To have and withhold

Oct 7, 2009 at 12:00 am

Q: My partner and I have a dilemma.

We're a straight couple. Our lives and finances are intertwined, and we are already essentially living as a married couple. Now we want to hold a ceremony with family and friends to make public the commitment we've already made privately. That said, we are in favor of marriage equality and are considering joining the marriage boycott ( until every state allows gay marriage.

Our friends and family say we should get married and fight for equality "from the other side of the fence." On the other hand, a number of the people in attendance at our wedding would not have access to the rights we'd be signing up for, and that feels unfair to us.

We'd like to know what you think. Is boycotting legal marriage a worthwhile statement for straight couples to make? Or do you think we should put gay-rights groups on our registry and fight for marriage equality as a married couple? —Hoping To Render Change

A: Funny you should ask, HTRC, as last weekend the boyfriend-in-America/husband-in-Canada and I attended the wedding of some dear straight friends. We weren't the only same-sex couple at the wedding; there were "a number of people in attendance [without] access to the rights" our straight friends were signing up for.

All us homos at the wedding were delighted to be there and deliriously happy for our friends, and not one of us would've asked them to wait to marry until gay marriage is legal in all 50 states — something that isn't going to happen until 2024 at the earliest, according to number-crunchin' superstar political blogger Nate Silver ( That's when Silver predicts that the final holdout — Mississippi — will finally legalize same-sex marriage.

Here's what I think you should do, HTRC: Get married, make a donation to the fight for marriage equality, and encourage your guests to do the same. And, hey, are you guys getting married in the next four weeks? Because there's a ballot measure in Maine that would strip same-sex couples in that state of their newly won right to wed. Help protect marriage equality in Maine by making a donation — right now — at And religious bigots in Washington state, where I live, are attempting to repeal a domestic-partnership law at the ballot box. Protect the rights of same-sex couples in Washington by making a donation — right now — at

And in addition to throwing some money around, HTRC, I think you should consider lifting one of the readings from my friends' ceremony.

"Marriage is a vital social institution," the reading began. "The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity and family. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life's momentous acts of self-definition."

So touching, so true, and so universal — who could argue with those sentiments? Everyone at the wedding was nodding. And the reading continued ...

"It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a ‘civil right.' Without the right to choose to marry, one is excluded from the full range of human experience."

After the reading — which was done by a gay friend of the couple — the officiant identified the source: It was from the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in that state. It was a lovely gesture: The gay couples at the wedding were touched and the hetero couples were reminded of the injustice that gay couples face. It would be wonderful if this passage from the Massachusetts court's ruling on marriage equality caught on as a wedding reading, HTRC. 

 I'm a high-school student, gay, but whenever someone asks me, I lie and say I'm not. I feel like I'm ashamed of who I am and that I'm dishonoring every openly gay person. But I don't know what else to do. Most of the other students at my school use the words "gay" and "faggot" in a derogatory way. I've only been in high school for four weeks, and I'm not sure how they would react. What should I do? Should I come out? —Gay Boy Seeking Serious Help

A: "I'm a big fan of telling people what to do (just ask my poor boyfriend), but coming out is a deeply personal decision, one you're going to have to negotiate yourself," says Benoit Denizet-Lewis, who wrote a cover story for the New York Times Magazine about gay kids coming out in middle school.

"With that said, here's what you should do. First, the fact that you're worrying about ‘dishonoring every gay person' speaks volumes about your character and tells me that you have a heart and a conscience, both of which will serve you well in your life as an openly gay man. Second, consider coming out first to an adult you trust (a school counselor, your gay uncle). Third, try to come out to one friend, preferably one who loves the show Glee. Having a peer ally is critical to your mental health. Finally, when you do come out to your parents, just be sure you're not in a moving vehicle."

Denizet-Lewis's first book, America Anonymous, is out now, and it's pretty genius. But for the record: I do not love the show Glee.

Greetings from Portland, Ore. Our fair city is totally overflowing with cute, young, scruffy boys. Which is awesome, of course, for gay guys like me. The only problem is, it seems like a disproportionate number of these boys are, well, boys without dicks — trans guys. Seems like every dance party, every art-fag event, is packed with non-bio boys. But where are all the trans girls? 

I know that this could strictly be region-specific, but it seems to be a bigger issue. Why is it that the butch girls all seem to become dudes, yet so few of the femme boys identify as women? —GGG In PDX

A: I'm just theorizing here: There seem to be fewer MTFs out there than FTMs, and the MTFs who are out there mostly seem to have been straight-identified before their transitions (they were with women), unlike most FTMs, who seem, for the most part, to have been lesbian-identified before their transitions. So MTFs weren't integrated into the queer community before their transitions the same way FTMs were before theirs.

Confused? Me too. So MTFs are less likely to frequent places — bars, clubs, art-fag events — where you, a gay guy, might encounter them.

As for why there are so many trans guys in Portland, GGGIPDX, trans guys clump up for the same reasons other sexual minorities do. It's not just about safety in numbers but also about the romantic odds. The more trans guys in one place, the more trans guys there are to date; and the more trans guys in one place, the likelier non-trans guys and girls are to meet, get to know, and perhaps consider dating trans guys.