Alex Blaze

Gay Men and Lesbians Marry in West Bank and Shanghai

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 11, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Chinese gays and lesbians, Jewish, lesbian, LGBT people, marriage, shanghai, shilo, West Bank

Haaretz has an article up on Orthodox Jews forming gay male/lesbian couples for marriage and child-rearing:

His 12th couple has just announced their engagement, Harel said, and he has a list of another 30 gays and 20 lesbians seeking matches. They don't deny their sexual identity, he stressed, but "they want to establish a home, whether for the sake of becoming parents or for the social recognition. A family isn't just sex and love. It's an instrumental partnership, though not just a technical one."[...]

Harel explained that while secular homosexuals see gay marriage as the solution, religious homosexuals are often unwilling to violate the halakhic prohibition on homosexual sex, and are thus seeking other solutions.

"Most of the couples agree not to have relationships with members of their own sex, but if there are 'lapses' once every few years, they don't see this as a betrayal," he said. "Generally, it's between them and their Creator."

He said each couple decides for itself how its marriage should work, and he is not involved in that decision. Rather, he deals mainly with halakhic issues like artificial insemination.

So, basically, it sounds like most people in these marriages are having gay sex anyway, just outside the marriage. They either have rules for that or "lapses." It's almost as if the sex drive is more powerful than people's will power.

It reminds me of an article I recently read about similar arrangements in China:

While past generations buried their sexuality in straight marriages, the people gathered at the yoga studio are trying a new approach. No. 8 (the men sport numbered buttons in a pleasing shade of blue, the women's are pink), a pretty 22-year-old woman with curly dyed chestnut hair, skinny jeans, and Snoopy slippers wants a fake marriage to ease parental pressure, but she doesn't want a baby. No. 15, a strikingly tall man with side-swept bangs, says: "I want to get married for my parents, but I think lying to them will make me feel terrible. So I want to have a fake marriage with a lesbian girl, but just for one or two years, and then I want a divorce to show my parents that I am not a marriage type." There's one constant: All the participants talk about pleasing their parents.

Influential Zhou Dynasty Confucian scholar Mencius said that the "most serious" way to be unfilial is to not produce an heir. It's an idea that still reverberates through China's family-centric culture. In contemporary slang, single women over the age of 27 are known as sheng nu or "leftovers."[...]

For many gay men, the chance to experience parenthood--and to provide a grandchild for longing parents--is a distinct advantage of these unions. At the yoga studio marriage market, almost every man says he wants a baby, Fen included. "[On the Web site] I said that I didn't want to have a sex life with my wife--absolutely none." Although he says he and his wife are not "very good friends," they have discussed having a child. "For a baby we will maybe use artificial insemination," he says.

In the US, people like this would be labeled and written off as self-hating closet cases.

But I don't think such a simple diagnosis is appropriate. We Americans, with our myths about our rugged individualism, like to pretend like having friends or a family are unimportant, unneeded. What we value is self-expression, so it's not surprising that we associate an appropriate manifestation of same-sex attraction with a declaration of the same.

Consider our standard response to heterosexual marital infidelity: the couple breaks apart or the offending party promises never to cheat again. More modern, liberal people say that someone who's sexually unsatisfied in a relationship should leave a marriage first before starting another sexual relationship, as if the marriage and the family have so little value that people can just pack up their bags and go without being too troubled.

On the other hand, there's no use pretending that the systems described in the above-linked articles aren't the result of outside pressures. Whether it's parental pressure in Shanghai or religious pressure in the West Bank, the people making these relationships don't think that having a satisfying sex life and a stable family all in one are possible.

I think there's an analogous, but less pronounced, choice forced on people in the US, what with the many gay people I see living alone and (often) lonely. I'll just say that, a decade after I left my parents' home, I'd rather live with a woman I get along with than to live completely alone. I don't deal with long-term alone-ness that well since it, for me, necessarily becomes loneliness.

Since I don't much believe in the institution of marriage or have any desire for kids, though, I'm really just talking about roommates. But if that actually mattered to me? Would anyone be able to judge so long as we're honest with each other about where we're coming from?

I'm interested in what others think about this. The usual problem with closeted people being married to someone of the opposite sex is the dishonesty and sexual incongruity. But gay male/lesbian marriages avoid the former, which helps solve the latter.

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Fascinating stuff.

When I came out, while married, initially saying I think I'm gay, but I'm not sure, divorce wasn't a priority. It had been so unhealthy for me to live with the secret, and I needed to create safe space where I could be more honest with myself and others. (I hadn't been out anyone, no extra-marital relationships or sexual activity.)

As I came to terms with things in therapy in the months that followed, I still wasn't discovering a desperate urge to leave the marriage. I loved my wife, our kids were young, I wanted to work for healthy space together where we could be supportive of each other. Also, I'm certainly not asexual, but I wasn't finding monogamy to be a burden.

It often felt like the folks I came out to over time -- gay and straight -- didn't get that I had a valid choice to make, which had nothing to do with adopting ex-gay beliefs.

It seems to me that locking the uniformity of marriage down isn't helpful. People with preconceived notions of an idealized partner, wedding, and relationship are likely to be surprised and disappointed in some fashion. Isn't it better to expect to be surprised, to discover that the best relationships don't fit the pictures our families had, or we ourselves started out with?

Something I wonder is why more gay men and lesbians do not get married for benefits. Why not make a web site to promote such unions? They wouldn't even have to live in the same state.

We could also get situations like two lesbians and two males living in the same home with the romantic couples (lesbian/lesbian and gay male/gay male) not the same as the two marriages. If people did this openly it would also be a big fu..k you to the U.S. Govt for its discrimination.

People shouldn't break up just because of one affair. It's called overreacting.

Regan DuCasse | March 12, 2011 3:48 PM

Certain expectations are pretty much a fiction of high hopes and ambition.
Heterosexuals are well supported and EXPECTED to marry and have children 'someday'.
This is rather a mix of social pressure and expectation, but it's about the value placed on the married with children, rather than giving respect to those child free singletons on whom society DEPENDS on so much.
There are heteros not suited to be married or to be parents, however look at how many don't consider this strongly enough (nor does any given society SUPPORT this introspection) and it takes going through several marriages and abandoning several children before figuring this out.
I would think that in China, with it's one child policy, and abundance of children who need adoption, the practical thing to do is allow same sex parents to marry, and encourage adoption.

In Orthodox Jewish communities, there is an emotional and financial strain on individuals ill suited for marriage and parenting, but their religious communities don't respect that whatsoever.
But also pressure to increase the numbers of this minority.

China is an atheist society, while obviously Jewish, Catholic and Muslim communities regard parenting as a mandate.
And those who don't produce children, tend to suffer pariah status and unkindly, I might add.

Look at what the anti marriage equality argue for discrimination: procreation, or lack of it.
The entire message insults anyone who doesn't or has chosen not to have children, as if we're not productive, moral or are life giving support in other ways.
In an overcrowded world of dwindling resources, jobs and infrastructure, this is an insanity in a class by itself.