NYT Looks at the Young Gay Newlywed Game


The New York Times published a major Sunday magazine piece on the new crop of young, 20-something newlyweds that Massachusetts’ marriage laws have spawned. Here’s a bit of it:

Nytgaynewlyweds“Most of the couples insisted they shared those responsibilities in ‘an egalitarian way.’ While Joshua occasionally referred to himself as a ‘gay housewife,’ other young gay married men bristled at the notion that they would fashion their domestic lives around heterosexual stereotypes.

“‘It never ceases to amaze me how many people will say to us, ‘So, who’s the woman, and who’s the man, in your marriage?’’ says Jason Shumaker, who lives in a Boston suburb with his husband, Paul McLoughlin II, who is an assistant dean at Harvard. They met eight years ago when they were 25, and they legally married at 29 (registering to wed on the first day gay couples could do so in Massachusetts). ‘I just think that’s the dumbest question ever,’ he added. ‘Yes, we’re married, but we’re also two guys, so neither one of us has to be ‘the woman.’’ (And ‘with no ovaries drying up,’ as Paul put it, they don’t need to rush into having children. They plan to adopt in the next five years, once Paul finishes his Ph.D. in higher-education administration at Boston College.)

“During a break from opening the door to trick-or-treaters at their home last Halloween, Jason and Paul — who wore matching lizard outfits — told me about the T-shirts they’d donned at the end of their reception. The front of Paul’s shirt read, ‘I Am the Husband,’ while the back read, ‘I Am the Wife.’ (Jason’s shirt had the opposite emblazoned on each side.) ‘It was fun to make a little bit of a social statement and poke fun at the idea that we would fit neatly into these heterosexual roles,’ Jason said.”

I think just about anyone who has been in a gay relationship has experienced the curiosity of straight friends as to ‘who’s the husband, who’s the wife?’ As for the 50’s photos of domestic bliss, I’ve yet to come across anything that idyllic among any couples I know. But it’s not a bad thing to dream.

Young Gay Rites [nyt]


  1. says

    Having read the piece yesterday-I thought the whole premise of the 50’s inspired shoot-was kinda tongue in cheek? Also it spoke volumes at representing gay couples are often seen in a certain stereotypical light-mostly negative by straight & gay couples. I saw some layers in that concept-not a straight forward ‘Oh-that’s ‘real’ life?’

    Also if one reads the piece are they not talking about issues they’ve had and so forth-also I think the shoot highlights some of the idealism that these couples have…

    I think it was really positive and strong in showing that not ALL gay guys are muscly, gorgeous cardboard cutouts..

    Good piece and good for them-you don’t have to live your life negative and like a cliche. It’s better to have loved/hoped-then not at all..

  2. crispy says

    I’ve never had anyone ask my partner and me who was the husband and who was the wife. Who the hell are their friends, the Cleavers?

  3. says

    All these couples are DOOMED!!!!! to that most horrid of fates GAY DIVORCE!!!!!

    They’re too young for marriage. Much too young. Take it from a 61 year-old fart.

  4. tofer david says

    while I appreciated that this was a topic covered by the times I felt kind of mixed about the steretypes/views they expressed through the personalities of the couples.

  5. MT says

    Yay! I’m about to be a Young Gay Newlywed (I’m 35, but that counts.)! I can’t wait! Only not Massachusetts for us. We’re heading North of the Border so we can really get married.

  6. Blue Dog says

    My favorite lines of the piece:

    ‘He grabbed Ben’s arm. “Honey, am I a gay cliché?” Benjamin shook his head. “You can’t be a gay cliché when you get married to a man at 22.”’

    Sadly, the interviewees (and the writer of the piece) end up turning these young couples into just that.

    However, I’m very glad to hear that gay rights in MA have advanced so much that now young gay couples can think about marriage in the same vain and superficial way as their straight counterparts. And I mean that with no irony: I think it really is a good sign!

  7. Pugzz says

    The whole article – “FREAKED ME OUT!” The media trying to make “Wisteria Lane” the new gay ghetto. The young gays trying to emulate straight couples and the lost on straight people ironic 50’s suburbia photos that were uber-gay and stereotypical. Though I’m all for gay’s getting hitched…I still think we can not forget our past and how quickly it will dissolve if we assimilate so fast we become invisible. There is just too much more activism needed to stop AIDS. to make sure our human rights are not violated and that we don’t forget. sexual liberation, women’s rights, transsexual rights etc. in trying to just feel ” normal” and fit in.

  8. tofer david says

    the one gay had what looked like crushed velvet slippers with his initials on them…at first i thought it was a play on the 50’s thing for the picture, but in fact in the article it is mentioned how he is wearing them at a party he held at the house…along with chords or something.

    good lord.

  9. Sebastian says

    It is amazing that the most silly questrion of all is “who is the man and who is the woman? In my realtionship there is no woman, since, how could I as a man and my partner also a man ever be a woman??? Umm, its two men, and, not a threesome, duh.

    And, David, you are right, when will these papers ever deal with REAL gay men and women? This whole myth that we are all upper middle class and live the life of Riley is as insipid as who is the woman thing.

  10. says

    Wasn’t the article specifically about Boston as a city and it’s view/policies on gay rights??? Did I miss something? Was it claiming to be about the WHOLE world?

    Did he not point out that a disturbingly large amount of gay male’s getting married are ALL college grad AND white? Again did I miss something?

    Has anyone actually read the piece? I’m baffled.

    I personally would find it more contrived and patronizing if they did it all about ethnics/poor men getting hitched unless it was done by someone from that demographic.

    You’re damned if you do and you’re damned it you don’t. You can win the gays, huh?! Lol!

  11. John says

    I doubt the allusion to “perfect” 1950s suburban America will win many fans within the African-American community. Life certainly wasn’t perfect for them.

    Which of course leads us to that other oft-repeated media stereotype:

    That gays are all white.

  12. mike says

    Interesting article in what it didn’t show. Older couples who might have “married” in Massachusetts (40+, 50+), lesbian couples, mixed-race couples and so forth and so on. The article even points out that amongst gay men, only whites seem to have jumped at the chance to get married. I find that hard to believe, but it may be true. Plus (sorry, guys/gays), they picked the most stereotypical gay men they could find: white, middle-class, college-educated twinks.

  13. Mystery Gay says

    I was shocked to see this article.

    I do not know these guys personally, but I have on many occasions hung out with Ben and Josh, and their marriage is far from the relationship portrayed here in this article. Same goes for Aaron and his 50-something years old bf. I wonder if Benoit the writer is a personal friend of these guys because he painted a picture that is very very very far from reality. I am not sure how I feel about this at all, as the whole country that reads the NYT Mag might have such a rosy picture of these guys and of young gay guys in general. I could comment a bit more harsh but I do not think it is necessary. I hope you guys read it with a very very skeptical mind. :)

  14. Dan says

    I have no idea what these guys are really like, but this whole piece reeked of phoniness and superficiality. The way these douches talked about parental units and tried to be endlessly ironic… it made me not want to be gay anymore. Seriously, who the fuck are these people? Where are the real gay human beings? Depressing!

  15. brandon andrew says

    Flatness and Classism

    What isn’t mentioned in the article about the brandons is that neither are financially well off and ride bikes as means of transportation. work regular jobs while attending school and both are paying their own way through school. Not all of the couples are affluent upper middle class as one may presume from the article. The brandons intend on waiting another two years until both are out of school and financially stable before getting hitched.

  16. jamal says

    I think it is good to see this level of progress for certain small groups of gay men living in a tiny area of the country, but I am saddened that this progress is only enjoyed by a small minority of gay men. I wonder what percentage of gay male couples are non-White? I think it is telling that very few non-Whites get married.

  17. says

    I thought it was a wonderful article. As far as the calls of racism/classism, Benoit Denizet-Lewis was one of the first major writers to cover the Downlow with a groundbreaking cover piece in the NYT magazine in 2003. He also mentions in the article that the overwhelming majority of gay marriages are between white men, thus they are the focus. We gay black men are probably going to have to at least admit that we’re gay in public before we start getting married.

    As for me, this article gave me hope. There is diversity among the gay community, and not all of us are interested in a lifelong series of meaningless sexual encounters with partners of varying levels of anonymity. There’s more to life than that, and even if these marriages fail, at least they’re giving a shot at making a permanent commitment to someone they love. We may not all find that, but, as Andy said, a boy can dream…

  18. Luke says

    How could the so called “down-low” be breaking news to anyone, when men have been doing it for hundreds of years? Just another vapid alleged “gay” article that the world will view as real, when its a tiny part of the wonderful glbt community, and, it would nice if for once writers for big city papers would explore that, we have all heard and read about the phony, muscle boys with money and thier perfect lives.

  19. says


    It’s called editing. Couldn’t you tell there was an underlining theme/point that the writer wanted to make so he could make/prove his point. Personally-again, if you simplify this, I would’ve come out thinking what a load of fake bullshit, rah, rah, rah but then luckily I’ve worked in the media for 7 years in the UK and it’s taught me a lot.

    A writer has an agenda, an editor has an agenda-the subject very rarely is able to control the destiny of the piece unless they are Madonna, politicians or Paris Hilton.

    I’m really shocked by the fact that despite living in this internet age of accessible media that people are still not very media savvy?

    Also has anyone not thought that maybe more ethnically diverse couples did not want to take part cause they would know they may be pulled to bits in web-blogs?

  20. tofer david says

    good comments here. i agree the writer and editors paint whatever picture they want.

    good stream of feedback. you guys are great gays!

  21. jeff says

    Whatever to all the above.

    As long as at least ONE person reading that article had their mind opened a wee bit and started to feel that it was “normal” for same-sex couples to want the same things as a “normal” straight, married couple, then I am happy.

  22. Jay says

    I wonder how many people who have posted here actually READ the article? The piece is funny and interesting, and the stuff about domestic roles, which towleroad chose to excerpt, is actually the least interesting thing about the piece.

    Also, the writer makes clear that he is writing about a very small group of gay men in one city and explains why he doesn’t include young married couples of color. (The vast majority aren’t getting married.)

    I don’t think the couples come off as superficial at all. The Brandons in particular seem really interesting to me.

    Also, what is this idea that he’s only writing about rich young gays? Joshua and Ben are definitely wealthy (that’s clear from the picture of their apartment), but the Brandons aren’t, and we don’t really know about the other couples.

    Some of these comments just blow my mind and make me wonder if people actually read the story. A word of advice: Before you bash a story, read it.

  23. says

    Though the focus of the article is indeed narrow, that’s typical of the NYTimes magazine, and a standard part of journalism. Not that articles shouldn’t be written about the lives of people who weren’t reflected in this piece.

    But, that aside, it struck me–once I got past the kitschy photo spread and correspondingly cutesy dialogue, dialogue that would seem fake in fiction, oddly–that these young men will be living a social experiment, a term I hesitate to use since it conjures up right-wing sky-will-fall objections to gay marriage. I mean, however, a social experiment for them, or at least a new frontier, one that comes with few role models. Like Dan Savage, I wonder how much the desire for “respectability” and pleasing Mom and Dad (now that more and more parents accept homosexuality–it’s the “lifestyle” they’re worried about) figures into some decisions. “Wait!” I wanted to shout at some of the couples, take more time, but who am I to question young love? For worse or better, they will learn from their experiences, and no one is preventing young hets from possibly marrying before they’re ready.

    I’ll probably write a more personal response to this on my blog (as an unmarried 40-something in a 17 year relationship I certainly had one), but those were my initial thoughts.

  24. says

    I admit that I only skimmed the article in print (I was put off by the photos: Is it really Simon Doonan’s world and we just live in it?) and found this excerpt which presents a very positive idea about gays in general:

    Jeffrey Chernin, the psychotherapist, who works with both gay and straight couples, told me that gay couples tend to open up in therapy with less prompting. “Many of them are already used to talking honestly and openly about many issues,” he said, “because there is no assumed model for how their marriage should function. Everything is on the table to be negotiated. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is talked about — from monogamy, to power dynamics, to domestic responsibilities.”

  25. David says

    The article wasn’t half bad, but I have to say I’m sick to death of all the hooplah over gay marriage in the straight press and among the gay activist community.

    One of my favorite things about being gay is that I have access to a community of people who don’t consider anonymous or fleeting sexual encounters to be “meaningless,” and where there isn’t pressure to someday define yourself according to a relationship. So many of my heterosexual (and some gay) friends (even the lefties) have grown to believe that marriage is a goal—something they need to fulfill some sort of life requirement—rather than a convenient legal arrangement between two people who may (or may not) love each other. Whatever happened to a healthy criticism of the institution of marriage?

  26. Javier says

    “One of my favorite things about being gay is that I have access to a community of people who don’t consider anonymous or fleeting sexual encounters to be “meaningless,” and where there isn’t pressure to someday define yourself according to a relationship.”

    It’s ashamed that that’s your definition of being gay, because it definitely isn’t mine. Don’t defame those of us who value monogamous, lifelong relationships over hedonistic promiscuity. It’s one thing for you to live a promiscuous lifestyle, but to assert that this is what it means to be gay is reckless and erroneous. It’s what it means to be YOU.

  27. says

    I have tried and tried to avoid commenting on Towleroad, but this time I just flat out give up.

    The writer is focusing on a phenomenon occuring within the gay community: young men in their early twenties who have decided to partake in a rite that was previously (and legally) exclusive. The headline, despite its reference to young love, also references something else; the blooming of a new era in America’s history.

    I admit, I passed on reading this story because I assumed it would be a campy celebration of juvenile lust. Even the 1950s-inspired photos didn’t arouse any interest. But as I went through the article, I found myself not only smitten with the couples, but completely enveloped in their excitement and their joy along with their anxiousness of treading new ground, not having a model to follow or likely being the only gay men united in matrimony within a 50-mile radius.

    As some of the readers noted above, all of the couples who participated in the interview happened to be white. Is this a coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the focus of the story? Unequivocally, no. When I read the headline, I assumed I would be reading a stuffy op-ed about gay young men capitalizing on their new marriage rights, why it’s important, the end. What I read instead was a piece about people who were head-over-heels for each other and their wonderment about getting hitched. Oh, and they just happened to be gay men around my age.

    So many other people, including those on the fence about gay marriage, need to read this article. It’s not about setting an agenda, conforming to equal opportunity standards or any other point a leftist pundit would blurt. It’s a humanly raw look at young love, including its celebrations and failures. So many people need to see that gay men, no matter what their incomes, age, or skin color are, have every right to gush, whine, worry about and ultimately celebrate getting married. Even if you don’t agree with it or like it, it’s their right.

    Shame on those cynical ones who don’t get it. You’re the ones who are dragging the rest of us behind.