Tag Archives: partners

Learning about commitment from gay male couples

Milwaukee jazz pianist Tim Clausen is not in a same-sex marriage — nor does he have a long-term male partner.

But he has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the dynamics of such relationships, having conducted 103 interviews with gay men who are partnered or married. He turned the interviews into his first book, Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy & Communication.

Clausen, 54, selected couples who had been together between a decade and 65 years. He founded and led the Milwaukee Gay Fathers Group from 1995 to 2004, and one couple he interviewed met via the group a dozen years ago. Otherwise, he relied heavily on social networking to find his subjects, whom he interviewed separately in order to get more candid interviews.

The men were diverse on many levels. Included in the book is Larry Duplechan, an African-American California man in a biracial marriage. He’s the Lambda Literary Award-winning writer of Blackbird, a seminal work of gay black YA fiction. Also included is the first same-sex military couple in America to marry and a Hollywood film industry couple who met the day WWII ended. 

WiG recently spoke with Clausen about the project. 

Why pursue this particular topic? I’ve had a couple of longer relationships, but the whole sort of life-partner thing has remained sort of elusive. I’ve sometimes been mystified when I would meet certain long-term couples over time who seemed to have a good vibe. How do they get along together over decades in a harmonious way? I was interested in finding out.

How did most of the couples find each other? One of the questions I looked into is, “Do we choose our life partner or is that person brought to us as destiny or fate?” A
lot of meetings between the partners who’d been together many, many years seemed to have a serendipitous quality.  Life often kind of brings us together through mysterious ways. And there’s no time limit on when it can happen. 

How did you organize the book? One of the nice things about the book is its structure. I created sections by the couples’ longevity. 

The last couple in the book are particularly remarkable. They’re from Portland, Oregon, and they’d been together just shy of 60 years when we interviewed. We continued to stay in touch after the initial interviews. Eugene (one of the men) died of congestive heart failure four days before Christmas last year. Eric (his partner) is a Buddhist teacher and is a brilliant, remarkable man. I asked Eric after Eugene passed away if he’d be open to talking about losing a partner of 60 years. We had an interview 10 days after Eugene’s passing and then another interview a month later and then a third six months later, which was the day after what would have been their 61st anniversary. The book basically ends with that three-part interview.

What sort of questions did you ask the men in the book? It was all across the board. “How do you deal with conflict?”  “Have you been to counseling together?” And, “Did you ever consider ending the relationship?” Not all of them had, but most of them had gone through difficulties at some point.

The monogamy/non-monogamy issue was a big topic. Couples ran the gamut in terms of sexual exclusivity. Many started out as totally exclusive, then opened up the relationship to being sexual together with others or separately. Couples varied from being exclusive to opening up the relationship to opening up and then going back to monogamy. There was no one-size-fits-all approach that worked for every couple.

But in every case communication around the issue was important. 

How did most of them feel about marriage? A lot of guys thought that getting married is just a formality, but then they found going through the experience was very profound. It helped deepen the bond.  After getting married, people realized how important same-sex marriage was.

What will heterosexual couples find the most surprising about male couples? They’ll be surprised by the very open communication that male couples have, especially the freedom to talk about sex and who they find attractive. It’s just assumed that straight couples will be exclusive, whether it happens or not. But gay couples as a rule talk more openly with each other about that. For gay couples, there’s not a standard script handed to you about how marriage should be as you’re growing up, and you kind of have to make it up and find the way that works best for you.

What did you learn? Some of the key themes that emerged were having as absolutely as open and honest communication as possible. Anything and everything needs to be on the table for discussion. Communication is huge.

People have real different backgrounds and experiences family-wise. One’s family background might be very open and expressive: You scream and throw the crockery and five seconds later it’s over with. And the other partner might have trouble learning how to communicate his feelings at all.  So the first partner would have to learn how to tone down his communication style. (Many couples) had to learn that after a fight everyone still loves each other and they’re going to move on together.

Anything else? People grow and change over time, and allowing your partner to grow and change and understanding that you grow and change also is going to make for long-term success. If you allow for personal growth and you’re willing to support your partner, that’s going to help your relationship succeed. About half the couples sought some sort of counseling and almost always found it helpful.

Eric and Eugene had a practice in which they had two marriages — on their 24th and 40th anniversaries. And Eric recommends that couples repeat their marriage vows out loud to each other once every quarter or six months just to reaffirm their commitment. When they’d find themselves in conflict, they’d say, “We need to go and repeat our marriage vows,” and they’d find the bigger picture (again).


Tim Clausen reads from and signs his book Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy & Communication from 2-3:30 p.m. on Dec. 13, at Whitefish Bay Public Library, 5420 N Marlborough Drive.

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Survey finds Brits are having less sex, but enjoying more variety

When it comes to the bedroom, the British may be getting less busy, but more creative. According to results from the latest national sex survey, Britons are having sex less often — but the kinds of sex they’re having are more diverse than in the past.

Scientists also found the sex habits of British women are changing faster than those of men, with a fourfold jump in the proportion of women who had a same-sex experience since the first survey was done in 1990, from 4 percent to 16 percent. In comparison, the numbers of men who reported a same-sex experience have remained virtually unchanged since 1990, at about 7 percent.

On average, the number of sexual partners reported by women has doubled, from four to eight, whereas the number for men rose from nine to 12. The research also found an increasing sexual repertoire among both genders, with higher levels of anal and oral sex reported.

“It reflects a shift away from sex being seen purely in the context of reproduction toward a greater emphasis on pleasure and recreation,” said Kaye Wellings, head of social and environmental health research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of the leaders of the research. She said similar results about changes in women’s sex lives have been found in France.

The study found half of Britons reported having sex at least three times in the last month, versus five times when the first survey was done in 1990. Wellings noted that drop occurred at the same time as major changes in the use of technology and the financial crisis, which could interfere with a regular sex life.

“People are taking their iPhones and iPads into bed,” she noted. “They’re also working harder and maybe have less time for sex,” she said.

Researchers also found half of Britons also lose their virginity by the time they were 17, about the same as 20 years ago. The study found people under 25 are at greatest risk of sexually transmitted infections and of being forced or coerced into sex.

The series of six papers were published online Tuesday in the journal, Lancet. Researchers interviewed more than 15,000 people aged 16 to 74 between 2010 and 2012 using in-person interviewers and a computer-assisted part for sensitive questions; no names of participants or other identifying details were shared. The studies were funded mostly by U.K. governmental groups and the Wellcome Trust.

Other scientists said the findings supported previous research that have found sexual orientation for women tends to be more fluid than for men.

“Women are more changeable in relation to social norms than men,” said Cynthia Graham, a sex researcher at the University of Southampton, who was not part of the series. “Orientation isn’t just gay, straight or bisexual,” she said. “The boundaries are getting fuzzier.”

Debra Lynne Herbenick, who led a survey on American sexual habits at Indiana University in 2009, said the findings in the U.K. were comparable to evolving attitudes in the U.S.

“There’s been a relaxation of constraints on sexual expression,” Herbenick said. “People are now more free to explore their sexual interests,” she said.

Still, she said doubted current trends on increasing rates for certain kinds of sex would continue to increase indefinitely.

“Not everybody is going to want to do certain things, like have sex with somebody of the same sex,” Herbenick said. “So there will be limits in terms of people’s attractions.”

On the Web


A risk in including gay partners in immigration debate?

Frustrated at being left out of an immigration overhaul, gay rights groups are pushing to adjust a bipartisan Senate bill to include gay couples. But Democrats are treading carefully, wary of adding another divisive issue that could lose Republican support and jeopardize the entire bill.

Both parties want the bill to succeed. Merely getting to agreement on the basic framework for the immigration overhaul, which would create a long and costly path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in the U.S. illegally, was no small feat for senators. And getting it through a divided Congress is still far from a done deal.

Even so, gay rights groups, their lobbyists and grassroots supporters are insisting the deal shouldn’t exclude bi-national, same-sex couples – about 28,500 of them, according to a 2011 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA Law. They’re ramping up a campaign to change the bill to allow gay Americans to sponsor their partners for green cards, the same way straight Americans can. Supporters trekked to the Capitol to make their case at senators’ offices on April 24.

“Opponents will be proposing amendments that, if passed, could collapse this very fragile coalition that we’ve been able to achieve,” Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said last week at the unveiling of the bill. He said the eight senators from both parties who crafted the legislation are committed to voting against changes that could kill it.

For Democrats, it’s a precarious position to be in. Democratic senators overwhelmingly support gay marriage – all but three are now on the record voicing their support – and two dozen of them this year backed a separate bill called the Uniting American Families Act to let gays sponsor their partners independent of a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

But the party’s senators are still bruised from an agonizing defeat on gun control this month. And few seem eager to inject divisive issues that might sink their best prospects for a major legislative victory this year and a potential keystone of President Barack Obama’s legacy.

“Any amendment which might sink the immigration bill, I would worry about,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a brief interview, adding that he had yet to decide whether an amendment for gays and lesbians would meet that yardstick.

Support from both Hispanics and gays was critical to Obama’s re-election, and his overwhelming advantage among Hispanics was a major factor prompting Republicans to warm to immigration overhaul almost immediately after. But now, one community’s gain on the immigration front could be to the other’s detriment.

“As you continue to add other issues to the immigration discussion, it’s going to make it more challenging,” said Sen. John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican.

Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has committed to offering an amendment to the bill to allow gay citizens to sponsor their partners, said Ty Cobb, an attorney and lobbyist with the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. Another Democratic senator, Al Franken of Minnesota, pledged in a Judiciary hearing on the bill this week to do “everything we can” to adjust the bill.

But even if the amendment makes it through the Senate, it faces a tougher path if and when the bill moves to the Republican-controlled House. GOP leaders there have been defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, though Obama has said it is unconstitutional. And while Obama supports same-sex marriage, his administration has shown little appetite for forcing the issue while the immigration overhaul’s prospects are still shaky.

“No one will get everything they want from it, including the president. That’s the nature of compromise. But the bill is largely consistent with the principles he has laid out repeatedly,” Obama spokesman Jay Carney said last week. A White House spokesman declined to answer further questions about the issue.

Some Democrats argue privately that with the Supreme Court poised to rule on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the government from giving federal marriage benefits to gay couples, the issue could soon be moot. Still, even if the high court strikes the law down, it would only bring partial relief; only couples married in the nine states – soon to be 10 – that recognize gay marriages would probably be eligible.

The issue has generated an intense advocacy campaign, with gay rights organizations and Hispanic groups such as the National Council of La Raza squaring off with religious interests such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which sent a letter to Obama telling him including the provision could jeopardize the whole bill.

At the Human Rights Campaign, four of its seven federal lobbyists are engaged in pushing lawmakers to back such an amendment. Immigration Equality, another group supporting the provision, said it was bringing more than 60 families from 24 states to the Capitol on Wednesday to ask lawmakers to offer their support.

And Log Cabin Republicans, a gay conservative group, is making a pro-business pitch with potential GOP supporters, arguing that including gay couples would allow U.S. companies to retain the best talent instead of forcing good workers to leave the U.S. to be with their partners.

Such may be the case for Paul Coyle, a 45-year-old partner in a Chicago law firm, who has spent the past 10 years in a long-distance relationship with his partner in Toronto. At first, the two men would take turns flying back and forth, he said, until immigration officials cracked down, making it harder for his partner to enter the U.S. Now Coyle flies to Canada every other week, wondering each time whether it would be cheaper and more rewarding to pack up his law practice and move to Canada.

“It’s emotionally draining. It’s financially draining, and every time he comes to the U.S., there’s the risk he won’t get let back in,” Coyle said. “But when you’re in love, you just take the risk, because it’s worth it.”

Montana Senate moves to strike unconstitutional provision criminalizing gay sex

The Montana Senate this week overwhelming backed a measure to strike an obsolete state law that criminalizes gay sex – a proposal that still faces an uncertain path in the House.

Senate Bill 107 repeals an anti-gay law that was ruled unconstitutional in 1997 by the Montana Supreme Court. But the state’s deviate sexual relations law still makes illegal “sexual contact or sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex.”

Democrats argued that it is time to remove the hurtful language from the statutes, even if it is not enforceable. The Senate backed the plan 38-10 in an initial vote.

“I have chosen Montana as my home for the last 30 years because it feeds my spirit. But there is one thing that grieves my spirit and that is this law on the books that says I am a felon,” said state Sen. Christine Kaufmann, a Helena Democrat and lesbian. “It says I deserve to be in prison for 10 years for making a family with the woman I love.”

No one spoke in opposition of the bill, and it passed with little fanfare by a chamber that would clearly like to stop debating the bill.

Advocates said that Montana is one of 18 states that still have such laws on the books even though courts have ruled them unconstitutional.

Kaufmann said she first started pushing such a bill 22 years ago at the Legislature – only to see it die year after year. Even though some states are now allowing gay marriage, she said Montana is still debating a law thrown out long ago in the courts.

“The law of course is unconstitutional,” Kaufmann said. “But words do matter, and those words are there in our law. And I don’t know any reason why they are there but to remind me and people like me that we are despised.”

But the bill will likely head to the conservative House Judiciary Committee. A similar measure cleared the Senate in 2011 only to die in that House committee.

Democrats, who have picked up a few seats in that chamber, hope this year will be different. Advocates also point out that since then, the Montana Republican Party has removed from its platform the position that it seeks to make homosexual acts illegal. The party remains opposed to gay marriage.

Another gay-rights measure heard this week in a House committee likely faces a tougher road.

House Bill 481 would extend anti-discrimination protections, like those that protect many minorities, to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“These are our sons, our daughters, our neighbors, our constituents, and our friends,” McClafferty said. “And they are entitled to live a life free from discrimination.”

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau said her student advisory board deals with bullying in schools.

“They are really waiting for adults to model the way, and to reflect the values of every Montanan in this state,” Juneau said. “This bill goes a long way to do that.”

Previous efforts have stalled amid criticism from social conservatives.

Pentagon expected to extend benefits to gay couples

The Pentagon is expected to announce this week that it will extend certain benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian military personnel, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

HRC president Chad Griffin said on Feb. 5, “We welcome the news that benefits will be extended to the same-sex spouses and partners of gay and lesbian service members, and urge Secretary (Leon) Panetta to make sure every benefit possible under the law is included. This is the logical next step in ensuring all our military families are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The repeal of “don’t ask, don’ tell” in 2010 allowed for gays and lesbians to serve openly in the Armed Forces, but repeal did not lift barriers to gay servicemembers receiving equal benefits for their spouses and families.

HRC and other groups have repeatedly called for the Defense Department to issue military IDs to same-sex spouses and extend to same-sex couples benefits not specifically barred by the Defense of Marriage Act.

HRC said inequities include:

• Housing. Same-sex spouses in the military are ineligible for on-base housing, such as rent-free living quarters.

• Military ID cards. Same-sex spouses are ineligible for the identification card that is essential for accessing bases, morale and recreation programs and a number of other on-base amenities and services.

• Access to commissaries and exchanges. Same-sex spouses can’t access the discounted stores where most military families typically save an average of 30 percent on grocery bills.

• Personnel assignments. Military regulations do not include same-sex spouses when considering assignments. However, opposite-sex, dual-career military couples may be assigned to the same geographic reason.

• Legal services. Opposite-sex military service members and their families have access to free legal services on a variety of items, including the drafting of wills and serving as advocate and counsel. Same-sex spouses and partners do not have access to such free legal services.

Griffin said, “The military leadership have dragged their feet long enough. Two years after ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was relegated to the dustbin of history, it’s time for our heroes in arms to finally receive the justice they deserve.”

Outserve-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson said, “Secretary Panetta established a strong civil rights record long before taking office at the Pentagon, so his unwillingness to extend support and recognition to gay and lesbian service members and their families where it is clearly within his authority to do so has baffled many of us. We are hopeful that he will not take half-measures here; for him to grant anything less than the full extent of benefits available under current law would be an anticlimactic end to an otherwise exemplary record on civil rights.”

Former lesbian partners both given parental rights

A Florida appellate court says two former lesbian partners both have parental rights to a daughter who was born with one mother donating the egg and the other mother giving birth to the baby.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach in late December overturned a lower court decision that had been made in favor of the birth mother, according to the AP.

The appellate court says the biological mother’s constitutional rights to equal protection and privacy were violated with the lower court decision. The Brevard County judge said in his ruling he had felt constrained by Florida law and was hoping the appellate court reversed his decision.

The appellate court has asked that the Florida Supreme Court weigh in, given the importance of the matter.

Neither parent was identified in the case.

Source: AP

Wis. Republicans going off message, hitting social issues

Leaders of the new Republican majority in the Wisconsin Legislature are quietly twisting arms to try to get their members to focus solely on measures to create jobs and boost the economy when they assume power in two months.

But some Republicans, whose attempts to act on social issues failed under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle the past eight years, say they intend to press ahead to legalize concealed weapons, pass tough new immigration restrictions and eliminate domestic partner benefits.

The different perspectives and priorities are starting to emerge as the party transitions from its triumphant midterm election campaign, in which it won the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature, to the much different challenge of turning ideas into laws.

Already, the Republicans are facing competing pressures over whether to try to have a wide-ranging impact or to pursue a more cautious and limited agenda.

Soon-to-be Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, has been pressing members in private calls to focus on the economic legislation and put off everything else.

“I’m a little nervous” about the talk about abortion legislation and other issues, said Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, a 20-year veteran of the Assembly. “I’m going to do what I can to try to keep us focused.”

Newly elected state Rep. Kathy Bernier, a Republican from Lake Hallie who received a call from Suder, said she was also a “little bit” worried about the other issues that were prominent in the campaign.

Republican leaders believe they have strong base of support for action on the economy. A survey by St. Norbert College in mid-October showed that 73 percent of respondents said jobs, economy, budget and debt were the most important issues facing the state. Only 2 percent named immigration and just 1 percent said abortion.

Incoming Republican Gov. Scott Walker has called for quick passage of proposals to spur job creation including cutting taxes on small businesses, cutting taxes on Health Savings Accounts and reforming the state Department of Commerce.

But the GOP includes fervent and loyal social conservatives who helped deliver the party’s dramatic victory in November and now expect action on issues that have already passed in other Republican-controlled states.

Republican state Rep. Don Pridemore said he plans on introducing a bill similar to the controversial new law in Arizona that would crack down on illegal immigration. Pridemore’s bill would require that people suspected of crimes would have to prove they’re in the country legally or be turned over to federal immigration authorities.

The idea has been denounced by immigrant-rights groups and would prompt a legislative battle. But Pridemore said the bill could be debated without becoming a distraction.

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, who will be majority leader in January, declared on election night that the first bill he intends to see passed would require voters to show photo identification at the polls as a way to stop voter fraud. Democrats have long blocked it, arguing it suppresses turnout. Other Republican lawmakers have said they intend to impose more restrictions on abortions, legalize concealed weapons and repeal a recently enacted law that extends benefits to gay state employees and their domestic partners.

It will only be a few months before the Legislature turns its attention to non-economic issues, said Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend.

“We’re not going to spend the next 18 months doing nothing but economic issues,” Grothman said. “That would be a slap in the face to a large share of the electorate.”

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican who served 14 years, said navigating the agenda will be precarious unless the Legislature successfully enacts a substantial new economic program.

“If they can’t deliver there will be hell to pay in 2012,” he said before the election.

Kaufert said he also feared voters would have little patience if his colleagues get bogged down.

“The danger is the citizens of the state will just say we’ll clean house again and we’re going to keep doing it until we get it right,” he said.

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus said the economy won’t prevent the Legislature from acting on other priorities. “It doesn’t mean we have to exclude tackling every other issue facing the voters of Wisconsin,” he said. “You can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Democrats are encouraged by the prospect of Republicans getting entangled in social issues that are highly contentious and have less public support.

The Republican focus on jobs and the economy will last “about 20 seconds,” said Mordecai Lee, a former Democratic state lawmaker and currently a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political science professor.

“They ran on jobs and the economy,” said Democratic state Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison. “Now if we get a bait and switch to a social issues agenda, that would not be a very popular move.”

Walker, who ran with tea party support, promised on the campaign trail to sign an Arizona-style immigration law and to ban embryonic stem cell research, groundbreaking work that was pioneered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Since the election, Walker’s rhetoric has focused on his pledge that with Republicans back in control, “Wisconsin is open for business.” His spokesman, Cullen Werwie, said Walker will review bills not related to the economy on a case by case basis, but his focus remains on his jobs agenda.