t just mean the legal constitutional structures that are going to control how we are going to fit into the body of the republic, but also the emotional and psychological structures that will control the way we think about ourselves. The concept of “gay people” is congealing and solidifying.” And it is almost certain that they are getting it wrong. We are not like that. We are not like straight people. We don’t divide our sexuality among three options.
Why do it, then? It’s fun, it’s heart-warming, it makes it easier to live together in our culture, it’s great to feel the warmth and approval—and love—of friends and family, which is sustaining during hard times, and it is a public expression of what I feel for C, my partner. Gay people, even those who get married, should remind themselves and each other that their relationships were just fine before they decided to get married, that marriage brings financial advantages and the approval of the community but does not make their relationship better, and that marriage does not make those who undergo it better in any way than those who don’t. Nor are those who have children. And they don’t conduct their relationships better than those who don’t.
In a moment when “marriage” may be vastly expanded, it is essential to remember all those during all those years who were in love but who were never married.