The other day an acquaintance of mine asked me if gays also had the same ‘behavioral thing’ as the heteros. I realized later that she was referring to the distribution of the domestic roles in a gay relationship. I found it a complicated question because I had never thought about it before. Sure I’ve been asked many times about things which embarrassed to talk about but never before about everyday life of gays.
There is no easy answer. The mantra ‘man works and provides for the family’ and ‘woman takes care of the children and cooks’ has not been popular here in the Netherlands for decades now and so it is in most north-European countries. The image of a strong independent woman which plays the role of man in the household is not accepted in some circles and challenges what previous generations did.
Many Dutch men cook and enjoy doing it. Some Dutch women can’t even cook. In Brazil cooking is something for women, since ‘kitchen is no place for a man’. If you come to Holland, do not be surprised to see Dutch men pushing baby buggies. Just sit at a terrace, the sidewalk of a restaurant or coffee shop and wait a few minutes. Long time ago Dutch women got rid of their by others imposed reproductive role as mothers and housewives.
Can I be the boy that you met in the coin laundry?
When you’re gay and live with someone, the roles must be shared and inevitably someone will have to take some of them over for the smooth running of the house. Someone will have to iron, wash, cook and bring income home. In The Netherlands some people hire cleaners who come to your home twice a month (3 or 4 hours per cleaning) and make most of the hard work except laundry, ironing and cooking. There are no ‘cleaning ladies’ here who will sleep, do the laundry, iron, cook and yet babysit as it is in Brazil. This here would be here slave labor .
And even if you have a cleaning lady twice a week, all the other things will remain pending. And so is it in a gay relationship. I’ve been married to a woman with whom I have a daughter. Saturdays were the days to carry heavy bags around from the market. I used to take care of the child while she performed the household chores. I was also the one who provided for the house. Later, already in a gay relationship, I kept on doing it because I did not know better. I was used to always having it washed, cooked and ironed for me. Frying an egg was the highest point of my culinary knowledge. Home repairs, standing on the roof, painting a wall or fixing a faucet weren’t my cup of tea either, but if need be, I would prefer doing it rather than any household chores. I found it ridiculous to hire someone to do this without me at least trying to do it myself.
In my last but one relationship (which was with a Dutch guy), I took the initiative to do all the laundry and ironing which is a less forcible domestic activity here than in Brazil because here everyone has a washing machine and a drier, so that it is not necessary, for example, to iron socks and underwear as we do back there. During the winter your coat becomes your ‘second skin’. Still, this task may be a very tiring one. This ex-partner of mine cared about the food department and so I postponed the need to learn to cook for another few years. And finally in my current relationship I decided to show all my hidden talents in the kitchen as this is my department now. Not only do I cook but I am also in charge for everything we eat during the day, doing all the shopping and selecting what we will eat.
None of these tasks makes me feel less manly. I see nothing in my current relationship or in my past ones that remind me of my heterosexual relationship or the by the “society” to heterosexuals and homosexuals imposed roles. There are, however, major differences between a homosexual and a heterosexual relationship with regard to other subjects.
When it comes down to gay sexuality, the vast majority of the people would think that just being ‘sodomized’ one by the other would be the only form of sex imaginable. Why else would a man choose another man, instead of someone of the opposite sex and yet have to defy a whole society that thinks otherwise? Within the ‘homosexual’ category there are subcategories by affinities, which have been seriously studied and are known as scale Kinsey scale. Gays may look as serious as manly as Rick Martin and as effeminate (camp) and funny as Jack MacFarland.
The more or less manly appearance of a homosexual is not directly linked to his sexual role, as well as a transvestite is not necessarily the “woman” of a relationship. Some transvestites are hung and have ruled out any chance of an SRS (sex reassignment surgery) or a sex-change surgery. When it comes down to homosexuality, it’s more than meets the eyes.
Who’s top, who’s bottom
Despite hurting the ears, the question makes sense. Why, if a man was ever became interested in women, now he is interested in men, what did he exactly trade for what? There is a very big difference between a man and a woman which excels physical shapes and genitals. The male skin texture and smell, for example, are also major differences, which are often ignored. Each thing has its own value. Only women can produce typical female odor and texture. When you’re gay (or the next best thing) that smell and texture are forcible and work a little like an addiction. It takes a first contact to know how potent an addiction it will be. From that point there is some chemical released in the brain that causes a certain state of euphoria which is not relieved anymore as before.
There are even gay men who do not have any active sex life at all and the reasons for that are, for example, many of them suffer from hypoactive sexual desire disorder (much more common than you will ever think and many men certainly have it), they accept themselves as gay but prefer to live a rather asexual life, other than fighting against a whole set of millenarian behavioral laws and rules and/or are extremely shy. When they finally break free from all prejudice and meet the great love of their lives, the question is, how to connect. The vast majority of gays are versatile, i.e. they perform sexually active (top) and passive (bottom) roles. The exclusive active or passive ones are a minority. Who is ultimately what will only become clear after a long process. The roles are reversed and often performing one particular role has to do with the partner’s inclination. Each partner to a gay man with whom he is connected releases different chemicals in the brain and the sexual roles may reverse because of them.
I realized over the years that some heterosexuals who say they are ‘open minded’ actually are not. And just to confirm it, start trying to tell details about gay sex life to them and you’ll feel an immediate inconvenience. One cannot expect that people of earlier generations will understand what homosexuality is all about, but I do expect that from the current generation or anyone under 50.
Want to know how much prejudice is there out there? If you are gay, try to give a same sex person a public kiss and/or sit or walk hand in hand with this person. If you’re straight, ask a gay couple to do this. In a country considered one of the most tolerant ones of the world, The Netherlands, gays are still afraid to show affection in public. Except on the Gay Pride, you’ll hardly see two men or two women holding hands. The local newspapers tell about gay men who have bashed for having exposed themselves like this. My partner and I try to set an example as far as possible by reminding everyone that we have the same rights as the heterosexuals but I do notice the glares of discrimination and even sarcasm. Nobody dares to say anything this prejudiced to two strong men who can defend themselves but I’m absolutely sure they will do so to others, at the first opportunity if they consider the next ones flimsy and easy enough preys.
Still, I think we gays should dare more. And when I say ‘gays’ I mean all gays of the Kinsey scale about which I wrote above. Dutch TV actors, hosts and announcers give good examples here. They not only came out of the closet, but also show their faces on gay parades. I could mention several Brazilian actors and directors who are (highly suspicious) gay but still in the closet. Once, in 2003, I asked an actor for an autograph at a beach in Salvador, who played the role of a married man in a comedy about the day-to-day life of a heterosexual couple. This actor flirted with me, leaving me more stunned than flattered. I did not know he was gay. An actor of his standards could do more than just flirt someone. His gay expression is just that and nothing else. He could make all the difference in winning of the gay rights in Brazil if he only came out of the closet and showed everybody that gays deserve the same respect and rights.
Equal rights: getting married, adopting children, etc. are just the tip of the iceberg. All of this is already possible here in the Netherlands since 2001. Although the Dutch society is used to the idea of gays having the same rights in theory, but in practice convincing an entire society that two same sex persons people have the right to walk down a street holding hands is something that has not happened here yet and I’m sure nowhere in the world either.