[DEBATE] : Is It Time for Gay Arranged Marriages?
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Sun Jun 15 05:01:48 BST 2008
Is It Time for Gay Arranged Marriages?
By Sandip Roy, New American Media
Posted on June 10, 2008
When I left India for America, my aunts worried about who I might end
up marrying. "I hope you'll marry another Bengali," an aunt told me.
Over the years that relaxed to, "I hope she's a Hindu, even if she's
not Bengali." Then it became, "At least another Indian," until finally
we reached, "I hope you'll get married to someone before we all die."
She probably didn't mean another man.
But now it might just happen. Same-sex marriage is on a roll in
California. First a Republican-dominated Supreme Court said there was
no reason gays and lesbians couldn't get married. Now there comes a
new Field poll that says that, for the first time ever, a majority of
Californians think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
As the pink confetti settles around us, I'm left wondering how
immigrants are going to come out anymore. Many of us come from
countries that really don't have a word for "gay." India certainly
doesn't. There are epithets and some rather technical terms. Coming
out in India is usually about marriage. This is the default coming out
line: "Mom, Dad, I don't think I am going to get married."
Now the California Supreme Court has yanked that line away.
Perhaps it's time. After all, the Oxford English Dictionary has
apparently had to recalibrate its definition of marriage to allow
same-sex marriage. The Field poll shows that Californians support the
right of same-sex couples to marry by a margin of 51 to 42 percent.
In a state where one in four Californians is foreign-born, that seems
to be an astonishing change. When San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom
started issuing same-sex wedding licenses in 2004, some of the first
protests came from Chinese churchgoers. After all, immigrant families
are supposed to be socially conservative.
But that might be part of the reason why the tide is finally shifting
on gay marriage. (Of course a younger, more socially liberal state
For my immigrant friends, being gay in California is not much of an
issue. Being unmarried in their 30s and 40s is the real issue, the
conversation-stopper at Indian potlucks, the thing that makes them
stick out at Chinese banquets.
My friend said that when a heterosexual but unmarried Chinese friend
of his told his parents that at least he wasn't gay, the parents
retorted "We'd rather you were gay with kids."
Immigrant families just understand marriage, even same-sex marriage
more easily than singlehood. Singleness means you never grew up. It's
the biggest failing of parenthood -- the incompleteness of the
It leads to acts of desperation. I've seen the ads for marriages of
convenience -- 29 year old professional Indian gay, 5'9", good job,
looking for Indian lesbian facing similar family pressures. There was
even a website devoted to Assisting Matrimonial Arrangements for
Lesbians and Gays from India, complete with a "gaylerry" of posted ads
In 1993 my friend Aditya Advani went to India with his boyfriend
Michael Tarr and complained to his mother that no one would ever come
to his wedding. She promptly organized a ceremony. The family priest
presided over it. "Openly gay and married in my parents' drawing room
at the age of thirty," marveled Aditya. "Right on schedule as a good
Indian boy should be!"
I recently watched their wedding video again at their home in Berkeley
while their cats purred on the couch. It still felt like a fairy tale,
a lump-in-the-throat act of domestic revolution. In 2004 when San
Francisco started issuing the same-sex wedding licenses Arvind Kumar
and Ashok Jethanandani rose at 5:30 am to drive from their home in San
Jose to San Francisco to stand in line to get married.
The couple were already married in a sense. Arvind's mother, who had
once adamantly rejected her son's sexuality, presided over a Hindu
ceremony for the two after they had been together for more than a
decade. They are registered as domestic partners in Palo Alto and the
state of California. The registration licenses hang on the wall where
other couples might have pictures of their children.
Arvind and Ashok couldn't get married in 2004. Despite getting up so
early they were behind 300 other couples in line. They finally got an
appointment but by then the Supreme Court had halted the marriages.
At that time Arvind was philosophical. He knew it was going to be a
long fight. "We are just fighting to simplify our lives," says Arvind.
"I don't want a Palo Alto date, a state of California date, a Hindu
ceremony date. I just want one date, one wedding anniversary like
Now Arvind and Ashok can get their one date after all. On June 17
California counties will start issuing marriage licenses to couples
The next generation of gays and lesbians will have to come up with
some other coming out line.
And the revolution will have to find some new frontier.
Imagine this ad in the local Indian weekly - Hindu very
well-established Los Angeles family invites professional match for
daughter, 25, 5'3", slim, wheatish complexion, U.S. born, Senior
Executive in Fortune 500 company. Loves music and dance. Prospective
brides encouraged to reply in confidence with complete biodata and
returnable photo. Must be professional, under 30, caste no bar.
It might just be time for the gay arranged marriage.
Sandip Roy (sandip at pacificnews.org) is host of "Upfront," the Pacific
News Service weekly radio program on KALW-FM, San Francisco.
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