By Zachary D. Roberts
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell and Laura Shunk
By Albert Samaha
By Amanda Dingyuan
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Albert Samaha
I was eager from the start. At first, I had to coax him. He didn't know if he could please a woman, didn't think he was capable of being in a relationship with anybody, female or male. He used to make one steady boyfriend sleep in the car after they had sex. The guy was a junkie, so he didn't mind. When Kevin asked me to marry him, he figured we would each keep our apartments. But I had other ideas, and despite his trepidation, he moved in with me.
We tied the knot at City Hall, not far from the offices where Harvey Milk had been assassinated, along with Mayor George Moscone. It felt spooky to be married in such a place. We had a reception, a barbecue in another poet's backyard. (Kevin had slept with him, too.) Our friends seemed to think our marriage was cute. Kevin's family breathed a sigh of relief. As for my folks, they've learned not to ask questions about my sex life.
"What I don't know don't hurt me," my mother has said over and over. Her reserve with Kevin suggests she thinks he's strange, but I don't know how much of that has to do with class, since our marriage is mixed in that respect as well. My mother was a cafeteria lady at my high school. Kevin's middle-class background makes him unreadable to her. She's used to men who treat her as a captive audience and seems taken aback by this one who urges her to talk about herself. And God knows what she makes of his vast database on Julia Roberts. I sometimes wonder if having sex with a lower-class woman is the ultimate kink for Kevinlike a blind date with Erin Brockovich.
Kevin has always been fascinated with kink. I love hearing tales of Mondo Cane-esque sex acts from his youththings I never dreamed of, involving props such as rosary beads and a jar full of flies. He was particularly fond of having sex with married men. "And now I've become one myself," he marvels.
When we married, I was the one to freak out. I kept thinking of Adrienne Rich's Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law, which vividly portrays the squelching of a woman's personhood by marriage, and I'd feel the walls closing in. I acted out by having a few affairs. Kevin was amenable, encouraging even. His lack of jealousy was incomprehensible. But, then, if my sexual partners fell in the four-digit range, I'd be laid-back too.
I used to worry that Kevin was going against his true nature by being with me. We met at a particular historical moment, the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. When Kevin fell in love with me, perhaps he was in unconscious retreat from homosexuality at such a dangerous time for gay men. Is love always a reaction against something else? Did he marry me as a sign, the way the cutest gay guys suddenly gained 30 pounds to signify their HIV-negative status? I don't worry much about that anymore. The lingering specter of AIDS has made relationships of all sorts seem more precious. The epidemic killed so many propositions, but it also helped to create new onesand my marriage, I guess, is one of them.
I've often been the only woman at a party; Kevin has often found himself the only gay person in a roomor an anthology. Sexually confused young men attach themselves to Kevin and me, and straight guys like to confess the blow jobs they've gotten and given. One man fled from what he perceived as our unconfined libidos, crying out, "I can't deal with your Anne Rice lifestyle." Sometimes I feel like a role model without a role. I'm alone, thrust upon my own alteritybut who is ever not alone? To me, being queer means doing without the false solace of categories.
As I discover more and more about sexual practice in the decades before Stonewall, I marvel at the fluidity of queer behavior: how and why so many gay men slept with women, how many straight men had sex with gay mentors, why the theatrical role playing of butch/femme, top/bottom, continues to speak to us with such resonance and force. Sexuality is a vector of impulses, some acted upon, others not. Through my relationship with Kevin, I've certainly expanded my own range of sexual possibilities. I suspect it's always been that way in mixed marriages like my own. Even in the most chaste "white marriage," I can't imagine that there wasn't a sexual attraction. You don't have to do the deed for it to be real.
Jane and Paul Bowles, Cole and Linda Porter: Move over!