There was a party in Little Rock Saturday night for a couple celebrating their fifteenth anniversary. They are buying a house on Kavanaugh Boulevard, where they live in middleclass comfort and nurture the fragile organism known as a happy marriage. They are both men.
The enduring homosexual relationship usually is thought to be a rarity, but the couple on Kavanaugh said they know of twenty to twenty-five gay relationships of long standing in Little Rock.
Perhaps it is because their lives lack the glitter of the drag crowd or the blatancy of the militants that the gay married have remained comparatively anonymous while homosexuality itself has been gaining public attention and a degree of acceptance. All that effectively sets this middle-aged couple apart from others is that they are of the same sex. Their house is ornately but tastefully decorated. Each has a life insurance policy naming the other as beneficiary. Each works hard, attends church regularly and supports the local police. Their social altitudes are conservative enough to approach a gay puritan ethic.
The house is immaculate and filled with antiques. The two men worked together to remodel and they can share the satisfaction of a job done well. In the rear of the house is a small workshop where the couple, again working together, make small sculptures that provide the bulk of their income.
Roy and David, both in their forties, devote considerable effort to their jobs and to their relationship. They regard their success as the reward of hard work. “We have stayed at home and worked and have been able to accomplish and acquire some things,” David said.
Although Roy and David think of themselves as being married, their relationship has not been formalized in a ceremony. “We’ve never felt any need to,” Roy said. “We know how we feel about each other and that’s all that’s important.”
Contrary to what many straight people may believe about homosexual couples, Roy and David have not imitated male and female roles.
“We don’t believe in role playing at all,” Roy said. “We are two individuals living together and whatever needs to be done, one or the other does it.”
But gay people certainly are no less prone to jealousy and frustration than are straight people and their relationships are certain no less vulnerable.
“I think that two people constitute a couple,” David said, “and people are personalities. There is no way that two people living together could possibly get along without having some disagreements.”
What does a gay couple argue about? “We’ll argue about the trivial little annoyances that you have every day with anybody,” David said. “I think he should do something to help out more, or he thinks I should do more in a certain area.”
“I argue about the telephone bill being too high and such things as that,” Roy said.
Both said they try to see that the minor annoyances do not grow into major ones that could jeopardize the entire relationship.
“We made a policy 15 years ago that we would never go to bed at night angry and we never say anything to each other that must be apologized for,” Roy said. “I don’t know whether that’s a plus in our favor or whether we are avoiding some things, but we certainly haven’t had any problems over it.”
Part of the success of Roy and David appears to result from the fact that they understand the reality of their situation.
They live in a society that does not yet fully accept their ideas and actions and they realize that certain concessions must be made.
David occasionally goes in drag at home, dressing as a woman “and having fun that way.” But he has no tolerance for men who do so in public.
“Parading around the streets in drag is very objectionable to both of us,” David said. “Drag queens, as a whole, going drag every weekend or every month of the year are not advancing our cause whatsoever.”
Most homosexuals who complain of police harassment have brought their problems on themselves by failing to accept a few basic rules of society, according to Roy and David.
“As far as police harassment is concerned, I appreciate knowing that a policeman is there,” David said. “In our fifteen years together, we’ve never been harassed and the reason is that we try to conduct ourselves on the streets and in public as we should — as adults.” In their own home, however, Roy and David believe that they — not society —have the right to set the rules of conduct.
“We entertain frequently,” David said. “We haven’t in quite a while given an exclusively gay party. We invite our friends, straight or gay, it makes no difference. We have lots of straight friends that we entertain. In fact, I would say that in Little Rock itself we have more straight friends than gay friends.”
And when Roy and David give a party, their friends may come as they choose, in couples, in drag, or straight.
“If anyone doesn’t like who is here, he is perfectly free t0 leave,” Roy said. Ray and David concede there are cities with generally more open sexual attitudes than those common in Little Rock, but they say they would live no differently in another city.
“We don’t have it too bad herein Little Rock,” David said. “We would live the same lifestyle that we live here if we lived in, say, San Francisco, but the feeling of acceptance is greater in San Francisco. It really makes no difference there.”
Roy and David do not flaunt their gayness, but they do not try to conceal it either. Although it usually goes unspoken of, it is known to most of their friends and most acquaintances. “I think we would live under a delusion if we thought there were any people in our association that didn’t realize it,” David said. “Over the years, I guess we have become such a mold of one that it doesn’t take people long to realize that we are together. Even in gay circles, there is something about us that belongs to each other, I guess.”
Meeting David or Roy separately, a casual observer might not suspect their gayness. But together there are obvious signs of their intimacy, their concern for each other, in their behavior. One will sometimes finish a sentence begun by the other, but without the abruptness of interruption.
They say they seldom touch in the presence of others. “We don’t cling,” Roy said. “If I can’t trust him out in public without holding him and all of this silly stuff that so many people do, there is nothing I can do about it.”
Both Roy and David have parents living. The parents are aware of their relationship and accept it, “but it is never spoken of at all in any way,” Roy said. “However, if one invites me, they automatically invite David. They know we go together. We’ve never had a minute’s problem. We don’t throw it in their face and consequently they respect us enough that they never bring it up.”
Both Roy and David traveled in different circles before meeting on a Sunday evening 15 years ago. “We went out to eat a couple of times and we went to see his parents for Christmas,” Roy said. “I had just come back from military service and we decided that we would share an apartment and we have been sharing ever since.”
A year later, the couple moved to Kavanaugh and settled into a domestic routine. “There is not so much running around and that sort of thing now.” Roy said. David had been involved in previous gay relationships lasting five and eight years. He said that he was “out searching then” but is not now and that he plans to spend the rest of his life with Roy.
“I couldn’t think of my life without him, anymore,” David said.
Roy, too, appears to be happy with the way things have happened. “I certainly see no reason to change — it gets better every-day,” he said.
Both Roy and David say the only lack of fulfillment in their relationship has been the absence of children.
“I think that both of us at one time would have liked to have had children,” David said.
It is possible in some places for homosexual couples to adopt children, but Roy said he and David decided against it because “we could foresee the hurt that the child would feel some day in the future when someone said something derogatory about either one of us. We could give a child a good home, many things that an orphan child would need, but the possibility of such a tremendous hurt later on — we just didn’t want to contribute to that.”
Both Roy and David believe that the attitudes that would have fostered such hurt are diminishing.
“In the years that we would have adopted children, the public aspect of homosexuals was altogether different from what it is now,” David said.
“The general public is not frowning on it so much now,” Roy said. “They are learning more about it and the more you learn about anything, the less afraid you are of it.
“They are realizing finally that most gay people are not standing on the street corners and are not molesting children in the park and doing things like that, but that they are productive people. They are contributing a great deal to society and to our way of life, and they stay at home and behave themselves and conduct their business like anybody else.”
If Roy and David are representative of a significant group of gay people (and they say they are), they offer a study of the male gay couple. If they are not representative, they at least offer a study of how two people in love have managed to remain so in a society where many consider their love to be a perversity.