Kudos to PlanetOut: The State of Gay Unions
Yes, I was irritated with PlanetOut for cancelling their subscription to Dykes to Watch Out For. Still am. But I've got to give them their due props for their State of Gay Unions series. Not only do they show variety, which, when it comes to portrayal of intimate relationships, is refreshing, but the interviews are pretty good.
The most recent one is on a triad, and what makes it particularly interesting is its duration: two of the men have been together for 8 years, the three of them have been together for 5 years. Given the difficulties of maintaining a relationship with one person, the struggles of maintaining a "non-traditional" relationship with very little social support, this is pretty cool and really breaks expectations. The three guys, John, John, and David seem really forthcoming. I was especially interested in this part:
What has being in this relationship taught you about love, or about relationships in general?
John P.: It's interesting because you can't get away with a lot of shit that you can get away with when it's just two of you. It really was an eye-opener for me -- you know, things that I got away with, with John, because we'd known each other for so long, David comes in and goes, "Uh-uh. That's not going to play with me." That was a really good thing -- and it was a maturity thing, too.
For those folks who see relationships as a way of challenging and growing the self, it seems that non-couple relationships might offer particular challenges (which is not to say they're somehow "better" just that a lot of people don't think about what they might learn from a different sort of relationship).
Last installment was about a "queer straight relationship" between a cisgendered queer-identified woman and a transman who transitioned during their relationship. Also fascinating, but not dwelled on, is the age difference of 11 years. A section I liked:
How did Rocco's transition affect your relationship? Have there been conflicts around it?
Michelle: Yeah. I definitely had a struggle. On the one hand, I felt like I've always been attracted to men, but it's an attraction that's rife with complications that it has been simpler for me to just focus my attraction on women, on butch dykes.
The hardest thing for me was that I really felt like my identity as a dyke was a gender identity. I kept thinking, "I feel fine not identifying as a lesbian." I feel comfortable identifying as "queer" as an umbrella term, and I feel comfortable identifying as "bisexual." But "dyke" felt like a gendered term to me. To Rocco, "dyke" was just another word for "lesbian," so that became a site of conflict for us. He felt like, Well, if you're identifying as a dyke, you must not be recognizing me as male, whereas I feel like in my particular queer community I've always understood that people's "dykiness" wasn't as much an allegiance to lesbianism, but really about the ways in which they were female and the way that femininity was kind of like, clunky.
Rocco: Well the other huge thing is that as I was transitioning, Michelle was getting sober. And I think you need an enormous amount of personal space to do either of those things. Both of us needed things we couldn't give to each other because we had to give them to ourselves.
Cedric and David have the requisite "open" relationship, but what's particular about Cedric and Davis is that they only have sex with others together. Their segment is called "Playing Together, Staying Together". They started out monogamous though.
When and how did that change?
David: It really happened sort of naturally. We were together for a couple of years, and we had talked a couple of times -- sort of half-joking -- about [opening up the relationship] ... Anyway, we were out one night, and this very hot guy literally fell into our lap, and we kind of looked at each other and said, "Do you want this to happen?" And we both did. That opened up the new chapter in our relationship.
Cedric: There hasn't been a whole lot of soul-searching around it. And it's not like it's our focus. It's just one part of our sex life. We have things we like to do together, and sometimes we do things to make it more interesting, like we watch porn or get a new sex toy, and then every now and again we have sex with other people. That's just reality after several years together.
Do you think you'll ever expand the boundaries further -- for instance, so that one of you could have sex, alone, outside the relationship?
David: That'd be something we'd have to talk about first, obviously, but it's not out of the question.
Cedric: I honestly feel like I have more fun if David is part of any sexual situation. And if it's fun, then we get to play with the memory when it's just us.
Jeremy and Alvin are monogamous.
What do you think are the rewards of a monogamous relationship, as opposed to a different kind of relationship?
Jeremy: You're dealing with one other person, so compromise and negotiation is with one person -- as opposed to having multiple partners, which could open yourself up to potentially more complicated negotiations or compromises. And there's the health stuff too -- not to say that people don't play safe, but there's less likelihood of contracting STDs in a monogamous relationship. I guess for me it simplifies things.
Alvin: I think it allows you to become more in touch with the other person, too; you get to know that person really, really well -- or you open yourself up to that. People have all different levels of sharing, but I think that we've been very honest with each other. Sometimes we're a little bit too honest with each other -- at times we can be really blunt, but that's because we know each other really well.
What are some of the disadvantages of a monogamous relationship?
Alvin: It's kind of the flip side of what we've talked about, in some ways. ... Something we've said to each other in kind of a joking way is, "Sometimes I wish I'd met you when I was older," which means that we'd have more dating or relationship experience or whatever. But when it comes down to it, I don't really see this as a drawback -- we'd have more of a variety of experience, but that variety can be either good or bad. It's a mixed bag.
Low on the women, I know, but I'm still really interested in what they're covering. It's one series I actually look forward to following.