My Mixed Marriage

Can a Woman Find Passion and Partnership With a Gay Man? Believe It!

A local filmmaker once asked me if my husband and I had a "marriage of convenience." "No," I snarled like a pit bull. "We have sex just like normal married people do."

Marriage is so complicated that any convenience would improve it. But hearing the old term for our sort of union made me shudder. In such a marriage, a gay man and a woman conjoin, with social goals even more complex than usual. They might be international bohemians evading unjust immigration laws, like W.H. Auden and Erika Mann, or jet-set swingers trying to pass for the folks back home, like Cole and Linda Porter. Whatever the provenance, these marriages were supposedly sex-free—the French call them "white marriages," as if sex were colored, or staining—but I wonder how often that was really true. Even Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson had a brace of children.

Still, I never thought I'd marry a homosexual, not even when I was a girl in Indiana with a crush on Allen Ginsberg. I met Kevin Killian in 1981, when I was 30 and he was 28. We were both part of an extremely charged scene of radical, queer, New Narrative writers working in San Francisco. We all formed a gang, frequenting the same parties and readings, hung out at the Café Flore. Not for us the simple coming out and falling in love sagas of identity politics, or the expectations of traditional prose, which we saw as logic systems compounding our enslavement to the very definitions we were determined to demolish. The queer writing we envisioned would collapse the boundaries between literary forms and confound the categories of sexuality.

Kevin and Dodie: With straight guys I felt alone in the dark, being acted upon. With him, I felt like we were two people in mutual need.
photo: Marc Geller
Kevin and Dodie: With straight guys I felt alone in the dark, being acted upon. With him, I felt like we were two people in mutual need.

Female sexuality has been my primary subject. But in my formative years, it was hard to find models that moved beyond objectification. Gay writing, on the other hand, gave me a sexual vocabulary, as well as techniques for turning the tables and objectifying men. In one of Kevin's stories he describes his penis as looking like the pylon logo of the 1939 World's Fair. I remember reading that and being stunned. His persona was a far cry from the Erica Jong protagonist whose value lies in being looked at, not in what she's doing. Reading Kevin and other gay authors, I saw how erotic writing could be more than just a description of sexual acts. It could create a new sexual relationship: the writer as top, the reader as bottom.

Sexuality is far more fluid for my queer compadres than it was for gay men I knew in college, who would never dare touch—or admit to touching—a woman. But everything is different in San Francisco. One queer friend told me that when he had sex with a woman and pretended to be straight, it was dreadful—but when he had straight sex as a gay man it was a lot of fun. Another queer friend urged me to get involved with a lesbian in the group, as if he wanted me to act as his surrogate, to fuck her and report back. That actually happened with the one straight guy everyone in the group was hot for. When I reported the size of his cock, my friends swooned. I co-authored a book with a writer; Kevin had sex with him. We were constantly in and out of one another's pubic hair.

I wasn't particularly interested in Kevin at first. He was this weird guy who wrote even weirder poetry and drank too much. Besides, everybody knew he was gay, very gay. If you imagine a continuum from straight to gay, Kevin's sexuality was practically off the queer end of the chart. Then again, I wasn't exactly straight myself. Between the ages of 11 and 26 I was in a lesbian relationship with a girl I'd met in kindergarten. What started as sleep-over grapplings turned into a coupling that lasted through grad school. It was a troubled relationship, with neither of us allowed to experiment with other partners. I felt like I was squandering my youth and fled from Chicago to San Francisco in 1977, with one goal in mind: to be wild.

I remember early on in our relationship Kevin telling me that he'd slept with women. I put down my scotch and looked at his misty eyes, the slight smirk on his lips, and for an instant I wondered if something more than friendship was possible between us. "No way!" I thought. But soon enough, sex began to raise its gnarly head.

To test the waters we started making out and sleeping in the same bed. Sometimes our lovemaking felt like lesbian sex, sometimes like gay sex, but it never felt like straight sex. For one thing, with Kevin, fucking was an option, not an expectation. For another, the power dynamics were always shifting and circling back on themselves. With straight guys I felt like I was alone in the dark, being acted upon. With Kevin, it felt like we were two people in mutual need and at equal risk.

I haven't slept with anyone else for years, because I haven't felt the need to. Kevin satisfies me sexually and emotionally. Whenever he makes love to me, it's an act of adoration. I'm spoiled. After 15 years, we're still very much in love.

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