When I was a kid, I used to think Labor Day was when all women went into labor—so I was quite confused about how my birthday could have been in April. This was way back when I also thought babies were made simply by being in bed together. (Then I was confused about why I didn’t have a lot more siblings since Mommy and Daddy slept in the same bed nightly.)
Of course I’d eventually have the “birds and the bees” chat with my dad, which was just an awkward retelling of what I’d already learned through friends, and I finally came to actually understand what “sex” meant. Since then, I’ve even had it once or twice! (Maybe just not the kind my dad told me about.)
Isn’t it funny how puritanical our culture is when it comes to sex, when really it’s the thing we have most in common? You can speak another language, worship another god, live in poverty or wealth, or not even be human, and you still do it! Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it! (Thanks, Cole Porter!) Sex is what makes the world go ’round! We don’t only like it, we need it!
And yet, as necessary (and fun) as sex can be, it’s the biggest obstacle standing in the way of LGBT tolerance. How many times have you heard someone say something like “I’m okay with gay people, I just don’t wanna see it,” or “I don’t like the idea of two men together.”
If we want to more successfully and swiftly move forward with LGBT equality, I think it’s time to take the “sex” out of “same-sex marriage.”
A close friend in New York told me about observing a focus group study on attitudes toward “same-sex marriage” and equality. One of the respondents, a straight guy, had written, “When I hear ‘same-sex,’ all I think of is a D in an A.”
It took my friend a minute to decode the man’s comment. “Oh. ‘D in an A.’
This may seem like a childish answer, but it demonstrates an important point to think about: when we call it same-sex anything, we’re making it about sex. And we’re making it an uncomfortable topic for many people.
I remember shortly after I came out (and by that I mean less than a month), I brought my boyfriend home for Christmas with the family. My dad—a sweet, loving, accepting straight guy—was still nervous about being comfortable: “This is gonna take some getting used to, okay? So, I dunno, don’t be all over each other, okay?” His request was about as awkward as our “birds and the bees” chat.
“Of course not!” I laughed, since I’d be equally as uncomfortable about being physical in front of my newly informed family.
Since I came out, I’ve been lucky to have a family that is nothing less than 100 percent supportive, from my siblings to my ninety-year-old great aunt. But that doesn’t mean they want to talk about the sexual part of being gay. And in my opinion, that’s just fine.
And anyway, since when is marriage about sex? People probably have more sex outside of marriage than in it! Marriage—at least the legal recognition of it that we’re seeking—is about the joining of two lives under the law. It’s really that simple. And, when you think of it that way, it’s harder to argue with, isn’t it?
Instead of saying “same-sex marriage,” why not “equal marriage” or “marriage equality”? Instead of asking for “the right for same-sex couples to marry,” why not ask for “couples, regardless of their orientation, to share the same rights”?
We need language that frames our argument better. We don’t want our own kind of marriage. We’re not looking for special rights, or benefits that are better than anyone else’s. We just want the same thing. We don’t want our own club; we just want to join yours.
I also think we need to quit trashing straight marriages. I understand the comments comparing inequality to Britney Spears’s or Kim Kardashian’s short-lived matrimonies. “Straight people have already ruined the ‘institution of marriage,’ so why keep us out?” But is that really such a strong argument for our equality? It’s kinda like bad-mouthing the company you’re trying to get hired at.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to suggest taking the sex out of marriage! I hope that if you’re married, you love harder and make love harder than any other couple. Let’s show them we can make marriage work by making it passionate and long-lasting and hot!
But let’s not turn people off to the idea as we try to achieve it.
Let’s do it. Let’s fall in love. And let’s leave it at that.
Blake Hayes is the morning host at Mix 96.5 KHMX.