I'm not going to use this article as an opportunity to tell straight people they have no idea what it's like to be gay because to do so would be to abet gay culture's propensity to wear its orientation like an accessory so to keep heterosexuals at arm's length. Such hostilities support the turning of sexuality into an elitist enterprise, which is hardly what gay-rights activism needs. I do, however, intend to adumbrate a few things heterosexuals ought to bear in mind before they extend themselves to advising gay men and women on their romantic affairs. [Image by masterdesigner]
1. The pickings are slimmer, and this affects the way gay relationships work.
The Office of National Statistics concludes that around 3% of British 16- to 24-year-olds identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Assuming most of the remaining 97% identify as straight, this leaves heterosexuals with a selection more than thirty times the breadth of that available to gays and lesbians.
When straight relationships turn sour, heterosexuals are encouraged to move on immediately--there are, after all, 'plenty more fish in the sea' and it seems an awful shame to squander away your time in complicated relationships when you could be out enjoying yourself. As a result fugacious affairs are part and parcel to the lives of straight people, and not because this is an inherent feature of the heterosexual demographic, but because the sheer abundance of alternatives renders long-term commitment unnecessary. Heterosexuals encounter potential suitors everywhere they go--at the bus-stop, at work, in the supermarket--and their romantic attitudes tend to presume this wealth of opportunity where they shouldn't, i.e. in the lives of homosexuals.
Statistically it's a marvel that two compatible homosexuals should meet at all, let alone under circumstances that entail a romantic relationship. There's a certain sense of serendipity to finding someone of the same sex with whom you can imagine spending your life; it's a compelling feeling, and elicits a degree of attachment that simply wouldn't emerge were there thirty more of them floating about the country. Straight people tend not to take this into account because they live in a world where prospective partners are encountered on a daily basis. Though this isn't a problem per se, it does lead to a number of misinformed heterosexuals advising their gay friends to up-and-leave because the love of their life is 'just around the corner.'
2. There's a more direct competitive edge, and this can make things harder.
There's a reason same-sex siblings are a hotbed for rivalry where mixed brethren are not, and that's because it's easier to make the incendiary comparisons that fuel dispute. Though itself an appendage of applied sexism, the fact of the matter is we conceive of men and women as occupants of different worlds with different standards and different objectives. The criterion used to assess a man's value is largely different to that applied to a woman, and this distortion in appraisal-values allows intergender comparisons to persist in a somewhat intangible way. [Image by Kit]
Same-sex relationships, meanwhile, aren't so shielded by this bigotry: their participants instinctively follow the same sets of rules, adhere to the same lines of measurement, and aspire to the same impossible ideals. It can be easy for couples who occupy the same footholds in life to use their partners as sounding boards to their own success, a burden scarcely imposed upon straight couples, and this provides a fertile breeding-ground for all things that endanger love's longevity. This isn't necessarily a point of contention within every gay relationship, and may well be present within a number of heterosexual couplings, but the fact remains that interrelational comparisons are a more tempting recourse for gays and lesbians, and this can make things a great deal harder.
3. We're not so set upon the societal conveyerbelt, and this gives us more freedom.
Yes! Believe it or not there are perks to being in a relationship punishable by death in five countries: gay couples will never be a feature of the nuclear family. A gay relationship will never be more practical than its heterosexual alternative because gayness precludes natural reproduction--and that's a statement no one can dispute. [Image by Louis OuYang]
But this doesn't have to be a bad thing; our exclusion from the draconian expectations of society is, in many ways, more a privilege than a punishment. Our sexuality will always be the focus of our negative reception, and ironically enough this gives us the freedom to be a great deal more eccentric elsewhere in our lives. A homosexual will not be made to feel like a maverick for opting out of a mortgage, out of marriage, or out of parenthood; and in reality he could deny most of society's norms without accruing a body of criticism beyond that aimed at his sexuality.
Of course our lack of freedom to purse the middle-class dream if we were so inclined is an issue in itself, and we ought not make too much light of benevolent homophobia. It would, nonetheless, be useful for the heterosexual community to acknowledge that their more general acceptance doesn't entail their occupation of a more enviable position. Being gay relieves you of many extraneous responsibilities and once straight people begin to realise that they might start dismantling the devious conveyerbelts that have them so detained.