Sunday, December 12, 2010

the myth of the king and the queen

“Niel, are you a king or a queen?”

A colleague innocently asked me the question above in one of our coffee bonding. Was she serious? I thought.  I don’t know if it was a compliment or not. I mean, isn’t it obvious?

But then, I paused and reconsidered what I was thinking. Was she asking about my sexual identity – our personal identification of our sexuality? Because if that’s what she meant, I am definitely a queen! =)

“But what do you mean by a king or queen?” I had to clarify what she meant by her question.

“I mean, in relationships, are you more of the male or the female?”  She answered.

“Ah, what you meant is the gender role I play when I am in 
a relationship…”

Gender role is a set of social and behavioral norms -- within a specific culture -- which is widely considered to be socially appropriate of the specific sex. Husbands are expected to do tasks that require physical strength (e.g., moving the furniture) and to financially provide the expenses of the home. On the other hand, wives are expected to take greater responsibility of the home (e.g., cook food, wash the dishes) and take care of the children.  

However, the view that husband and wife roles are universal in intimate relationships is a myth. And,  most people believe (and at times confused) that gays and lesbians also adhere to these gender roles (Peplau, 1993). In same-sex couples, who is the husband, who is the wife? Who is the king, who is the queen?

Studies have shown (at least those conducted in the west)  that cohabiting same-sex couples are less likely than different-sex couples to divide household labor according to culturally defined gender roles (Herek, 2006).  In fact, gay and lesbian couples divide chores fairly equally since most lesbians and gays are in dual earning relationships (Peplau & Fingerhut, 2007).

Kurdek (2005) summarized studies of same sex gender roles when they are in romantic relationships.

1.) Gay and lesbian couples do not assign roles like husband or wife for household labor. 

2.) Gay and lesbian couples are most likely than heterosexual couples to “negotiate a balance between achieving fair distribution of household labor and accommodating the different interests, skills, and work schedules of particular partners”

3.) A gay or lesbian partner is likely to specialize in the household tasks they do efficiently and effectively.  

When I was in a live-in relationship for three years, my ex-partner and I share and take turns at home. Since my ex-partner has more recipes in mind, he does most of the cooking. Since I am comfortable in washing the dishes, I usually volunteer to do it. I know of a lesbian couple who take turns in cooking their favorite dish and both are equally active in parenting their daughter. But when it comes to fixing the broken things at home, they hire an electrician, a carpenter, or a plumber for it.

But how about dates, who pays for it? Most gay men go dutch during dates or modifies by one offering to pay for dinner while the other pays for the movie. But, I am romantic – if it was my idea and I was the one who invited, I would like to pay for the date.

And how about sex? Well, that deserves another blog entry. =)

Gender roles are only suggestions on how relationships can work. These are only preferences. If you want to be a king, be a king. If you want to be a queen, be a queen! In the end, relationship satisfaction is all about relationship tasks done and relationship expectations met. 

But me, answering my colleague's question, "I am a king and at the same time a queen!"

Herek, G. (2006). Legal recognition of same-sex relationships in the United States: A social science perspective. American Psychologist, 61 (6), 607-621.
 Kurdek, L. (2005). What do we know about gay and lesbian couples? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14 (5), 251-254.
 Peplau, L. A. (1993) Lesbian and gay relationships. In Garnets, L. D., & Kimmel, D. C. (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on lesbian & gay male experiences (pp. 395-419). New York: Columbia University Press.
 Peplau, L. A., & Fingerhut, A. W. (2007). The close relationships of lesbians and gay men. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 405-424.


Tyler Ong said...

there's also some studies stating that gay men bind themselves in a self-destructive cycle by trying (and failing ultimately) to envision a life within a society that is inherently heterosexist and patriarchal. some researchers called it a "myth" for gay men to build dreams of "happily ever after" in the context of current social structures. if one truly believes in the heterogeneity of the gay male population (i'm not familiar with a lot of lesbian relationship researches), then one has to start from scratch in talking about, and living out, a gay relationship. for instance, to ask "who is the king and who is the queen in your relationship?" belies inherent heterosexist bias. "king" and "queen" are irrelevant ideas in a gay relationship.

Niel Steve said...

tyler dear, these are very good ideas! galing! I agree! =)

added the references as requested. haha

Tyler Ong said...

pero sa akong nabasahan, the very idea of marriage is alien to a purely indigenous gay psychology. the idea of a "couple" may to some extent be "non-gay".

neurological evidence suggests that while gay men's brains have curious similarities with that of heterosexual women's brains, in essence, the evolutionary mandate to "go and mutliply" exists strongly in the gay male psyche as well. but in the gay man, sex and love are two distinct variables. one may love a long-term partner, but still have sex outside of that exclusive relationship without considering such act as betrayal of loyalties.

Kane said...

Should I bow down... or bow out?


Niel, as always, your writing is quite enlightening. You should write more often, especially on the sex part of it. =)

Ang galing ng psychology no? It really makes you think and understand yourself and other people more.

As always, Manila misses you.


Anonymous said...

Don't be a drag. Just be a queen.