“It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18
For those who strive to rebut charges of anti-gay discrimination by underscoring their love of sinners, friendship has become an important rhetorical device.
The National Organization for Marriage’s Jennifer Roback Morse said of a hypothetical gay man or woman, ”What I would hope for for that person would be a lifetime of chaste friendships.”
When asked last year what he would say to a gay Catholic couple who approached him for marriage within the Church, the Archbishop of Westminster Reverend Vincent Nichols said: "I would want to say to them that…what they are called to is not marriage but a very profound and lifelong friendship."
Along the same lines, the best Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, could say to gay people this Easter was “We want your happiness. But...you’re entitled to friendship.”
Friendship is a powerful thing, and a tremendous gift—but there are many things it is not.
“Friendship” won’t keep you at your partner’s side in the hospital if your partner's brother wants you gone. It won’t get you the flag from the coffin at your partner’s military funeral, or the wedding ring she wore for you.
Because LGBT people so often experience rejection from our biological families, we are big on the idea of our "family of choice.” This is so prevalent that, in certain circles, to say somebody “is family” is to identify that person as gay.
Despite this, no community is quite so sensitive to the reality that, for all its virtues, friendship isn’t family. For the people who try to use it this way, that’s the entire point.
Generations of gays and lesbians have heard that hitch in a parent’s voice when they introduce our partner as our “friend.”
This language is a way of hiding the truth, of downplaying our beloved’s significance in our lives. We understand that sometimes it’s the best our loved ones can do. But there are times when a friend simply isn’t enough.
When my mother died four years ago, my friends were amazing. They baked bread, took me out for coffee, provided shoulders to cry on—but they did not go with me into the hospice. They did not help me empty her home after she passed, and I did not take them with me to the place where I scattered her ashes by hand.
I suspect some would have if I’d asked, but I never would have asked that of somebody who was not family.
My friends are always there, ready to come when I call—but sometimes, as much as I love them, I don’t have the heart to reach out.
Marriage—for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health— means that when the tough times come, your partner is already there by your side.
Marriage means having somebody to share the holidays with without feeling like a guest at the table.
Marriage means having somebody who will not only take you to the hospital when you fall, but who will be there through the months of rehab as you learn to walk again.
At its heart, marriage means knowing that there is always somebody there for you, because when you asked if they always wanted to be there, they said “I do,” and you promised the same.
This is not to say that singleness is a terrible way to live, for a season or for one’s entire life. Still, it’s only fair to recognize that when a person goes through life without a partner, they go through many things alone. It can be done, but pretending that it isn’t harder sometimes is nothing less than a lie.
The suggestion that friendships are all any LGBT person needs or deserves is cruelty masquerading as kindness.
My friends love me, and they’ve always gone above and beyond, but I’ve been to their weddings, and I’ve heard their vows. "Forsaking all others" means their husband or wife always comes first.
This is how it should be, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But I hope you’ll forgive me if I hope for something more than friendship for myself, too.
Photo via flickr user J. McPherskesen