Before saying I do, who proposes to who?
Gay Marriage is finally here. All the years of fighting for the right afforded to all human beings to married under the eyes of the law can now be enjoyed by all citizens throughout the LGBTQ spectrum. This new journey for many of has brought an abundance of conversations to the forefront of discussion, but the most interesting one for me is and has been “who proposes to who?” Granted, to most this will seem like a very surface-level topic, but when you analyze the fact that most marriages are set up patriarchally, it does leave one to question exactly how that works for us.
The traditional patriarchal household set up is the most common in American culture. As gay men with no real framework to follow on our marriage norms and principles, we are often forced to construct our relationships based on the only thing we know. With the legalization of gay marriage, we are now entering uncharted territory where the creation of new norms and traditions is going to be necessary in effort to minimize stigma from marriage proposals that don’t follow the “usual” setup.
For the hetero community, the formula is simple. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy and girl like each other. Boy asks girl to marry him. “The proposal” hasn’t varied much over the past few hundred years in terms of tradition, standards, and it being done the “correct” way. There is a lot of shaming and disgust from society that comes from proposals that are not set up this way, i.e. a woman proposing to a man, etc.
Now for us. Boy meetsboy. Boy likesboy.Boy asksboy to marry him. Which boy asks which boy? Patriarchy tells us several things about how this will go. The person in the household who makes the most money would likely be the one to ask. The person who is the “top” in the relationship would be more likely to ask. The person who is considered the “masculine” one in the relationship would be more likely to ask. As much as we try not to follow the standards set up by society, this type of proposal is more likely to be judged less than the reverse of these scenarios.
In the gay community, we put a lot of pressure on labeling who we are based on how we have sex. These positions known as “top,” “bottom,” and “verse” are not only used to define our sexual positions, but are filtered through a patriarchal framework to create a space where men who are more of the bottom are considered “female,” with the reverse of that being deemed the “male” in the household structure. This misgendering based on sexual positions is what inadvertently sets up much of the stigma that will come from proposals that are seen as uncommon.
What we really need is time to see what gay marriage will look like for us. Rather than being so quick to judge a relationship because it doesn’t mimic our hetero counterparts, we should take the time to explore what love is like for us and define for ourselves what makes us happy. We must remove the hetero-normative concepts from our frameworks of gay marriage structure in effort to create household setups that will be varied, but accepted, throughout the gay community.
Far too often, the identities of gay relationships are forced into the context of a traditional patriarchal home. Although being gay is nothing new, we are in a new day of the gay relationship and what that looks like in our society. We must be willing to navigate this new space with the removal of stigmas and beliefs if we are ever going to gain a full appreciation in this era of gay marriage.
George M Johnson is a freelancer located in the Washington DC area. He has written on culture, sex, gender, race and health for Ebony.com, Pride.com, Musedmagonline.com, Blavity.com, Rolereboot.org and Diverseeducation.com. Follow him on Twitter @iamgmjohnson.
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