The new “Pride And Groom” series on Here TV offers a behind-the-scene perspective, beginning to end, of a gay couple’s journey to wedlock.
Mitch and Paul are getting married. Mitch, a transplant to New York via Fort Smith, Ark., is a small-town boy doing well in the big city. Slightly introverted and definitely laid back, he’s pretty much the opposite of his extroverted boyfriend Paul.
Paul’s the product of the suburbs and a liberal, loving and accepting Jewish family. This counterpoint to his partner’s small town Bible Belt upbringing couldn’t be much more different. Small-town social conservatism meets liberal openness and acceptance in a relationship that leads to a lifetime commitment.
Opposites do attract and ironically, that seems especially true in many same-sex relationships.
Watching the premiere of “Pride And Groom,” which was on Sept. 21, felt personal and a little voyeuristic. It made me a little uncomfortable in a way that demanded explanation via self-examination.
After all, isn’t this what we’ve been fighting for?
Of course equality in all forms is a good thing. Of course legal rights between stable and established couples is necessary. The LGBT community is no less entitled to the same legal protections, from birth to death, than our straight brothers and sisters. These things are beyond discussion. Legal civil rights are a given, and no thinking person could argue otherwise.
What's wrong with this picture?
So, what is it, tickling my discomfort zone? Something about the tuxes and the two grooms on top of the wedding cake …
Two days later, and after lots of discussion with friends, and after a lot of thought, I think I finally get it.
It feels conformist. It feels like we’re copying, and that’s not what I ever expect from my community.
I think about the bad old days. I think about medieval laws that criminalized enchanted folk. I remember the nightmare of white picket fence conformity and a post “Leave It To Beaver” culture that drove the gay community to the shadows. And with all the horrors of all that exclusion, and with all the desire to be accepted simply for who we are, I found myself wistful for one aspect of those bad old days.
We used to set trends, not follow them.
Granted, Mitch and Paul getting married seems daring, and certainly gay marriage is a bur under many a saddle, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line. But Mitch and Paul are getting married just like straight people do, and sorry, but I expect more from us.
We can do it better
I challenge our community to create our own wedding traditions.
We have nothing and everything to prove. We are separate and we are equal, and we have an opportunity to reinvent an instrument of commitment and ceremony of pageantry, just for us.
Call me biased, but I think innovation is what we do best.
For years, the gay community was at the forefront of style and culture because the LGBT community was at the fringe. We weren’t equal. We were society’s outlaws, and from that rarified position we made up our own rules and created our own styles and traditions.
And, the heterosexual world could not wait to see what we did next so they could do it too.
Think about it.
At one time, tribal band tattoos were seen only in gay bars on the Castro in San Francisco or on Christopher Street in New York. Think (if you’re old enough) about 501 jeans and construction boots and pierced ears. Consider platform shoes and mullets and slave tails and unique facial hair.
Granted, some trends are best forgotten and much to everyone’s horror, still linger, especially the mullets at NASCAR events. But for better or worse, lots of these trends saw their genesis under a disco ball or posed, cocktail in hand, leaning against a wall in a smoky gay bar (yes, you could smoke inside a bar in those days).
Sexual and social outlaws are better positioned to experiment, for from the vantage point of the outside, looking in, there’s far less to lose.
Now, is there a way to combine the best of both worlds? Can we keep our creative edge and still meld seamlessly with the rest of the culture?
As the Internet replaces bars and as the gay community becomes more integrated and less ghettoized, we should at least consider that perhaps, society has lost a tiny, yet significant spark.
The sexual outlaw and the lairs of the sexual outlaw are rapidly disappearing and sameness, for better and for worse, prevails.
Conformity is the price of integration.
Legal and social equality for GLBT partners is a given and slowly but surely, it’s happening. Equal rights are more than just marriage. We want all the legal benefits that go with the institution of marriage.
And God knows, we want that pageantry.
I miss the days when the straight community copied gay style. Can we imagine the elation of marriage ceremonies that we’ve re-invented, and can we imagine the eye rolling when the straights quietly and inevitably co-opt our stylish and individual take on a couple pledging their troth?
It’s a fun fantasy anyway.
Kurt Niece writes about visual arts for SDGLN. He is a freelance journalist from Tucson, Ariz., who will be soon relocating to Lakewood, Ohio. He is the author of "The Breath of Rapture" and an artist who sells his work on his website.