'Queer eye' for straight courtship

Posted: Mar 11, 2004 12:00 AM

The quest for homosexual marriage is a quest for convention and conformity over viva la difference. Homosexuals, as a group, have always been distinguished by their attitudes of superiority over bourgeois culture. Gays applaud outrageous behavior and scorn the straight culture as populated by narrow-minded bigots limited by lack of style and imprisoned by moral platitudes.

In post-modern society, homosexuals laugh at themselves, secure in the cohesion of secret libidinous codes of conduct. Their stars are the creative leaders in theater, art, poetry, high fashion and haute cuisine. Freed of the constraints of marriage, they're free to explore guiltless pleasures of sexual abandonment. Not for them the hypocrisy of adultery, trapped in the pressures of a permanent status quo.

They don't have to make excuses to anybody. Like the cowboy in black, the homosexual is exempt from the law that applies to the straights. If the word "gay" sounds ironic to heterosexuals, gays use it to describe living flamboyantly through the senses. Being "queer" gives them an aesthetic eye.

I generalize, of course. There are many exceptions to prove the rule. But many homosexuals who like the role of the "outsider" are not happy with the noise and implications of the debate over gay marriage.

"It's very hard to speak freely right now," Judith Butler, a professor of "gender theory" at the University of California at Berkeley, tells the New York Times. "But many gay people are uncomfortable with (gay marriage) because they feel their sense of an alternative movement is dying. Sexual alternatives were supposed to be about finding alternatives to marry." She jokes that her lesbian partner of 13 years would divorce her in a minute if she ever tried to marry her.

In the sexual revolution begun in the 1960s, gays were the winners because they didn't feel compelled to apologize to anybody for their promiscuity. It came with the territory. Now these gays worry that they will become the supersized fries of the larger culture, forced to downsize their lives if they don't marry. "It used to be that the whole point of coming out," says Michael Musto, columnist for the Village Voice, "was to stop people asking when are you going to get married and have children."

When gays split up their partnerships, they suffer the emotional pain of all broken relationships, but they don't have to fight it out in the courts and give their life's savings to lawyers and mediators. Some gays worry that the marriage license will deprive them of their avant-garde status. Instead they'll become retrograde, tarnished imitations of the bourgeois coupling they hold in contempt.

The momentum behind the gay marriage movement is financial and puritanical. Gays say they want it want to tap into the fiscal advantages of taxes, insurance and inheritance legacies of married folk. While some of these benefits may be gained by civil unions, marriage is a much more radical route to obtaining them.

Judges and outspoken, politically correct groupthink leaders drive the public debate over gay marriage. Gays skeptical of the "high status" of marriage being thrust upon them are intimidated into silence.

They nevertheless have questions. Will the mother of a homosexual man become the Jewish mother that Jewish comics have railed against: "What do you mean he only wants a civil union? You're not good enough to marry? I suppose he doesn't want kids, either."

Not all heterosexuals have fully considered the impact of the civil rights argument for gay marriage, either. Will heterosexuals choose civil unions, too? It's difficult enough for the confirmed bachelor to commit to a woman already. Might he seek a lesser commitment as something desirable, avoiding the expensive divorce courts where half the marriages end? It's not as if women don't have enough trouble with reluctant swains now.

Gay marriage could surprise us all, of course. In an era when romance and courtship are reduced to matchmaking Web sites, Internet dating, and e-mail impersonality, maybe the "queer eye" can restore style to straight courtship. Somewhere in Hollywood, there's a producer or two already at work on the reality show.