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Daily Beast Article Highlights Double Standard in Coverage of Age Different Relationships

Over the past few years I’ve become a fan of the British actor and writer Stephen Fry. From his old sketch comedy show with Hugh Laurie, to his TV travelogue of America, to his thoughtful web presence Mr. Fry brings intelligence and humor to the all of his projects. Though I’ve known Fry was gay I didn’t know much about his personal life. This week he and his partner Elliott Spencer announced their engagement. With Spencer being 30 year’s Fry’s junior a fury of speculation and insinuation flared up among the media and on social networks. Of course, for those of us who’ve been in age different relationships this is not surprising, but it certainly is disheartening. I empathize with both men for what amounts to public harassment.

Interestingly, on Friday the Daily Beast posted a wonderful commentary by Samantha Allen about the double standard in the way May to December relationships are covered in the media and in the general consciousness entitled Freaking Out about Age Gaps in Gay Relationships is Homophobic. It is well argued reflection on and refutation of the tropes and stereotypes found in discussion of gay men in age different relationships. I recommend you take a look.

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Like a Horse and Carriage?: Thoughts Following Prop 8

Since the passing of Proposition 8 in California I have been thinking quite a bit about marriage and whether my partner and I would, or should, get married if the option were available to us.  Don’t misunderstand the following debate as an indication that I have reservations about gay marriage in general.  I am severely disappointed in the passage of Proposition 8 and heartened at the numbers in which GLBT and allies have mobilized to protest the results.  However I do think that an inter-generational couple faces a unique situation when presented with the option of getting married.

Shortly after California’s Supreme Court made gay marriage legal, some friends of ours got married while on vacation there.  While John and I joked about the idea of getting married, (“who would walk you down the aisle?”) neither of us took it very seriously.  Also when any friends of ours would ask us if we were getting married we would chuckle a little and say no.

Oddly thought, it wasn’t until California passed Proposition 8 and took away the rights of gay and lesbian people to get married that I really contemplated what it would mean for John and I to do it.  On one hand I take our relationship very seriously and I am committed to John.  Therefore marriage is very appealing, both as a way to express our relationship outwardly, to family and friends for instance, and moreover that our relationship might be recognized as something valuable by the state would be tremendously powerful.

On the other hand, I think both of us are wary of some of the implications of getting married.  I know John worries about what demands might be placed on me as he ages; he doesn’t want to hold me back, whether that means day-to-day stuff or big life issues such as professional advancement.  For my part I worry about damaging or obstructing his relationship with his family.  I know his kids and ex-wife already have a hard enough time with our age difference as it is.  I think a move by use to marry might be perceived as a threat, as a disruption of a family that has already witnessed its share of disruptions.  To be honest I don’t think I could fault them for feeling that way either.  I am the new person in the equation, I don’t know that I have yet earned the right to be fully embraced by them.

When I think about the straight couples I know that are my age it drives home the different sort of path John and I have in our relationship.  In a lot of ways the earlier stages of our relationship happened a lot quicker than they do for most.  But now when we contemplate that ultimate commitment we seem to hesitate.  Perhaps that will change over time, but for now we are happy and healthy and that is all that really matters.

For my gay and lesbian readers who are partnered; if it were currently legal in the state or country you are living in do you think that you would get married?  Feel free to leave a comment as well as respond to the poll below.