A few years ago, my boyfriend (now an ex) and I walked into a chain bookstore while on vacation. Only minutes before, we had mended fences over a fight about nothing. While traversing the maze of books, my boyfriend noticed an unusually hot young man staring at me. “Do you know him?” he irascibly inquired, threatening an end to our fragile ceasefire. Before I could answer, the mystery stud bounded in front of us and blurted out, “You’re Wayne Besen, aren’t you?”
I nodded and the young man lit up and in a very Kathy Bates moment gushed, “I loved your book, Anything But Straight! I’m your number one fan!”
While looking directly in my eyes and pretending my partner was invisible, the number one fan became a number one flirt. While I was certainly flattered, this adulation wasn’t adding to the duration of my relationship.
I bring this up to make a simple point: The public eye rarely helps private relationships succeed. If someone like me had my relationship threatened on a few occasions by foam-at-the-mouth fans, imagine how it must be to carry on a normal relationship if you are mega-stars like Ellen DeGeneres or George Michael?
The GLBT community is in a Catch-22. For public relations reasons, we need to showcase our most glamorous marriages, yet, by nature, these relationships are the ones most likely to get burned out by the inferno of the spotlight.
This was painfully driven home this week when Julie and Hillary Goodridge, the poster couple in the successful Massachusetts gay marriage suit, called it quits. The Goodridges were among seven gay couples whose lawsuit, Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health, fueled a national firestorm on this issue.
The two women were attractive, professional and dream spokespersons for our movement. They lived in a charming Victorian house and were even raising a young daughter. In short, they were perfect on paper. But we all know how easily paper burns when thrown on a fire. We owe these women our gratitude for their courage and resilience in fighting for our freedom to marry. But, their “amicable” split reinforces the necessary danger of placing the spotlight on “perfect couples.”
Even more disappointing, crooner George Michael, who is scheduled to marry his boyfriend Kenny Goss this year, is embroiled in a new sex scandal. The London tabloids are having a field day because Michael was allegedly caught in the fields with his pants down. Despite damning pictures, right now, Goss is still standing by his man.
Courting couples that eventually spiral into double trouble is nothing new. In the early 1990’s, millions of gay men latched on to the illusion of perfection offered by the buff bodybuilder boyfriends Bob Paris and Rod Jackson-Paris. Bob was a former Mr. Universe and Rod was a strapping blond model. The musclemen even wrote a book together, “Straight From the Heart: A Love Story,” that was described in the El Paso Herald Post as “Heartwarming,” and in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as, “Compelling… Soul mates tell their story of love and take a stand for gay self-esteem.”
When the heartwarming story soon turned to heartbreak, many people in the GLBT community felt as though they had been let down. But in retrospect, the odds of this couple succeeding were not very high. Every move they made was magnified and they were surely subjected to countless temptations as they traveled across America.
On a much larger stage, America witnessed the implosion (or was it an explosion) of Ellen DeGeneres’s doomed relationship with Anne Heche. Heche soon went from lesbian activist to the wedding chapel…with a man. The right wing group Focus on the Family exploited the break-up by hiring Anne’s mother, Nancy Heche, to supposedly show that gay people can change. To Anne’s credit, she denounced this opportunism by saying that “the ex-gay events…make me sick.”
The right wing’s desire to take advantage of the Goodridge break-up and Michael’s affinity for doing the nasty in nature is running into a wall called reality. It is hard to make the case against the longevity of gay couples when straight couples are dramatically stealing the spotlight.
For example, New York Giants football star Michael Strahan is in the middle of a bitter divorce with his sexy wife, Jean. He is accusing her of spending profusely and she returned fire by saying that he had engaged in an “alternative lifestyle.” Strahan had to go on a sports radio show to deny he was gay. Meanwhile, all of the aforementioned domestic disasters are mere warm-up acts for the utterly spellbinding Christie Brinkley/Peter Cook train wreck.
It seems that placing a spotlight on stable marriages too often makes them unstable. Maybe we are better off without unrealistic model marriages or former models preaching matrimony. If the past has taught us anything, it is that relationships in the public eye too often turn into eyesores.