I had an interesting conversation with a hard-working volunteer at the close of Outfest about loneliness in the gay community–and how our sexual ethic often exacerbates the isolation that many of us feel from time to time. Too many of us, alas, particularly in the town where I live, see sex not as a means of human connection, but as a means of personal pleasure (& release).
When you’re young and it’s easy to hook up, you often don’t realize how lonely you are when you’re not getting any. (You know that option is always available.) Regular sexual contact almost allows you to bypass those fleeting moments of loneliness. But, as you get older, the ruse (of using sex to cover up our desire for connection) doesn’t work as well as it once did.
With that notion in mind, I offered that if gay people talked more about the potential of sexual contact as an opportunity to connect with our fellows, we might lessen the loneliness, so ubiquitous in our community–as it is in society at large. This wise volunteer wondered if state recognition of gay marriage might help foster that understanding.
And I replied that it would if we talked about gay marriage as Jonathan Rauch does in his book Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America. If we saw it as a sacred institution rather than a right, we might understand why marriage has survived for so long.
That is why, I believe, we need have this conversation about the meaning of gay marriage. Not only will it show our straight peers that we’re serious about the institution (making it easier for them to support it at the ballot box), but it will also help improve our own lives.
When we recognize that in channeling our sexual desires into an enduring, intimate relationship, we see that many in such relationships have found the happiness that all too often eludes us, that their loneliness is lessened. So, if we try each time to see that potential in the objects of our desire, we humanize those individuals and create opportunities for deeper affection and understanding.